Monday, May 2, 2016

DIY Giant 2x4 Wooden Block Stacking Game

In the 6 months since our last post, we've done very little. Little kids keep you pretty busy, and with my annual winter-spring work season, there's not much time (or motivation) to get things done. Especially when the things I want to do involve power tools, and therefore can't rightly begin at 8pm when the kids are in bed. At least not until we build some gigantic pole barn.

So when the opportunity to do a small project presented itself, I jumped on it. Partly to kick start my motivation, and partly because I knew I could use some skills I'd learned along the way to create it in very little time.

A couple of the folks at our sister company, Celebration! Cinema, had seen a giant version of the game Jenga at one of our shows, but couldn't remember which. After some investigation into who could have displayed the game, I chimed in with the fact that I could just make one for pretty cheap, so they wouldn't have to find the exhibitor and contact them and all that. With some quick research, I found a few DIY tutorials, including this one from A Beautiful Mess and this one from The Home Depot, which were helpful, but I made my own tweaks to them that I think will be easier and faster for you to create.

Materials & Tools List:

(8) 2x4x8 studs
(The Home Depot recommended 16' boards, but I had a hard time thinking how I was going to get those home without strapping them to the hood of the truck)

Miter Saw
(a circular saw will work, but man a miter saw makes it so much faster and more accurate)

Orbital Sander & pack of (15) 220 grit sanding discs
(again, you could do this by hand, but it would take forever.)


What you will be creating is 72 blocks that are 10.5" long. This is because for every level of the stack, there are three blocks. A 2x4 is actually 1.5" x 3.5", so 3 blocks x 3.5" is 10.5", and you'll get a perfect square. You could go with the number that Jenga actually is, which is 54 blocks, but I wanted this one to stand taller than your average game, so I made 6 more levels to reach 3' tall.

I also spent a decent amount of time picking the straightest boards I could find. Make sure you pick through the studs so you get 8 boards that have no cupping, twisting or bowing.

Start by setting up your miter saw with a stop block. This makes it easy to get the same cut every time. I used some scrap 3/4" plywood and a scrap piece of 2x4. Taking a drywall screw, I secured the 2x4 to a piece of plywood. I then clamped a piece of plywood to one side of the fence (as a shim to match the other side and get a straight cut), and the piece of plywood with the 2x4 to the other side. The inside edge of the scrap 2x4 will be 10.5" from the side of the blade.

Ignore my clamp placement - I adjusted the right side to be further to the right since the saw motor would run into it and prevent it from fully going through the 2x4. Set up a sawhorse or table or something to support your 2x4 on the left, slide the first 2x4 into place, butting it up against the stop block, and make the first cut. Measure your first block to make sure you aren't short, mark that with a pencil as your guide, and set it aside - that way you as you keep going, you can use that to make sure your clamp hasn't slipped and you're suddenly cutting long.

Then just keep cutting! Your last block on each board may have a little left on the end, so trim that off. When you finish, you'll have a stack of 72 blocks. Should take you about an hour from set up to last cut.

If you're using a circular saw, you'll have to measure after each cut. Don't mark them all at once, since your blade will cut out some of the wood and each block will get shorter after the first one.

Now comes the boring part. This will take you about 3 hours, so maybe break it up into a couple sessions. Strap on your first 220 grit disc to the orbital sander and start sanding. You want to make sure you round the corners and edges on each end, get any splintering sanded out, and do a quick run on all sides just to make sure they slide nice when you're done. I found that each disc would last about 6 blocks.

And that's it! Stack em up and start playing. I chose not to stain or poly this set, for fear they might not slide right. But if you wanted to experiment, you certainly could make some extras and do some testing. Another thing I've seen is painting the ends - since you don't need the ends to slide, you could paint them all different colors, or stencil something with some spray paint, etc.

I'd also recommend making sure you store it indoors, away from moisture, since they're not finished. And if you plan on bringing it places, you'd be smart to get a rolling 27-gallon tote, since it weighs quite a bit, and carrying it any distance would suck all the fun out of it. Keep a 220 grit sanding block in the tote too, just in case you get some splintering or stubborn blocks that don't want to slide out.



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