Years ago I came across this wooden rock stacking game at a Starbucks (of all places). The game was in their store for one christmas season and never again. The block stacking was fun, relaxing and a little bit educational (because, physics!). The problem is you need a lot of these wooden rocks to make more interesting stuff like arches. Solution: make your own!
Turns out making the wooden rocks is super easy if you have a belt sander. I'll show you how we turned some old sofa feet into more wooden rocks for our game.
Step 1: Wood Chunks
I think the wood I'm showing here is poplar but I'm not sure. You could make these with a softwood but they wouldn't be quite as pretty. Also, the harder the wood the smoother the finished product. Smoother blocks make the stacking game more challenging since the friction between blocks is reduced.
I was throwing out an old sofa so I removed the wooden feet and used a chop saw cut them into random and uneven chunks of wood (one of the fun parts of this project, no measuring!). My blocks ranged from about 5cm to about 8cm.
Step 2: Rough Sanding
Now setup a bench sanding rig with your belt sander (or use a bench sander if you have one) with medium grit sand paper. I had to start by sanding off the finish from a few sides.
Once you have your sander going and raw pieces of wood you can get creative. Try to think a bit ahead of how the game is played at this point. Large flat areas make for much easier stacking but could make the game pretty boring. A lot of little flat areas make the game more challenging but might limit the complexity of structures you can build. Also important are the angles between opposite sides of each piece. Too parallel and you have just plan old wooden blocks. Too angular and stacking any two blocks can become impossible. I tried to create a mixture of flatter and rounder pieces with flat areas ranging from a couple centimeters to four.
Making the "facets" is simply a matter of pressing the block into the belt. Once I had all my facets cut I knocked down all the sharp edges with the belt sander and moved on to the next piece.
Step 3: Finishing
Employing some child labour we used fine grained sandpaper to smooth all the edges and surfaces of the piece. In the end you should have something that feels really nice in your palm. Make sure there are no rough edges or slivers.
Now, get stacking!