Instructables

How to play Conkers.

Featured
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: The conker

Picture of The conker
The "conker" is the fruit of the horse-chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum).  Not actually a chestnut (conkers are, in fact, slightly toxic), it has been an important commercial tree, with uses as broad as raw materials for explosives to providing deep shade to keep beer-gardens cool enough to make winter ice last longer.

The conker got its name from the game, rather than the other way round - before the horse-chestnut was introduced to Britain, the game was played with acorns or snail-shells (the word conker actually means "hard", and comes from the same root as the French conque, meaning "conch (shell)").

Step 2: Preparation.

Preparing conkers for the game is very simple - drill a hole through the conker, then thread a knotted string through it.

Being a playground game, the drilling has been done with many tools, typically screwdrivers and found nails, and the string is often a shoelace.

The neater and rounder the hole, though, the less likely the conker is to split.  Use of a power drill is therefore recommended, as seen below, with #2 son helping me prepare for a Cub Pack contest.

The drill-bit used should match the string being used - thread the conker onto about 30-45cm (a foot to 18 inches) of string, then tie a good fat knot in the end of the string to stop the conker slipping off.

Shoelaces have an advantage, with a built-in threader (the aglet); you may have to resort to a large needle, awl or bent paperclip to thread the string through.

kakmer1 year ago
In Ohio, these are known as buckeyes. We used to create something similar!
Kiteman (author)  kakmer1 year ago
Cool.
Wow. I need to...

-Finish High school
-Go to college
-Marry someone
-move to England and have kids who will play conkers and have British accents.
-Move back to the U.S and spread the love

Thanks for writing this- ive heard the term conkers before (usually on top gear), and never really knew what it meant.

Never actually did this or many other games as a child. Mostly due to being homeschooled. I got quite good at "slapjack" and spoons though :D
Oh, I actually went to Europe last year and picked up a few horse chestnuts... I think I still have them (dont tell customs!). Hehe.
myboyzx41 year ago
this was cool I was just looking through when I found your conkers how too its funny but my boys were watching a childrens show "charlie and lola" and they mentioned the game conkers and I was curious as to how it was played thanks again
Kiteman (author)  myboyzx41 year ago
You're welcome!
clesiter2 years ago
Can these be found in australia
Kiteman (author)  clesiter2 years ago
If they are, they will be in temperate zones, and will have been deliberately planted by settlers.

See wikipedia.
Mutantflame2 years ago
A great instructable about perhaps one of my favourite games of all time! Five stars for you!
Kiteman (author)  Mutantflame2 years ago
Thanks.
d2j54 years ago
I have read that they are poisonous not just slighly toxic.
Kiteman (author)  d2j54 years ago
"Poisonous" implies fatality.

The skin of the nut contains toxins that cause vomiting, but the peeled nut used to be boiled, dried and ground into a flour.
d2j5 Kiteman4 years ago
aesculus hippocastanum several similar species,Aesculus and other buckeyes like the sweet buckeye a.octandra are all poisonus. all parts of the plant and nut contain a dangerous glycoside. nuts should not be eaten even after thorough soaking.

look for: Peterson field guides
Edible Wild Plants
eastern/central north america
by Lee Allen Peterson

a pretty usefull guide to have handy if you like those types of things but thats where i get the reason to belive they are poisonus. i got a copy at a borders book store for around $20.00.
Kiteman (author)  d2j54 years ago
I'll take your word for it.

They still used to eat the flour over here, though.
d2j5 Kiteman4 years ago
really? thats interesting what country are you from?
Kiteman (author)  d2j54 years ago
The UK.  I think the flour thing is old, though - medieval, even.

We used to make coffee out of acorns as well, but that was down to WWII shortages.
d2j5 Kiteman4 years ago
cool, can also make coffee from dryed dandylion roots, fritters from the unopen buds and salad from unsprayed leaves :D

hmm im not shure if the book i mentioned earlyer is avalable in the UK or not i but still consider looking for it.
Kiteman (author)  d2j54 years ago
I've tried dandelion coffee - it is foul!
d2j5 Kiteman4 years ago
eewwwouuuhh ill skip it then.
d2j5 d2j52 years ago
i know this is an old comment but it just kinda came to me....

one: i live in the U.S. and you live in the UK, so it is possible that the "horse chestnut" could be two different things. to me i know it as poison but to you it COULD be perfectly safe.

two: DANDYBLEND IS HORRIFIC (dandylion coffee)

-that is all.
Neon Panda3 years ago
I'm English, and have grown up in a small town in the north of England.
I can remember my grandmother teaching me all these things when I was really little :) great game- still haven't grown out of it lol!!
Huh, we never had a version of this in the US. Strange how one culture that evolved from the other can still be so different, even in the games their kids play on the playground. *Sips iced tea looking contemplative*

Nice instructable by the way!
Kiteman (author)  dungeon runner4 years ago
Thank you.

What games did you play? 
I think I remember playing marbles, but to be honest, the games we played were a lot less organized than this (hey guys, whoever can run to the other side of the playground the fastest doesn't get punched in the face!)

I'm kidding, of course. Nobody ever got punched in the face :).

(We were some pretty creative kids)


-Y
You never played the classic game of "If you run faster than I throw this rock I won't hit you with it"? I belive I shall write an ible' about it. Victory will be mine!
Ah, classic fun for all the ages ;)...
What a fantastic instructable Kiteman! It really brought back a lot of memories of being an expat kid in London, down to the errant shouting/shoving matches.

In America, there isn't really an equivalent, given the lack of quality conkers lying about. The closest game in spirit would be pencil fighting, in which the defender holds his pencil between thumb and forefinger in both hands and the attacker flicks their pencil in an attempt to break the defending pencil in two - which was really just an excuse to not do homework.
I've never heard of pencil fighting, but that sounds like something I would do as a kid :).

Maybe that should be an 'ible.

-Y
Sure, we had it in Rhode Island.  We played it at the bus stop so it didn't matter whether the school banned it.  My knuckles are getting a chill as I think about it.  Our variation on "one-ers, two-ers, etc." was that a ten-er was a "kinger". 
big-jamie4 years ago
 i used to play conkers with my uncle a lot as he had a chestnut tree out his back door, great way to pass the time. Conkers also got banned at my primary school many years ago as too many kids were getting bloody knuckles and broken fingers lol.
greytown4 years ago
we all ways played bloody nuckles.one person would spin a quarter,if the other person stops it standing up they get to spin but if it falls when they try to stop it they get the quarter slammed into there nuckles
General_Zod4 years ago
OMG! I used to play this when i lived in Hamilton, Ontario. I thought we made that odd game up. Awesome to see it here!
usbfuse4 years ago
if u say its kind of a explosive but in a plant or tree usually are friendly but if this has raw explosives then u should of put this on becuase terrorist will put this stuff in their c4
Kiteman (author)  usbfuse4 years ago
No, conkers do not contain explosives, but they can be made into explosives.

C4 by itself is far more destructive.
Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Step number 4 on our tour of Instructables: our esteemed British friend explaining to a numpty that C4 is a more powerful explosive than conkers. 

No, it's not all that unusual, why do you ask?

Right, next up we have a real cultural experience - a duck into the K*nex Ghetto...not even the police admins go to this part of town...
Kiteman (author)  Lithium Rain4 years ago
In my next project, I will be demonstrating that cutting down horse chestnut trees causes a radical reduction in alcohol-related diseases...
IdahoDavid4 years ago
In the U.S. these are also called "buckeyes."
 I thought those game pieces looked familiar!
Kiteman (author)  IdahoDavid4 years ago
I saw that somewhere - they look like a deer's eyeball, apparently.

Redfrk Kiteman4 years ago
In Puerto Rico we have a similar game called "Gallitos" (fighting cocks).  We use the seeds from the Algarrobo tree (Hymenaea courbaril).  We drill a hole through the flat side and tie a string around it so that the "gallito" lays flat.  The defending "gallito" lays on the ground in an approx 6" diameter circle and the attacking one attempts to hit it.  All the other basic rules are the same.  This is a cool instructable that brought back some childhood memories.  It's awesome to see that even in cultures as different as British and Puerto Rican there can be such a similar game. Thanks!
Pro

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?

close

PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!