Introduction: Making Skittles - an Outdoor Throwing Game With a Unique Carrying Case
This game is based on a Finnish throwing game which consists of 12 numbered sticks and one throwing stick. It is a very easy game to learn and can be enjoyed by both young and old. The rules of the game are attached in a PDF file.
The game can be constructed from any wood that is at least 2.5 inches thick . I have made many sets from a variety of different wood. The first was constructed from a 8 foot cedar 4 x 4 post. I ripped this post into 2.5“ x 2.5” board and used the left over cut-off pieces to construct the carrying case. The cedar cuts easily, so the game took very little time to make. However, since the game is played by throwing wood against wood, I found that the cedar pieces dented and broke too easily. I made the next few games from untreated spruce, which gave much better results. I used two 2 x 4 spruce studs laminated together to achieve the thickness needed. I don’t use pressure treated lumber because the game pieces are handled constantly while playing the game. I have made about ten of these games so far. Some have been given as gifts to family and friends. Others, I have donated as silent auction items to various fund raisers in our community. Of course, I keep one for myself to play at campgrounds or in our backyard.
I now make these games from re-purposed oak from shipping platforms I find at our local farm implement dealerships. The lumber is usually solid oak and comes in a variety of useful dimensions. The lumber is usually quite rough, but after cutting it into pieces approximately 2.75” wide, I use my thickness planer to plane it down to the 2.5 “ thickness I need.
Step 1: Ripping the Lumber Into the Game Pieces Dimensions
For this project, I used re-purposed oak that I had collected. It was 2.5" by 3.5" and 6 feet long. This project requires a total of approximately 8 to 9 feet of this size. I used the two six foot lengths which allowed for more material than needed. I set the table saw fence to 2.5" from the blade and ripped the wide side of the oak board down to 2.5". I now had two six foot boards with the dimensions 2.5" by 2.5". These boards were reasonably smooth, so there was no need to put them through my thickness planer. Generally, the cuts made by ripping the boards on the table saw provide smooth enough finish before sanding. I have used much rougher wood when making previous games. In those cases, I ripped the boards somewhat larger (perhaps 2.6" by 2.6") and use my thickness planer to plane the boards done to 2.5" by 2.5".
Step 2: Cut the 2.5" X 2.5" Boards Into an Octagon Shape
Next, I set my table saw blade to a 45 degree angle and I then cut the two 6 foot 2.5” x 2.5” board into an octagon shape as shown. To simplify the construction, you could leave the pieces square rather than cutting them into the octagon shape.
Step 3: Cut the Game Pieces
Next, I cut these octagon shaped boards into lengths of 13”. I cut 6 of these lengths to make the 12 game pieces needed, but I cut an extra length to provide a couple spare pieces. I set a stop block on my miter saw as shown in the picture to ensure consistent lengths as I was cutting the 13" pieces.
Next, I set the miter saw to 45 degree angle and cut these seven 13” pieces exactly in half. This resulted in the 12 game pieces needed for the game (plus a couple of spares). Each of the game pieces are about 7.25” tall.
Step 4: Make the Throwing Piece
From the extra octagon wood left over, I cut the throwing piece. There is only one throwing piece needed, and I usually cut it approximately 12” long. This piece doesn’t have to be as thick as the the game pieces, so I adjusted my table saw to make it about 2 “ thick, while still keeping the octagon shape.
Note: It's a good idea to make a spare throwing piece since the throwing piece gets dented the most during play.
Then, I sanded the 12 game pieces and the throwing piece to smooth the edges. A belt and disc sander works well for this.
Step 5: Numbering the Pieces
After sanding the game pieces and the throwing piece, it's time to number the pieces from 1 to 12. I use an inexpensive alpha-numeric template I purchased at a stationary store. It has 2" high lettering. I place the template on the 45 degree angle face of one of the game pieces and trace the number outline onto the wood face. I continued tracing all the numbers from 1 to 12 onto the faces of the game pieces.
After all the outlines are finished, I use a Sharpie pen to color in the outlined numbers.
Step 6: Finishing the Game
To protect the game pieces from the elements, I like to coat the pieces with a product such as double boiled linseed oil. I brushed a thin coat of the oil onto the game pieces and allow the oil to penetrate into the wood for approximately 30 minutes to an hour. I then wiped off the excess oil from the game pieces and put them aside to allow them to dry thoroughly.
The game is now complete.
Step 7: Making the Carrying Case
The carrying case is optional of course. Any box or bag can be used to store and carry the game pieces. However, if you want to give your game a unique styled carrying case, the following directions provide such a case. I have used a variety of wood types and box styles. The first ones I made were rectangular boxes with rope carrying handles. Lately, I’ve made more stylized cases. The shape of the box corresponds to the shape of the game piece setup at the start of the game.
My first attempt to make a six sided box turned out fine, but took a long time to make. The angles were not uniform in size and each of the six sides had to be measured and cut to fit. After making a couple this way, I decided to do a better job on the design.
Following, are the directions to build this case.
Step 8: Make the Base for the Case
The bottom base of the box can be made from plywood or solid wood depending on your preference or availability. The wood should be 1/2” to 3/4” thick. You will need a piece art least 13” by 12”. The wood shown here is 3/8" birch plywood scrap that was left over from making a different type of game. It was barely large enough to fit the template.
Using my MacBook and their document program called Pages, I have created two diagrams which, when put together, form the full sized base template for the carrying case. I saved the two template files in PDF format to allow anyone to print the documents. You will find both the PDF and Apple Pages documents attached to this project. Print out the two halves of the template. Ensure that you print the template in ‘actual size’ rather than ‘Print to fit’, otherwise the template will be too small. Cut the right side template along the dotted line and join the two halves with scotch tape. Make sure the templates are aligned as close as possible before taping.
Place the template on the material you are using for the base, and tape in position. Use a hammer and a small nail, carefully mark the six corners of the base by tapping a small hole through the paper into the wood underneath. Remove the template. Use a ruler and pen join the small nail holes in the wood with lines to form the outside perimeter of the base. As you can see, the plywood I used was just barely big enough.
Step 9: Cut Out the Six Sided Base
Carefully cut out the base using a jigsaw, circular saw or scroll saw, following the lines closely. If necessary, I use a belt sander to remove any excess wood exposed past the cutting line. Remember that the more accurate the base is made, the better the sides will fit. The bottom base is now complete and ready for the sides.
Step 10: Adding Numbers to the Base (Optional)
You may want to write the numbers 1 to 12 onto the base as shown on the template. The positioning of the numbers on this template corresponds to the positioning of the numbered game pieces at the start of each game. Since this setup is easy to remember, having the numbers written on the bottom of the case is not necessary, but it adds a nice touch to the case. It is easier to add these numbers on the bottom at this time rather than waiting until after the sides are attached to the base of the case. Using the lines on the template as a guide, I faintly draw the lines onto the base using pencil. Next, using a numbering template, I trace out the numbers 1 to 12 in the appropriate places on the base. Then using a Sharpie pen, I fill in the outlined numbers.
Step 11: Adding the Six Sides to the Case
Next, you will add the sides on the case. The sides are made from any type of wood material. The wood only needs to be about 3.5" to 4” wide and approximately 3/8” to 1/2” thick. You will need to cut about 48” of this wood. Sand the edges of the wood.
Following the angles and the lengths for each side provided on the template, use a miter saw to cut out the six sides of the box. The angles and lengths should provide accurate measurements to give tight fitting corners at each of the six corners. If the corners don’t seem to fit well, you may have to re-cut the pieces or re-make one or two pieces until you get a good fit. The attached PDF file shows the exact size side wall pieces that should fit the base. You may want to print this out to help you fit the pieces.
Note: I designed the case to have all the same size angles - all the angles are 120º. This makes setting the miter saw angles easier. The setting on the miter saw should therefore be 30º on either the left or right side all the time.
Step 12: Glue and Nail
Dry fit the six sides to ensure a good fit. Once satisfied with the fit, apply glue to the bottom and to the metered edges and then air nail each of the six sides at the bottom edge and to the sides.
Step 13: Make the Sides for the Handle.
Next you will build the two taller sides that will attach to to the box you just built to provide support for the handle cross piece.
The sides should be made of wood that is somewhat wider if possible. Four to six inches wide by twelve inches tall and again 3/8” to 1/2” thick is a good size. Of course you will need 2 of these. A curved design such as shown in the picture can be cut to customize your case if you wish. A template that you may want to use is provided in pdf format.
Once you have cut out these sides, glue and nail them to the sides of the box as shown. The pine tree design you see on one side is what I like to add to all my crafts to personalize it.
Step 14: Add the Handle to the Carrying Case.
The final step is to cut the top cross-piece handle. Find a board approximately 1.5” by 1.5” by 13” long. Hold it on top of the sides just attached to the box and mark the board where it needs to be cut to fit between the two sides. Using a miter saw cut the board at the marks just drawn. Using glue and an air nailer, attach the board to the sides. To add strength to this handle, you may want to add a screw to each side and possibly even two at the bottom of the case. Remember to drill a pilot hole first to prevent the wood from splitting.
Step 15: Protecting the Carrying Case
As with the game pieces, its a good idea to protect the carrying case. I use the same double boiled linseed oil to add protection to the case. Once again, brush a thin coat of oil on all the surfaces of the carrying case, outside and inside. Let the oil absorb for about an hour and then wipe off the excess with rags. Let the case dry completely before using.
The game and case are now ready to use. I like to turn the 6,12, 11 and 5 pins around in the carrying case to form a carrying pocket for the throwing piece as shown in the pictures.
If you decide to make one, I hope you enjoy building it as much as I do.
I'm sure it will also provide hours of fun and entertainment for you and your family and friends.