Self-resettable Table-top Bowling Game (D4E1)





Introduction: Self-resettable Table-top Bowling Game (D4E1)

We are two students Industrial Design at the University of Ghent campus Kortrijk and one student Occupational Therapy at the Howest. In the context of a Design For (Every) One program (D4E1), we did a co-creation project with a 4 year old disabled toddler. He has a muscle disease, but is cognitive perfectly fine and smart for his age.

Our goal was to design and develop a game that challenges him both in a cognitive and motorial area that he can play fully autonomous, which up till now, nothing else, except for his iPad does.

The goal of the game is to roll over the targets with a ball and once all the targets are knocked over, the toddler can reset the game fully autonomous by pulling on the handle. Also, the balls he rolls automatically roll back into a ball collector, which the toddler can easily reach with his best hand.

The characters on the targets and the background are interchangeable to the constantly changing interests of the toddler.

Obstacles with different themes can be placed in the playing board, so the game can evolve with the skills of the toddler.

The accomplished results of this co-creation project is a game that the toddler loves playing and that he will be able to continue playing for a long time. He loves the fact that he has full control over the game and that he can play it fully autonomous. In addition to that, the game also helps to develop his motor skills.

(Due to privacy reasons, no pictures or names of the toddler, nor his parents will be published.)

Step 1: Step 1: Materials and Tools


1. 3mm thick plywood (55cm x 39cm)

2. 18mm thick plywood (55cm x 39cm)

3. 20mm wide hinges x 7

4. Piano hinge: 1 x 24cm + 1 x 38cm

5. Wooden dowles (diameter 8mm)

6. 20mm M6 countersunk bolt x 3

7. 15 mm countersunk woodscrews

8. 1,10m long thin rope

9. Self-adhesive foam door buffer pads x 5

10. Paper

11. Wood glue

12. Epoxy glue

13. Elastic band

14. 4mm x 2mm neodymium disk magnets x 22

15. Chalkboard paint (optional)

16. Painters tape


1. Jigsaw with wood blade (Band saw, scroll saw... are also possible)

2. Axle grinder

3. Wood-clamps / bar-clamps (a lot)

4. Drill (and drillbits)

5. Sanding machine (Palm sander) (Belt sander = optional)

6. Ruler and square

7. Router/milling machine

8. Laser cutter (optional)

Step 2: Cutting Out Wooden Parts

(Indicated measurements are the ones we used. They are a suggestion and can be cutomized to your wishes!)

1. Cut out the first two shapes (pic. 1 & 2) out of 18 mm thick plywood with a jigsaw or a band saw.

To save weight of the overall construction, a hole can be cut out of the second shape as indicated pic. 3. Make sure enough glue surface is left over.

2. Cut those exact same first two shapes (pic. 1 & 2) again, but this time out of 3 mm thick plywood and DON'T cut out the hole in the second shape.

3. Cut out the third shape (pic. 4) 4 times out of 3 mm thick plywood.

4. Cut out the fourth shape twice out of 3 mm thick plywood: once with the 5 small square holes (pic. 5) and once without the 5 small square holes (pic. 6).

5. Cut out a 20 cm x 38.5 cm rectangular shape with roundings with a radius of 7 cm (pic. 7) out of 3 mm thick plywood.

6. Cut out five targets (pic. 8) out of 3 mm thick plywood.

7. Cut out the reset U-bracket (pic. 9) twice out of 3 mm plywood.

Now you should end up with alle the pieces you see in the exploded view (pic. 10).

(Tip: when cutting with a jigsaw or band saw, painters tape can be used to avoid of minimise tear-off on the edges)

Step 3: Gluing Wooden Pieces

The gluing of the wooden pieces should be done in the order of the exploded view (pic. 1).

(complete exploded view with targets, backplate and U-bracket: pic. 2)

Here is a description of how we did this proces:

Glue all the wooden pieces together with regular wood glue.

After applying glue, press the pieces firmly together by clamping them between two thick plates. Also, use enough clamps in this process. Then leave the pieces glue cure for 24 hours (this can be less, depending on the used glue).

Painters tape can be very helpfull to keep all the parts lined up during the gluing process.

1. Glue the two U-bracket pieces (pic. 3 & 4) on each other.

2. Glue the 3 mm and 18 mm thick pieces with the same shape (pic. 5) on each other.

The 3 mm thick piece will be the top of the gameboard, so here you can customise the board to a left- or righthanded player by turning those two pieces around.

Depending on how you position and glue the pieces, the ball collector will be positioned on the left or the right side of the gameboard.

3. Glue 3 full 3 mm thick pieces (pic. 7) on the other side of previously glued 18 mm thick piece (pic. 6).

In this proces, the hole in the 18 mm thick piece should now be covered on both sides.

4. Now glue the other side. The lay-up order is first one full 3 mm piece (pic. 7), then one 3 mm piece with only the U-form cut-out (pic 8), then one 3 mm piece with the U-form and the 5 small squares cut-out (pic. 9) and finally a 18 mm thick and then a 3 mm thick large U-piece (pic. 10).

Again, use enough clamps in this process, as shown in pic. 11.

When finished, the top part of the gameboard should look like pic. 12 and the bottom part like pic. 13.

So as a summary, you should now end up with two 55 cm x 39 cm pieces with the following lay-up (starting from the bottom up): three times 3 mm thick plywood sheets, a 18 mm thick plywood sheet and again a 3 mm thick plywood sheet on top (pic. 1).

Once all the wooden pieces are glued together, the edges can be rounded and sanded. We just used a palm sander, but a rounding router bit is a possibility as well.

Step 4: Gluing the Small Hinges

These small hinges are glued on the wood with 5 minute epoxy.

When doing this step, make sure no glue gets inside the hinge. To provide this, painters tape can be applied on the parts of the hinge that are not glued.

It is also a good idea to roughen up the metal gluing surface of the hinge for optimal bonding strength with the glue.

1. Glue a small hinge centered on narrow part of the target pieces (pic. 1 & 2). Make sure the center of the hinge sticks out of the wooden piece as shown in pic 3 & 4.

Also make sure the hinges are glued square, because this will determine how well the targets will be aligned when fully assembled.

2. File a groove out of the ends of the U-brackets legs, so the hinge sits flush when glued in place (pic. 5). This groove must therefore have the same thickness as a closed hinge.

Then glue the two last hinges in place on the U-bracket (pic. 5, 6 & 7). Again, make sure the hinges are glued square.

3. Glue the U-bracket in place (pic. 9 & 10) in U-cut-out of the top-part of the gameboard (pic. 8). The easiest way to do this is by gluing both hinges at once.

4. Glue on the hinges of the targets (pic. 9 & 10) in the small square holes provided in the top part of the gameboard (pic. 8). As always, make sure to align them correctly when gluing.

To reinforce this small gluing surface, also scew in two small woodscrews per hinge (pic. 11).

If the woodscrews stick out of the bottom of the gameboard, grind them down carefully with an axle grinder (pic. 12).

Step 5: Installing the Folding Legs

The making and installation of the legs is a trial and error and precision work. Sand down all parts carefully and always check if the parts fit before gluing them.

Here is how we did it:

1. Cut out the legs of the playboard out of 12 mm thick plywood (pic. 1). The length of the legs depends on how steep you want the playboard to be. We chose for 85 mm x 30 mm legs (85 mm high in total => perfect elevation for the ball to roll back and 30 mm broad, because that's the thickness of our playboard.)

(You can also plane down a piece of 18 mm thick plywood to 12 mm thick or glue 4 pieces of 3 mm thick plywood on each other to achieve the 12 mm thickness.)

2. Round the top of each leg and drill a 6 mm hole 15 mm from the top of this rounded part (pic. 1 & 2). Chamfer the hole for the coutersunk bolt that will be screwed in later on.

3. Cut a 2.5 cm x 38.5 cm 3 mm thick plywood strip.

4. Saw or mill out a groove in the sides of the legs in which the plywood strip fits and sits flush (pic. 2). We made this groove 3 cm from the top of the legs (rounded part).

5. Glue in the plywood strip in the grooves in the legs (pic.2, 3 & 4) and sand the edges. In this way, both legs are connected (pic. 5).

6. Mill a 30 mm wide and 3 mm deep groove in the backside of the top part of the playboard (pic. 5). We made this groove 10 cm from the top part of the playboard, because this gives a nice positioning of the legs later on.

7. Draw out the positioning of the legs on the playboard (pic. 6 & 7). The positioning and size of this will depend on the size of the legs and the positioning of the groove on the playboard and the plywood strip that connects the legs. Then cut this out and check if the legs fit into the groove and cut-outs (pic. 8 & 9).

8. Drill 5 mm holes in the playboard to install the legs. The easiest way to do this is by clamping the legs in place and drilling through the holes that are already in the legs. Then you are sure they are positioned correctly.

9. Screw the 20 mm countersunk M6 bolts in the legs (pic. 8 & 9). They should grip in the 5 mm hole in the playboard, so that the legs can pivot around the bolts.

The 3 mm strip that connects the two legs ensure that the legs cannot pivot any further than approximatly 110° and so the playboard can remain standing.

Step 6: Gluing Piano-hinges

1. Mill a strip on the bottom and the inside of both halves of the playboard. The width should be half of the width of the hinge and the depth should be de thickness of the hinge. This makes that the hinge will sit flush when glued in.

2. Cut a 38 cm long piece of piano hinge. Make sure to remove all brims.

3. Place both halves of the playboard firmly against each other and correctly line them up with each other.

4. Now glue the piano hinge in place with epoxy glue. For an optimal bond, roughen the metal gluing surface of the hinge with sanding paper. Also make sure you don't move the two halves of the playboard when the glue is curing.

5. For better strength, secure the hinge with woodscrews (pic. 4) and carefully grind them of with the axle grinder when sticking out on the other side (pic. 5). Once the glue is cured, the playboard should be able to fold in half (pic. 6).

6. Cut a 20 cm long piece of piano hinge and glue it to the bakcplate (pic. 7).

7. Screw the other side of that hinge to the back-brim of the playboard using woodscrews (pic. 8, 9 & 10).

Step 7: Installing the Magnets

1. Cut the wooden dowels in half so they are approximately 15 mm long. Do this till you have 9 half dowels.

2. Drill a 2 mm deep hole with a diameter of 4 mm in the bottom of each dowel and glue a 4 mm neodymium disk magnet in the bottom with superglue (pic. 1).

3. Drill a 2 mm deep hole with a diameter of 4 mm in the center of each target and glue a 4 mm neodymium disk magnet in it with superglue (pic. 2). Make sure the magnets are on the top side of the targets (pic. 2).

Now you can stick 5 dowel pieces to the targets (pic. 3 & 4). This is to hold the printed out characters on the targets (pic. 5).

4. Drill four 2 mm deep holes with a diameter of 4 mm in the back plate and glue 4 mm neodymium disk magnets in them with superglue. There should be two holes positioned on the top of the plate and two holes on the bottom (pic. 6). Now you can stick the last four dowel pieces to the back plate (pic. 7). This should be able to hold the background paper (pic. 8).

5. Drill two 5 mm deep holes with a diameter of 10 mm in the top of the gameboard and glue a 10 mm neodymium disk magnet in it with superglue (pic. 9).

6. Then glue two 4 mm neodymium disk magnets to the back plate. These magnets should be lined up correctly with the 10 mm magnets you glued in the gameboard in step 5 (pic. 9). This should make sure that the back plate stays closed when carrying or transporting the gameboard.

Step 8: Installing Handle

1. Cut out a 20 cm long and 2 cm wide strip of 3 mm thick plywood and a small square wooden 2 cm x 2 cm square out of the 18 mm thick plywood.

2. Glue the small square on the end of the 3 mm thick strip and round the edges (pic. 1, 2 & 4). This will be the part that makes sure the toddler can easily grip the handle. Also, drill a small 2 mm hole in the center of the 3 mm thick strip just below the thick handle part (pic. 1).

3. Drill a 6 mm hole in the other side of the 3 mm thick strip on 1 cm from the bottom. Also, round the corners of this end and chamfer the hole for the countersunk bolt (pic. 2).

4. Drill a 5 mm hole in the brim of the playboard, 1 cm from the upper surface and on the desired distance you want the handle to be. In our case, this is 25 cm from the bottom of the playboard.

5. Screw the handle in place with a 20 mm countersunk M6 bolt. Use a washer between the handle and the brim of the playboard for minimal friction and minimal tolerance (pic. 2 & 3).

6. Drill a 2 mm deep 4 mm hole in the top of the handle and glue a small 4 mm neodymium disk magnet in it with superglue (pic. 4).

7. Insert a second 4 mm neodymium disk magnet in the playboard, so that this magnet is aligned with the magnet in the handle when the handle is closed (pic. 5). This will make sure the handle and rope stay closed and in place when the playboard is transported or stored (pic. 1).

8. Cut out a small 10 cm x 2 cm triangle out of 3 mm plywood and glue it on the U-bracket with epoxy glue (pic. 6). Then drill a small 2 mm hole in the top of the triangle (pic. 6).

9. Insert a fine rope that connects the hole in the triangle and the hole in the handle (pic. 3 & 6).

When the U-bracket lays down, the handle should be approximately 90° relative to the playboard and the rope should be tensioned (pic. 3).

10. Lastly, insert a fine rubberband from the triangle to the brim of the playboard so the U-bracket always falls down (pic. 6 & 7).

Step 9: Make Obstacles

The goal of the obstacles is that when the toddler grows older and becomes better at the game, his parents can place the obstacles in the playboard so the game becomes more difficult. In that way the toddler also has to think more how he has to roll the ball to get to the targets.

The obstacles we made are cut out with a lasercutter and have different themes (rocks, trees and cactuses) so they can be matched with the theme of the background and the characters.

The obstacles don't have to be lasercut, but can also just be wooden dowels.

Here is how we did it:

1. Draw out a matrix to position the holes on the playboard.

2. Drill the holes 6 mm deep with a 6 mm drill (pic. 1).

(Tip: Use tape around the drillbit to visualise the dept you can drill so you don't drill through the board.)

3. We drew the shapes of the obstacles in Illustrator and added a 6 mm x 6 mm square to the bottom (pic. 2).

4. We lasercut the obstacles (pic. 2).

5. As many obstacles as wished can be placed in the playboard (pic. 3, 4, 5 & 6).

Step 10: Finish the Playboard

Following steps are optional.

1. Apply self-adhesive foam buffer pads to the backside of the targets (pic. 1) and the U-bracket (pic. 2), so they make less noise when they fall down.

2. Chalkboard backside (pic. 3): mask off the edges of the playboard and the hinge with painters tape. Apply multiple layers of chalkboard paint and let the paint dry for at least 12 hours in between the layers. Then carefully remove the painters tape.

3. Oil all the wooden parts to make them water and dirt resistent.

Step 11: Finished Result

Congratulations, now your table-top bowling game is finished!

Print out your favourite action figures, athletes or characters and an corresponding background, cut them out and place them on the targets and the backboard.

Enjoy the game!!

(Ps: In the video, you have an overview of all the main features of the gameboard.)



    • Paper Contest 2018

      Paper Contest 2018
    • Pocket-Sized Contest

      Pocket-Sized Contest
    • Science of Cooking

      Science of Cooking

    We have a be nice policy.
    Please be positive and constructive.




    Your design is extremely clever. I love the clever placement of your magnets, the simple set-up, the customization of background and obstacles -- overall, you certainly accomplished your goal of creating a game for the 4 year old.

    Thank you for your nice coment!!

    The toddler indeed enjoys the game.

    Great to hear, thanks a lot! :)

    Thank you for your nice comment!

    A vote for our instructable for the 'Beyond the Comfort Zone' would be highly appreciated! :)

    It's like a combination of bowling and pinball

    Thank you for your comment! With the obstacles in the gameboard it indeed looks like pinball as well! :)

    A vote for our instructable for the 'Beyond the Comfort Zone' would be highly appreciated! :)

    I love wooden desktop games like this. Great work!

    Thank you for your nice comment! Glad you liked the design and the instructable.

    A vote for our instructable for the 'Beyond the Comfort Zone' would be highly appreciated! :)