Introduction: Pac Man Squirrel Feeder

The squirrels in my back yard have been asking me for entertainment for years.  They are so jealous of the bird's air hockey table.  So I thought they might like a vintage arcade machine.  But the ones I found on Craigslist were really expensive.  Especially for a bunch of squirrels that probably won't take care of it anyway.
So I decided to build them one.  Most of the squirrels in my neighborhood are children of the 1980's so I figured they would love something that would remind them of their youth.  Pac Man would be perfect!  I mean, who doesn't love Pac Man?  It's a classic.
This Instructable shows you how to create a piece of yard art modeled after an arcade machine.  Squirrels are luered into the maze by food and work their way through the maze and back out again.  Attached is a PDF file with approximate dimensions for this project. They will get you started. But there will be points were craftsman improv will be needed.

Step 1: Materials & Supplies

  • Basic workshop tools (saws, hammers, screwdrivers, etc.)
  • 1 Sheet (4'X8') 3/4" plywood (or roof sheathing)
  • 1 sheet 1/8" plywood (or floor underlayment)
  • Adhesives: Carpenter's Glue (Elmer's, etc.), Construction Adhesive (Liquid Nails, etc.), Polyurethane glue (Gorilla Glue, etc.)
  • Nails and screws (outdoor grade)
  • Exterior Latex Paint
  • Exterior Primer
  • Paintbrushes (artist's brushes and general purpose brushes)
  • Plexiglass (~30"X36")
  • Insert nuts (qty. 4) with thumb screws
  •  Sandpaper
  • Wood filler

Other materials:
1 dowel (joystick)
1 wooded ball (joystick knob)
Wooden furniture plugs (dots)
Wooden semi-spheres (power pellets)

My notes about adhesives:
This is an exterior project so water proof adhesives are needed.  I used a few different types and each has its advantages and disadvantages.
PVA Glue: This is regular carpenters glue.  It's not terribly water proof.  But is OK to use of what you're gluing isn't going to be completely wet or exposed.
Polyurethane Glue: Water-proof.  There are several brands, such as Gorilla glue.  It's very strong so it is good for joints.  Problem is that it is a little awkward to use, You have to let a thin coating of it air dry for a while and the other surface should be damp.  So it's not something that you can just dab some glue on there and attach it.  It's more involved than that.
Construction adhesive: Very strong. Water proof.  But it comes in a tube (usually) that requires a caulk gun.  So it's not good for tiny things.

Step 2: Maze Box

The basis of the arcade feeder is the maze box.  Once this is created, you could make the squirrel maze into anything you want.  The box is a 26X26X6" box with one of the 26" sides open.  Cut the pieces according to the attached plans, glue, and secure using 1.5" deck screws. 
Next, mark the inside of the box with a grid of equal squares.  This grid allows you to design and mark the maze.  Play around with the path of the maze.  Get creative.  Once you're settled on a maze, use tape to mark where the interior maze pieces will go.  Measure all of the pieces and cut them out of the plywood.  Make sure that the dept of the maze pieces is less than the depth of the box.  For instance, if the box is 6" make the maze depth 5.5".  I don't recommend securing the maze pieces in place yet; my suggestion is to prime and paint them first.
Any maze-based arcade game could be used.  Donkey Kong would be perfect.  Dig Dug might be cool too.  But Pac Man is my favorite.

Step 3: Cabinet

To create the arcade cabinet, first use some cardboard to make a pattern.  The maze box will be sandwiched between to sides of the cabinet.  So Include the positioning of the maze box in your pattern by tracing where it will be placed.  It will then be easy to line it up when you mount it.
Cut the two sides of the cabinet out of plywood.  Using the pattern, trace the positioning of the maze box on each side of the cabinet.  Use two small scraps of wood to create a cleat that can be used to hold the maze box in place while you secure it.  Screw the sides of the cabinet to the maze box.
There are three more pieces of wood that are needed: the top of the cabinet, the front, and the area where the joystick is.  Cut these out and secure all of them except the top...leave the top off until the end.
Use a jigsaw to cut a hole on one side for the squirrel to enter.
Fill in all of the nail/screw holes and other imperfections with woodfiller.  Then sand the whole thing.

Step 4: Marquee

One of the most distinct features of an arcade cabinet is the marquee.  This is the piece at the top that has the name of the game on it.  In an arcade, it would usually light up.  For the squirrel maze, make a marquee out of plexiglass.  Measure the size of the marquee opening and cut the plexiglass to size (using a razor knife).
To create the marquee graphic, you'll paint the inside of the plexiglass so the front has a smooth, polished finish.  In order to do this you'll need to paint "backwards."  What I mean is, you'll paint the outline first and then work your way into the other colors and finish with the background color.  To create the graphic itself, print the Pac Man marquee from a computer and trace the outline onto the plexiglass using a Sharpee.
Then use an artists brush to paint the black outline and the colors.  Once dry, finish it off with several coats of white spray paint.
To mount the marquee, use strips of wood to make a channel that the marquee can slide down into (I used pieces of frame from an old storm window which I held in place with construction adhesive).

Step 5: Painting

Use exterior-grade latex primer to paint the entire cabinet.  In order to protect from the elements, paint every exposed surface, even the bottom.
Then paint with exterior latex paint.
To create the cabinet graphics, print them out from a computer and transfer to the cabinet in pencil.  You could make stencils or use transfer paper (carbon paper). Paint the graphic with exterior latex paints.  

Step 6: Front Glass

To create the front glass cut some plexiglass to size.
Install 4 Insert Nuts to the perimeter of the maze box.  Insert nuts can be found in the specialty hardware section of a hardware store.  They are installed by drilling a hole (size is specified on the package) and tapping the insert into the hole.  The insert has teeth on it so it cannot pull out.  When installed correctly the insert creates a threaded hole where a bolt can be installed.  In this case, it's best to use a thumbscrew bolt since you'll be removing the front glass in order to load it with squirrel bait.
Drill holes in the front glass to correspond with each insert nut.  Check for a good fit.
(My original design called for painting the inside of the glass to highlight the maze.  But I scraped this in favor of decorative facades (see next step))

Step 7: Details

Joystick: Drill a hole into a wooden ball and insert a dowel.
Maze Facades: Cutout the shapes of the maze pieces in 1/8th inch plywood.  Paint them to recreate the details of a real Pac Man maze. Glue and tack them into place.
Ghosts and Cherry: Cut some squares out of 1/8th inch plywood.  Paint ghosts and a cherry on each square.
Pellets: Paint a bunch of furtinure plugs white.  Drill holes into the back of the maze box and glue the furniture plugs into each hole using polyurethane glue.

Step 8: To Play, Insert Squirrel

In order to get a squirrel to go through the maze you need to bait them.  They love ear corn and nuts.  So place some of each into the most distal parts of the maze.  Also, put some right near the entrance of the maze to get them interested.  It's best to remove as many other sources of food as possible from the rest of your yard.
Then wait....
They'll come eventually.  Even squirrels can't resist Pac Man.

Make It Stick Contest 2

Participated in the
Make It Stick Contest 2