Introduction: Ping Pong Ball Retriever

In the summer, I work as a summer camp director. Don't get me wrong, I love working with kids but sometimes they can really drive you up a wall!

At our camp we have a Foosball table. It looks innocent enough. Surprisingly it has held up over the past few years - except for one thing. The children have managed to pry up the 4 drink holders on each corner, and each hole leads down into one of the four hollow legs. That's where things have gone south. Over the years, the children have stuck so many items down into the legs that is a mess.

That's where this handy-dandy Ping Pong Ball Retriever comes in! Working at camp, we are always trying to stay under budget. So for this project I knew that I wasn't going to be able to go out and grab a $10 tool that might or might not work. After some brainstorming I came up with this idea!

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Since this is just a simple tool, there wasn't much measuring. I encourage trying out different methods/supplies to see what works best for you!


  • 4 plastic forks
  • 1 standard dowel rod (ours was left over from a Walmart trip a while ago. Diameter doesn't matter, just make sure that its long enough to reach the bottom of the leg)
  • Roll of masking tape

Step 2: Tape the Dowel Rod

Before we can start taping forks on willy-nilly, we have to add a bit of tape to the end of the dowel rod. Why you ask? Adding tape to the end of the dowel rods will prop the forks at a bit of an angle when we tape them on. This angle will prevent the prongs of the fork from knocking together and allow a little more flexibility when grabbing the ping pong balls.

Step one:

Take your masking tape and measure out a nice long piece. I used about 24", but like I said earlier, to make this tool you don't need exact measurements. Line up your piece of tape with the edge of the dowel rod and wrap the tape around and around.

Step 3: Add the Forks

Step two:

Take one fork and set it next to the dowel rod. I had it lined up so that about an inch of fork was below the tape line. Take about a 2" piece of tape, and tape the fork onto the dowel rod.

Step three:

Take another fork and line it up on the dowel rod so that the forks are across from each other and the bottoms of both forks are equal. Take about another 2" piece of tape, and tape the fork onto the dowel rod.

Step four:

Take the last two remaining forks and repeat steps two and three on the free sides of the dowel rod. Make sure that all of the forks have been taped down.

Step 4: Add Reinforcments

Step five:

Take about a 6" piece of tape and tape it around the middle of the forks. We want to make sure that the forks won't shift side to side! Take another 6" piece of tape and tape it around the bottom of the forks. This will help prevent the forks from shifting up and down the dowel rod.

Step 5: Finished!

As you can see, the forks are a little lopsided, and that's OK! The forks still make a little chamber to hold the ping pong balls. ***When I first used this tool, I retrieved 34 ping pong balls stuck in our Foosball table.***

To use:

Take your Ping Pong Ball Retriever and go to where your ping pong balls are trapped. Take your tool and push it over the ping pong ball you are trying to retrieve. The prongs of the forks will spread to engulf the ping pong ball, and then bend back to their original position, trapping the ball inside the forks!

Step 6: Modifications

I believe there is always a way to make a tool better! Here are a few ideas I came up with:

Try using spoons instead of forks

Try using different types of tape

Try adding tape to the end of the fork so the tool can pick up pieces of paper

Try adding a knife to one end. Some of the kids at camp decided to be creative with the items that they stuck down into the legs and managed to squeeze a few stress balls down there. The Ping Pong Ball Retriever wasn't built to grab such large objects, but adding a knife can fix that! Just take a cutting knife and attach it to the dowel rod with a decent about of masking tape (we don't want the knife to fall off!). Once it is securely attached, just gently insert into the table leg and give whatever stuck a good stab! PLEASE USE CAUTION WHEN USING KNIFES

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