Introduction: Portable Gaga Pit (Israeli Dodge Ball)

This project was so big I had to cut it down and change it inside out to work better.

Gaga is a game played in an octagon (mine is nearly 17ft across), players are eliminated if the ball hits them below the knees (the rules vary). The ball is batted not thrown if the ball leaves the octagon the last person to touch it is out. It is wildly popular at summer camps, it is like dodge ball without the violence.

I built this for my son's Scout Troop, he works summers as a camp counselor and this game is very popular.
You should have seen my neighbors wondering what the heck I doing. There is a lot of pity for my wife within the neighborhood but after 30 years she is used to my eccentricity as I have explained in a previous instuctable.

This thing went over big, they want to use for recruitment at cub scout events and even want to bring it to summer camp.

At my scout meetings (yes you can set it up indoors due to rubber feet) you can fit anywhere from 8-16 players per game (depending on the size of the kids). We separated it by age (14 and older, 13 and under) interleaving games. The boys wanted the adults to take a swag but given the dress shoes and one guy in cowboy boots we were sure to injure ourselves, maybe next time.

This thing is big, for a 17 ft diagonal each side is about 7 ft.

If you go full 8 ft length as I did at first you will get 21ft (would not fit in the driveway so I cut it down to 7 ft)


Look it up on You Tube.

If you have never seen it here are:
DA RULES (copied from a website yours may vary):

1. Any number of people can play. To start, everyone in the pit must be touching the wall. Someone tosses the ball in the center of the pit, and it must bounce twice on the ground. As it bounces, everyone can say "Ga" for each bounce. After the second bounce ("Ga-Ga"), the ball is live.

2. Slap-hit the ball with your hand, aiming it at another player's leg at the knee or below. If the ball hits or touches anyone from the knee or below, that player is out and must exit the pit. At any time, if a player makes any type of contact with the ball at the knee or below, that player is out

3. Anytime the ball goes out of the pit, the last person that the ball touched is out.

4. You can only hit the ball one time until it either touches another player or the wall, then you are able to hit it again. You can dribble the ball against the wall to position it if necessary, and, you can move around anywhere inside the pit during the game.

5. The game ends when the last person is eliminated, or, to speed up the end of the game, the last few players can be given a count-down for a tie game. Once the game is over, everyone else re-enters the pit to start a new game.

6. You can add variations to the game such as playing with more than one ball, play in teams, expand the ‘hit’ area to be above the knee, catching the ball eliminates the person that hit it, and any other variation you can come up with! A good variation for school recess time is to play Rotation instead of Elimination. This is done by allowing a certain amount of players in the pit, and forming a line for the rest that want to play. Then, as one person gets out, the next person in line goes into the game. This way, everyone that wants to play should get a chance during a short period of time.

In our game anyone who hits anyone in the head is automatically out.

Enough with the intro let's get going.


4 Sheets of exterior grade 1/2 or 5/8 ( $2 more, they say it is 19/32) inch plywood

16 2x3 by 8ft studs (selected for straightness)

2 2x4 by 8ft studs (again selected for straightness)

2lbs of 2 inch exterior flat head deck screws

16 Simpson Strong Tie HTP37Z (about 3 in by 7 in heavy gauge)

32 1/4 by 2 1/2 in carriage bolts with washers and nuts

3 Tubes of Liquid Nails (or alike)


Rubber pads to keep from marring the floor, I used rubber stair treads cut into 1.5 inch strips by the width of the thread.
Contact cement for treads.


Circular Saw
Router (optional use the sander if you don't have one).
Drill with metal and wood drill bits.
Bench Vise (or metal break if you have access to one)

Additinoaly: I made a cutting jig for my saw using 1/4 hardboard (2 ft wide) and a scrap piece (straight) of molding, screw the hardboard to the molding greater then the distance from your blade to the end of your circular saws shoe. You can set your saw to 22.5 degrees cut and rip along the guide this is your angle side. Most circular saws do not pivot evenly so if you have done this before the 90 degree guide may not work.

Cost ~ $200

Step 1: Rip It Good

Hopefully you can get this done at your lumber yard.

I used 1/2 inch exterior plywood (your choice of grade don't go wild but be selective to reduce the need to fill)
First determine the width of you octagon for my project the the length of each side was 7 ft.

If you are at the lumber yard have them first cut it to the length of the side 7ft.

Next have them rip it the long way to get 2 ft by 7 ft lengths.
You should end up with 8 2 ft by 7 ff lengths.

No need for pictures.

Step 2: Panel Assembly

Take 2 2x3s screw and glue them to the long edge a plywood pane (clamp at 3 points to make sure they are flush, picture), you can let them run wild on the edge we are only going to cut them off later.
Cut 2 19 in pieces of 2x4 and glue and screw 1/4 inch from ends of each panel (the same side so it makes a box, I used a scrap to measure 1/4 inch spacing).

NOTE: It is very important not to screw too close to the edge of the panel:
1 To prevent splitting
2 Most important so that when you rip your 22.5 degree angle it does not hit any screw

This is easy to measure by taking your saw at the desired angle place it on the 2x3 / 2x4 side of the panel (not the plywood) to estimate the distance.

Side note my first try at this I had the 2 by lumber inward as I had seen on a few that I saw online. After getting it all together all 21 ft wide of it. We (my son and myself) noticed that this made the ball leap out of the ring constantly. So I reworked every panel to reverse it and cut it down to fit the driveway.

Given you have used a lot of glue (mine is Liquid Nails) I would let them sit until it is dry (so the blade won't get gummed up when the do the end cut). Your choice you can just clean the blade if necessary.

Up until now you have not had to been so precise, this is the only crucial cut in the project:

Setting your jig on top of the 2x3s make sure the face of the hardboard is flush with the plywood, using your woodworking square, if the plywood was ripped true this will be easy. Clamp the hardboard to the panel in back of the guide. I know there is a space between the plywood and 2x4 but that left me with more meat and I didn't want to depend on the straightness of the 2x4 or get thrown off by any knots. You could have place if flush if you believe it to be straight.

With the saw set to 22.5 degrees and the jig (you made at 22.5 degrees) secure rip the edge of the panel, it will go slow take your time having good circular saw.

NOTE: The JIG is NOT on the correct side it is just their for the picture.

Repeat for all panels

In my case I waited and did all the angle cuts at the end.

Step 3: The Ties That Bind.

This step can be done at any time prior to this but it must be done by now.

Look at the ties notice the 2 arrows, hey this is your center line sweet draw a line with a marker.

Bending is not that easy, you can use a vise, screw a spare piece of 2x4 to the metal and use that as a fulcrum bend it.
Use a compass or any angle measuring device (my square came with one), bending it till you get 45 degrees.
Luckily my company has a small machine shop, not that they let the Firmware guys use it, I got someone to let me in and used the break.
Once you have one made you have a guide to measure against. Sorry this is the toughest part of the project.

On one end of each panel screw each a tie about 1 inch from the top and bottom of the angled side (4 - 5 screws), I used my square and a pencil to line it up use the bend as a reference point. I used left over deck screws, you could use pan head wood screws but I use what I had. Don't worry about the other side that will fall out in the next step.

Note in this picture I had not changed the face therefore a couple of screws are close to the edge they were moved.

Step 4: First Fit Assembly

On the flattest big area you have (my driveway was off I had to shim along the way) lay out your pieces.

Use screws to lock them together shim to get it as aligned as possible.

NOTE I included a picture of my folly (braces on the inside), it is way too big and the braces on the inside made the ball fly out of the octagon a lot. So the other pictures are after this was corrected, learn from my mistake.

Now that you have it the way you want, take a 5/16 (this was changed over time to allow for slop) inch metal / wood bit and drill 2 bolt holes per tie (make sure one is in the top rail and one in the vertical support), it will go slow leave the screws in place so it does not shift. Take care to always place the screws on the same side of the tie so that when dis-assembled they all look alike within reason.


LABEL THE PANELS at the ends on mine I noted only the tie end in retrospect I should have also marked the sides they attached to, that way you don't have to figure out if you went clockwise or counter clockwise.


This is a suggestion I must make; After I had in my garage for few months before presenting it to the troop. Things shift slightly, therefore I recommend you enlarge the 1/4 inch holes in the metal ties only, to at least 3/8 (this is what they are at today the holes in the wood are stil 5/16)inch maybe 1/2 inch. The washer will cover it and make it easier to assemble.

Step 5: Sand, Fill and Paint

Router (or sand) all the long (7 ft) edges with a 3/8 round over bit.
Sand any rough spots. Fill with wood putty any plywood gaps (voids) any knots, divots or anything that could cut.
Let this dry.

One final inspection / sand any rough spots and wipe it clean. 

I went to the Depot and got a gallon of exterior cranberry paint, they have a mistakes bin the colors are pot luck ($5). 
This was the type didn't need a primer so I took a chance, I barely made it you may want to prime if you have the paint lying around. 

I used a roller given the large flat area and a brush where it would not fit. 

Optional Stencil

I found an instructable on stenciling, use a word processor select a stencil font print it out tape it to a cardboard folder and cut it out, Tape it to the panel cover the over spray area with news paper and use white spray paint to label it. The stencil did start to pucker after the 3rd or 4th panel but I kept going and lived with a little bleeding. 

Applying optional feet.

Well after the paint has dried you can apply the optional  rubber feet (mine 3/16 thick rubber stair treads cut to width) with contact cement (above 60 degrees and well ventilated).  This was well worth the effort so that it can be placed on hardwood floors.

Step 6: 8 Go in One Comes Out.

It ain't thunder dome but it is a heck of a lot of fun. 

It was a Big project but most steps are repetitive, learn from my mistakes and you will be fine.

Enjoy and comment if you wish.