Stacking TICTACTOE Project for Kids




Introduction: Stacking TICTACTOE Project for Kids

About: Car buff, longboard builder and shop teacher. not enough time to build stuff.

Let me start by saying that i did not come up with the idea of this game. The game is called Gobblet and is a commercially made game that is sold locally at Lee Valley here in Vancouver. My plan was to buy the game because it looked so interesting but they have been sold out for awhile. I realized that i could probably make a version of the game and even better it would be a project that my shop classes would really like. I'm not trying to make money selling these so maybe check out their website and buy one... or make one by following this instructable. Your call.

I tried this project with my grade 8 Puzzles and Boxes class and they were a hit. The kids wanted to play as soon as one was done and ended up having a round robin for 1/2 a class. I'm flexible ... :-) At one point the vice-principal came in.  The kids pulled him onto a game. I believe he won because as he left the shops he was pumping his arm in the air. Victorious. This game is great for everyone because it is really challenging but easy to learn. My daughter has beaten me 5 times. She is 9. Oh man i will NEVER live that down.

Try it out. The project is of both wood and metal but each part really is not too tough. You can out  the welding part if you don't have the facilities. You can do the whole project with hand tools if you like. In this instructable I'll present what i do as a shop teacher and offer tips and suggestions as well as a marking sheet for teachers but really,  anyone with a basic set of tools can build it.
Have Fun!

In this instructable I will Show the steps needed to build the project divided into the WOOD part, the DESIGN part and the METAL part.

-The students will learn to shape wood than apply the skills in the construction of a wooden checkered board.
        Shaping tools will depend on what the teacher decides is appropriate...
        -Hand tools involve the Backsaw and Handplane
        -Power tools involve the bandsaw and drill press.
-Gluing methods will also be demonstrated than applied to create the board.

-The students will learn design methods including mindmapping, discussion, problem solving and sketching than use these design methods to solve a metal design challenge.

-Once the students have arrived at a design solution they will be required to learn and demonstrate the use of metal-working tools including the hacksaw, file, bending jigs, vice and MIG welder. (if the teacher requires it)

-About 6" by 10" by 1/2-1" thick wood. Two pieces, contrasting colors.
-3/16" steel rod... about 1-2' .
-EMT steel tube.  you need about 6" each of 1/2" and 3/4"
-Steel pipe 1/16" wall 3/8" OD
-Very small 1/4" pipe, rod or wood dowel.
*** a note on the tubing . If you go to an electrical supply place they'll give you more than you need of pieces they use to practice bending with. The sizes are not critical... you just need 4 sizes that will sleeve together.

-Backsaw, Hand Plane
-Bandsaw, Drill press
-MIG or Oxyacetylene
-Hacksaw, files, bending jigs, vice
-Sandpaper 80, 120, 180, 220 Grit

***a note on the tools. I use both hand and power tools and both styles can be used separately or together. Steel joining tools such as the MIG or 'torch are not required... I give an example the project with and without them.

Submitted by HD Stafford Middle School  for the Instructables Sponsorship Program

Step 1: Making the Board Strips

I first introduce the idea of the project as a whole to the kids.  Depending on your style you may choose to show them an example and maybe  let them play it or have them start without any preconceptions. Your choice.

I start with the Board base because the metal part builds on it.

You will first need to break out the strips of contrasting wood. The pieces should be 1" wide by about 12" long. The thickness depends on what you have but 1/2" is a reasonable minimum.

I will teach the kids handwork depending on the ages and skills... Prep work with the table saw will make the job faster and easier with great quality but it is good to do the basics too so it is up to you. I give suggestions below...

By Hand...
Use the backsaw to cut the pieces to rough length. Use the handplane to start with a face side. A square and ruler can be used to mark the other parallel side. I know this isn't to the usual build practices but I've found that kids can more easily see what they are removing if the sides are parallel rather than marking and planing the perpendicular (face edge) side. Make sure the pieces are the same size and are at least 7/8" wide. After the sides are done the kids can rough plane the face and bottom after glue-up.

I would suggest sharpening the planes and setting them up prior to class. Make sure the blades are hardly protruding at all. I find the kids get really frustrated with planing if the tool jams at all.

The Hand method (with some help)
Another option is if you break out all the stock in long lengths to the correct width with the table saw first... leave the hand planing for face and bottoms. I never let kids use the tablesaw, jointer or planer. They are only in grades 6,7 and 8.

I use 2 methods for glue up... have 9 strips of contrasting alternating wood than rip it down the middle of the center piece with a bandsaw or just glue up 4 pieces... 2 light, 2 dark pieces. The first method is good if you want to make a number of boards and are using a tablesaw to do everything in volume. I will usually do 3 or 4 extra for kids who are trying their best but are just not having success... this allows them to do the design and metal sections without being too discouraged.


Teach the kids to apply wood glue to both edges of the wood strips. I would suggest they mark tops and bottoms now before gluing... they can choose the best faces to have showing.

Put the pieces in the vice or jorgensen clamp and tighten the pieces together. Spend time running around to make sure the pieces are not creeping up and down, mis-aligning the faces. A trick I use is to let the pieces sit for 3-5 minutes all perfectly set up with glue before clamping. This sets the glue a bit and slows down the creeping tendencies...

Step 2: Making the Sections

Once the glue is dry Have the students plane the tops carefully to a flat and smooth surface. Quick plane the bottoms until they are flat. Maybe have the kids practice on the bottoms first... :-)

I have a surface sander that i put the pieces through if they really get mangled by the kids planing efforts...

Square one end and backsaw or bandsaw it along the line. It really is important this line is really square... the rest of the lines build off this one.

Measure the width of the contrasting pieces and use that amount to draw another line parallel to the first.  Use the backsaw or bandsaw to cut this line. Some kids measure and cut along the glue line rather than across it... just a heads up for you...

Re-measure and recut until you end up with at least 4 pieces.

Have the kids gently sand the cut edges with the sanding board to clean up the joints. Make sure they don't round the edges...
I use a piece of beltsander paper... 6" wide by 24" long... 80 grit glued to a flat piece of MDF. Makes a great flat sanding surface.

Flip every second piece so that the contrasting wood makes a checker pattern.
Apply glue, let stand for 3-5 minutes with the pieces together than clamp for at least 30 minutes... depending on the glue.

Once dry Use the sanding board to make the surface flat and perfect. Avoid the handplane at this point because the wood grains are all over the place and 'planing would be a disaster for kids.

Measure and cut to the correct length... it should be square at this point... about 4" by 4"

Here is a sanding demonstration and talk i used in another instructable on making a Bandsaw box. hopefully its okay to copy and paste it here...

Most of us know how to sand but kids... well, not so much. Usually they jump right into using 320 Grit, sand furiously for 30 minutes and marvel at how smooth it is... What they don't know is how rough it will look as soon as they put on the finish.
Heres a good analogy I came up with at one point. I ask the kids if they have ever seen someone try to mow a lawn thats really really deep. I go into detail about the wet grass spewing out the mower until it clogs up and how horrible it looks once its all done... I than ask them if they've noticed how the wheels on the lawnmower go up and down so that the mower will take off less at a time... would it make more sense, i ask, if they would raise the mower as much as possible, cut the long grass than lower the mower and maybe even do it 3 or 4 times lowering it each time? They all nod and agree so at just the right moment i strike! HA (i say) THAT is EXACTLY what SANDING is like!!! They often look confused until i explain that the grains on the wood all stand up and starting with a high number grit like 320 or 220 is like cutting long grass with a low mower. They need to start at a rough grit like 80 than sand like crazy  with the grain until all the scratches are gone. The wood won't be smooth until they move up through the grits from 80 to 120 to 150 or 180 and final finish with a 220 or a 320.
While i'm telling the story I am sanding a piece of wood through all the levels... not making a big deal of it but casually mentioning details as i go along... The last step is the finish. I like to use beeswax because its non toxic and smells good.
I pull out the rag, give the wood I'm working on a buff with the wax and man you should hear the students. They oooohh and aaahh and than they all start asking to touch it. Amazing results and the kids are inspired to do a really good job.

Thats how to build the board. Now its time to move to Design and Metalwork...

Step 3: Starting the Design

By now the kids have an idea of how the project works and how it looks so you can talk about designing the next section.  Set things up with the kids to lay a groundwork.

-Your materials are simple... 2 feet of 3/16" round steel rod.  If you have a sample of the steel you might show it to them.
-You want to support the block
-It would be good to have some way of storing the pieces while not playing.

I use all sorts of methods for getting brains kickstarted... My favorite way is to start drawing things on the board. I ask for specific ideas or I ask kids by name... This makes sure they will be involved. I have a few rules for this...
-no idea is "bad"
-no-one can criticize unless it is constructive...
-At one point everyone will have to have some kind of input. volunteer or not.

I encourage kids to come up, grab the chalk and draw, add or erase. Its okay to be critical as long as it is descriptive and specific. The idea is to start the kids thinking than move them along to find and resolve issues and find solutions.

check out the pictures... i took a shot of a board as it was being added to...

Once the kids have an idea or two i get them to sit on their own with paper and pencil. I time them so they have only 10 minutes at which point they have to flip the paper and start another design. After 10 minutes they get a second piece, draw and flip after 10 minutes. By now the kids should go back and go over all the drawings... adding and subtracting, making notes and revising. I tell them to pretend that a complete stranger is going to look at the drawings and they have to see 3 totally different designs. get them to hand in the drawings and tell them they will get a mark... this really motivates some kids!

Usually the class is over at this point and the students brains are fizzing and popping. very cool.

Step 4: Getting Specific

When the kids come in today the first thing they ask is "will we building stuff today?" Well, i say... ya, probably. Depends on what gets done on the design!
Kids always want to rush in but it is SO important to make sure they all have a picture in their head of what they're building. To do this hand back the pictures from last day. (with a checkmark conspicuously on the top whether you are marking them or not... kids LOVE checkmarks...)

Tell the kids to pull out one design they like than narrow down exactly how it will go together. I insist they make up a parts sheet with sizes listed and a basic procedure... step by step of what they will do.
Once they are happy with the assignment get them to come up and talk about the design with you. In the past I have had kids swap papers with a partner. They should both be able to understand the other students' drawing and design.

When the kids come up you can do some troubleshooting. You're not looking to criticize... just evaluate and offer suggestions ...If they look good you can do a basic measurement and hacksaw demo once 4 or 5 kids are ready.  This will not only keep students occupied but it will inspire slower kids who might be unmotivated to work faster.

Masking tape works well to keep little bits together...

Step 5: Bending and Attaching Bits

Hopefully the kids are ready to start bending stuff today.

I've built a few bending jigs that are simply 2 pieces of 1/2" steel welded to a piece of 2" by 4" 1/4" steel. They should be spaced about 1/4" apart if you're using 3/16" steel rod.  Just stick the rod in between the 2 pieces and start bending! If kids have a hard time holding the steel, cut out a few pieces of tube with a 1/4" ID... have them be about 12" long. If you put the tube over the rod it will provide leverage.

Another method i use for bending steel is to clamp the rod in the vice against a piece of 1/2" steel. The 1/2" piece sticks out the side of the vice and all the kids have to do is pull and wind the 3/16" piece around the rod. Have the kids keep their drawings next to them so they can keep referring to the design.

If it is in your abilities or time you can teach a unit on MIG or ox-acetylene. I won't go into either... instructables has some really fantastic step by steps and vids for doing both. I would suggest putting the pieces into place in the wood block than tack them while in place.

I teach the kids how to hammer the ends of the steel rod on an anvil... even a vice will work... it gives a clean and interesting way to finish ends and kids love to pound the steel!

Step 6: Putting Metal to Wood

Today the kids should have the pieces ready to attach metal to wood. Some kids won't be ready but that's okay... they should be at least starting to bend the pieces...

I use a drill press to drill 3/16" holes wherever the steel needs to fit onto the wood block. Have the holes be at least 1/2" deep. Make sure that if kids have legs and pieces attaching to the sides that the holes won't intersect.  I really insist they measure and layout very carefully. This really is a make or break point.

If the kids are doing legs i would suggest that the kids only put the rod in halfway into the holes than tighten them up with a vice all together at the same time.  This will keep them all even. Usually they won't need glue or anything if the hole is the right size.

Pieces that are supporting the block must be absolutely the same before putting them into the holes. Kids tend to try and bend parts to shape while they are in the wood but this really is not a good idea. The wood isn't NEARLY as tough as the steel and will happily move to make the steel happy. They will end up with all sorts of holes that are way to loose to hold the pieces in place.

Step 7: Playing Pieces

The idea is to cut out 6 pieces of each size... 4 sizes...  I use EMT from electrical supply places because usually you can get pieces for free. They practice bending the EMT and give it away... especially if you need it for a school. They specify it by ID so ask for 1/2 and 3/4. They have 1" but its pretty huge. 1/2" is the smallest so i use 3/16" steel tube 1/116" wall for the second to smallest. The smallest piece can to tricky... i use a solid piece of 1/4" rod filed to fit inside of the 3/16" pipe. It works but needs a bit of persuasion. Wood is a good choice if the bottoms are sanded carefully so the piece sits up without falling over.  I usually cut all the pieces to about 1/2" or 3/4" long.

You can do this really basic with a hacksaw and files to clean it up. Make sure you teach the kids about hacksawing... I find that they tend to do a couple of things that make it tough...
-They CRAM the saw in. Tell them to almost lift the saw so the teeth just float over the surface.
-They use just a tiny bit of the blade... teach them to use the whole blade from end to end. This will help with the next common problem...
-Kids have a tough time keeping the saw straight. They need to make sure that they hold the handle in the hand they write with and not stand to the side of the saw... Keeping the blade straight up and down perpendicular to the workpiece.

Next step in complexity is to have the kids do the job with a lathe. Very nice finish and perfect job possible. I don't use the metal lathe with grade 8 kids although older ages could use it!

Once the kids have cut out the pieces do a demo on filing. Inside and out will ensure that the pieces fit inside  of each other smoothly. I also get the kids to sand the ends and sides.

I have the kids use a sharpie to color one set of play pieces. You can use spray paint but its pretty toxic stuff.

Step 8: The Whole Picture

By now the kids should be finishing the project. I would suggest a round robin tournament... it will get the kids all excited about the project...
Playing instructions are available online but a quick start guide of rules i use is this..

For a starter version of the game use the 3 largest pieces... 9 for each player.

-The goal is to get 3 in a row. diagonal is okay, too.
-any piece size can go on the board in your turn... either occupy an empty square or place it over a smaller piece.
-any visible piece on the board can be moved from spot to spot.
-If you place your piece over another smaller piece it can be your own or the opponents.
-If you uncover a piece and it exposes an opponents piece it is in play... sometimes this means you can lose. remember which ones you cover! ( i get the kids to color only the top edge of the pieces which they can choose to leave exposed or not...)
-once you touch a piece you have to play it. no peeking!

Another version of the game which is really cool is to use 4 sizes of each set... This would mean a total of 24 pieces... 12 each. You now play the game in a similar way but now you are trying for 4 in a row. A few new rules apply... In addition to the above...

-Pieces are arranged by size off the board. You can only play a smaller piece if a larger piece has been played first.
-You can only cover a smaller piece on the board if it is part of a group of three. In other words you can only block a potential win...

I think this really is an ideal project for the shop class. It incorporates Woodwork, Design and Metalworking. The kids are encouraged to think creatively and apply the creative design to an actual project that they build.  You can scale it up to challenge the older kids or keep it simple for younger kids.  You can also tailor the project for the kind of shop you have. On the next page I included a marking sheet i use and some thoughts on marking in general...

Have fun and thanks for reading my instructable!

Step 9: A Marking Sheet

Here is a marking sheet i use with the kids. I make the marking sheet available anytime so the kids know what they can aim for. This sheet is great because the kids know what to do to get the grade they want.  I also give kids time to go back and revise or fix projects so that they can get the best mark possible. Marking really is about giving kids the chance to show what they CAN do... not what they CAN'T do...


NAME:_________________________________DIV:______________Mark of/60






Lots of glue lines, cracks at joints. rough surface, not waxed, not square or symmetrical. Holes for steel not centered

Symmetrical but not perfect. Some very small joint cracks, smooth but not shiny. Holes for steel close but not perfect.

Symmetrical, No cracks, squares exactly the same. Shiny. Holes for steel perfect in depth and position

Design Process

Missing paperwork, project not like Design. Only 1 or 2 ideas… if more they are the same basically

All paperwork there. Project like design but not exact. Lots of ideas but still similar.

Project exactly like design. Lots of creative design and procedure clear and detailed


Missing pieces. Parts not balanced, very roughly finished.

Everything in place but not perfect. Metal bending smooth but not perfect. Project balances but a bit uneven.

Exactly balanced. Bending, finishing and attaching perfect, smooth and symmetrical.

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    9 years ago on Introduction

    How long do you clamp the glue up? I have 3 different class periods and I am trying to figure out how many clamps I would need.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    depending on the glue... i use titebond 2 which is clamped up for about 40 minutes. if you can leave it longer it would be better but initial tack-up isn't too long...


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Those turned out really neat.

    I had that same problem with Gobblet selling out early the 2010 Christmas season. Lee Valley seems to only restock it during the holiday season, I made sure to run to the store when I noticed they had it in stock again, think it was November'ish 2011. So, if you're still hoping to buy it, you should be able to in about 7 months.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Once again, another wonderful project. Thanks for sharing!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    No problem! Posting my projects on instructables really has been a GREAT organizational thing for me! now i can print everything, tell my students to check out what they will be doing... sharing it with friends... I'll be tossing out all the file folders in my office soon.. :-)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    YES! That was the whole point of encouraging teachers to use the site. I'm glad it's working for you.