Homemade Skeeball Game




About: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

Deep down, we all secretly wish we had a Skeeball game in our own homes. If you're unfamiliar with this, it's a bowling-type of game where you get nine balls to roll up a ramp and off of a jump, trying to get the them into different holes for different amounts of points. It's a fun and simple game, and very addicting.

But to buy your own they're just too darn expensive.

So I decided to make one. It uses golf balls and has no electronics whatsoever (by design). It has an automatic ball return system which places the balls in separate lanes to indicate each ball's score, which is visible through a plexiglass window at the bottom of the ramp. A ball-drop lever is pulled to release the balls back into a storage compartment at the front of the game.

This was a fun and challenging project. The finished size is 86 inches long, 17 1/2 inches wide, and about 49 inches tall. It weighs a lot and is awkward to move, but it's sure fun!

Step 1: Basic Plans

I had an idea of how I wanted to make this, but when I began to plan out the details it became much larger in size than I had imagined. It also proved to be much more challenging than I had expected.

The entire structure is designed to accommodate the size of a golf ball. The plan I laid out uses two 49" by 97" sheets of MDF (one 1/2" thick and the other 3/4").

I also used some 1/4" MDF, a few pieces of PVC, an old plastic mudflap, a piece of used plexiglass, and a handful of other little things.

These photos are of the plans that I sketched out. Many things changed as the project progressed, but you can get an idea where it all started.

Step 2: Layout and Cut Side Pieces

The side pieces are made from 3/4" MDF, and use up one entire sheet of the material. I designed it this way to maximize size, and minimize waste.

The pieces were cut out with a jigsaw. I clamped the two pieces together and sanded them so all edges were flush.

Step 3: Return Ramp

There are two ramp sections. This is the bottom one that the balls return on. It is made from 1/2" material.

There needed to be six lanes. I used a router and a homemade straight-edge guide to cut slots to fit the five lane dividers.

Step 4: Ball Return Drop

At the end of the return ramp there is a hinged section that swings down to release the balls back into a storage compartment.

The hinges were attached by predrilling the holes, squirting a couple of drops of super glue into the drilled-out holes to stiffen up the material, and then screwed in place. (This is an old R/C airplane modeling trick.) I'm not sure if it was needed in this case, but I've learned not to put too much trust in MDF. It can be tricky stuff to work with.

Step 5: Frame Assembly

The basic frame was assembled with a combination of clamps, glue, screws, and nails.

Various support pieces were added for the ramps and the ball return ramp was glued and nailed in place.

Step 6: Ball Return Dividers

The lane dividers for the ball return are made from 1/4" MDF strips that were glued into the slots made with the router.

These were all stacked together and sanded flush before being individually glued to the ramp.

Step 7: Plexiglass

The window that shows the scoring for the balls was made out of an old piece of 1/4" plexiglass. There were a few scratches that I tried to buff out with some scratch remover stuff. It worked okay.

Step 8: Main Ramp and Supports

The main ramp is made from 1/4" MDF. It slides into place from the back, on top of pieces that were added to the ball return ramp underneath to support the main ramp and the plexiglass piece.

Side rails were built using scrap material. A slot was prepared on the front of the right side rail for the ball return lever.

Step 9: Ball Drop Lever

The ball drop lever mechanism was made with dowels, a section of thin metal rod, washers, and a few pieces of model aircraft linkage.

This part was tricky, and took a lot of trial and error to get it to work right. The lever is under tension from some rubber bands and is attached to the hinged flap with the linkage, which holds the flap up in place until you pull the lever. It actually works very well.

Step 10: Target Board

The target board is 1/2" MDF. The target holes are made from PVC. The PVC for the larger holes is 3 1/2" and the smaller holes 2 3/4" (outside diameter).

The larger circle and half-circle are made from pieces from the old mudflap.

The photos show the method I took to get all the pieces together. All the cuts in the board itself were done with a jigsaw.

Step 11: Jump and Other Miscellaneous Pieces

To make the jump I cut out individual pieces of material with a jigsaw and glued and nailed them all together. The entire piece was covered with wood filler and then sanded and shaped down to make a jump. It took quite a bit of testing and modifying to get it into a shape that would work well.

At this point I made some other pieces that created a smooth transition from ramp to jump to target face.

After some testing I made an opening in the main ramp where the jump fits in, in such a way to allow for adjusting and fine tuning of the jump.

Step 12: Paint Prep

I filled all the nail and screw holes, and any blemishes with wood filler and sanded it all smooth.

Step 13: Prime

I primed the entire thing a couple of times, sanding between coats.

A thorough priming is necessary when working with MDF because it won't take a good coat of paint unless it is primed and sealed really well, especially the cut edges.

Step 14: Paint

The entire target board was spray painted with a coat of white, and then the board portion was painted yellow by hand. Spray paint was used for the rest of the game, although many parts had to be masked off and painted in specific order.

A piece of black foam was glued to the bottom of the ball compartment with spray adhesive.

Step 15: Numbers on Plexiglass

The numbers on the plexiglass that indicate score for each lane were painted on the underside of the plexiglass.

I began by marking with tape where each lane divider was, and used a sharpie to draw the numbers where I wanted them on the top side of the glass. Using hobby paint, I painted the numbers on the bottom (backwards), tracing the marks I made on the front side. When they were done I cleaned off the sharpie numbers with denatured alcohol (the stuff used for soda can stoves).

Step 16: Putting All the Pieces Together

These photos show the different pieces that go together to make the transition from ramp to jump to target.

In order to paint everything nicely, I had to make this in a way that could be pieced together for final assembly. Once everything was in place there was no going back. However, as mentioned before, the jump was made to be adjusted so I could tweak the trajectory of the balls.

The front edge of the jump is attached to the ramp with a piece of masking tape. (The color of the ramp and jump was chosen to match the tape.)

Step 17: Ball Chutes Behind Target

The ball chutes that take the balls to the return ramp were made from stiff single-ply cardboard and lots of hot glue. This was an interesting challenge all by itself. I considered using pipes or a wooden structure of some sort, but nothing else would work in the amount of space I had left.

Once all the ball chutes were completed, a back panel was installed to finish it up.

Step 18: Foam to Cushion Target Board

After I was all done, I realized that I needed to add some sort of cushioning to the target board to absorb the shock of the balls, otherwise half the time they bounce right off the board and come back down the ramp.

I added a layer of craft foam with spray adhesive to the target board and the PVC holes. Now it works much better.

Step 19: House Rules and Video

For competitive purposes, I've established some house rules. If a ball rolls back down the ramp you can replay it. If a ball bounces off the board and lands on the floor it cannot be replayed. You get eight white balls, and one colored ball which is the "money ball" and is worth double points.

I apologize if there are some parts of the project that I don't cover completely. There was so much trial and error and constant modification involved that it was difficult to document any sort of cut-and-dried process. If you are interested in trying something like this, I think this will give you a good idea of what to do, but there will still be a lot you'll have to figure out on your own.

Thanks for looking!

The current high score is... 730.

Runner Up in the
Gorilla Glue Make It Stick Contest



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    134 Discussions


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome! Sorry I didn't respond sooner. I love the paint job. It looks almost exactly like mine size and shape-wise. How did it go? Lots of hiccups, or did it go pretty smooth?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Most of it went pretty well. I broke the jump in half at one point, and it got sprayed by a sprinkler on accident but other than that it went smooth.


    Question 9 months ago on Step 1

    do you have some detailed drawings / measurements you can share?

    2 answers

    Answer 9 months ago

    Hi there,

    Unfortunately this instructable contains everything I have related to this build. In step 1, on those sheets of graph paper, 1 box equals one square inch.

    The steps have lots of details too, so hopefully there is enough to get you started. I have some diagrams on this later version of a skeeball game that I also made: https://www.instructables.com/id/Wooden-Skeeball-Game/


    Reply 9 months ago

    Wow! that 2nd version looks great. I was to get plans / measurements to get a jump start on the project. I have a school Halloween Carnaval coming up and I thought this would be a fun carnival game but don't have much time to get it done. thanks for the reply.


    1 year ago

    Hi! SO much great information... thank you!

    Do you happen to know the weight of it? I think I saw the dimension specs but not weight. I was thinking of using this for something but I'm wondering how heavy it'd be. Even if you have an estimate, that'd be great. :D

    Thanks again!

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    It was pretty heavy - I'd guess about 150 lbs. Two people could lift it, but it was pretty awkward!


    2 years ago

    Used to play this at the arcade circa 1995. Would love to have one at home. Great Instructable!


    2 years ago

    So...awesome! I would love to replicate this. You are my current hero.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you!

    I'm actually working on another version right now! I hope to have it done sometime in the next month or so.


    3 years ago

    This is very very impressive. Nice work. I have a suggestion and a question.

    First, the suggestion...

    Step 3, The ball return board you created. Is it possible to have used a slat wall board that has the "lane dividers" already cut to perfection?

    Second, the question...

    My wife is a Girl Scout Leader and my 7 year old daughter is also a Girl Scout who just moved from being a Daisy to a Brownie. Every year prior to the all famous GS cookie season, the girls attend what they call a "Cookie Rally" and this year, my wife volunteered to run said rally. It's always a "Carnival" theme and she basically is relying on ME to create 5 carnival type games. Skee Ball is one of these games I'd LOVE to create. The thing is, it needs to be portable and it needs to be light enough for transport to the location. I have seen some cardboard creations but that's pretty cheesy. How can I create something very very similar to this model but as I said, make it portable and make it as weight friendly as possible?

    Thank you for whomever is able to help me - oh, I am very much a rookie when it comes to wood work. Willing to try but with as little "craftiness" as possible do to it being seen and used by over 100 Girl Scout kids, leaders, moms and volunteers.

    4 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    l know it's a year on since you posted this but l was thinking, you could use that plastic sheet material that has a hollow core and is flexible...you could then make slots where edges have to join, you know, where you cut one with what look like tongues that then slide into the slots and have a hole for a pin to hold in place then it can be easily dismantled for travel/storage and would be lightweight as well..


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks Nick!

    By wall board, l'm guessing you mean something like wainscoting? I'm not sure if the routed channels in that would be deep enough to hold the little walls like I did here.

    Regarding a way to make a portable skee ball game . . . that might take several days in the shop tinkering and building to come up with a good method. Off the top of my head, I apologize that I don't have much to offer! :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    Actually, I meant "Slat Wall". The boards folks hang in their garage and you put shelves on them. Has large grooves, white in color. Wall board wasn't at all the proper terminology - lol...

    As for a return, I'm thinking similar to how a billiards table works but doing it DIY style, I bet using PVC pipe would do it. When the ball goes into ANY hole, it would fall into a funnel shaped contraption and from there fall into an elbow piece of PVC and from there a long PVC pipe that comes back on a slant to where the player stands. Cut the end by the player so it's a half pipe shape (only the size of the amount of balls used) Then put a "top" on the end of the pipe - even if it's the half pipe end, it will still go on just might have to use cement glue or or a hot glue gun of sorts to keep it on. I believe that would be a way to have it work for pretty cheap. Thoughts?


    Reply 2 years ago

    How about making it so you can knock it down. I am sure the pieces could be made to fit well. Each piece will be lighter and should be easier to store.


    3 years ago

    This is awesome! Im wodering aproximately how much did this cost to build? I want to do something similar if i can budget it under $200. I would like to keep it as close to $100 as possible.


    3 years ago

    how did you come up with the angles or measurements fit the jump?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    A lot of trial and error, if I recall correctly.

    I don't have any additional details other than what I've already documented in the text and photos above. (It's kind of funny that I have to refer back to my own written steps to see how I did the various parts!) :)