Introduction: Operation? No, O-Paul-Ration!
My brother-in-law Paul recently reached the grand old age of thirty, so rather than just buy him a gift I decided to make him something a little more personal - and what could be better than a personalised version of the classic board game Operation?
This Instructable will take you through the construction process of creating O-Paul-Ration! so that you can follow it step by step, should you so choose. You might decide that not every step is strictly necessary, but I've documented the whole (lengthy) process all the same. And since I was forced to bodge a few things along the way, I've included a section at the end of things that I think I would have worked out better if I'd approached them a different way. Feel free to make any adjustments to my (shoddy) methods that you feel necessary.
And yes, I know that there are already a couple of Instructables on making Operation on the site, but they all lack one vital element - personalisation. And photos of my chubby fingers.
Step 1: Things I Used
- White A4 Paper
- White A4 Card
- 1 aerosol can of Permanent Spray Adhesive
- 1 roll of Clear Cover Film
- 4 sheets of red Fun Foam
- 1 3mm red LED
- 1 roll of red Equipment Wire (FA33L from Maplin)
- 1 roll of black Equipment Wire (FA26D from Maplin)
- 1 6V Buzzer (FL39N from Maplin)
- Lead-free solder
- 1 Battery Box for 4xAA batteries (HF29G from Maplin)
- 1 roll of Garden Wire
- 1 pair of metal tweezers
- 1 packet of Air-Dry Modelling Clay
- 1 A4 picture frame
- 1 Black Hama bead
- 1 Retractable Pencil
- Various other pencils, pens and paints
- Craft knife or scalpel
- Soldering Iron
- Hot glue gun
- 12" Metal ruler
- Nail scissors
- Wire stripper
- Needle-nose pliers
- Large cardboard box
- Cutting mat
Step 2: Basic Principles
The game Operation is basically one big circuit, consisting of a battery, a buzzer and an LED. In Operation, however, the circuit is broken. The battery is connected to the buzzer, which is in turn connected to the LED. The LED is connected to the metal underside of the gameboard.
The final part of the circuit is the tweezers, which are connected by a wire to the negative terminal of the battery. The circuit is only completed when the tweezers touch the metal underside of the board, lighting the LED and sounding the buzzer.
In O-Paul-Ration! we're working from this basic principle. However, since I don't have access to the materials and tool needed to create a metal sheet with perfectly punched holes for the body-part game pieces to be placed into, I worked in a slightly different way. Instead, I created wire loops which sat neatly in the game board and were connected together behind the board, out of sight.
There are a few other components to Operation, all of which I created for this project. While I won't go into the full rules of the game here - you can easily find them using internet search engines - you'll need game pieces to remove from the board and twenty-four cards. Twelve of the cards are used to decide which body part you have to remove, and twelve of them are Specialist cards. Steps relating to these extras are included in this Instructable.
Step 3: Preparation
For instance, Paul is a big fan of the (thankfully) defunct pop group Steps, so one of the game pieces I decided to create was Steps On The Brain. This part of the O-Paul-Ration! would involve removing the Steps logo from a thought bubble near his head. Also, there's an ongoing joke about his belly-button fluff, so that became part of the design.
This is potentially the most difficult part of the Instructable, and it's the one I can't really give you definite instructions on as it comes down entirely to your relationship with the person you're making the gift for. If you need inspiration, talk to family or mutual friends.
The traditional version of Operation had twelve bodyparts to operate on, and that's the version I decided to copy. More recent versions of the game have even more bodyparts, but twelve seemed like the right number to me. The twelve bodyparts I decided upon were:
- Sleepy Head
- Steps On The Brain
- Ear Ache (From Nagging)
- Shoulder Chip
- Clicky Breastbone
- Unsightly Excess Elbow Skin
- Front Kidney
- Belly Fluff
- Funny Bone - Broken
- Pooey Bum
- Fart Factory
From these I was able to come up with concepts for the game pieces I was going to create. Ear Ache, for instance, would be represented by a sore red ear, and Shoulder Chip by, well, a chip (or, for any Americans reading, a french fry). Get some ideas in your head now, because it'll make things easier later on.
Step 4: Illustration
Once I'd decided on which body parts I'd be using, the next step was to create an illustration for the front of the game. The original Operation features the well-known physique of Cavity Sam, but for O-Paul-Ration! I'd need a picture of the lucky birthday boy himself. That's it down there, by the way.
I decided to knock up a simple caricature of Paul myself. First I pencilled the image, including areas for where the body-part game pieces were going to be, then I inked it using a permanent fineliner. Finally I coloured it using simple coloured pencils. That said, I'm lucky because I can draw a bit. If drawing is beyond you, you might choose to use a suitable photo. Just make sure it's big enough for al the body parts you want.
As I mentioned above, my illustration contained pencil guides for where the body part game pieces would go. These sections will eventually be cut out, leaving holes. This is why it's a good idea to decide what game pieces you're going to make before working on the illustration - so you can draw the guides now, which in turn makes cutting the holes out easier. It's also a good idea to make each of the holes a distinctive size or shape; doing so will make some of the later steps a lot simpler.
Step 5: Mounting the Illustration
My next step was to mount the illustration on a piece of card. I made up the cardboard box and placed a piece of A4 card in the bottom, before spraying it with the Permanent Adhesive Spray. Finally I lined the card up with the illustration using my metal ruler as a guide and pressed them together.
The cardboard box is a good precaution. There was a lot of errant spray, and I didn't really want it going all over the floor. Be sure to follow the safety instructions on the back of the can.
The only instruction on the back of the can that I didn't follow was the one that told me to spray both surfaces. The spray adhesive can produce some liquid when you spray it, and since I was using regular A4 cartridge paper for my drawing I wanted to make sure that it stayed dry. My advice is to spray the card and wait for it to become tacky and then press the paper to it, starting at one end of the paper and rolling the paper onto the card to avoid creases.
Step 6: Covering the Picture
Once I was sure I'd given the spray adhesive enough time to dry it was time to cover the image. I used a roll of Cover Film - the stuff parents use to cover their children's school books.
Simply cut a length of cover film large enough to cover the illustration, giving yourself some spare all around. I had a bit of help with this bit since the cover film had been tightly rolled and wanted to coil in on itself, and you might want to do the same. Place your piece of cover film face down and peel off the backing to reveal the sticky side, then press the card down onto it, illustration down, again starting at one end of the picture and "rolling" the picture down smoothly.
As a little aside, you might want to keep hold of the backing - if it's like the stuff I was using then the backing is silicon paper, which is handy for stencilling.
Step 7: More Spraying
We'll get this bit out of the way now, while we're still in the mood for spraying adhesive around. Take three of your four Fun Foam sheets.
Fun Foam is also known as foam board. It's used a lot in kids crafts, and you can pick it up cheaply at craft stores - or you can do like I did, go to Hobbycraft and pick it up expensively. Whatever.
We're going to stick these three sheets together using the spray adhesive. As before, spray one sheet in the bottom of the box and press the second sheet to it. Give the glue on these two sheets time to set before you add the third.
One thing to note is not to press the sheets together too hard. While you want them to stick, the foam is thin and very soft, and it's very easy to press it in a way that deforms it - and if you leave it, it'll stick like that.
Step 8: Cuttity Cut Cut
Grab your craft knife, it's time to do some cutting.
While waiting for the glue on the final layers of foam to dry, I took some time out to cut holes in my illustration for where I wanted the game pieces to fit. I largely stuck to the pencil guides I'd drawn while creating the illustration.
When positioning your holes, it's probably not a good idea to put them too close together - partly because it makes the construction a little more rigid, and partly for aesthetic reasons. I tried to create a balance of game pieces on either side of the body.
To cut out the holes I used two pieces of equipment - my scalpel, and a small pair of curved nail scissors. It can be tricky to cut smooth curves with the straight edge of a blade, so the nail scissors were used to trim and neaten the holes.
At this stage I also made a decision about where to place the buzzer. These little buzzers aren't very loud, so they really need to be poking through the top illustation. Once I'd decided where to put it - the top left of the board - I got a retractable pencil and used it to trace around the edge of the buzzer. A retractable pencil is perfect for this role, since it won't leave a visible mark, but the lead is hard enough to leave an indentation to indicate where you need to cut. One more thing - since the base of the buzzer is larger than the top, don't forget to turn it upside-down when you draw around it!
Then it was just a case of cutting the hole for the buzzer to poke through.
Step 9: More Cutting
Okay, let's get that buzzer out of the way and do a bit more knife-work.
By now your three sheets of foam should be firmly stuck together. Check them over to be sure and do any emergency glueing with your hot glue gun.
The reason we're sticking three sheets of foam together is to give out game board some depth. Basically, we're going to cut holes in these three sheets that match the holes we just cut in the picture; that way, our body-part game pieces can sit in these holes. The final sheet of foam will eventually be glued to the bottom of our three-sheet to give it a base. I suppose, in retrospect, that I could have used other, thicker materials to create the gameboard, but I liked the spongy feel of the foam. If I could have bought thicker sheets of Fun Foam I would have. Maybe you can?
Anyway, there's definitely a good way to go about this next step. Place the picture on top of our three-foam-sheets-glued-into-one. The foam sheets should be bigger than the A4 picture, so try to get the picture as central as possible. Then, grab your retractable pencil and draw directly onto the fun foam, following the edge of the hole you've just cut for the buzzer. Move the picture out of the way and cut that hole out.
A note about cutting Fun Foam - it's really, really annoying. I used a combination of scalpel and nail scissors once again, doing the majority of the cutting with the scalpel and trimming with the nail scissors. Unfortunately, the foam snags on any blunt sections of your blade as you pull it through. Basically, you are almost guaranteed to end up with an uneven, ragged cut. The best advice I can give is to cut slowly with your scalpel; don't try to cut through all three layers at once. Instead, work your way down slowly and be prepared to do some trimming.
Once the hole has been out and trimmed, put the buzzer in place.
Now let's turn back to the picture for a minute. Cavity Sam in the original Operation has a glowing red lightbulb for a nose; we've got a red LED. Punch a hole in the picture where you want the LED to go - I chose the traditional nose location. Punch a small hole for a start off; we'll make it bigger in a second.
Place the picture back onto the foam sheets, fitting it snugly over the buzzer. Grab your LED and push the pins through the hole you've just made for it. The pins will easilly go through the foam, so push them right through the other side but DON'T push the head of the LED through the picture.
Now, pull the LED back out, remove the picture, and then push the LED back into the holes in the foam you just made with its pins. Push the LED all the way down until it sits on the foam, then turn the foam over and bend the LED pins so that the foam can sit flat on the table. Then place your picture back over the top and, ensuring that it fits snuggly over the buzzer, press gently downwards so that the LED pushes though.
Now you have both the LED and the buzzer as anchor points for the picture, so grab your retractable pencil and trace the rest of the holes in the picture onto the Fun Foam. Then go ahead and cut them out, trimming as necessary.
Step 10: Bending Wires
This next step is pretty tough, and time consuming too. Our holes need metal edging to complete the circuit, and though there were several ways of tackling this I decided to get some wire and bend it to the shape of the holes. Doing it this way correllated nicely with certain other aspects of the design, but introduced a few problems of its own.
The garden wire I used was bought from a local DIY shop. There were two thicknesses of wire available; I went for the thicker of the two, which, including its plastic coating, was about 5mm thick. Of course, we don't need the plastic coating, so we'll have to get rid of that. An alternative might be jewellery wire, which can be purchased from craft shops.
Cut yourself twelve sections of wire, each about six inches long. Use your wire strippers to remove the plastic coating, if necessary.
Here's where it gets tricky. Using your pliers (needlenose for preference), you'll have to bend one end of each length of wire to the shape of foam holes. If you've followed the instructions thoroughly, each hole will be a distinctive size or shape, so each piece of bent wire will only fit into its own hole; otherwise, things can get a little confusing.
The wire I bought was pretty tough to bend, and I ended up using other hardware items like drill bits and screwdriver handles to bend the wire into the correct shapes. You'll have to figure this out on your own, I'm afraid, using whatever resources you've got to hand.
Once you've finished with a piece of wire you should have a loop with a long tail. Bend the loop through ninety degrees so that if you hold the tail up in your fingers the loop is at the top. Do the same for all of the pieces of wire.
Step 11: Solder
This is the only step that involves soldering, and strictly speaking it's not necessary so if you don't fancy it then feel free to skip ahead. We're securing the wire loops a little, but you don't have to do it - just make sure that you've bent the wires so that there aren't any large gaps in the loops.
The soldering was kind've a learning experience for me, which is why I decided to do it. I'd never soldered before and I wanted to give it a go. And anyway, how hard could it be? As ever, that's a stupid, stupid question.
Step 12: Sticky Bottom
Now we're going to put a base layer onto the gameboard. Grab the last sheet of fun foam and your can of spray adhesive. Once again, pop the sheet of foam into your cardboard box and give it another good spray with the adhesive, and then stick this layer onto the bottom of the gameboard. Give it some time to dry, and then use your scalpel to recut the buzzer hole.
Step 13: Are You Board Yet?
It's time to do a little more gameboard construction. Grab one of your metal loops and the foam sheet. Make sure you've got the wire and the hole aligned, and the push the tail-end of the loop through the bottom layer of foam. Then grab a tube of superglue and put some around the inside edge of the hole before pulling the loop down so that the glue holds it in position.
A brief note about superglue - you're going to want a good brand that will securely hold metal. I personally use Loctite, which I found to be a very good glue indeed and more than adequate for our needs. In the past I've used cheapo glue on projects and found that it either hasn't held metal at all, or has worked its way loose after a short time. I really believe it's worth paying a little extra for something that'll work properly.
Unless you're very skilled with your hot glue gun, DON'T use it for this step. Glue guns are great for when you want lots of glue in one place, but here we want to use as little glue as possible. Why? Because any glue on the metal loop will prevent the tweezers from touching the wire and completing the circuit. In fact, once all your wires are in place and securely held it's a good idea to take your scalpel and spend some time removing errant bits of glue from the loops.
Step 14: Wiring
When you're sure that the glue from the previous step is completely dry, turn the board over and place it flat down on your working surface.
Grab yourself your black roll of Equipment Wire. Cut yourself a good long piece - we're going to use this piece of wire to connect together all of the tails of the wire loops, so make sure you've got enough to run between all of those and then add about six extra inches. Since you're personalising your own game, you're likely to have the body-parts, and therefore your wire loops, in different places to me, so I can't give you any more specific measuring guidance than that.
The connections on this side of the gameboard are all solder free. There's a good reason for that: if we were to solder our wire loops they'd get extremely hot, and would melt and damage the foam board. We'll be make all of our connections with wire twists, starting with the tail at the top of the board.
Get your length of equipment wire and strip one end of it. Twist the exposed cable tightly. Now grab your needle nose pliers and wire cutters. Trim the tail of your wire loop to leave about half an inch of metal. Now, use your needle nose pliers to bend the tail into a small hoop. Get your equipment wire and thread it through the hoop, looping the exposed end around the hoop several times and pulling it tight. Now get your pliers and pinch the hoop as tight as you can to ensure a good connection.
Now move along to the next tail and trim it, again to about half an inch. Pull the equipment wire so that it's taut enough to be tidy but not so taut that you risk damaging the foam board. Use your wire strippers to expose a section of the equipment wire and wrap the exposed section around the tail several times, before bending the tail into a hoop with your needle nose pliers.
Continue doing this until all of the tails have been bent into hoops and connected together with exposed sections of cable. It's a good idea to test your connections as you go along, as it's easier to correct problems now rather than later.
Step 15: Light Me Up, Buzz Me In
It's time to finally put the majority of the thing together. We'll start with the LED. Earlier you created holes for the LED pins, so turn the game board face up and find them. Take your scalpel and cut a small crater - only a millimetre or so deep - for the LED to sit it. Push the LED into place and turn the board over.
Take the unused end of your equipment wire. We're going to run this to the negative pin of the LED, which is usually the shorter of the two. Cut the equipment wire so that it's long enough to reach the LED without interfering with any of your other connections.
I bent the LED's pins away from each other slightly to give myself a bit more room to work. After stripping the end of the equipment wire, I twisted the exposed cable and wrapped it tightly around the middle of the negative pin before bending the pin back on itself and pinching the whole lot firmly with my pliers. It might not sound like much, but it's enough to make a good connection.
Then I grabbed the buzzer and used my wire strippers to expose the end of the red connecting wire. I connected it to the positive pin of the LED using the same method. Finally, I bent the pins so that they were flat against the back of the foam board.
Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo while I was doing this bit, but you should get the idea from the picture below.
Step 16: More Construction
From this point on we won't need to move the buzzer again, so grab your hot glue gun and hold it in place with a couple of blobs.
Our tweezers are going to be connected to the battery pack using a length of red wire, so pick a good place for the wire to go - I picked the top-right corner of the board - and use some leftover garden wire to pierce a hole in the foam. Cut yourself a good length of red equipment wire and push it through the hole.
Step 17: Power Up
Time to connect your battery box. Take the black wire from the buzzer and use your wire strippers to expose the end of the cable.
The battery box has two pins which you need to connect to your wires. I wanted to keep the build solder-free, so I attached the black wire from the buzzer to the positive pin of the battery box by wrapping and bending the wire and pin in the same way I did for the LED pins. After you've done that, repeat the process for the red length of equipment wire you've just cut.
Step 18: Back to the Picture
Back to the illustration. Grab your ruler, your cutting mat and your scalpel and carefully trim the excess cover film from around the edges of the picture.
Now for the big one. Grab your hot glue gun, or your superglue, and put a few small splodges of glue on the top surface of the game board. Now make sure that your illustration if lined up and press the two together.
You'll find that the Fun Foam is larger than the picture, so give them a little time to dry, then grab a pair of scissors and trim the Fun Foam. Since the board's going to be housed within a picture frame you can get away with leaving the edges a little untidy.
The frame I bought was quite a deep one - I measured it to be just below 5cm, just deep enough to hold the finished game board.
Get your picture frame and carefully remove the glass. I say carefully because it's easy for the glass to get stuck as you remove it and break. Believe me, I know.
When the glass is removed place the gameboard into the photoframe. My frame was designed so that the picture is held in place by small bendy tabs, so I bent them around and found that they held everything firmly in place.
Step 19: Finishing Off the Board
There are only a couple of things left to do to the board. Firstly, grab a spare piece of garden wire and poke it through the hole you made in the foam for the red equipment wire. Don't try to push the garden wire through the card from this side - just push it hard enough to make a dent in the card. Then, turn the board back over and use the dent to act as a guide to make a hole in the card. Push the red equipment wire through from the back.
Now you can attach the battery box. I used a couple of sticky pads to attach the box to the frame, but you can use your hot glue gun if you prefer. Be sure to stick the battery box to the frame rather than the back of the board - we don't want to risk the weight of the battery box damaging the foam.
Turn the board back over. Personally, I found that just having the red equipment wire sticking out of the illustration looked untidy. I grabbed a single black Hama bead (which I think are called Perler beads in the US) and threaded it onto the wire. A small blob of superglue was used to stick the bead to the picture, just to make the whole thing look a little neater. If you don't have any Hama/Perler beads to hand I'm sure you can think of an alternative - a washer or a small nut, perhaps.
Step 20: Finishing Off the Board Part 2
Just a couple of other things to do to the board. We need somewhere to keep the game pieces and playing cards - the buzzer came in a small re-sealable bag which I decided to use to keep the game pieces. Similarly the equipment wire came in slightly larger resealable bags, so I appropriated one of those to hold the playing cards. Get your hot glue gun and use a couple of blobs to stick the bags to the back of the foam board - and while you've got the glue gun out use a couple more blobs to secure any loose wires to the foam.
Turn the board over and cut the equipment wire down to a good length - make sure it's long enough to reach all of the holes with a fair amount of slack. Strip the end of the wire and securely wrap it around one leg of the pair of tweezers. You can solder it in place if you want.
Since the illustration was a little unbalanced, I decided to create a logo to fill the empty space. I simply cut a length of card and wrote "O-Paul-Ration!" on it in bubble-writing, then coloured it using a red pencil crayon. I covered the length of card using cover wrap and mounted it onto the board using three sticky pads, one at each end and one in the middle.
Step 21: Playing Pieces
I modelled eleven of the twelve playing pieces using air-dry modelling clay - for the last one, Belly Fluff, we use a small piece of fabric. Air dry clay is designed not to need baking - you simply leave it to dry for 24 hours. I used white Plastiroc - you can use terracotta, but you may have to prime the finished pieces before painting them properly.
If you choose to model your own playing pieces, make sure they're the right size. Since I didn't have any proper modelling tools, I simply used a scalpel. Thankfully most of the pieces were simple shapes, but the ear and the broken funny bone below, while more complex to model, are definitely the ones that I'm most proud of and which have drawn the most attention from people who have seen the game.
The "blob" shapes were created by simply rolling a ball of modelling clay and then squashing it into shape. The ear was created using the same process and then using the handle of my scalpel to mould the ridges. The poo was made by rolling a long piece of clay and then coiling it around. The bone started off as a "sausage" of clay - I then rolled the ends slightly to create bulges and modelled ridges in them using my scalpel. The factory started off as a square shape; I modelled the details using the blade of the scalpel, and trimmed the edges when it was dry.
The models were painted using various acrylic paints. I used a few painting techniques which I'll explain by describing how I painted the Ear piece:
First the model was painted a base colour of pink. First I painted the top side, then when it was dry I turned it over and painted the back.
When the whole thing was dry I added highlights using a technique called dry-brushing, which is where you paint using a brush which is - wait for it - almost dry. I mixed a lighter shade of pink using some white acryllic. I loaded the brush with this lighter pink, before getting a piece of kitchen paper and using it to wipe most of the paint off. With the brush almost completely dry I lightly brushed the top of the model - this leaves behind a thin dusting of paint which won't run down into the crevices. When you're drybrushing it's best to use an old or cheap brush, since the hairs can easilly get pulled out when you're wiping the paint from the tip.
When I was sure that the highlights were dry I added some shade using a wash. I took some red acryllic and thinned it with water until I had something like watercolour paint. Then I loaded my brush and used it in the crevices of the ear. Thanks to the wash being thin it runs down into the crevices and dries, leaving an effective shade.
The crack on the broken funnybone was simply painted on using some diluted brown paint, while the writing on the others was written using a permanent fineliner.
Step 22: Playing Cards
Operation is played using twenty-four playing cards. Since I wanted this to be a complete version of Operation, I created cards appropriate to this game.
The cards were made from my A4 sheets of cards, and cut to be about the size of a business card. On the back of all of them I wrote the legend "O-Paul-Ration!", and then I sorted them into two piles of twelve.
The first twelve cards are used to decide which body part gets operated on next, and also how many points that operation is worth. In deciding how much each of your operations are worth, consider how diffcult each piece is to remove. Easier pieces are worth less points, obviously. The second set of cards are Specialist cards, so that's what I wrote on them.
Since the game was designed to be humourous, I decided to add a little phrase on each card relating to the body part and the jokes associated with it. Again, take time out to think of a few jokes that you and the person you're giving the game to will get. It'll help make the gift more personal.
Step 23: All Done!
Below is the finished game. The game pieces and cards sit snugly in the bags on the the board, and the whole thing works very nicely! The birthday boy loved it, and people at his party were extremely impressed. A little too impressed, in fact - now I have requests to make them for other people!
Step 24: Final Thoughts
- Colouring the illustration. My illustration was coloured with pencil crayons. If I'd had more time, and a working printer, I'd have scanned the linework and coloured it on my computer. Alternatively, I could have copied the linework onto some watercolour paper and coloured them using watercolour paints.
- Because I wanted the holes in which the gamepieces sat to have some depth, I used three sheets of fun foam glued together. I used Fun Foam because I knew I'd have no trouble cutting it, but a better and more solid method might have been to get a piece of wood and drill the holes in the appropriate places, with a thin piece of board glued or nailed to the bottom. Of course, this would have introduced a whole other load of logistical problems.
- The playing cards are completely adequate, but could stand to be spruced up a little. I'd have created them on my computer if only my printer worked.
- The paint on the clay playing pieces is prone to chipping. At some point I'll touch up the painting a little and then use some clear matt varnish to better protect them.
- My choice of garden wire made creating the loops pretty tough. Earlier I suggested jewellery wire as an alternative, but perhaps you can think of others.
- Wiring. The looped wiring works fine - I'm just not sure that I got the colours the right way around.