I remember as a child going to my grandparents home and playing a vintage game called Skittles made by the company Merdel. As it says on the box it is "The Exciting Spin Top Bowling Game." I got a quick simple history of this game from vintageprojects.com where they describe this game as an old English pub game. They do have plans for a version of this game but it is not quite the one I grew up with. As I have mentioned earlier, the one I played was done by Merdel.
As a side note, Merdel started in1961 from a few employees leaving another game company called Carrom. This company I believe had the original design for this game.
Despite a long search I was unable to find any plans for Merdel's/Carrom's design. I ended up using software that allowed me to calibrate a known distance on a picture then measure everything else. I knew even these measurements weren't going to be 100% accurate so I used the plans from vintageproject.com and my measurements to come up with what I believe to be fairly accurate dimensions which I have as a .pdf in step 2.
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Step 1: Materials and Tools
- 3/4" MDF 4'x4' sheet or (Hardwood Plywood)
- 3/8" dia Oak wood dowel
- 7/8" dia. Oak wood dowel
- Oak Board 2-1/2" wide min.
- Clear Shellac
- Denatured Alcohol
- Clear Enamel
- Paste Wax
- Clean Rags
- 400 Grit Sand Paper
- Wood Screws
- Wood Glue (optional)
- Brad Nails (optional)
- Table saw/Circular Saw
- Dado Stack
- Band saw/Jigsaw/Scroll saw
- Drill press
- Drill bits
- Buffing wheel for drill
- Brad nailer
- Measuring tape
- Spray adhesive
Step 2: Cut!
A few notes before you start cutting out all the pieces using the provided PDFs:
- I built this out of MDF because thats what I had on hand. If I were to do this again I would use a hardwood plywood because the wood would stay flat better then the MDF when exposed to humidity changes. This is important because the top you will make later will move around the whole area smoothly and not stay in a low spot.
- If you have a dado stack and choose to use it, make sure to add a 1/2" to the lengths of the pieces that sit in a dado. If not a simple butt joint can be used.
- 3/4" material was used to make the walls. 1/2" material can be used for the walls to lighten the whole game. Some measurements might have to change to accommodate the difference in thickness.
With all that in mind, use the measurements from the "Skittles Shop Drawing" PDF to cut out the base and walls of the game.
If you choose to use dado's, cut them to a depth of 1/4" as shown in the drawing.
The front wall will have an opening for the top to sit in assisting with spinning the top. On the inside will be a vertical slot. To drill this out, clamp a scrap piece, cut to the same height, to the side where the slot will be. Using a 13/32" drill bit on a drill press, 7/16" can be used, drill to a depth of 2-3/4".
To finish the the cutting, print out the different "... Opening" PDFs at 1:1 scale. Use spray adhesive to adhere each profile to the appropriate wall. Use the "Skittles ISO" PDF to see where each one goes. Make sure to center them on the wall and are flush to the bottom. In the case of the "Top Opening" the reference lines will be aligned with the top and bottom of the wall. For the wall that has two "Small Openings" make sure that once assembled, they will be centered in the room in which they reside.
Step 3: Smooth Makes for a Long Spin
Friction will kill the tops spin quick. To reduce friction and prolong the spin a nice smooth surface is needed.
Now this is where I missed a very important step but thankfully wasn't a project killer. Before apply the finish. The location for the bowling pins must be applied to the base. I do not have the exact location but using pictures as a reference, a general location could be determined. A simple red or black sharpie could be used with a stencil to draw a circle and its corresponding point value. The first room pins are worth 5 points. The second room pins are worth 10 points. The two small corner room pins are worth 25 points and the middle small room pin is worth 50. With those placed the finish will seal them in.
Taking from the plans of vintageprojects.com, apply 2-3 coats of a 50/50 mixture of shellac and denatured alcohol. Sand between coats with 400 grit sandpaper. Then apply 2-3 coast of clear enamel sanding between coats with 400 grit sandpaper. Finish by buffing in 1-2 coats of paste wax.
Step 4: Assembly
I chose to use wood screw from the bottom to attach the walls to the base. Glue could be used but everywhere the wall sits on the base would need to be masked off before apply all the layers of finish to ensure a good bond.
On the underside, layout your screw locations so they land in the center of the walls. Keep in mind not to place a screw in the openings of the wall. Do a dry fit of the walls on the underside to ensure proper location. Drill a pilot hole and countersink in every location.
Starting with the outer walls, clamp each wall in place and continue the pilot hole into the wall. Secure with wood screws. Where the walls join together brad nails and/or glue can be used. If glue is used make sure to wipe off any squeeze out from the finish of the base.
Step 5: Turning the Pins and Top
This step can be difficult without a lathe. Using a drill or drill press could work as a ruff substitute. The attached PDFs printed out at 1:1 scale will give you the profiles for the pins and top. These profiles are not required but do stay with the original design. If you choose to go with something else just make sure the top is short enough to get under the openings of the walls.
I found a simple method to kicking out all the bowling pins on the lathe. Start by marking out the locations of the min and max diameters of the pin on a section of the 7/8" dia oak dowel. Now with a narrow cutting tool turn down to those diameters using a pair of calipers to verify the diameter. Now turn the profile between those points. Use a cutout of the profile to verify your work as you go along. With the profile turned, sand smooth. To get a nice square flat bottom. Use a narrow cutting tool to cut of the pin from the stock using your free hand to support the pin has it comes off. There will be a small nub left that can be cut off with a chisel and sanded smooth. Cut off the other end of the stock and sand the head of the pin round. Repeat this for a total of 12 pins.
Use the same method for the top. Turn only the large portion of the top as seen in the pictures. Make sure to round over the portion that has the largest diameter. Turning one end off and sand that face smooth and drill a 3/8" hole through the top on a drill press. Before inserting a 3/8" dia. oak dowel, cut the dowel 1" long and lightly chuck it into a drill. With the drill spinning, sand a tip to the end. Cut the dowel to length and insert it into the top in the proper location. Glue may be used but I found mine to have a tight enough fit it wasn't needed. You can finish the pins and top. I decided to leave mine unfinished.
Step 6: Play!
There is one last step before you can play. Cut about 12"-16" of string and tie a loop to one end.
It is important before you play that you place the box on a level table or floor.
Play is simple, set up your pins on the markers, wrap the string tight around the bottom of the top, place the top in the opening of the front with looped end of the string coming out the back and pull! Add up the points of the pins you knock over and the highest score wins. You can do the best of multiple spins or even play as teams.
I found that this came out pretty close to what I played as a kid. Let me know your thoughts if you played this before. If you have an Original Merdel Skittles No. 401 game it would be interesting to know how close I got to the real thing.
Runner Up in the