So my sister in law, Hannah, was getting married and I agreed to make a giant garden Jenga as a wedding gift. Hannah met Ben about three years ago. They came for Christmas that year and our three decided he was a bit rubbish. Ben is in fact kind, funny, gentle and an all-round great bloke, but he will forever be known as ‘Rubbish Ben’.
Now I have to be a little careful calling this a giant ‘Jenga’ as that is a trademarked product. So to be clear this is not an actual Jenga but a large wooden block stacking game with a mobile stand for use in the garden. Not so catchy, I know but.
Materials you will need to make the blocks
12 lengths of 38mm x 90mm softwood (2.4m long)
Two different pots of outdoor wood preserver
Hardware you need to make the stand.
Quarter Sheet of 18mm Plywood
4 x M10 threaded bar (1m long)
4 x M10 connecting nuts
4 x M10 butterfly nuts
8 x M10 flanged nuts
2 x ¼ inch pipe flanges
2 x ¼ inch right angle pipes
1 x ¼ inch straight pipe (4 inches long)
4 x 40mm Castors
Tools you may need to make this….
Workshop Dust Extractor
I started by guessing how many blocks I would need to make the stack about one metre tall. Then I went to the hardware store and measured up some of their planned all-round stock. I came away with 12 lengths of 38mm x 90mm that would give me 64 blocks in total. This size just felt right, not too wide and not too thick.
I laid three pieces side by side to then measure across the width of the blocks to establish what length I would need to cut all the blocks, 270mm. Without this step game play wouldn’t be as expected. I set up stop block on the table saw and then cut all sixty-four pieces. Some of the lengths of timber had shakes and splits so I used all of the 12 lengths getting sixty-four good blocks.
Painting the Blocks
As it’s been the summer holidays during this build I wanted to involve my three children, so I thought the most fun way was to get them to paint the pieces. We used outdoor wood preserver in two different colours. The colours chosen matched with the wedding flowers. One third of the blocks painted green, one third pink and the last third I finished with Danish Oil.
Lessons I learned from painting with the children, do preparation before they come into the workshop. If only for half an hour, preparing who has what, making sure you have something to clean them up with and keeping the painting simple seemed to work. They slopped a lot of paint on at first, but then they soon got the idea of wiping excess paint off on the tin before brushing. A lot of fun was had and even my big sister got involved, thanks Kate for your help!
I found inspiration for the stand on Pinterest but I can’t for the life of me find the original link. Anyway, I just knew that I didn’t just want to dump the blocks in a box, I wanted something to present the blocks in, as this was going to be a present. I decided on a rustic looking stand that would hold the blocks tight and be mobile.
I bought a quarter sheet of 18mm ply for the top a bottom of the stand and the materials in the list above and got to work. The plywood I marked up and cut two pieces 330mm square on the table saw. I then marked and drilled four holes in the corners of each board for the threaded bars. Then before any more assembly I gave the two pieces two three coats of Danish Oil to seal them.
For the four castors I predrilled holes and screwed them to the base. They are rated for 75kg each, which seems to be fine.
The handle is just the pieces of ¼ inch gas pipe screwed together. These fittings seem pretty widely available and are strong enough for the job. The one thing in the video I would change is to bolt the handle to the top rather than screw it in, just for added strength.
Screw the connecting bolts onto the threaded bar about inch up, push through one of the corner holes in base and then screw on one of the flanged M10 nuts. Tighten each one of these for a good tight hold. Now stack up the blocks onto the base, the threaded bar will stick out above them. Now screw down one M10 nut just below the top of the stack, you could use some Loctite on the nut to keep it in place. This will stop the top dropping down when you take the blocks out. Now fit the top onto the tops of the threaded bars and secure down with the remaining butterfly nuts.
The blocks won’t all be exactly the same thickness, which makes the game better, but it also means no matter how much you tighten the top down onto the blocks, some of them will be a little loose. So move the stand and blocks in the upright position, rather than titling or lying them down.
As you can see from the video the game was well received. We set it up at the reception, between the dining room and the bar, so it got well used by quite a few guests.
Printing the date
The surprise for Hannah and (not so) Rubbish Ben was that I had managed to put their names and wedding date on one of the blocks. This I did using grease proof paper and an inkjet printer. It’s a process I found on YouTube and which I intend to use more in other projects. It’s pretty straight forward, just remember to print a mirror image of what you want and stick the grease proof paper to another sheet of normal paper, so the printer doesn’t eat the grease proof.
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Now go get some wood!
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