Thursday, July 18, 2019

Four in a Row Outdoor Version in Wood

At camp earlier this year, I saw campers playing the game of Connect-Four in the great outdoors.  Looks good, as long as the paint holds up, etc.

So I decided to make a slightly smaller version that would fit in my car.  I bought the commercial game to get starting measurements.  Then I had the light bulb idea to use plastic container lids as the games pieces, to limit the number of circular cuts I'd need to make. The holes won't work as the pieces, which need to be larger to stack up right.

Once I decided on the piece diameter I needed to lay out the rails so they would slide down smoothly.  This determined where the viewing holes would get cut out.

I made test cuts in a "scrap" piece of plywood after purchasing a 3-inch hole saw. A bit expensive but so much faster than trying to cut that many holes (6x7 = 42) with a jig saw.

Stacking up the disks seemed to work okay, using a dowel as the stopper at the bottom. In addition to the distance between each row and column, there's the question of how much space between the front and back panels.  Too much and the disks could overlap.  Too little and they'd bind up or not fit at all.

I went with 3/4 inch wide slots, with a 1/2 inch depth.  That turned out to be too much (see below) but any smaller and the rails might be on the weak side.

View inside the first cuts.

And more cuts.

All done the cutting, and working on spotting the rails.

I decided to use a couple of pieces of treated lumber at the top to hang the game board between two uprights. To allow for a smaller size, I cut holes in both front and back hangers

As it turned out, gluing the rails was challenging.  My goal was to use only dowels and glue, no screws or nails. Cutting the dowel holes in the right place for each rail wasn't as easy as it seemed at first.  I could have made them all the same, then cut through to the front and to the back. Maybe next time.

The dowels looked okay, even with low-grade plywood which chipped easily.  I filled in a few of the worst gashes.

To put the hangars into the uprights, I tried to cut an oval-shaped opening on some leftover 2x6s.

An idea was to have two heights for the board -- one for Boy Scout/teens, and one for Cub Scouts/pre-teens.  After working on the top slot, that plan was left for another day.

One I drilled the openings, I needed to gouge out the spaces between. Even with soft pine, this was a pain. I should have started cutting the outermost holes first, as there was no way with my drill press to move over a fraction of an inch to make the opening larger. I could have used the router but was concerned the opening would get too large. When finished, the opening is just snug enough that the rails can be tapped in, and almost never fall out during assembly. Almost.

Gluing up the board.

Here's the partly finished unit showing the hangars between the uprights, the board in place, and the rails not quite cut to size.

A bit more snug fit, after minor adjustments, with the game pieces shown.  Since the plastic lids I started planning with had some curvature (from going through the dishwasher) the pieces I used were too small and kept overlapping.  I put a piece of cardboard on each one before taping the colored duct tape into place.  This shim worked to keep jamming to a minimum.

Side view, showing clamps and other parts such as the dowel used to drop out pieces at game end.


As it turned out, I had 84 "holes" left from cutting out the main board. I decided to use them to make checkers sets. Picked out the holes with the least gaps in the plywood, sanded them in a stack to get them smooth, then painted one set while leaving the other "natural. I used pieces of poster board to make the checkerboards. Those fit nicely on cafeteria tables. I thought they'd be used outside but given the weather and location of tables and benches they stayed indoors.

For field use, a couple holes in the top worked to stake out the uprights.


A measured drawing is available on request, as they say.  The above was my original sketch, scanned and then flipped to make the full board (I only drew one side).