Connect Four DIY

Posted: April 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

Below is how I built my Connect Four Game. If you aren’t interested in building, here are some already done for you from Amazon:

ECR4Kids Jumbo 4-To-Score Oversized Game

Giant 4 Connect in a Row

GoSports Giant 4 in a Row Game with Carrying Case – 3 foot Width – Made from Wood

Giant UP 4 IT (4ft tall 4 in a Row Game)

You can also purchase a Pinball or arcade machine and have it shipped to you:

Stern Pinball Game of Thrones Pro Edition Arcade Pinball Machine

Cocktail Arcade Machine With 60 Classic Games

We decided for Easter this year we wanted to do a big game. My wife really wanted the Connect Four Basketball that we saw on the cruise. It just seemed a little out of hand (price wise). Just buying 42 basketballs of any quality would be pretty expensive. So we decided to just do a normal life size Connect Four.

I saw a couple of cool options online:

http://makezineblog.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/giant_connect_four.jpg?w=500&h=410

and of course a few more that I can’t seem to find now.

So the first thing you need to do is decide how big your “checkers” will be. This will decide the height/width of the game. One of the ones I saw, the guy used 6″ checkers. My wife wanted it bigger. Looking impressive (especially to kids) in person. So I started thinking about how big I could make it. I was dreading making 42 perfectly round checkers. That didn’t sound like fun. I saw one post where the guy used cork hot pads as the checkers. I really liked this idea. Not heavy. Precut. Just paint and go. I found the perfect candidate at IKEA.

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You can also order the cork circles from Amazon if you don’t have an Ikea close: Cork Circles

There were a little over 7″ each. Best of all, they were $2.99 for a pack of 3. So 14 packs later, we’ve got 42 checkers.

So I kinda new my sizing now. I bought a 4′ by 8′ sheet of 1/2 MDF from home depot. I bought some 1″ by 1/2″ MFD type boards. I was using them as the spacers between the checkers. The spacers go up and down the length of the connect four board. Whatever size you use, need to be just a hair thicker than the checkers. But you don’t want them thick enough to allow two checkers to get on top of each other. So at this point, you can start laying out the boards as a test:

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The biggest thing is to make sure there is enough room for the checker to slide up and down, but not enough room for it to go far to the left or right.

I usually do best if I can draw out what I’m thinking. Here’s my “doodle” with my spacing on it.

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Once you have decided on your layout, start glueing down your spacers to your board:

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Somebody told me once, “You can never have too many clamps”. I’m now starting to understand what they mean.

Here’s some links to some of the clamps used: Irwin Clamp

Irwin Clamp Set

Wolfcraft Clamp

Once you get all the spacers glued down, you can start thinking about cutting the holes. I ended up buying a 6″ hole saw to do the cutting.

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The thought of making 42 cuts any other way, would probably make me lose my mind (and maybe my salvation). The hole say was about $50, but it was money well spent.

Here’s the hole saw I used: Bosch Hole Saw

I also would suggest using a corded drill: Dewalt Corded Drill

Trying to cut this many holes with a cordless drill will prove to be a pain. But you’ll enjoy the cordless drill and impactdriver for the rest of the project: Dewalt 20V Cordless Drill/Driver Combo Set

The cuts are centered mid ways between the spacers. The bottom one is exactly 1/2 the size of the checker from the bottom. Then the next ones are exactly the size of the checker from the previous. On a connect four board, there are 6 holes up and down and 7 across.

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I was having issues getting the center bit centered on the holes so far. Then I had a thought (something probably everyone else already knew). Start the holes with a regular drill bit, then I can just drop the hole saw in the starter hole and let ‘er rip. That worked much better:

 

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Holes all cut now:

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At this point, I decided to spray paint the yellow spacers yellow. I wasn’t sure if they would show in the final product, but I didn’t want them to be white if everything else was yellow. So in the final product they do show (but only if viewing from the far left/right).

I needed to clean up the cuts on the board I had initially wanted to use a round-over bit on my router, but decided to just use sand paper. Cleaned it up nicely.

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I now need to prime/paint the front board:

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Now I needed to look at putting the back on. I could have (probably should have) just bought another 1/2″ MDF 4’X8′ MDF sheet for the back. But since I had a few leftover pieces (and the fact that I’m very cheap), I decided to make due.

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And I cut off the excess board on the side. This was actually used as part of the back:

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At this point, I wanted to check and make sure everything worked on the game. I tried a set of checkers in each lane of the board. just to make sure everything worked:

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I forgot to mention. Before I put on the back boards, I painted the inside of them yellow. I had considered putting holes in the back board also, but I knew the way we would use it, it would only need to be visible from the front. Now I painted the front of the game:

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Now I needed to start working on the legs (base) of the game. I used some spare boards that I had laying around. I used 2″X4″ board for the sides, and a piece of 2″ by 6″ for the base. I added casters on the bottom. I added a piece of plywood to make it look more like the connect for game. I cut circles in the plywood:

This is where I started laying out the plywood. Note the 2″X4″ going up and the 2″X6″ on the base:

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I then added a circle using a stir stick (free) from Home Depot. I put multiple holes in it. I put a screw in one end and then ran a pencil in the other:

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If you don’t want to make your own circle jig.  Here’s one to purchase: Rockler Ellipse/Circle Router Jig

After cutting out with a jig saw, I put the base together:

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Jig Saw

A little blue paint:

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Casters

Now that the base/legs are ready, I needed to attach them to the game:

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A nice collection of squares will help at every level of this project:

Carpenter Square

Combination Square

Speed Square

So I needed to figure out how to hold the checkers in place when I wanted, but be able to let them out when the game is done.

I ended up making a simple board that would move left and right. This would allow the checkers to be held in place during gameplay by a small piece of wood. Then when moved to the right or left, they would let the checkers out. I really don’t have a good way to do this other than just experiment around and see what works for you. I also thought about the possibility of using a solid board and hinges. I would just have to come up with a way to secure the board in place…

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At this point, I ended up getting my son to help me sit it up for the first time. Note I also added casters to the bottom. This thing is heavy. Even using 1/2″ MDF. It still has a lot of weight.

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Now we are starting to look like a real connect four game. Problem number 1: My wife saw it and said it was too tall. After a brief frustration moment, I put the game back down and decided to take 1′ off of the side boards. This would make it low enough that kids could put in the checkers while standing on a stepstool.

Shop Amazon Warehouse Deals – Deep Discounts on Open-box and Used Tools & Home Improvement

Here’s a picture of some of the checkers drying after being spray painted. I had problems getting them to dry. We had quite a bit of rain lately… I’m just glad I started when I did.

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Red Spray Paint

Black Spray Paint

I wanted to put some type of sign/logo on the game. I found this one online that I like…

http://web-vassets.ea.com/Assets/Richmedia/Image/FullImageLogo/connect-4-logo.png?cb=1334003551

So I wanted to make something a little different. For one, I can’t draw letters good at all. I wanted them to be 3D-ish. So I wanted them cut out. But I didn’t want to cut them out. I found some at Hobby Lobby. Not exactly the size I wanted, but close enough. I cut out the rest of the wood. Here’s the logo during construction:

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Some Similar letters from Amazon: Wooden Letters

And here’s a picture of the final game with the logo applied (and drying).

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Tomorrow is Easter. I’ll post some pics without the clamps and during gameplay. I know the teenagers tried it out today during service rehearsal and I hear they loved it…

Here’s a couple of pictures of the game on Easter morning:

Here it is in the front of the room. Ready for play:

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Here’s the game with a few checkers dropped in:

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I will say we ran into one issue. One of the checkers broke. I think the teen that was helping put them in, put them in a little harder than just dropping. But anyway, only 1 out of 42 broke. I’ll take it…

Now the next big problem. Where do we store this beast.

UPDATE: 04/10/2016. This is a really popular blog post. I get a lot of questions asking for specifics or people saying they are going to build one. I got some pictures from . He had a couple of pics from the game he made. He made it a little bit smaller. Said he used 5″ checkers. He also had a great idea. He made the back a lego wall… Awseome!!!

I put the pics he sent on the following post:

https://drowland.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/other-peoples-connect-4/

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Comments
  1. HECTOR says:

    Hi Drowland,

    I’m going to use your plans to build one of these for our backyard. Awesome job, by the way.

    Would you verify what the size of the spacers are supposed to be when you wrote …”bought some 1″ by 1/2″ MFD type boards. I was using them as the spacers between the checkers. ”

    Did you mean 1″x2″s vs 1″x1/2″?

  2. HECTOR says:

    Thank you.

  3. Mike says:

    What was you total investment in the project? Time? Money?

    • drowland says:

      sorry for the slow response. I’m not really sure any more. Money wise, I usually use a lot of scrap wood and parts to save $$. Time wise, I normally don’t keep up with it since I enjoy doing it. I would probably be amazed at how long it takes me to do something.

  4. Elliot says:

    Thanks for the plan! Is it portable in a van? Does it come apart for transportation?

    • drowland says:

      It does not come apart. If I had it to do over I would make it where the lags came off. Not sure if it would fit in a van without the legs. I’ve always moved it in a truck. B

  5. Elliot says:

    Hi, Thanks for the plan! Does it break down for transportation in a van?

  6. Phillip says:

    I plan on building a similar version of this, just not quite so big. To help people out with planning, I can estimate, that without sanding, paint, or casters, this would likely run about $100 for the one I am planning, give or take. I purchased 1/4 inch disks that are 5 inch diameter from woodcrafters.com. They came out to about $1 each, just because the price of the cork pieces at Ikea went up a little and they are, as stated, a little less durable. With roughly $50 in checkers, the rest can be made simply by doing the measurements. Mine will be about 30 inches by 40 inches, so instead of two full plywood pieces, I can do the whole thing with one. My spacers will be utilizing home depot’s 3/8th inch square dowels tacked into place (likely not just glued as they will need some coaxing to get them in straight, home depot wood quality is lacking). With legs, I’m hoping it’s not more than 4 feet tall so that younger kids can use it and to make it easier to travel with. Again, without time spent, maybe some small hinge costs and paint (and the hole saw of course, but that can be picked up cheaper at harbor freight) I estimate it to run about $100.

    I don’t have a website anymore, but if people are interested in how this turns out, hopefully I’ll have one built by the spring since I have a few other projects I’m working on too, just e-mail me at ultimateinvestmentpropertytool@yahoo.com

    • drowland says:

      Please let me know when you have pics. I can post them on here if you want.

    • Hey Philip & Drowland,

      My name is Jahquan, i would like to do this as part of my BSA Eagle project. I’m creating an interactive playground for my school and this would be cool. I would love to have the plans for this game. I will be doing my project sometime in the fall of 2016.

      Thank You,

      My moms email address is cmalcolm55@gmail.com

  7. Darci says:

    Hi there how do you attach the game to the legs? Screwed, nailed, glued? We want to tackle this game!

    • drowland says:

      I used screws. And I ended up covering the countersunk holes with putty. If I had it to do again I would use screws and make where I could remove the legs for transport or storage. It is hard to move since the entire thing is one big piece.

  8. Phillip Hauenstein says:

    I am roughly done with mine, it uses 5 inch disks and includes a chalkboard reverse side with an added slide in lego wall that can be removed and placed on the ground. Email me at ultimateinvestmentpropertytool@yahoo.com and I can return pictures.

  9. Diane says:

    How long did the project take to build/paint once supplies were purchased?

    • drowland says:

      I don’t remember for sure. Seems like it took about two weekends. I usually spend more time thinking through the process than actually doing the work.

      • Phillip Hauenstein says:

        I was able to make mine in under a week while working full time. My big issue was having to buy more drill batteries because making the holes overheated my batteries repeatedly. That alone took 5 hours. I also have a paint sprayer which helped.

      • drowland says:

        I don’t have a paint sprayer. And I hate painting. But I do still use a corded drill for some projects just for that reason. With my kreg jig the corded drill works much better.

  10. Phillip Hauenstein says:

    If someone is interested in building one like mine, I can rough out plans, but it would depend on having all the tools I do to make it the way I did.

  11. Kathleen says:

    Thank you, Phillip. Just finished our Connect 4 and it is adorable! I made the frame black and used some old cherry stain/poly combo I had for the board so it wouldn’t be kid-like (I have teenagers).
    I made a layout in Excel (accounting nerd here) to make it fit 1/2 sheet so I would only have to buy one board. We used a few scrap pieces and bought wood off Home Depot’s 70% off misfit stack. We used that wood to make our checkers also. I didn’t want to dump a bunch of money into it in case it only got used once or twice. All in, including a 5″ hole saw from HF, we spent less than $50. It’s first use will be today at a party. Can’t wait to see if everyone likes it!!

  12. Bob Gustafson says:

    Very nice work.
    Gives me a great starting point.
    How are your cork checkers holding up??
    I’m going to go with 4″ ones. They are only 1/4″ thick but I’m thinking of glueing two together for added strength.
    Do you have any close up picture of the part that holds them in the board??

    Last year I made giant dice. Used a cedar 6×6 post and 3/4″ walnut inlays for the dots.
    looking forward to adding the connect 4 to our camping games.

    • drowland says:

      The cork checkers hold up OK, but we have had a few that got broken or chipped. If I was doing it all over again, I would probably come up with a better solution for the checkers.

  13. Phillip says:

    So I’m the one that built the Connect Four with the reversible Lego Wall, which also has a chalkboard behind it too. If you’re interested in renting it out, I do deliveries within 30 miles of Centerville, OH and rent out multiple oversized yard games through my facebook page.

    https://www.facebook.com/lincolnscreationsandrentals/

  14. […] is my design I did for the game.  When I did Connect Four  or Break My Heart Game or Plinko Game I planned everything out on graph paper.  Laying out […]

  15. […] Not the best pic in the world.  If you want to see how I made it, check out my blog post here. […]

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