Operation Skee-Ball

Posted: August 18, 2017 in Uncategorized


This page talks about how I built the Operation Skee-ball.  If you don’t have the time or ability, you can always buy one.  I’ve included a few links to a similar product on Amazon…

Hot Shot 8-ft Arcade Ball Table

Boardwalk 8-ft Arcade Ball Table

We wanted to do Game Show VBS once again this year.  Besides the Life-size Connect 4, The Plinko game, The Game Wheel, we wanted to introduce a few new games.  The first one on our list was one we had seen while on our Carnival Cruise a few years ago.  It was Operation Skee-Ball.  They took the basic skee-ball game, but added the look of the Operation game.  The goal was to hit all of the internal organs of the poor soul on the operating table (I’m sure he has a name, but I don’t know it).  Here’s a pic I found on the web of the Family Game Night or Carnival Cruise version of the game:

carnival cruise operation skee-ball

Since my wife is the artist of the family, we started with the design of the playing board.  It basically breaks down into 3 pieces.  The first piece is the rolling surface.


It is the part where  you roll the balls and hit a ramp.  Basically the art on this piece, is the feet, legs, and some of the shorts of the patient.  Here’s a pic of our board.  I think I remember correctly that this board was 2 foot by 4 foot.  Don’t remember how thick.  ½” or ¾” should work fine.  The dimensions of this board brings up a good point.  The original one was quite a bit bigger than the one we were building.   There were a few reasons for this.  First, we are dealing with much smaller kids.  Secondly, I’m getting too old to move heavy stuff….
The other two parts of the “playfield” are on one 2’ by 4’ board.  The chest area is where the holes get cut.  This is the part that you are aiming for.  The head area is just art.  The head and chest need to be separated.  One thing we learned the hard way.  It is much better to cut out the holes and cut the head/chest apart before you do much paint.  We (as in my wife) had to repaint quite a bit after I did the cutting.  We also noticed the jig saw itself messed the paint up.  We did put clear coat on the paint before we cut the head and chest apart, but it would have been much better to cut before painting…
Here’s the head/chest art.


At this point in the  build, I had planned to put a red old school light bulb where the nose was.  I also planned to put a blinking LED where the tip of the thermometer was.  But this build took a little longer than I had planned.  So I was just happy to be done.  I had also thought about doing some type of automatic scoring with sensors and an Arduino.  But I waited to close to the start of VBS (Why do I do this every year).

After the artwork is drawn, you need to build the box to hold your playfields.   I was kinda rushed when building this.  I didn’t take time to write down all of the dimensions.  I took pictures with the plan to write this blog entry.  Sorry, I just don’t remember the size of each piece.   I put two brace boards on each side piece.  The first is to tie the base together.   I wanted to make it sturdy.  The second is for the bottom piece of the playfield to rest on.  But it also provides sturdiness.

At this point, I added cross support boards.  I made pocket holes with my Kreg Jig.  I’m a huge fan of the Kreg Jig.  This thing has paid for itself 10 times over.  These complete the shell of the box and add a ton of rigidity.  If you are interested in looking at a Kreg Jig, please use the following links to take a look:

Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System

Kreg K4MS Jig Master System

Kreg K5 Pocket-Hole Jig



Once I have this much of the box built, I can lay the lower playfield piece on the box to see how it is going to look.  This will also let me lay out where the ramp will go.  I wasn’t sure how to do the ramp.  I decided to use clar sheet so it wouldn’t block any of the artwork….


You can see the triangles I gut to hold the plexi-glass in place.  If you are screwing into the plexi-glass, be very careful.  It cracks easy…   I ended up making a couple since I broke the first one.   I finally used a countersink bit to make the holes ready to take a screw.

Here’s a better pic of the upper box.  This will hold the middle playfield and the head.  You can see it better once they all start getting put together.
More bracing.  Again using the Kreg Jig…


Here’s the top going on.


I realize from these pictures see how all of this fits together is kinda difficult.  You can sneak ahead or take a look at this picture…


From this picture you can see how all of the pieces of the middle box and top are going together.  If I had it to do again, I would have bought bigger plywood instead of making these two fit together.



You see how it is starting to go together.  This is the pieces that will hold the top playfield.

A couple more pics of the box getting ready to be assembled.





This is the board that goes behind the openings in the chest cavity.  We had initially planned to paint guts or organs to match the real game.  But we were time constrained, so we just went with solid red.  We chose red since it kinda looked like flesh or blood…  This board was very thin and flexible.  This let me bend it where needed so I could fit it where I wanted it and make the balls fall where I wanted.
A few pictures of the cabinet starting to come together.







Here’s the back of the red board…    I just realized you can see my drawings on here.  This was made years ago when my daughter thought about trying out for the tenor line in marching band.  Luckily she made snare (much lighter).


This picture shows how I was testing the fit of the red board…


The other purpose of the red board is to act as a ball return.  When a ball falls in the holes, it needs to make it back out the front of cabinet.  I started designing my ball return.  I angled the board so that it would feed to the right hand of the cabinet.  Then I built a basic trough for the balls to run in.  I knew I needed to convert it to PVC pipe so it could go out the front of the game.



Here’s my conversion from the trough to the PVC pipe.  The trough just kinda went inside the pipe.

Here’s a pic showing the pipe coming out the front of the game.  This part of the build took the most time.  Trying different things and seeing what worked and what didn’t.  Had to make quite a few changes.  What was in my head didn’t really work.  Kept trying until I got it working…

Since we were using Red board behind the chest holes, I wanted to make them glow.  I decided to have a couple of LED stage lights shining on it.  They were DMZ lights, but I didn’t want to use a controller.  These particular lights had dip switches which let me hard set the color to red…





This pic shows the ball return pipe once I did a little more work on it.  I made it angled so that the balls would roll out and go into the return.  I put foam in the other side of the return so that the balls stopped where the cutout was…


Here’s a pic of the ball return before I cut out the hand hole.  I just used a hole saw to cut the holes,  Then a hacksaw to cut the lines between the holes.


Here’s the hole saw I used:

Another view once the return is in place.


Here’s the game pretty much done.



Here’s the game at church waiting on the kids to show up.  You can also see the Battleship games we built.  I’ll soon do a blog post on those…  Notice how nicely the red behind the holes in the chest glow.  It looked much better than the camera shows.


I had planned to add some letters on the top.  Like OPERATION or SKEE-BALL, but I was out of time.  And wore out.  It stinks getting old, but I guess it is better than the alternative.
Let me know what you think.  I’m always looking for ideas on games to build.  Please comment/like to let me know how you like it…


Here’s a few more random pictures that I don’t think ended up in the above walk-through…


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