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:
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.
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:
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.
Once you have decided on your layout, start glueing down your spacers to your board:
Somebody told me once, “You can never have too many clamps”. I’m now starting to understand what they mean.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Holes all cut now:
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.
I now need to prime/paint the front board:
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.
And I cut off the excess board on the side. This was actually used as part of the back:
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:
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:
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:
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:
After cutting out with a jig saw, I put the base together:
A little blue paint:
Now that the base/legs are ready, I needed to attach them to the game:
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…
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.
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.
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.
I wanted to put some type of sign/logo on the game. I found this one online that I like…
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:
And here’s a picture of the final game with the logo applied (and drying).
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:
Here’s the game with a few checkers dropped in:
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: