We’re all spending a lot more time at home right now, so yard games will be a favorite past-time this summer! Today we’re outlining three steps for a simple $10 DIY giant Jenga game – but with an added twist.
Original Jenga is a simple and fun game that led to hours and hours of family fun throughout our respective childhoods. Jenga games at Vargo family reunions got notoriously competitive, with a running record of max tower height scrawled inside the travel-worn box. We still play classic Jenga at our Tree House frequently, but we decided it was time for us to create a giant Jenga game to enjoy this summer outdoors. Sure, you could buy a set for $118. Or you could spend a fun afternoon working in the garage and put the $110 you’ve saved toward food and drink to enjoy while you marvel at your woodworking skills.
Many of the giant Jenga tutorials we were able to find online suggested using 2″ x 4″ boards, but in doing a bit of research, we found that a 2″ x 3″ board reflects the scale of original Jenga (1.5cm x 2.5cm x 7.5cm) exactly. A set made from 2″ x 3″ lumber is still substantial in size and measures 27″ tall before the first move! 2″ x 3″ lumber is also lighter and easier to store and transport, so it seemed like the best fit for us!
- Five or more 2″ x 3″ x 8′ boards cut to 7.5″ pieces. You’ll need 54 pieces for 18 levels. (Note: Be sure to select the straightest boards with the fewest knots. It might not be a bad idea to also grab an extra board or two as backup!)
- Miter saw
- Power sander + sandpaper
- Foam roller or foam brushes
- Two different colors of paint (optional)
1| Make Cuts
The first step in the process is to cut all of the boards to 7.5″ length. We find that any time we’re making multiple cuts of the same length, clamping a slug to the miter saw’s fence will speed things up significantly! Just be sure to make a test cut or two to ensure things are measuring accurately.
The goal here is for the length of one cut board to equal the exact width of three boards stacked side by side. Remember, a nominal 2″ x 3″ actually measures 1.5″ x 2.5″, so we’re shooting for exactly 7.5″ per piece.
As cuts are made, it’s a good idea to remove any nasty knots or crummy boards. These only have the potential to snag on other pieces and make the game much less fun. We’ll recycle our scraps as kindling for our next Tree House bonfire!
2| Sand, Sand, Sand. Then Sand Some More.
This is the most time-consuming step of the project, but also the most important. Sanding removes any pesky splinters and ensures that your pieces slide as smoothly as possible. If there’s not a power sander in your tool arsenal already, this project would likely be a good excuse to invest in one! We used 220 grit paper on medium speed with our random orbital sander (similar, ours is discontinued). The combination turned out to be a happy medium between smoothing the surfaces of the wood and removing any rough spots. We sanded a small bevel on the corners and made sure to give each freshly cut end a thorough sanding as well.
If you’re looking for the easiest and most simple version of this project, stack the blocks in your Radio Flyer and call it done! If you’d like to add a bit of visual interest and open up the possibility of an alternate version of the standard Jenga game, it’s time to paint!
3| Paint, Paint, Paint
Now that every. single. surface. of all 54 blocks is sanded smooth and your hands are numb from the vibration of the sander, it’s time to paint the ends! We picked two complimentary colors that we had on hand and painted both ends of 27 blocks (half of the 54 total) in each color. You might recognize the pale pink as Benjamin Moore Odessa Pink from our recent bathroom board and batten project! The blue/black color is also oldie but a goodie. Nein! Nein! Nein! OK Fine by Clark+Kensington has been put to use on our dresser-turned-kitchen island, our original DIY porch swing (also a quick and easy quarantine DIY) and our sliding back doors (some incredible kitchen before and after photos in that one, BTW). Oh, and a vintage garbage headboard too! Needless to say, we’re fans.
And for a Fun Twist…
So what’s that twist we mentioned? Each player picks a color and can only touch or move blocks of that color. Let’s call it the YBH rule. What difference does the YBH rule make? It makes the game twice as hard! On each turn, a player’s possible moves are cut by 50% since they can only move their own blocks. Of course, the set can still be used to play by traditional rules if you’re not up for an extra challenge!
If you take this project on, we’d love to see. Make sure to tag us @yellowbrickhome on Instagram so we can share the joy! Happy making!
PS: What’s your favorite board game? And you can find all the sources for our back patio right here!
Great idea and easy DIY while home during the pandemic!! Thanks as always
Love this and will be doing this project this weekend!! Silly question, but do you sand first then cut or cut then sand? With my limited knowledge I would think it is easier to use the power sander on the 8ft boards rather than the small pieces. Your guidance is greatly appreciated.
Hi Lisa! You’re exactly right. We sanded the entire 8 foot boards first, then cut our pieces and sanded everything again for good measure. Good luck and be sure to tag #YBHDIY @yellowbrickhome if you post photos! We’d love to see your finished project.
Love the twist! Fun idea. I’ve been saving random scraps for my own set so they are all randomly painted. This could be a good way to tie the look together. Thanks for the idea!
What a smart idea! Now if only I could make this from my pile of lath in the backyard.
You’re Ashley. You can find a way!
What type of wood did you use?
awesome instructions! thank you
You may have just done this for the picture, but the board should be held tight on the bound side (the side against the stop) to prevent kickback. A novice would not know this and it could be disastrous! Great article otherwise! Thank you!