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How to Build a Shishkaball Ball-Drop Game

TOH's Team Saturday shows you how to entertain friends with a yard-size version of this ball-drop game, made from wire fencing and plant stakes.

The heyday of classic board games like Ker-Plunk and Jenga may be long gone, but you can re-create that heady feeling of pulling out a piece and waiting to see if everything comes crashing down. You can do it in a yard-size version that's sure to become the raucous centerpiece of any summer gathering.

All you need is some wire fencing, lumber, plastic balls, plant stakes—and perhaps a dose of video instruction from Team Saturday. Once the pieces are assembled, invite your friends and neighbors over to get reacquainted with the heart-pounding fun of yore.

Overview to Build the Ball-drop Game of Shishkaball

Shishkaball Ball-drop Game Douglas Adams

Our giant version of the classic ball-drop game comprises three large pieces: a lid, a cylindrical wire cage, and a base with lumber legs. The doubled-up plywood rings that make up the base and lid consist of two rings of different sizes—a small one that nests snugly in the rim of the wire cylinder and a larger one that covers the top and bottom edge of the cylinder.

To play, thread the plant stakes at odd angles through the middle of the cylinder, dump the balls in from the top, and see who has the magic touch needed to remove stakes without letting the balls slip through.

Cut List

  • 2x4 legs: three at 9 inches
  • Wire fencing: one length at 59"L x 48"H
  • Bamboo stakes: 90 at 24 inches
  • ½-inch plywood base ring (bottom): one at 7-inch interior radius and 9-inch exterior radius
  • ½-inch plywood base ring (top): one at 7-inch interior radius and 10-inch exterior radius (with three dividers in center of ring)
  • ½-inch plywood lid ring (bottom): one at 7-inch interior radius and 9-inch exterior radius
  • ½-inch plywood lid ring (top): one at 7-inch interior radius and 10-inch exterior radius

Building a Shishakball Drop Game

Step 1: Lay out the rings

Two men laying creating rings on a board Wendell T. Webber
  • To create a lip for the base and lid, you'll sandwich together two plywood rings—one an inch wider than the other. First, to mark circular cuts this large, make a compass from a piece of scrap wood at least 12 inches long.
  • Drive a finishing nail through the center of the strip near one end, for the pivot.
  • To create the radii on the cut list, mark points 7, 9, and 10 inches from the pivot and drill a ⅛-inch hole for a pencil tip at each one.
  • Using the nail to pivot the compass, poke a pencil tip through each radius hole to draw the circles on plywood according to the cut list.
  • To create the goal slots for the base, tick off perimeter points at 12, 4, and 8 o'clock.
  • Draw a line from each tick mark to the center, then make parallel lines 1-inch to either side of those lines to produce 2-inch dividers in the shape of a peace sign.

Step 2: Cut out the rings

Two men cutting out rings for a yard game Wendell T. Webber
  • Using a jigsaw fitted with a scroll blade, cut the outside edge of all four rings.
  • For the insides of the rings that make up the lid, drill a ¼-inch hole into the area to be cut out, insert the blade, and cut along the circle.
  • For the base, use the jigsaw to cut the space between the arms of the peace sign from the small ring. Center that ring on the larger ring of the base and use it as a template to transfer the pattern, then cut the larger ring.
  • Apply wood glue between pairs of rings—centering the smaller rings on the larger rings—clamp them together, and secure them with ⅞-inch wood screws.

Step 3: Attach the legs

Two men attaching the legs to a yard game. Wendell T. Webber
  • Position the legs beneath the arms of the peace sign on the base.
  • Drill two evenly spaced pilot holes through the base ring and into the top of each leg.
  • Secure the legs with two evenly spaced 2½-inch trim-head screws.
Left: Cutting wire to size. Right: Fastening the wire stem. Wendell T. Webber

Step 4: Cut the wire to size

  • Using linesman pliers, cut a length of fencing 58 inches long.
  • Trim the cut edge so that the horizontal wires remain exposed for the next step.

Step 5: Fasten the wire seam

  • Curl the wire sheet into a cylinder until the sides just overlap.
  • Using the pliers, wrap the ends of the horizontal wires around the vertical wire so that the sharp ends point toward the center of the cylinder.
Left: Painting the rings. Right: Assembling the Shishakball Drop Game Wendell T. Webber

Step 6: Paint the rings

  • Fill the fastener holes with wood filler, sand the pieces, and coat them with primer. This will cover knots, seal the wood, and make the colors pop.
  • Spray the lid and base in two different colors. Once the paint is dry, tape off color-coded strips on the base dividers to indicate each team's goal, as shown.
  • Spray the strips and remove the tape.
  • Spray paint groups of 30 bamboo stakes in each of the three colors.

Step 7: Set the wire in place

  • Put the wire cylinder on the base so that it fits on the lip.
  • Set the lid on top of the wire so that the smaller ring nests inside the cylinder.
  • Slide the stakes into one side of the wire cylinder and out the opposite side in varying directions, then dump the plastic balls on top of the stakes.