Saturday, December 3, 2011

Giant Jenga

Precursor: Something that drives me insane about BlogSpot is that the formatting can be so weird (weird spacing that does not show up in the original version, changes in font etc). Today: for some reason the background of the writing is white and despite many attempts I cannot change it. So please ignore that issue... my apologies.

As promised: I am back with my full report of my Giant Jenga making. The beginning and inspiration behind the project can be seen here. 

Despite the fact that I cannot even remember the last time I played any game of Jenga, Pinterest  inspired me to want to create a larger version of the game (Possibly for a fun lawn game at the wedding, or just for general play time fun.) 

They do, in fact, sell giant Jenga sets (also known as the Tumbling Tower) but alas these sets are around $100- which seems rather excessive. Furthermore, there are plenty of tutorials available online of people who have successfully made their own giant Jenga's for a fraction of the cost. Thus, I decided since I am currently partially unemployed, I might as well use my time doing something productive - like making a Giant Jenga. (Note slight sarcasm.) 

As wikipedia informs us: "Jenga is played with 54 wooden blocks. Each block is three times as long as it is wide, and one fifth as thick as it is long." Online tutorial suggestions to just purchase 2x4s and cut them into 10.5 inch pieces. This will not get the exact dimensions of the original game, but frankly it sure beats having to make that many cuts. 

I purchased seven 8 foot 2x4s and had them cut them into 10.5 inch sections. I felt rather obnoxious having them cut all of those pieces for me, but they did it in about 5 or so minutes with their fancy saw and superior cutting skills, whereas I am sure it would have taken me about 12 hours to accomplish the same task with my little hand saw. 

Some of the wood is seen above.

Unfortunately, I discovered that having the guy at the shop cut the wood for me may have been convenient, but he did not do it very accurately and I wound up with quite a few pieces that were not the right size. 

Luckily, there were exactly 54 pieces that were the right length, though some of them were rather knotty or otherwise not the most ideal pieces. 

Next- I spent many hours sanding each of the pieces using my little Black and Decker Mouse sander. I tried to sand any fraying pieces of wood, and to round out the corners slightly. This felt like a painfully long task (though it was really only maybe 5 or 6 hours total). Other tutorials note sanding for over 12 hours! 

Note: if using a power sander be sure to wear a ventilator mask, protective eye wear and sand in a well ventilated area. I worked in the garage with the doors open. (I tried to take an awesome picture of myself in all of my safety gear but it appears I was unsuccessful. Pity.) 

Finally, I coated the wooden pieces with Minwax sealant and polyurethane (I used the classic oak color.) 
Wear gloves while while polyurethaning as it is very difficult to get it off of your hands. 

When I started the task on Wednesday it was about 60*F, and the polyurethaning seemed to go better than when I finished on Friday, when it was about 40* F. The colder weather made the sealant dry faster, which left more streaks, whereas on Wednesday it dripped all over the wood and left a nice smooth finish. 

You may notice there are some pieces with awkward blue ends. This was the color of the ends of the 2x4s. I attempted to sand off the color, but was unsuccessful. I figure I could always add an additional rule associated with the blocks with blue edges, such as that player goes twice or skips a turn, whatever. 

You could also paint the blocks different colors or make a variation of the original Jenga- such as some of Hasbro's versions like "Truth or Dare Jenga."

Another idea (via Pinterest) Is to make a Jenga "Guest Book" and have guests write messages on each of the tiles. This could be a good idea for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays etc. The giant Jenga would allow for more writing room than the original version! 


Total cost of the project: 

* Wood $19
* Minwax $10
* Sandpaper $7 
total = $ 36

A heck of a lot less than $100! 

You may also need to buy paint brushes, the ventilator or safety goggles, which would increase your cost a bit, but if you take care of them they can last through a few projects. 


  1. Yeah we got ours from and with free shipping. We didn't want to spending the time and money on tools... Only 100bucks. We built it upto 4ft at our BBQ pool party :)

  2. This is a wonderful game. Fun to play on wine night and and BBQ's. I would suggest making your own set, you can save money doing so. I found my instructions to make Giant Jenga here.