A DIY Foosball game

Every year in my family, we have a tradition we stick to (and have for over 30 years). It's to draw a name at Thanksgiving and you make a gift for that name. On Christmas Eve (or Christmas Day as it's moved to now), we present our handmade gifts. It started out with four family members and grew to include spouses, and a couple years back the kids were old enough to join in, so now there's ten of us. It's probably the most exciting part for our family - to see what the others have crafted and created with their own hands. 

Over the years, there have been so many unique handmade gifts -- housecoats, chess boards with golf players for pieces, under the bed storage units, wedding scrapbooks, string art designs and so much more. 
This year, I drew my youngest's name and struggled with what to make him that
A) he wouldn't see me creating. It is supposed to remain a secret until the big reveal and
B) something that was sturdy and can withstand a tough playing ten year old and
C) wouldn't take up too make valuable play space in his room and
D) was something I could make within my limits and knowledge and budget. 

I scoured the internet, hunting for ideas and kept coming back to a miniature foosball game. Most if not all were made out of a shoebox, and would take ten minutes to create. That wasn't going to work. I wanted something that would withstand a play, and maybe even last a few years. I continued searching. Nothing. Sigh. 

Well, I'm not one to give up. I'll create my own, and use my limited math skills and construct the thing from scratch. Since there was nothing readily available, I jotted down notes and took pictures to share with you, if you are deciding to make your own table top Foosball Soccer game. 

Here's what my finished product looked like: 

 As best as I can recall, this is my supply list: 
- 3/4" thick board 4 inches wide of about 8 feet long. 
- 4 x 1/4" dowels of 4 foot lengths
- 1 x 1" dowel (I needed about 16" worth)
- 1 sheet of 1/4" thick particle board - for the base. I used something similar to what goes on the back of bookshelves but a tad thicker
- 26 clothespins
- 4 corks 
- carpenters glue
- paint
- nails
- varnish
- saws/drills/hammers/etc

I started out simply enough. I took my clothespins apart and glued the fronts together to make miniature men. I made extra (thank goodness, as two snapped when I drilled the holes for the dowels. Start small and change out your drill bit, working your way up to 1/4". Too big, too fast and heads will fly. LMAO!) I'd recommend saving the painting until the drilling is complete. ;) Lesson learned for me.

Then came the fun part. I'm not a math person by any stretch, but I drew out and mapped the layout so I'd know how much wood I needed, based on the size of the men and the distance apart they needed to be. They could be spaced even an inch further apart which would add to the overall length, but for mine, it worked out okay even if they men have potential to hit each other on occasion. Like I said, there were no drawings/diagrams for me to base a smaller version on.

 And then I got to put to use my woodworking skills. I used a hacksaw on the dowels, cutting the 1/4" ones to 22" long, and the 1" thick one into 2" long pieces. I drilled out a 1/4" thick hole down the centre of each thick dowel, but did NOT go through (this will become the handle).
Using a saw, I cut the poplar board into 2 x 28" lengths, and 2 x 12.5" lengths (so the overall width would be 14".) I will leave out the part that my board was warped and as such, did not go neatly together like it should have. Lesson learned -- buy perfectly straight boards. Apparently, these are known for warping. Anyhow, some adjustments were made, and I got everything hammered together and it laid flat. Good enough for me. :)
I cut the bottom board into a 28" by 14" piece and nailed it on. Perfecto!!

Then came more drilling. I drilled eight 9/32" holes along the length 2" from the bottom. Anyone who has ever shopped in the wood department knows a true 1x4, is not actually 1" x 4". ;) The holes are just large enough for the 1/4" dowels to go through and turn/twist with ease, and the height is perfect so the little men don't scrape the bottom and their heads are barely visible over the top of the side boards. The cork pieces also got a 1/4" hole through the centre -- these will become the bumpers to stop the dowels from going to far in/out.

With everything flat and drilled, I gave it a nice sanding to smooth the sides and the ends of the dowels. Time to paint. I grabbed a couple of 'sample sized' paint containers and had them tinted to the colour I needed, and used that. For the bottom, it took about 3 coats to get a nice even coverage and it took at least that to cover the sides in a rich brown. I painted on the white goalie lines before finishing with multiple coats of varnish. It's so shiny!!

Working on the men was by far one of my favourites, and easiest of the entire project. I had lots of acrylic paint on hand, and painted all 26 men, and painted the handles red & blue to match the players, and the bumpers black. 

Binder clips work awesome to hold them while they dry. ;) After all men were painted, each got a number on his back before the varnish went on and were tested to make sure the dowel fit through when everything dried. 

With everything painted and varnished, it was assembly day. Dun-dun-dun!! They all fit - the dowels through the holes, the bumpers on the end, the men through the middle. :) Happy dance! I glued each piece on, spacing them according to my measurements. 

My oldest came into the room and we tested it out with a little ball. It works well and the players are good kickers. Now to wait until Christmas Day to reveal my project. Can't wait to see his little face. I hope he likes it. I'll keep you posted. 

If you make your own based off of this, I'd LOVE to know of any adjustments you made. 

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