Boxguy Loses His Marbles

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Project by Boxguy posted 12-21-2015 10:55 AM 2957 views 20 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Thanks: I appreciate that you took time to look at this. I try to respond to comments, so check back for feedback. Comments are what make these projects fun for me to do.

Story: A friend of mine teaches elementary school. She attended a workshop several years ago, learned about this game, and has taught it to hundreds of her students through the years. For her classroom, I made a simple version of this that just had a board and a frame. It worked well, but I thought it would be fun to make an improved and more elegant version. This makes a great present for children or grandchildren, and it is really fun to play. The strategy can get pretty sophisticated at the end of a round.

Pictured is a child’s game (11 1/2’’ L x 5 1/2’’ W x 4’’ H) made of American Walnut and White Oak veneered plywood. It uses 40 marbles (8 each of 5 colors). You will need to buy two bags if you order marbles from Hobby Lobby.

This version features a deep finger lift, and White Oak corner splines.

It has a rare-earth magnet catch so you won’t loose your marbles like I did.

Installing magnets: Drill a hole that fits the magnets snuggly from the bottom and into the top. Insert the top magnet push it even with the surface of wood and super glue it into place. Let that glue dry. Now, push the bottom magnet into place. Make sure you have put the magnetic surfaces that will attract facing each other. Superglue the bottom magnet into place. Insert a dowel to plug up the hole. There are more sophisticated methods, but this way is simple and the holes and magnets always line up.

The marble holes: Like most woodworking projects, having the right tool really makes the job go well. If you are making just one of these, put this special bit on a drill press use a straight edge guide, and drill away.

However, if you are making several, make a template. I made this 6×9 template out of 1/8 plexiglass. If your template is too thick, you will not make holes that are deep enough to hold the marbles in place.

I made a quick frame with a plexiglass insert. You lay the wood on the insert, put the template over the wood and use the template to drill the holes with this tool, a spring loaded Marble Drilling Bit. The frame holds the board and template in line.

With a template, a hand drill, and this bit you can make all 40 holes in just a couple of minutes.

The oak dividers in the lid let you store the marbles you have won for a round. It also makes it easy to count your marbles.

Here are the rules for the game. I glued them to the bottom of the box.

This picture parallels the examples in the rules.

I can’t show colors here so i inserted a picture.

“The Bottom Line” Rules

Players alternate turns.

Whoever “takes” the most marbles wins.

Only the marbles at the bottom of each of the 5 columns are in play.

Choose one color and “take” all the bottom row marbles of that color.

If you take a marble and a marble of the same color is in the row directly above, you may take that marble as well.


In this example, choosing red gives you 3 marbles. The 2 from the bottom row and the one adjoining in the row directly above.

Choosing blue gives you 4 marbles, 2 from the bottom row and 2 from the adjoining rows.

Choosing green gives you just 1 marble.

Have fun!

-- Big Al in IN

26 comments so far

View captferd's profile


177 posts in 3682 days

#1 posted 12-21-2015 12:45 PM

wish I had half your talent. great job

-- CaptFerd

View Redoak49's profile


5421 posts in 3277 days

#2 posted 12-21-2015 12:46 PM

Very nice build and interesting game

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4093 days

#3 posted 12-21-2015 12:51 PM

Very cool Al. I’m sure some grand kiddos, or anyone for that matter would enjoy this finely handcrafted game. Your builds are always “eye-candy”

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Josh's profile


1234 posts in 3858 days

#4 posted 12-21-2015 01:53 PM

Let us know when you find them marbles, Mmkay?

-- Tree, wood, and box lover from Pennsylvania

View Boxguy's profile


2904 posts in 3556 days

#5 posted 12-21-2015 02:15 PM


CaptFerd, I think you do just fine on talent yourself. I like your furniture and the nautical piles project is really cleverly done

Redoak49, thanks and I liked looking through the toys you have built and posted. I especially liked the moose.

Roger, thanks, always good to hear from you. I saw you posted a new batch of pens lately. Granpa projects are really getting to be fun for me too.

Josh, here’s the problem…once you really lose your marbles, you are never really the same again. You may look the same, but you are really not.
...and that, children, is how I started making boxes.

-- Big Al in IN

View SenecaWoodArt's profile


485 posts in 2908 days

#6 posted 12-21-2015 02:24 PM

I knew it! I knew it! I just thought you weren’t playing with a full deck. :) Great work as usual.

-- Bob

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4155 days

#7 posted 12-21-2015 02:33 PM

Wow! Al, as usual this project is very impressive and looks like it would be fun to build and fun to play. It would make a wonderful gift and will be both a conversation piece as well as an eye catcher. It’s very nice indeed.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View VAnative's profile


38 posts in 2234 days

#8 posted 12-21-2015 02:47 PM

very nice

-- Don't be upset by the results you didn't get with the work you didn't do.

View maplerock's profile


529 posts in 3089 days

#9 posted 12-21-2015 03:17 PM

Lovely box Alan! You’re expanding your horizons! I like it. The marbles really set off the rich values of the wood. Call me and we’ll get together and tell some lies. :-)

-- Jerry... making sawdust in the Knobs of Southern Indiana

View Ken90712's profile


18083 posts in 4478 days

#10 posted 12-21-2015 03:46 PM

This looks like a function and cool project to make and share. I’ll be putting this in the to do list for sure. Thx for sharing. Great work as always.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Chad256's profile


131 posts in 3175 days

#11 posted 12-21-2015 05:00 PM

Sounds like a great game for kids. And as always perfect execution! Looks beautiful! Thank you for sharing! Would make a great Christmas present for teachers! I gave each of my kid’s teachers cutting boards with their names burnt on them. I’ll save this one for next year! :)

-- -- Chad -- T&C Woodworks

View Jerry's profile


3496 posts in 2937 days

#12 posted 12-21-2015 05:02 PM

Al , as usual, your work is refined, beautiful, and your craftsmanship is impeccable, thanks for sharing this one.

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View Doe's profile


1440 posts in 4119 days

#13 posted 12-21-2015 05:41 PM

Way cool – I’m totally ready to play. Thanks to your school teacher, and thanks to you for sharing!

What’s the game called and what is being taught? A bunch of things, I expect. Do you start with all the marbles on the board? Or do you add and the strategy is where to block?

I was so impressed with the game, I almost forgot the most important things. It’s a beautiful box; your boxes are always a delight to see. And your build details are excellent.

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View jumbojack's profile


1691 posts in 3913 days

#14 posted 12-21-2015 06:05 PM

I remember playing this game as a youngster. Our game board was not nearly as beautiful. Well done Al.
To you and yours, MERRY CHRISTMAS.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View Boxguy's profile


2904 posts in 3556 days

#15 posted 12-21-2015 06:55 PM


Bob, not only do I not have a full deck, I haven’t even layed the keel. There has to be some excuse for my fascination with making and selling boxes. Not having all my marbles sounds about right.

Charles, thanks for the nice compliments. This game is really easy to learn and fun to play.

VAnate, thanks. I liked your coin displays.

Jerry, thanks for the nice comments. It is pretty hectic now. Lying about it sounds just my speed. How are the grandkids doing?

Ken, thanks. It might be fun to start with a simple version and then make one that is more complex. That is what I did.

Chad, I was a teacher for 35 years. I can tell you that gifts like your cutting boards will be cherished and appreciated.

It might be easier to make a simple version with a frame that will store marbles and a board and make several to be used in the teacher’s classroom. Give the teacher extra marbles because kids lose their marbles, just like I do.

Jerry, thanks for the kind words. I am blessed to have tools that can magically turn weathered rough wood into beautiful shining boxes.

Doe, thanks. You start with all the marbles on the board. Part of the strategy might be to not take a possible marble to block an opponent’s potential next move. However, you must take at least one marble per turn.

I like your turning projects. I built my bottle cap opener around an empty oblong pepper can. It made the opener easier to empty when it is fastened to the wall

Jumbo, thanks. I am glad to hear that someone else has played this game. You might want to make a new one. Merry Christmas to you and your family as well.

-- Big Al in IN

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