This plinko game board was built for the Easter carnival at my church. The carnival coordinator had seen a much smaller version for sale online, but wanted something at least as tall as the kids who would be playing it. There are several great plans and videos available on how to build your own game, but my particular inspiration came from a really cool site called UNIQUEPROJECTS.
Although the game I built is much simpler and of open construction, I especially liked the way UNIQUEPROJECTS laid out the pins and edges on their game board. I’d encourage you to take a look at their instructions and the other cool projects on their site.
I have to be honest, the most fun I had with this project was testing it. After it was assembled, my wife and I thought it would be cool to film a test run to send to the carnival coordinator. On the very first try, all five disks landed in different slots at the bottom! The terrible part was that I messed up and shut the camera off before the last disk had landed.
As you’ll see in the following video, all five disks do indeed land in different slots. However, it took another ten or twenty tries to get it to do that again. We were having so much fun though, it didn’t really matter! The video doesn’t give any building instructions, but it does give a good idea of how it should look and work when finished.
This is probably the first project on the site that actually needs to be constructed out of melamine to function well. The backboard is made from 3/4" melamine and the disks are 1/4" melamine. I found that the two slick surfaces allowed the disks to drop through the pegs very smoothly.
Many of the plans I saw while researching this project used painted plywood or MDF for the back, and plywood or even acrylic for the disks. Use what you have most readily available, but keep in mind that the idea is for the disks to slide smoothly.
For the outer edge trim and the rear support I used 1/2" MDF. I actually chose the MDF so I could paint it a contrasting color to the white melamine of the backboard. In fact, the 1/4" melamine was “single sided” and had an MDF core. This allowed me to paint the back side of the disks the same color as the edge trim.
The most difficult and time consuming part of this project is laying out the pin locations and edge trim arcs. If you take a look at UNIQUEPROJECT’s plinko board plans, they give some great ideas for how to lay out a board of nearly any size. However, if you simply drill the holes according to the dimensions in the drawings, you won’t go wrong.
To lay out the edge trim, mark the circle centers according to the dimensions. The center points are laid out on a grid that matches the pin locations on the backboard. You may find it easier to cut the pieces to the overall rectangle first, and then lay out the arcs from the edges.
The support is laid out basically the same way. Since the cutouts are just to make the whole assembly lighter, they don’t need to be exact. If you’ll notice, the support can be cut from the scrap left over from the inside of the trim piece.
Cutting is most easily done on a CNC router. That’s how I did mine, and have included DXF files for you at the end of the page. However, laying it out by hand and cutting it with a saber saw (jig saw) or band saw should be well within the capabilities of the average woodworker.
It’s easiest to paint the edge trim and support before assembling the plinko game. The edge trim is simply nailed or screwed to the backboard. The most tedious part of the assembly is gluing in the 54 dowels.
If you look closely, the drawing shows the dowel holes drilled all the way through the backboard. I’m not certain which way is best, but I actually drilled the holes 1/2” deep rather than all the way through. That worked fine, but then I needed to shorten the dowels by 1/4". Either way, the choice is yours.
The support board is hinged to the backboard and then held in place by a short length of chain, rope, or fabric webbing. I happened to have a scrap length of continuous (or piano) hinge that worked fine. There’s nothing scientific about the placement of the chain or hinges. They just need to secure the support board in such a way that the plinko game won’t tip over.
You may also need to experiment with the angle of the support to get the best movement of the disks through the pins. If the game board is too upright, the disks will fall off. Leaned too far back and the disks won’t slide smoothly.
If you’d like to build a plinko game board and do all the layout by hand, then the PDF drawings will suffice. Just click on the image to the left, or click here to view the plans. If you prefer to download a copy to your computer, right click then "save-as". Either way, you'll need the Adobe reader to view the file.
For those of you with access to a CNC router, plasma cutter, laser engraver, vinyl cutter, etc., I’m making the DXF (AutoCAD) files available for sale on my Etsy shop. These are the same files I used to cut my own plinko game board, and will eliminate the need for hand layout. If this is something that would help contribute to the success of your project, then please visit my Etsy shop.