If you have a party coming up and you’re looking for a challenging and fun activity for your friends, one option is to build a wooden DIY wall ball maze game. This is an awesome game for any age group and could be used both outdoor and indoor.
Once in a while, I build things using leftover wood from my previous projects. This week I’ve built a wooden DIY wall ball maze game from my scrap pile. I’ve designed and provided a step-by-step tutorial on how to build it in the article below, also a brief history and game rules.
Wall Ball Maze Game
Ball maze games have been popular for a very long time, and it’s likely that most people have played one. Whether they’re large, freestanding mazes or tiny plastic mazes in the size and shape of a wristwatch, there’s something immensely satisfying and relaxing about maneuvering a ball successfully through a challenging maze. It’s a fun way to pass the time, either alone or with a group, and our interest in these types of games doesn’t seem to be waning, even in this era of screens and apps.
A Brief History of Maze Games
The first official U.S. patent for a ball maze game was awarded in 1889 to Charles Martin Crandall, whose game, while different from the one we’re talking about here, was a fantastic example of the allure of ball maze games. There is a famous photo of several U.S. Senators gathered around playing it at work, obsessing over winning it… and were soundly lambasted in the media a few days later.
Crandall’s “Pigs-in-Clover” was a labyrinth-style game, and many of the ball maze games we may have played as children were all about maneuvering a ball through obstacles of some sort to reach a final destination.
How to Play the Wall Ball Maze Game
That is the same concept as our wall ball maze game, but on a different scale. Our game can be played indoors or out, alone or with a partner. Instead of tilting or moving the base to get the ball to its destination, the goal here is to use the rope to successfully maneuver the ball through a hole-riddled maze and get it all the way to the top. Should your ball tip into a hole and fall in, you’ve failed and it’s time to start over (though house rules always apply. You could decide, especially if playing with small children, if you are allowed three tries to get to the top, keeping the ball around its current location when it falls, and trying to continue from that point toward the top.)
In fact, that’s the beauty of a game like this. If playing alone, it’s simply fun to play a game on a large scale, to use your body a bit and have to focus on coordinating your movements. It’s different and such a change from staring at a screen all day. And when playing with a group, you can adjust the rules, and two people can work together — one on each end of the rope — to maneuver the ball up the wall, which will require coordination, communication, and a good bit of humor in those instances in which the ball ends up in a hole! In larger groups or classroom or playgroup settings, you can have teams, racing to see which team can get the ball to the top of the maze fastest.
Benefits of Playing the Wall Ball Maze Game
While this game is immensely fun for parties and other events, there are also definitely advantages to using it with small children either in classrooms or daycare settings. Games like these require focus, and ball maze games in general help build dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and even critical thinking skills. Since you need to plan ahead a bit and figure out where you want to go next if you don’t want your ball to end up in a hole. As part of a group, it helps build teamwork, cooperation, and communication skills — not too shabby for an old-fashioned game.
Fortunately, it’s not too complicated to make a game like this, and it’s easy to store in a garage, shed, or basement then bring it out whenever the occasion arises.
Time to Complete
Tools for this project
Note: Lumber dimensions are listed as nominal size. See lumber sizes for actual dimensions vs nominal.
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page as well as links in “tools for this project” and “material list” sections are affiliate links.
Step 1 – Cut ½” Plywood Boards for the Frame
First, build a wall ball maze frame using ½” plywood. Take ½” plywood and cut a 28”x47” piece for the backboard. Then cut one top and one bottom piece to 28”x3 1/2”, and two side pieces to 3 1/2”x48”.
Step 2 – Assemble the Frame Pieces
Place the backboard on your table and attach the top and bottom pieces using wood glue and 1 1/4″ Brad Nails with a nail gun. Then attach the side pieces making a rectangular frame box for the wall ball maze.
Step 3 – Install 2” Wide Board Inside the Maze Frame
The 44″ long front maze board with circles (see step 6) will be placed inside the rectangle frame that sits 2” from the backboard. This 2” gap will be used for the ball to fall to the bottom of the maze. Using 1×6 board, cut one piece to 43 ¼” and rip it into two boards that are 2” wide and cut one 2”x28” piece. Place these 2″ wide boards inside the maze frame around the perimeter (except the bottom) as shown in the picture. This 2″ board will keep the front maze board at 2″ from the backboard. Attach the 2″ wide board using 1″ brad nails.
Since I’m using scrap pieces from my previous projects, for this 2” wide board, I’m using a ¾” plywood that was cut into smaller pieces. The photo shows small gaps between the 2″ wide boards, but if you want to make it look nicer you could make it without gaps as shown in a 3D illustration. I figured that this board will not be visible so it doesn’t need to be very neat. If you don’t have ¾” thick board or plywood, you could use leftover ½” plywood. You’ll just need to double up on plywood to make it 1” thick.
Step 4 – Install the Legs
Take 1×6 board and cut one piece to 41” in length. Then with a Table Saw rip it in half. Cut both boards at 15 degrees on one end. Place the maze frame on the table then measure 8” from the top of the frame. Place the leg on the side of the frame and clamp it so that it doesn’t move. Drill a hole 1” from the top of the leg through the leg and the side of the frame using a 1/2” drill bit. Attach the legs to the frame with 3” long bolt and nut. Make sure to place a washer on both sides of the leg. Having the washer between the frame and the leg will not rub against the frame when opening and closing the legs.
Step 5 – Attach Back Rails to Connect Both Legs
On the backside of legs, using a Nail Gun attach a bottom and middle rail that connects both legs together.
Step 6 – Draw and Cut the Circles on the Front Maze Board
Next, take ¼” plywood and cut the front maze piece to 28”x44”. The front piece will be 3” shorter at the bottom. This bottom gap is designed for picking up the wall when it falls through a maze opening.
Take a compass and draw random circles with random sizes all over the board. The circles could be very close to each other or far apart depending on how complex and challenging you want to make this maze. Stay away from drawing circles 1” from the edges. Also, do not draw circle 3” from the bottom of the maze board because you’ll have a ball holder there. Once you’re happy with the maze layout, drill a 1/2” hole on the inside of each circle. Then using a jig saw, insert the blade into the 1/2” hole and cut out the circles. If you have different sizes of hole saw bits, you could use that instead of compass and a jig saw.
Step 7 – Attach Maze Board to the Frame
Once the front maze board is ready, place it inside the frame and attach it to the frame around the perimeter with a Nail Gun. To prevent the front maze board from caving in or bowing, cut several 2″x2″ blocks and place them behind the ¼” board between the hole and attach them with a Nail Gun. Also, place a few of these 2″x2″ blocks at the very bottom of the maze board (see picture).
Step 8 – Attach ¾” x 3/4” Bottom Board for Ball Holder
With a Table Saw cut a 28”x3/4” board and attach it at the bottom of the maze board. This board will be used to hold the ball.
Step 9 – Make a Ball Holder and Tie the Strings
The ball holder could be made from different materials. Some people use a horseshoe or an oval metal object, but I used a leftover piece from a 1×6 board.
Cut a triangle piece that’s 4 ¾” at the bottom, 1 3/4″ at the top and 3” tall (as shown in the picture). Then using a 1 3/4″ Hole Saw Bit, drill a 1 ¾” hole in the center to hold the ball. Once this ball holder is cut, screw-in screw eyes on both sides.
Now screw-in two of these screw eyes at the top of the wall ball maze. Measure 1” from the top of the frame and screw-in one screw eye on both sides of the frame. Place the ball holder on the bottom of the maze and tie two strings that run through the screw eye at the top of the frame.
Step 10 – Paint the DIY Wall Ball Maze Game
Paint or stain the maze game to any color you prefer. Then use a string to connect the legs to the frame so that the legs will not open further than 30 degrees. You’re done.