If you’re like us, we love to play lawn games in the summer. Not only are they great for the family, but they’re fun to bring out during BBQs to entertain your friends. Yard jenga is something kids of virtually all ages and adults can enjoy, including the traditional game and ones with a twist. We’re going to outline how you can make your own yard jenga set in a few hours, and all you’ll need are some basic tools and new or recycled 2x4s.
Yard Jenga is a great game to play with a small group of friends, and younger kids can easily play it too.
How to Create a Traditional Yard Jenga Set – Step by Step
Traditionally, any jenga game you get has 54 pieces, and one block needs to be as long as the width of three blocks laid side by side. You follow this by another layer of three that you turn 90° and put on top of the previous row. After you stack all of the blocks following this pattern, you’ll get a tower that is 18 layers tall.
- 1 – 5/8 inch wood screws
- 6 – 8 foot 2×4’s and 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch plywood for your case
- Boiled linseed oil
- Chop or skill saw
- Door hardware including a door clasp and small hinges
- Drill with a two-inch bit
- Finish for outside of box (lacquer or polyurethane)
- Jig saw
- Sand paper or sander
- Wood glue
- Wood stain
Step One – Measure and Cut your 2×4’s
Pick out the 2x4s that have as few knots in the wood as possible. You may want to pay a little more for construction-grade stud lumber. This is far from traditional finish lumber, or you can look for premium-quality 2x4s that come with fewer knots. Tight, small knots are something you can get away with, but you’ll want the pieces to be so smooth that they glide against one another without having to sand them.
You’ll make several pieces out of each 2×4. A great way to make these cuts very quickly is to make a jig. Clamp a piece of scrap wood to your chop saw and cut part ways through it. Measure from the end of the cut and mark the board at 10.5-inches. Put a small block of wood along the line and clamp it securely in place.
Step 2 – Stack the Pieces to Measure to Create the Case
You can stack the newly cut pieces however you like to measure for the case. We chose to do a stack with six pieces side by side and two pieces behind that on the end. Then, you stack them upwards until you run out of blocks. The measurements should be 14 inches deep, 21 inches wide, and 10 ½ inches tall. Consider adding an inch to the width and height and 1 ½ inches to the length to give yourself a little wiggle room. It also gives you space to slip your fingers into the holes to carry it. You can flip this case over to double it as a flat surface to play on out in the yard too.
Step 3 – Cut Out Your Carrying Case Pieces
Start by ripping down your piece of plywood until it’s 16 ½ inches wide for the top and bottom pieces. We chose to use 16 ½ inches because the original measurements are 14 inches plus an inch of additional space on the inside and an additional 1 ½ inches for the two side pieces’ width. Cut this bigger piece into two smaller pieces for the top and bottom, and they should be 24 inches long.
The two side pieces you’ll cut to be 15 inches wide and 11 ½ inches tall. The back piece will be 24 inches long and 11 ½ inches tall. For the front piece, you’ll use your saw to cut it to 24 inches long, and you’ll cut four sections off of each end. The two 4 inch sections will go at each end of the front and center pieces to act like a door.
Step 4 – Plan Out and Cut the Handles for the Case
For the handle layout, you want to find the center point of both the right and left side boards. Starting in the center, measure three inches in each direction and mark it with two lines that you measure four inches from the top and marked across the board. Also, measure two inches down from the top and mark another line across.
To make the handles, you want to lay out a rectangle that you center on each side of the board that is two inches tall, six inches wide, and two inches down from the top of the board. Mark a center line horizontally across the rectangle and mark the point one inch from each side. These points are the center marks where you’ll drill the holes.
Get your two-inch drill bit and drill two holes in each board on the two center points you marked on your rectangle that are an inch from the end. Once you have the holes drilled, you’ll cut along the outside lines of the rectangle using your jig saw and connect the two holes to make one big handle hole in each of the boards. Sand the inside of the holes.
Step 5: Assemble Your Box, Apply the Finish, and Install the Hardware
To assemble the carrying case or box, you want to use wood screws and glue to hold everything together. Start by gluing and screwing one of the sides of the handles to your top piece. Then, put it on the back on the other side of hte handle with the two four-inch pieces on the front, and then do the bottom. Once you assemble your box, you can sand it smooth and apply a layer of stain to the door. Then, you’ll apply two coats of polyurethane. Once it dries, install your door clasp and hinges. Set it aside.
It’s always a good idea that you measure very carefully before you cut anything to make sure you get a sturdy finished project.
Step 6: Sand and Apply Boiled Linseed Oil to the Blocks
This step is optional, but we recommend it to extend how long your yard jenga set lasts. It is possible to play the game with the rough blocks without sanding or staining them, but they tend to be sticky and rough, and this makes it hard to play. Sand each block either by hand or with your sander of choice and 120-grit sandpaper. You can put a slight round over the edges if you like and on the ends.
Once you finish sanding, apply a liberal coat of boiled linseed oil to each piece. When you finish applying it, you can wipe the excess off and rub them down using a clean cloth to finish.
Step 7: Put the Pieces into the Case
Now that you’ve finished with your yard jenga set, you can pack it up in your case and take it to your party. The rules are very simple, and we’ll outline them below after we go through the steps on how to make a yard jenga set with a twist below.
How to Create a Yard Jenga Set with a Twist
A lot of the tutorials you’ll find to create a yard jenga set suggest that you use 2×4 boards for the pieces. However, if you want to reflect the scale of an original Jenga set, you’ll find that 2×3 boards work better. A set that you make out of 2×3 lumber is still decently large as it reaches just over two feet tall when it’s neatly stacked. 2x3s are also lighter and easier to transport or store in your garden shed between uses.
- 5 or more 8-foot 2×3 boards that you’ll cut into 7.5 inch pieces. The end product is 54 pieces to get 18 levels. Make sure you pick out the boards with the fewest knots that are the straightest. Also, grab another board or two for backup.
- Foam roller or foam brushes
- Miter saw
- Power sander and sandpaper
- Two different colors of paint (optional)
Step One – Make Your Cuts
The first thing you’ll do to make your yard jenga set is to cut all of your boards to 7.5 inches long. We’ve found that any time we have to make several cuts that are the same length, clamping a slug to the miter saw’s fence helps to speed things along. You do want to make a test cut or two to ensure you have accurate measurements. The goal is for the length of a single cut board to equal the width of three boards stacked side by side to get a neat finished product. Remember, 2×3 boards actually measure out to 1.5 inches by 2.5 inches, so you want exactly 7.5 inches per piece.
As you make the cuts, it’s a good idea to try and remove the knots or less than ideal boards. These will snag on the other pieces as you play, and it can slow down the game. You can upcycle your scraps to make patio furniture pieces or in other DIY tasks.
Step Two – Sand, Sand, Sand
This is the most time-consuming part of the entire process of creating a yard jenga set. Sanding your pieces will remove any splinters and ensure that each piece slides as smoothly as it possibly can. If you don’t have a power sander on hand in your tools already, this project is an excellent excuse to get one. A random orbital sander on medium speed with a 22-grit paper is a good way to go. It’ll give you that happy medium between smoothing out the surfaces of your yard jenga set and removing any rough spots. You can sand a small bevel on the corners and make sure to give the freshly cut ends a pass too.
It is possible to skip this step, but you won’t have as much fun playing yard jenga if you do. If you’re ready to add the small twist to this game while adding visual interest, go to the next step.
Step Three – Paint the Pieces
Once you have every single surface on your 54 blocks sanded smooth, it’s time to apply paint to the ends. You can pick whatever colors you like, but we decided to go with two complementary ones and paint 27 blocks in one color and 27 blocks in the other.
So, what is this twist we touched on? Each player chooses a color and they can only move or touch the blocks with the corresponding color. This simple rule can make the game twice as hard. On each turn, the player’s moves get cut by 50% since they can only move blocks in their chosen color. You can also use this set to play traditional rules if you don’t want the extra challenge.
You can pick whatever colors you want for the ends of the yard jenga boards as long as you can tell them apart.
How to Play Yard Jenga + Rules
Giant yard jenga plays just like classic jenga on a larger scale. You’ll end up with 54 high-quality, precisely cut wooden blocks that you can seal or polish to make them durable. Two or more people can play at once, if you do teams and alternate who moves the blocks.
- Take one wooden block per turn from any level of your tower, except the level directly under the uncompleted, very top.
- Players are only allowed to use one hand at a time. Blocks can get knocked or tapped in order to find a loose piece, however, you can’t hold the tower with your other hand to steady it as you do so.
- Put the newly removed wooden block on the top level of your tower, with the goal to get the tower as high as possible. Continue to remove blocks and stack them until the tower falls. When it does, the person who moved the last block and successfully stacked it without knocking it over wins the round.
- Remove Your Blocks – Carefully remove your yard jenga blocks from their case and put them on a flat surface. You should have 54 blocks, but you can still play with a few missing.
- Set Up Your Tower – Stack your blocks in sets of three parallel to one another. You want to end up with a tower that is 18 levels or blocks high. Each level should get stacked at a 90° from the previous level.
- Straighten Out the Tower – Use your hands to ensure that your tower is neatly stacked and straight. Push any pieces that are sticking out in. The tower should stand by itself.
- Get Your Players – Get a minimum of one other player to come around the tower. There is no strict rule that dictates how many people can play, but less is better as you get more turns.
- Start Game Play – Decide which player will go first. This can go by age or whoever built the tower. It’s up to you.
- Remove the First Block – Carefully pick a block from every level except the top. Look for blocks that look like they’re easy to remove or loose. Remember, you can only use one hand.
- Put the Block on the Top – Put your chosen block on the top level of your tower, repeating the 90° angle pattern and layering in threes. Stack each new block neatly to ensure that the tower stays stable.
- Continue Until it Falls – Keep removing and replacing blocks on and from the tower until it falls over. The player who caused the tower to fall loses.
Yard jenga is a very fun game for two or more people, and you can create your own durable set following the instructions we laid out for you. We hope that you create your own yard jenga game and have fun with your friends or family when you’re out on those warm, sunny afternoons.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.