Build Your Own “Table-Soccer” Game

By Staff
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Fun-loving MOTHER-readers will, no doubt, remember down-easter Glenn Willett’s ten-minute cure for cabin fever: the nickel hockey game featured in MOTHER NO. 72 (page 70). Well, a couple of MOM’s researchers–after they knocked together their own hockey board just to see how it worked-figured they could take the whole boredom-beating concept one step further and work up a game that’d just flat keep the whole household busy through those long winter evenings . . . and probably right into the following cold season as well.

They decided, basing their choice on both practicality and potentially low cost, to produce a plaything similar to the popular Foosball game . . . which, as any devotee of table sports can attest, is great for developing eye-hand coordination, strengthening wrists, and-let’s face itjust having a good old time.


A bit of snooping on the part of our staffers revealed that professionally built table-soccer games range in price from $359 to more than $600 . . . but our crew wrapped this version up for just over $100. (And that’s a real bargain, considering the fact that the shop-made specimen is a nearclone of the typical arcade models . . . and uses mostly new materials, some of which you could probably replace with scrap.)

To put together your own indoor soccer field, you’re going to need [1] the materials specified in the accompanying illustrations, [2] tools . . . including a circular or table saw, a drill with an assortment of bits, a coping saw, a hammer, a screwdriver, some finish-grade sandpaper, a pair of wire cutters, a hacksaw, a compass, and a tape measure, and [3] the better part of a weekend … plus an evening or two beyond that, perhaps, depending on how handy a woodworker you are.

The major components of the project can be cut from a 33″ X 48″ sheet of 3/8″ plywood . . . a 40″ X 48″ sheet of 3/4″ plywood (or, better yet, one 10-foot and two 8-foot lengths of 1 X 6) . . . a pair of 12-foot 2 X 4’s . . . three 3-foot lengths of 1″ dowel . . . four 10-foot sections of 1/2″ electrical metallic tubing … a 36″ X 66″ section of white Formica (or some other) plastic laminate and a 30″ X 89″ piece with a wood-grain surface. (The wood-grain veneer, which we used to cover the outer walls of the playing box and its support frame, is optional .. . by omitting it, and simply staining those surfaces instead, you can probably slice the cost of your project by as much as one-quarter.)

. . . BUILD . . .

Our game, as the illustration indicates, is little more than a box centered on a tablelike frame. After constructing the lower chassis (and fastening its four corner braces and three horizontal supports as shown, setting these components flush with the upper surface of the frame), you can shape and mount the legs . . . unless you’ve chosen to use the wood-grain veneer, in which case you should contactcement that “skin” on the box before attaching the four uprights. Once the legs are fastened, finish up the game’s underpinnings by installing the two cross braces between the vertical supports, as shown in the illustration.

You can now begin to assemble the playing box itself. Start by trimming all the components to the sizes indicated. Then miter the wall sections’ corners to form a rectangle with 26-1/4″ X 46″ outside dimensions, and cut a 3/8″ X 3/8″ rabbet into the lower inside face of each of the four boards. Next, clamp the two long side walls together–evenly–and drill the two 1-3/4″ ball-feed holes and the sixteen 3/4″ control-rod holes through both boards simultaneously … to assure a symmetrical match when the tray is assembled. Using the same method, cut identical 2″ X 5″ ball-return openings in the end panels .. . and, with this done, complete the structure by gluing and screwing the mitered joints together and fastening the plywood floor to that frame with glue and 3-penny finishing nails. Secure the tray to the legged chassis by countersinking three No. 6 X 1″ flathead wood screws, through the plywood, into each horizontal support.

Now, go on to fabricate the ball-return racks and housings. Begin by drilling and countersinking a 1/8″ hole, longitudinally, through each of the two 5/8″ X 1-5/8″ dowel stubs, then make 318″ bores into the sides of these pillars, each 1/4″ deep and 1-1/4 inches from one end. Slip the 3/8″ X 10-1/4″ dowel sections into these shoulder openings to form two simple ball racks, and center one rack outside each end of the table’s supporting frame, positioning the right peg 21/4 inches and the left peg 2 inches from the lower edge of the frame in each case. Complete this step by gluing a cap–or a thin section of dowel–over each of the screw heads.

Repeat the procedure to make the scoring bars . . . working with 1″ lengths of 5/8″ dowel joined by 5/16″ X 10″ shafts, which should allow the macrame beads (with 3/8″ holes) to slide easily. Before you mount the counters, complete the housings: These goal cages are constructed by cutting the parts to size (don’t forget to make the 3/8″ step in the side pieces, 3-3/8 inches down from the upper edge), then gluing and tacking them together and adding corner braces for extra support.

To attach the assembled ball-return enclosures to the table, first fasten some small blocks–ours measured 3/8″ X 1-1/4″ X 2-1/4″–to the end boards of the playing box (remembering, of course, to install your laminated trim first if you plan to use it) about 11-1/4 inches apart and on both sides of the ball-return openings, then slip the completed housings over these vertical supports, and run some No. 4 X 3/4″ flathead screws through the casings and into the blocks. Finish up by covering the housings (if you’re going the decorative route), mounting the scoring bars with screws, and capping the peg supports.

The actual playing field–and the inside walls of the tray–should be covered with the white Formica (or similar) laminate to assure a consistent game. After trimming the sheets to size and painting the pattern illustrated in our diagram on the base segment, you can mark the side panels for drilling and the end pieces for cutting. Once these tasks are completed, glue the sheets in place and smooth the edges of the openings. (If you’re covering the outside of your table in wood-grain plastic, place the long sides, followed by the top strips, in position now.)

At this point you’re ready to make the players and fasten them to the control rods. Begin by fabricating a jig, from a 6″ scrap of 2 X 4, as follows: Cut a lengthwise 90° Vnotch, about 3/4″ deep, from the center of the block, then trim the resulting wedge section down to approximately 2″ in length. Next, using a thin 1″ screw, lock this piece back into the groove, leaving a distance of 31/2 inches between the open end of the notch and the nearest edge of the tapered insert.

Now, you can place your 3-1/2″-long wooden players, one at a time, snugly into the block’s gutter and-using an 11/16″ flybit–drill through them at a point 2-3/4 inches, on center, from their lowest edge. Enlarge the bores slightly by running a scrap section of 1/2″ E.M.T. (modified for the task by cross-cutting its diameter in three places and spreading the newly created tabs outward a bit) through them once or twice, using a rotary motion. Then go on to form each contestant’s legs by shaping the dowels–fore and aft–at the lower end (as shown in the detail drawing) and sanding any rough surfaces smooth. If you wish, you can also round the upper edges of the dowels to simulate shoulders, and provide mounts for macrame-bead heads by drilling shallow 3/8″ holes into the top of the pegs and gluing 3/8″ X 1-1/8″ dowels in place to form necks. (You might even want to paint faces on the beads.)

Before you install the player-control rods, you’ll have to set the 1/2″-to-3/4″ PVC bushings in place. Trim each one to a total length of about 1/2″, carefully enlarge the inner diameters with a rattail file (just enough to insure that the 1/2″ E.M.T. will slide through without binding), and glue a bushing into each side of every controlrod opening. (Suggestion: Of the several cements we tried, the only stickum that seemed to form a permanent bond was 3M’s Super Weatherstrip Adhesive, Part No. 08001, which is available in most hardware and automotive supply stores.)

Slip the eight 46″ rods into their respective openings, taking care to slide the players, washers, and springs over the conduit sections in the order indicated in our diagram. (Sixteen 3/8″ washers must be drilled out to fit the tubing’s outside diameter . . . and the same number of compression springs–each 3/4″ X 1-1/2″ in size-should be cut from the internal tensioners of discarded pole lamps.)

With all the parts installed, carefully position the wooden athletes according to the specifications given in the drawing . . . then drill a 3/32″ hole through each dowel and into the conduit beneath it, and install a No. 4 X 3/8″ panhead sheet metal screw to hold the peg firmly in place. Next, fix the washer stops, as indicated, on the two outer rods at each end of the field and lock them in place by drilling 1/8″ holes through the E.M.T. and inserting 1/8″ X 1 ” cotter pins. Wrap this step up by gluing tricycle grips to the “working” ends of each control rod, staggered as shown.

All that’s left to do is to attach ball-feed chutes–which are used to put the “puck” in play–and the four corner ramps. The chutes are made by cutting a tennis ball into quarters, then screwing and gluing a Cshaped wooden spacer–about 1/2″ thick–between one of the curved sections and the lower outside edge of the large centered hole in each side of the table. The ramps are merely triangular plates of laminate with a feathered leading edge, positioned as shown–with their corners meeting the sides of the goal openings–and sloped toward the center of the field to return corner balls. They are glued, at each of the tray’s corners, over Formica spacer strips that raise the rear of the triangles slightly.


You’ll probably find, as we did, that an ordinary ping-pong ball is far too light to react properly when struck by a player’s foot . .. and that any attempts to weight the hollow spheres will just result in an eccentric roll pattern. We finally gave in and purchased regulation Foosballs at a local table games supplier (look in the Yellow Pages under “Amusement Distribu tors”) for 50¢ apiece. They’re also available through Sears, Roebuck parts and repair departments (order Part No. 100008).

Once you’ve gotten the hang of twisting the handles and shifting the players to and fro, you’ll be amazed at how adept you can become at controlling your team. And–win or lose–you’ll always be able to assure yourself, and your family and friends, a good evening’s entertainment on a reasonable budget.