Pagoda Towers

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Project by William posted 07-14-2012 09:28 PM 2561 views 10 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have to come clean on this. I cannot lie. I had never even heard of Pagoda Towers before a couple of days ago. A woman I didn’t know contacted me through facebook. Someone else had told her about my wood work. She had been looking for this game for ages and couldn’t find it and the couple of other woodworkers she’d asked about it either didn’t have time, or simply made up excuses, according to her.
Anyway, she told me her Grandfather used to play this game with her when she was a child and she wanted one to play with her kids. She explained that it wasn’t hard to make, but that she just didn’t have tools to do it. She sent me a photo of the one from when she was a kid and gave me the approximate size as she could remember. I made it in about two hours using wood from my scrap pile. She came to my shop to pick it up and was in tears. She loved it. It made me feel good. I was glad she was happy with it.
I made the stand out of pecan. I made the various sized blocks from oak. I finished it all with Johnson’s Paste Wax. It is a simple little thing. It is a slab of wood with three pegs sticking out of it and seven blocks of wood with holes drilled in the middle to fit over the pegs.
When she picked it up, I had the woman explain to me how this worked, since I’d never heard of it. The object of this game is to move all the blocks, largest on bottom and moving up to the smallest, from the peg on one end to the peg on the other end. When done, it has to be just like it started, largest on bottom and moving up to the smallest. The catch is, at no time can you have a block on top of another block that is smaller. That adds a whole new twist to it. I made several quick, unsuccessful attempts before she took it with her. I am going to have to make another one someday now so I can beat it.


17 comments so far

View luv2learn's profile


2850 posts in 2450 days

#1 posted 07-15-2012 12:36 AM

That game looks to be for people who love being frustrated. But its nice that you took the time to build it for the lady evidently it meant a lot to her. Great job William.

-- Lee - Northern idaho~"If the women don't find you handsome, at least they ought to find you handy"~ Red Green

View Infernal2's profile


107 posts in 2344 days

#2 posted 07-15-2012 12:37 AM

Nice job on the game. I have one of these (and I have no idea where I got it) but my kids love to challenge their friends with it. There is a definite pattern to it and once you’ve figured it out you’ll be able to do it every time but its still a blast to see how fast you can.

View boxcarmarty's profile


16584 posts in 2507 days

#3 posted 07-15-2012 12:41 AM

Sounds interesting William. I’m gonna have to give it a shot…..

-- My mind is like lighting, one brilliant flash, then its gone.....

View patron's profile


13630 posts in 3488 days

#4 posted 07-15-2012 12:49 AM

i had an algebra teacher
in high school that turned us on to these
a game of concentration
(we had 9 disks)
i made a quick one a while back
to show someone about it
it is kicking around here somewhere

glad you got chance to share her joy

well done william

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2989 days

#5 posted 07-15-2012 12:51 AM

Thank you all.
I got an interesting email on this project earlier stemming from my personal blog post.
I was told that this game is used in some circles as an IQ test. It is said that the smartest of people can complete the challenge in twenty four moves or less. I cannot vouch for how true this is, but it sure sounds like a challenge to me.


View ShopTinker's profile


884 posts in 2915 days

#6 posted 07-15-2012 01:03 AM

I was looking online for the rules and came across a site that tells a story about the game and enplanes the rules and how many moves are necessary to finish depending on the number of pieces your playing with. It suggests starting out with three.

3 pieces – 7 moves
4 pieces – 15 moves
5 pieces – 31 moves
6 pieces – 63 moves
7 pieces – 127 moves

Thanks for sharing William. I have to make on of these for daughter & son-in-law,

-- Dan - Valparaiso, Indiana, "A smart man changes his mind, a fool never does."

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2989 days

#7 posted 07-15-2012 01:13 AM

127 MOVES!
Holy Cow!

Thanks for the information Tinker. I appreciate it. Without that I would have felt like a complete dummy when I started trying to solve seven pieces.


View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2987 days

#8 posted 07-15-2012 01:14 AM

Nice story William. I played this as a kid.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View Roger's profile


20949 posts in 2951 days

#9 posted 07-15-2012 01:59 AM

Nice story, and nice ending. My brain is smokin from just thinkin how ya might do this.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 3035 days

#10 posted 07-15-2012 02:36 AM

I had one of these as a kid, with tound pieces and commercially made. My granny sent it to me and I have no idea where she got it. The pieces were painted bright colors and I think there were nine of them. The instructions didn’t say how many moves it took to solve, just that it increased exponentially with the number of pieces in play. It too recommended starting with three pieces. I solved all nine once when I was stuck home with the flu. Took me ages.


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View clieb91's profile


3521 posts in 4082 days

#11 posted 07-15-2012 03:05 AM

Nicely done, great story to go with it. I have one of these on my to be made list.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2989 days

#12 posted 07-15-2012 03:17 AM

Thank you all very much.
Since some of you seem to plan on making one, here goes.

I got everything out of my scrap pile.
Base is a piece of wood 6 1/2”x19”.
Using the table saw, I cut seven blocks, 6”, 5.5”, 5”, 4.5”, 4”, 3.5”, and 3”.
Sand the edges so there’s no sharp edges since you’ll be moving these blocks a lot.
Mark and drill the center of each block for whatever dowel size you’re using (I used 3/4”).
Mark on the center of your base board at 3 1/4” 9 1/2” and 15 3/4” and drill holes part way through to glue the dowels in. Insert the dowels. You can just glue them in, but I also added screws up through the bottom.
You can stop here. I added four small square feet to the bottom of the base though.
Apply finish.


View DIYaholic's profile


19657 posts in 2822 days

#13 posted 07-15-2012 12:22 PM

Shame on you William, bringing a nice woman to tears….....

Nice job William, not only on the project but for letting a mother relive memories & make new ones!!! Well done.

The simplest seeming things turn out to be quite complex. As with the solution to this game/puzzle.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View workerinwood's profile


2717 posts in 3214 days

#14 posted 07-15-2012 02:29 PM

Nice job! Just last week my mother gave me the one I made back in the seventh grade. I will be making some new ones for my grandchildren. Thanks for posting.

-- Jack, Albuquerque

View Gerben's profile


115 posts in 2503 days

#15 posted 07-15-2012 05:57 PM

I know it a “Tower of Hanoi

Legend goes that there was a temple that had this with 64 disks. The priests would move the disks, solving the puzzle. Once the priest has solved it the world would end. It would however take roughly 585 billion years, of they where to move one disk a second.

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