Giant Jenga set?

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Forum topic by jengar posted 01-02-2010 09:54 PM 27256 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 3239 days

01-02-2010 09:54 PM

I’m going to have a giant Jenga set made for a friend of mine who runs a bar. You know, a 5’ high Jenga tower made from 2×4s, or whatever. It’s in China, so labor is cheap but materials will be a problem. I’m not a woodworking guy myself, although I’m good at supervising (aren’t we all?) My questions are: (1) What kind of wood to use to get the lightness and slipperiness necessary to play the game, and (2) what sort of finish to ensure slipperiness?

I did play a giant Jenga game at a bar once, and it had heavily varnished pieces to make them slippery enough to pull out. They were regular 2×4s though, which made the tower rather heavy and hazardous when it collapsed. The original Jenga game uses lightweight alder wood, but I rather doubt that’s available in China. The alder blocks appear to be sanded, not finished?

I just worry that I’ll spend a lot of money on wood and then end up with sticky pieces that won’t pull out of the tower, or overly varnished pieces that are too slippery to stack five feet high. Sort of an odd question, usually you want lumber to stay in one place!

8 replies so far

View hairy's profile


2780 posts in 3705 days

#1 posted 01-03-2010 01:57 AM

I was thinking balsa, but it is native to South America.

Wikipedia says this stuff is lightweight and native to China.

Try a wax finish. Briwax is popular.Easy to reapply.

-- My reality check bounced...

View cstrang's profile


1832 posts in 3341 days

#2 posted 01-03-2010 02:04 AM

Where are you? Why not have them made locally so you can make sure you are getting what you pay for. Something like this shouldn’t cost too much in labor in China or anywhere else as it is simple to make and could be completed in about 2 – 3 hours (minus drying time)

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4047 days

#3 posted 01-03-2010 02:11 AM

Jenga sets are probably made of maple. I think any hardwood would work if it is finished correctly.

-- Happy woodworking!

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210 posts in 3263 days

#4 posted 01-03-2010 02:15 AM

Balsa, as Hairy said, is really lightweight. Most radio controlled planes are constructed out of it. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a Balsa 2×4, but then I’ve never looked for one either. Poplar is fairly light as well. Many puzzles, being designed to come apart, just use a few coats of tung oil. Only problem there is that it’ll take alot of it to cover a tower of 2×4’s, and you may occasionally need to reapply.

-- If you don't have time to do it right, do you have time to do it twice?

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3 posts in 3239 days

#5 posted 01-03-2010 02:58 AM

Hmm…balsa? Sounds too exotic. I’ll check if Paulownia or Poplar exists. China can have vastly reduced selections of anything that we’re used to having. Even stuff like Briwax might not be available because it would be considered an imported product.

I won’t be doing any of this myself, as I have no woodworking training whatsoever. But it couldn’t be that difficult, as long as I can explain it to the workers properly. I’m really looking forward to it! This bar is made up of four good girls trying to make business, and they need something to spruce the place up, make it unique, because right now it’s too generic. A giant Jenga would be just the thing to get people talking.

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987 posts in 3699 days

#6 posted 01-03-2010 03:11 AM

I made a jenga game in college. It was the standard size game with pieces some where around 3/4×1x3. In the standard game the width has to be 1/3 of the length so the rows can be three across. We used maple with no finish only sanding. (it was a production class so we sanded over 6,000 pieces)
I would talk to the locals to find out what wood materials are available. You might consider making a piece out of a couple of your choices to see how well they work for pieces and how well they take what ever finish you decide to use.

View jengar's profile


3 posts in 3239 days

#7 posted 01-03-2010 05:48 AM

Hmm. Only sanded? Would that last a long time, with the set being played every night? And maybe beer being spilled on it? On the other hand, sanding only seems a lot simpler, and fewer chances for the workers to screw it up.

View HavingFun's profile


1 post in 2669 days

#8 posted 07-26-2011 09:52 PM

Well we got our set from they sent it to us with free shipping and we got in like 3days after we ordered it. There prices are pretty great starting around $76, we got the jumbo one with 2×4s for about $96 shipped. It came ready to decorate too so no cutting or sanding this weekend. Have fun everyone, thanks Tumbling Towers for the awesome giant blocks :)

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