Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Making Mölkky

Back in January, my friend Nate joined me for a Schlag den Raab viewing. We were treated to an afternoon of inflating bicycle tires, flailing swords, throwing coat hangers, and soccer with bowling shoes on ice. Yep, par for the course. Spiel 12 on this particular day was a Finnish lawn game called Mölkky. They rolled out a giant mat of grass on the studio floor and played a game where they threw a stick at a bunch of numbered pins. Watching this, Nate and I said to each other, this is something we'd like to try.

A quick primer on the rules: The goal of the game is to be the first to reach exactly 50 points (played on SdR to only 40). On your turn, you throw the large pin (the mölkky) at twelve numbered pins. If you knock down exactly one pin, you score the number on that pin. If you knock down more than one pin, you score however many pins you knocked down. So hitting the 12-pin is worth a whopping 12 points, but hitting the 12 and the 11 is only worth 2 points. Going over 50 points resets your score to 25. After each throw, the pins are stood back up wherever they stopped, so while they start out in a tight cluster, they become pretty spread out quickly. If you completely miss all pins on three consecutive turns, you're out of the game.

I looked for Mölkky sets online, but only seemed to find sets for $50 or $60 (plus shipping), not really a price I'd be up for paying for pieces of wood. So I thought to myself, how hard could it be to make a set? After studying the SdR video trying to suss out dimensions and looking up directions online (even Martha Stewart gives a how-to), I decided to give it a go.

A step-by-step arrangement of the process: The large poplar board, the squared blocks, and the rounded blocks fresh from the lathe.My dad and I picked up a 3"x9"x9' board of poplar from a local lumberyard and started cutting it down into 3"x3"x13" blocks. I rounded down the corners a bit, then spun the blocks on the lathe until they got down to the desired width (about 2 1/4"). I then used a miter saw to make a diagonal cut to split the rods into the pins, sanded everything down, and painted numbers on the pins before several coats of polyeurethane. And voila, Mölkky!

As it turns out, I'm pretty bad at Mölkky. A lot of my throws bounce right over the pins I want to hit, and I've struck out of more games than I'd like to admit. Still, it's a fun game and I'm excited for this summer when I get to play it with friends.

Also, looking back on it, making the Mölkky set was a simple woodworking project that introduced me to a bunch of tools I had never used before. My dad and I started using a circular saw to cut the large board into blocks, but since it didn't cut through the whole way, we switched over to a Sawzall. I started using a plane to round down the corners before putting the blocks on the lathe, but then switched to using a belt sander (and then eventually not rounding the corners down at all, because of laziness). Add in the lathe and the miter saw, and I got a pretty good tour of the workshop under my belt. All of this, after a childhood of Pinewood Derby cars where the only tools I ever got to use (and under ridiculous paranoid parental supervision) were a reciprocating saw and the belt sander (and a hammer must've been involved at some point, though I really don't remember that).

One more thing, remember how I said most of the Mölkky sets I found online were $50-$60? The board of poplar cost me $25, and I got not one, but TWO sets out of it (with scrap wood leftover), one of which I gave to Nate. So, not counting the price of electricity for all the power tools, I made each set for about $10. Hooray for homemade Finnish lawn games as seen on German game shows!

The finished Mölkky sets, coming to a lawn near you!