DIY Custom Michigan Rummy Board

Our family always had fun playing our own version of Michigan Rummy (there is also a version called Tripoly) as kids. Then last year we played it almost every night on our family vacation, using a modified board. It gave me an idea to build a custom board for my Mom.

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As soon as I saw this case with two decks of cards at an estate sale several months ago I knew it would be neat for the board. I think I paid $1. The copyright date is 1947!

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I’ve been wanting to build something with pallet wood and thought it would give the board a neat look. You can get free pallets all over by looking on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.

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With the help of my pallet buster and some brute force, I broke down the pallets.

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These containers with covers are from Menard’s, free after rebate. Another perfect piece for the project. I laid everything out to get a feel for the size.

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After taking measurements, I mocked up a 3D model of the board’s top layer in SketchUp. It would be about 24×16 inches.

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I also printed out the text using Arial Black for the letters/numbers and Futura for the suit symbols.

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I trimmed, planed, and jointed a bunch of boards.

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Then glued up panels that would make the top and bottom of the board.

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I measured and marked a bunch of lines and then placed everything where it would end up to get a better feel for the size and layout. I liked it.

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I finished drawing in more details and did a rough cut of the outer shape with my band saw.

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The scroll saw got heavy use cutting everything out. I also cleaned up the holes and edges with various sandering. You can see a couple of places where I started to carve in the text. It didn’t take long to scrap that plan though; it was going to take forever and some of the wood was really soft so I wasn’t happy with how it would turn out.

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I decided to use raised letters that I’d glue on. After doing a bunch of work, I realized this would be much better because the containers would be up above the board, so it would have been hard to see the recessed lettering.

I used the band saw to cut all of the letters. More sanding to clean them up and then some spray paint.

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I didn’t get any pictures of the next steps, which probably took the longest. I used a bunch of the cutoffs to build up an outer support ring as well as eight stacks in the middle to prevent something heavy from breaking the top or bottom panel. There was a lot of gluing, clamping, and band saw trimming. Finally I had enough layers and I was able to glue on the bottom panel.

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After the glue dried I did a lot of sanding on every surface. I had tied in a piece of bungie cord earlier that would hold the card case in place. Then I drilled shallow holes so I could glue in (with epoxy) rare Earth magnets to hold the containers in place. I used CA glue to attach all of the lettering.

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It was finally time for some finish. I used three coats of shellac (with light sanding after each coat) and a coat of wax polish. I spray painted the Michigan map on half of the containers and gave them two clear coats. The last thing was to stick some of those felt pad circles to the bottom and it was done. I really like how this turned out.

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The layering you can see from the sides is a neat look.

I Made an Escape Room

This summer, I got an idea to build some stuff to make an escape room for our family vacation. I finally dismantled some of the parts this week, so I figured it was time to write a post about it and at least get something online in case it’s useful to someone else. I won’t got into much detail here because I think it’s a fun process to think about how you want things to work and learn going through that if you decide to build something similar. The GitHub repo has all of the code, wiring diagrams, and documents. In the docs folder there are things to print for props, some of my notes, and the story.

First, a few lessons I learned when I watched 2 small groups of my family try to escape:

  • All of your clues and hints are probably twice as hard as you think.
  • People will break shit even if you tell them to be very careful. Hot glue isn’t the best to hold some of this stuff together.
  • They’ll think everything is a clue.

My room consisted of 9 different circuits.

Door Lock

Served as an alarm when telling the story, the game timer, and where participants enter the final code to escape the room. This box is the final build and I the video shows some of the early testing.

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Control Panel 1

In order to get things going, a simple switch on the side turns on the first part of the game. When the correct code is entered, it flips a relay module, which then provides power to the rest of the circuits on the control panel. When I built this, I wrote posts about multiplexing 7 segment displays and solder bridges.

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This box also housed control panels 2 & 3, which I talk about below.

Power Outlet Relay

I wrote a few posts about building the relay module for this. There are also plenty of guides online.

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Control Panel 2

Basically some colored wires that needed to be connected in the correct order. Not that easy to see in the pictures above but it’s the bottom part of the box with the 6 standoffs sticking up out of the box, the single LED, and the group of 3 LEDs.

Control Panel 3

An infrared receiver. After finding batteries for an old VCR remote, when the correct button was pressed, a colored LED would blink a number of times. It’s the top right section of the box above.

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Control Panel 4

Used 3 old light switches as binary on/off. When the switches were set correctly the binary to decimal conversion gave part of the code and the color of the LED gave another part.

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Control Panel 5

I used the keypad I got out of an old phone, which I wrote a 4 part series about. I learned a lot and had some fun figuring that stuff out.

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This went in the same box as control panel 4.

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Control Panel 6

Probably the most confusing part for participants to figure out. It consisted of:

  • A knob which needed to be rotated to the correct general position.
  • A light sensor which needed to have a flashlight (find batteries) pointed at.
  • A distance sensor on the side which needed to have an object a certain distance away.
  • A sensor which need to have a magnet near by.

As feedback, there was an LED matrix used as a bar graph. Once a sensor was set properly the line would fill up and a buzzer would beep. When all 4 things were set correctly at the same time, the LED matrix would scroll some text across it, providing the necessary code.

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Circuit Playground

Taking advantage of the accelerometer on this microcontroller, the goal here was to tilt the board in a series of directions within a short period of time. The LEDs and buzzer on the board were used for feedback. With a win, the board would give audio and visual feedback in the form of another code to be used with the door lock. The period of time was way too short for people.

The Door Code

Each circuit that provided an answer/clue was a combination of a color and a number. These needed to be matched up with the colors being in the correct order and then the numbers would unlock the door. In order to figure out the correct order, a series of index cards with cutouts needed to be arranged properly (by matching symbols in the corners of the cards) so the “windows” would show the names of colors.

Summary

If I were to do it again, I’d know that there is way too much going on here and to make it much easier. I had a lot of fun building all of the circuits, writing the code, and trying to figure out how people would interact with the different parts.

I know everything here is a bit light on details, but that’s on purpose. I didn’t even mention the other props I had in the “room” to go along with this stuff. If you decide to build something similar hopefully this stuff will give you some ideas to can run with. Leave a comment if you have any questions.

Hollywood Rush

My 6-year-old niece Kennedy got me hooked on this game. She plays it all the time on my Mom’s iPad. All it took was her beating me for me to install it on my phone. I wish there was an upgrade for me to pay to get rid of ads though.

Wire Loop Game

Kennedy and I made a wire loop game, using some basic cheap electronics.

  • 9v Battery
  • Buzzer
  • Old light switch
  • LED
  • Various wires
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Electrical tape
  • Wire screw caps
  • Cardboard box

The initial wiring and cutting of the box took more time than I figured and she started to lose interest until we got around to the top. We did this all on-the-fly, but there are plenty of tutorials (like one on Instructables) you can follow.

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Quick, Draw!

I’d never heard of Quick, Draw! before. It’s like playing Pictionary with a computer. I played a quick game (?) and hit 5/6.

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They’re actually releasing millions of the doodles, which is pretty cool.