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How I made Sticks & Stones Zen Game Great for Trippers and Old People Too FREE PLANS

Updated on February 15, 2018
Joel Diffendarfer profile image

Joel's most recent projects include Burning Man 2017, Colorado Hemp Expo, Denver Paper Fashion Shows, Arise Music Festival and more.

My finished Sticks and Stones Game I make for friends

Sticks and Stones packaged set for gifting
Sticks and Stones packaged set for gifting | Source

A Game for the Unbalanced

A Game for the Unbalanced.

“Reach and Teach through Play” has always been my mantra when designing games and other art-centric works. Sticks & Stones is one of my personal favorite games that not only teach math and physics but provides so much more in the way of education, communication, and fun. The “Zenness” of this game makes it great to play by yourself during your meditative break or with together with others for an art or competitive experience. It's a great way to get to “know” other players as it provides a lot of interaction, laughter, and team problem-solving.

For me, just an old guy, playing this game, it also helps me with my manual dexterity practice. I am always amazed how, when I am playing Sticks & Stones, a “shaking” condition I have in my hands, goes away.

Lots of variations

Setup and starting is comes the art and strategy...
Setup and starting is comes the art and strategy... | Source

How I build Sticks and Stones Games

Over the past several years, since my original design, this current and simple approach proved to be far more than I had originally envisioned. It really was more of an evolvement with the original concept based on an earlier concept where I used the same geometry in a design I simply called, the Tipsey. It balanced a wine bottle at the correct angle to keep the neck and cork always pointed slightly down.

To make a Sticks & Stones Art Game, I started by shaping the main “tower/mountain” out of ⅝” thick white pine. The secret to the tower is the angle cut on the base. This is the real base for the rest to work. In play, once the setup is mastered, which takes about 1 minute, builds begins and so does this unique form of play and relaxation.

Next, I bored three holes in each tower and made three unequal length sticks. The sticks get inserted into the holes in a different position each time the game is set up. Sometimes, the longest is on the bottom, sometimes, the middle or top. Every time you do the setup, the challenge becomes different.

After the wood parts were complete, I added some laser engraving just to make it feel even more earthy.

The final step was to locate the “playing” pieces. Because I spend a lot of time in the Front Range Mountains in Colorado and have explored endless creeks and streams, I had an endless selection of stones to pick from. My personal version of Sticks and Stones uses raw gems from an abandoned mine far past Red Feather Lakes. When I make one of these games for a friend, I use Colorado Mountain pebbles.

Winner Gets to Eat the Game

Candy makes a great variation...unless, of course, you eat them.
Candy makes a great variation...unless, of course, you eat them. | Source

Simple is good. How to Play.


  1. Tower
  2. 3 different size sticks
  3. Lots of stones (or other objects)


Don’t let it fall!


  1. Stick the sticks in the holes and balance the tower.
  2. Crack your knuckles and rub your hands together.


Add one object, then, another

and another...

Variations make it sexy

Here is where the real fun begins! I use rocks, yes, but I am always trying new things. Think about it, how many small things around your space could be used instead of the stones? Paperclips? Candies? (I like using Hershey Kisses during Holidays...I use it as a display). What about, something a bit more “risky” like coins...whoever tips it over, loses all the money they put into it. Get the idea? You can change the rules and the variations however you choose!

Be the balance

Balance in more ways than one
Balance in more ways than one | Source

Zen and Art

I try to put a little bit of Zen in everything I design. The key here is a balance. This game is also a perfect easel for creating a sculpture of sorts. When I use crystals to build with, the experience is usually enlightening. Perhaps it is because it helps bring focus and relaxation.

And, just like I like to do during special occasions, I will use a balanced display appropriate to the mood. So, the question still stands, is Sticks and Stones, a game, or is it art?

Free Plans

Yes, if you would like this simple pattern for free, I’d love to share it. (The only requirement is that you tell me your experience or variation with your finished game/art. I would also like to see some pics on the most outrageous, or “impossible” balancing results.) Feel free to contact me. Thanks, Joel.

Is it a game or is it art?

Is Sticks and Stones is more of a game or more of art?

See results

© 2018 Joel Diffendarfer


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