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How to Make a Simple Pinball Machine

This is the pinball machine
Photos were take by the author

A simple pinball machine is a toy you can use to play pinball in your home and can be built in a few hours. The flippers on this machine are thumb operated and your fingers go on the outside corners of the box for leverage. The plunger is a typical pull and release plunger. The cost of this project is also a benefit.

Make the pinball table. Glue the top of an empty cereal box shut. Cut off the front panel of the cereal box, leaving rounded corners for support and decoration (see image).

Round the top inside of the box so the ball is guided around the corners when it flies out of the chute. Cut a strip of cardboard the same length as the pinball table. This piece should come from the piece of cardboard cut out in step 1. Glue this strip sideways into the top inside of the box to round out the corners and guide the ball.

Add another piece of cardboard (I chose to make a curved band) to the top left corner of this arch so that the ball does not keep going along the arch. Install a chute to the right side of the table by taking another strip from the cardboard panel you cut out of the box in step 1. Cut it one inch wide and a length equal to that of the box.

Bend a 1/4 centimeter of this strip down one long edge. At the top of this fold, cut the 1/4-centimeter flap at increments 1-centimeter apart, going down the side, for 4 inches. The cuts should penetrate 1/4-centimeter (the entire width of the flap) until it hits the fold. Orient this strip with the 1/4-centimeter flap facing down and folded toward the inside of the table.

Curve the top as needed to match the contour of the wall. Give enough space in the chute so the ball will progress smoothly from the bottom to the top. Glue the strip in place to finish the chute and hold it until the glue cools enough to let go.

The plunger being pulled.

Make the plunger. Cut a strip of cardboard 2-inches wide and fold it into a triangle. The "front" of the triangle should be the width of the chute. Make a dent in the front to make it a little concave (curved inward). The leg of the triangle that you pull on should be 5 inches long. The other leg (on the other side of the front) should be 2 inches long and dented inward in the middle. Half of this dented leg should be flush against the other 5-inch leg. Glue the part of the two legs that touch each other. Cut a vertical 2-inch slit at the right hand corner facing you. Slip the long corner of the plunger triangle into the slit so it sticks out of the box through the vertical slot 1-inch. Outside the box where the plunger is sticking out, cut a small 1/4-centimeter notch on the top and bottom edges of the plunger.

Make the plunger stop. With the plunger still positioned as before, cut a new piece of cardboard the width of the chute and with two 1-inch panels on either side. Cut the height of the plunger stop short enough to allow contact with the ball when the plunger hits the stop. Make the stop tall enough to prevent the ball from following the plunger back.

Cut the plunger guide out of a cardboard strip that is 2 inches wide and 4 inches long. Fold the flap 2-inches in from one side and another 2-inches in from the first fold. Fold the cardboard in half and slip it over the plunger inside the table where it goes through the slot. Glue the side facing the outer wall in place.

Notice the thumbs on the flippers and the finger tips on the sides of the table.

Make the flippers. Cut a strip of cardboard 3 inches long. Fold the strip at one end 3/4 inch tall. Cut a second strip of paper 2 inches long that is also 3/4 inch long. Roll the second trip into a roll and hold it with a rubber band. Put hot glue into and on both ends of this roll. When the glue cools, remove the rubber band.

Glue this roll, on end, just behind the fold in the first strip on the side toward the outside of the table. Put glue along the edge of the cylinder Where it contacts the folded edge. Cut a wedge in the flipper on the long flap to make a triangle with the roll forming the base and the folded cardboard forming one side. Do not cut past the roll. Do the same thing to make a mirror image of the one you just made. Hold the first flipper up to a mirror if you are having trouble visualizing the next one you will make.

Glue on the table legs. Make and glue four rolls for the 1-inch-diameter legs of the table. Two of them should be 1-1/4 inch long and the other two legs should be a 1/2 inch long. The two table legs closest to you should be the two short ones. Glue the table legs at the corners of the table. This is especially critical for the two front table legs.

Make a fifth table leg. Fold in half, one time, a 2-inch square piece of cardboard. Glue it in on itself. Use this to make a fifth leg on the center front of the table. Glue it here and let it sit flush against the table with the front two legs.

Cut a slot across the table wide enough to insert the ends of your flippers (up to the wedge). You can see in the picture that it was cut back at an angle so that it did not interfere with the ball when the flipper was pulled. Cut two squares of cardboard that are the width of the slot hole and glue them to the under side of the table to patch the flipper hole. Repeat the same process for the other flipper leg.

Complete plunger installation. Flip the table over. Put the flipper handles on either side of the 5th table leg. Get a 1-inch wide strip of cardboard the width of the table. Glue it across the two short table legs and glue it to the fifth leg in the middle of the strip. Do not glue the flipper handles to the table or this strip. At this stage, trim the flipper handles to 1-1/4 inches wide where they touch the table legs so they have more room to move.

Add the springs. Tie three rubber bands together at one central location. Put one loop around each of the two flipper handles. Cut two 1/2-inch deep slits at the top edge of the pinball table at the center with 1-inch separating them. Loop the third rubber band here.

Cut a small hole above and below the plunger stop on the right hand side of the box. Cut a rubber band and thread it through. Tie the loose ends of the rubber band, in which you cut to the same place on this new rubber band, to make a figure "8" shape, where one loop goes through the side of the box. Loop the other end of the figure 8 around handle of the plunger through the two notches. If the rubber bands are not tight enough, double them over to make them tight.

Make the bumpers. Fan fold a 12-inch-long strip of cardboard into 1-inch cardboard "plates." Pull the fan fold open so the first and last plates meet and glue them together.

Make the plates 2 inches long for the side bumpers. Glue cardboard tunnels and flaps to guide the ball.

Cut holes slightly smaller than the ball so the ball stops and you can add up your score up before popping the ball out from underneath. Assign a point score for everything so that you can count your score as you play or tally the score on a sheet of paper.

Things You'll Need:

  • Two cardboard cereal boxes (any size)
  • One small, soft ball (3/4-inch diameter)
  • Nine rubber bands
  • Scissors
  • Gun gun and glue sticks


Use crate paper to make your machine pretty. Use the plastic from a large box of donuts (or fruit-leather) as a shield over the top of the box. The flippers are operated by pulling them outwards with your thumbs while your finger tips rest on the sides of the table and then letting go. The plunger works by pulling back on the plunger handle and letting go.


  • Do not use balls that will break things or hurt when they fly out of the machine. Watch out for the rubber bands since they can snap unexpectedly; there is an element of risk for the user. Wear goggles when making this machine and when using it if the rubber bands are under significant tension. Do not cut yourself on your scissors or other sharp objects. Do not burn yourself with the hot glue gun/glue or anything hot.
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