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Operation is a game that lets you test your hand-eye coordination by removing a variety of ailment tokens from a cartoon patient without touching the metal sides of each slot. Since its release in 1965, there have been a lot of special editions created. These feature popular characters such as  Buzz Lightyear, R2D2 and Iron Man. The game’s simple design makes it very versatile and easy to adapt. In this project , I am going to show you how you can make your own Operation style game from scratch.

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Steps

Step #1:

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  • Gather all your tools and materials.
  • For a more accessible (but slightly less durable) build, try using aluminum foil instead of the the thin sheet of metal.
  • Source Tips: The cardboard is easy to cut out of a large shipping box. For the sheet metal, I used a baking sheet that I found at dollar tree for $1. This yields about 13" x 9" of metal. The sheet of plastic can be salvaged from the housing of an old electronic device.

Step #2: Select a Character

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  • Every game of Operation needs a patient. You can choose an existing character or invent a brand new one. Cartoon characters are convenient to use because it is usually easy to find good reference pictures. I chose the cartoon robot from last year's Maker Faire because it has a really simple design.
  • Then you need to print out a picture of your chosen character. If you can, scale it to fit a full 8.5"x11" sheet of paper. You may wish to use a photo editing program to remove the background details. If you don't have a photo editing program, you can get the same results by cutting the character out with a pair of scissors and pasting it on top of a blank sheet of paper.

Step #3: Make or Find Ailment Tokens

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DIY Hacks & How To’s: Custom Operation Game
  • In the original game, the patient had ailments such as "Butterflies in the Stomach", "Spare Ribs", and a "Wish Bone." However, each special edition used ailments that were specific to the featured character. For instance, Iron Man had a "Fried Power Core" and Buzz Lightyear had a "Cracked Communicator. So you need to think up some specific ailments for your character.
  • Ailment tokens are typically stamped or molded plastic. You can cut the basic shapes out of thin plastic with scissors or a knife. The exact shape isn't critical. Just try to make to resemble something related to the ailment.
  • Alternatively, you can simply find small objects to use as ailment tokens. Since my character is a robot, I found it convenient to just use the actually electrical components as game pieces. This saved some construction time, but made the game play more difficult since parts of the tokens were conductive.

Step #4: Mark the Locations on the Character Where the Ailments will be Located

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DIY Hacks & How To’s: Custom Operation GameDIY Hacks & How To’s: Custom Operation GameDIY Hacks & How To’s: Custom Operation Game
  • Next, decide where each ailment will be located. If an ailment has a logical place where it should be located, then place it there. For instance "Water on the Knee" should be located near the knee of the character. If an ailment doesn't have an implied location, just try to keep them spaced out. They shouldn't be too close together.
  • Make a stack of three sheets of cardboard and the character printout. Center all the layers and hold them together by clipping a large binder clamp on each corner. Place the tokens on top of the character printout and outline each of them with a pencil. The outline should be about 1/4 inch past the edge of token on all sides.

Step #5: Cut Slots for Each Token

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  • Using a needle or push pin pierce through the stack at each corner of the marked outline. This marks the corners of the outlines on each layer of cardboard. You can then remove the binder clamps and separate the layers. Then using a sharp knife, carefully cut out all the slots on the printout and each cardboard layers
  • If you don't have access to a rotary tool, skip step 6!

Step #6: Cut Slots in the Sheet Metal

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  • Take the character printout and place it face down centered on your piece of sheet metal. Then hold them together by clipping a binder clamp on each corner. Then using a sharpie, trace the outlines onto the plate.
  • Next, you need to cut out these outlines. To do this you can use a Dremel rotary tool with cutting wheel attachment. You could also use a fine toothed saw such as a coping saw or jeweleNext, you need to cut out these outlines. To do this you can use a rotary tool with cutting wheel attachment. You could also use a fine toothed saw such as a coping saw or jeweler's saw. After cutting out each slot you may wish smooth the edges with a grinding wheel attachment or a file.r's saw. After cutting out each slot you may wish smooth the edges with a grinding wheel attachment or a file.
  • Whatever method you use, try to stay inside the traced outline. This will ensure that the metal sticks out a little bit past the cardboarWhatever method you use, try to stay inside the traced outline. This will ensure that the metal sticks out a little bit past the cardboard and the character printout. d and the character printout.

Step #7: Aluminum Modification

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  • Cut a sheet of aluminum foil 9.5 inches x 12 inches. Wrap the foil around one of the sheets of cardboard with the openings cut out. I found it best to tape down the foil's edges on the back side of the cardboard.
  • With the foil facing down, use an X-Acto knife to cut "Xs" in the openings. Flip the cardboard back over and use your finger to fold the aluminum edges into the openings.

Step #8: Glue Together the Cardboard Layers

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Glue the three cut pieces of cardboard together. Then glue a plain piece of cardboard onto the back of the stack to seal the bottom of each hole. Press the cardboard with a large book or other heavy object while the glue dries.

Step #9: Attach the Character Printout to the Plate

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Place strips of double sided tape on the top side of the metal plate. Then carefully apply the character printout to the surface so that they are stuck together. Do your best to keep all the cutout slots lined up.

Step #10: Cut Slots for the Battery and the Buzzer

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Place the battery pack and the buzzer side by side on one of the corners of the cardboard. Then mark and cut out a section of cardboard that is a little bigger than these parts. This will make room to mount the components and their wires.

Step #11: Mount the Plate to the Cardboard

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Apply double sided tape to the top side of the cardboard. Then carefully line up and attach the metal plate and character printout

Step #12: Drill Holes in the Plate to Attach the Wires

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  • Lay the assembly face down. Place the battery pack and the buzzer in the cutout section of the cardboard. Using a sharpie, mark one location near the negative lead of the battery pack and a second location near the negative lead of the buzzer. Then remove the buzzer and the battery from the plate and drill a 1/16 inch hole at both of the marked locations
  • If you're following the aluminum build modification, you can skip the drilling, but make sure to mark those two locations.

Step #13: Make the Extraction Tool (Tweezers)

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  • Take a two foot long piece of insulated wire and strip the insulation off both ends. Then take the exposed wire on one end and wrap it around the base of a pair of tweezers. You don't need to solder them together. However some tweezers have a thick protective coating to prevent corrosion. If this is the case, you may need to rough up the surface in order to make good electrical contact. After wrapping the wire, hold it in place with a piece of heat shrink tubing.
  • Alternatively, if you don't have heat shrink, you can use electrical tape instead.

Step #14: Solder the Circuit Together

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  • The circuit for the project is really simple. It consists of just a battery pack, a buzzer and a switch that is formed by the tweezers and the plate. Start by soldering the positive lead of the buzzer to the positive lead of the battery pack. Then solder the negative lead of the buzzer to one of the drilled holes in the plate. Lastly take the free end of the wire attached to the tweezers and feed it through the second drilled hole in the plate and solder it to to negative lead of the battery pack. You may wish to apply heat shrink tubing or electrical tape to help keep all the wires insulated
  • If you don't have a soldering iron, the circuit remains the same, but instead of soldering you can just use electrical tape or twist-on wire connectors to make your connections.

Step #15: Attach the Buzzer and the Battery to the Plate.

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Using either glue or take secure the battery pack and the buzzer to the back of the plate.

Step #16: Finished Game Board

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Insert the tokens into the slots and you are ready to test your hand-eye coordination with a custom game of Operation. If you want to make a set of cards to play with, assign each token a dollar amount. Then print the ailment name and value on each card. Then make a "specialist deck" which has the dollar amount doubled.

Jason Poel Smith

My name is Jason Poel Smith. I have an undergraduate degree in Engineering that is 50% Mechanical Engineering and 50% Electrical Engineering. I have worked in a variety of industries from hydraulic aerial lifts to aircraft tooling. I currently spend most of my time chasing around my new baby. In my spare time I make the how-to series "DIY Hacks and How Tos."


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