Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 192, September 2021 Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
 
Project: Constructing a Mazza Yard Game
By Randy Cordle

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

The name "Mazza" is derived from the Italian language, and loosely translates to "club or mallet." Mazza is a game involving minimal skill AND you get to use mallets! What could be more fun than that?

Mazza involves 2 to 4 players, the object being to move from an initial starting point up to the top of the scoring block before the other competing players can do so. A mallet is used to strike a ball and land within a "target ring."


Mazza is an easy to construct yard game that's fun for family and friends and has enough variety to keep players entertained. No skill is necessary, and it can be played in small spaces such as a backyard or larger areas like a community park. The game uses scoring hoops that can "travel" for each round of play, so distance between rounds can be increased gradually during the game to provide a healthy amount of walking exercise if desired.

Here is a guide for making the game of Mazza. Once a few simple jigs are made it's easy to produce an entire game without difficulty. The component details as well as "Official Rules Of Play" are provided below.


I start with reasonably clear standard 2" by 4"s from the big box store, selecting them for flat grain when viewed from the end and similar weight for a group of mallets. I plane them to 1-1/4" thickness so the sides are flat for glue up. The length of the stock is marked with 3-1/2" centers to indicate 7" rough cut lengths. Wedge mortises will be routed at the center of each 7" length.

The mallet jig is clamped over the wedge location and the plunge router's base rides against the jig guide strips to cut the wedge mortises 3/8" deep. There are tee nuts in the jig shown, but disregard them for our use.

The jig is made by locating and gluing the guide rails on the plywood so the wedge shape to match the mallet handle is produced when the router base rides against them. I often use this type of router jig where others might choose the guide bushing method. I find this to be easier and I don't have to take time to change anything on my router. I keep this one set up with a 3/8" upcut spiral bit and hardly ever change bits. I have another router for all the other routing tasks I might do. If you make your jig and route the opening then you can use the routed opening to lay out the handle pattern so they mate perfectly.


The mallet halves are glued up. A light tap of the wedge aligns them, with a tap in the other direction to remove the wedge after the clamps are in place. If you keep glue back from the wedge border of the mallet halves then there will be no need to clean up glue squeeze out. The wedge is made to match the mallet wedge mortising jig, so the wedge aligns the mallet head halves perfectly.


The mallet head pattern is centered over the wedge opening and both sides of the mallet are marked out. Positioning the marking guide towards the bottom ensures that the handle will fit with a bit of length protruding at the top of the mallet head. The mallet faces are marked at a 2 degree angle, although nothing is critical as long as they are made to be consistent in shape and weight.


The mallet ends are trimmed to the 2 degree angle while the block edges are still straight and square.. A band saw also works well for cutting the angled faces. If a miter saw is used it is easiest to cut one end and flip over to do the opposite end. Now it becomes apparent why we mark both sides!


Top and bottom radii are cut out with the band saw.


Both sides are radiused with a 1/4" radius bearing guided router bit.


The top and bottom of the mallet ends are rounded after the sides are rounded.


An important detail; bevel the ends of the wedge mortise at top and bottom openings to prevent any chance of lifting a splinter of wood when the handle is added or removed. The mallet heads can now be set aside temporarily.


In this photo, 4 sections of walnut have been cut slightly larger than the actual handle pattern and thinned to 3/4". Any reasonably strong straight grained wood can be used, the 3/4" hardwood available from the big box store can be used for convenience if desired. These handle blanks are being made from my stash of rough milled walnut produced by my local sawyer.

Each handle is made by first drilling a 3/16" mounting hole and attaching the handle template with a pair of #10-32 flat head machine screws.


A band saw is used to cut away excess material, leaving about 1/16" to clean up with the router bit. Be careful not to cut your pattern!


The handle is pattern routed to final shape using a 1/2" carbide bit fitted with a guide bearing to ride against the pattern.


The handle is removed from the pattern routing jig and dropped into a mallet head. The bottom edge is marked so you know where to stop routing when using the round over bit on the handle edges. The handle should be left flat where it contacts the mallet wedge mortise.


The handle edges are rounded over using a bearing guided 1/4" radius carbide round over bit. Notice that the rounding stops at the line indicating where the mallet handle intersects with the bottom edge of the mallet head.


The hole at the hand grip end of the mallet handle is drilled through with a 3/8" Forstner bit and the hole chamfered on both sides for a smooth feel. The entire handle is sanded totally smooth using a 220 grit sanding disk in the 5" random orbit sander. The sander is being controlled by a momentary foot switch which allows great control of the sander. The foot switch is one of my absolute favorite tool accessories! It has become essential to the way I prefer to work.


Turning attention back to the mallet heads, each head is reinforced by using two 1/4" furniture bolts. The 1/4"-20 furniture bolts will most likely need to be trimmed to length. I use a hack saw and clean up the cut threads using my 6" stationary disk sander. The bolts and cap nuts will then assemble easily.


I counter bore for the 1/4"-20 furniture bolt cap nuts, then drill the rest of the way through with a 9/32" drill bit. I then install the bolt assembly to reinforce the mallet heads against the wear and tear they will encounter during use.


Applying a finish isn't necessary here, as the smooth sanded bare wood feels great in use. A green stain might be advantageous to match the grass stains the heads will accumulate during play, but is certainly not necessary.


The hoop marker poles are made by drilling a 1/4" by 4" deep hole in a length of 1" or larger dowel rod and adding a 1/4" diameter by 8" long metal rod secured with JB Weld epoxy. Here a guide is being used to keep the hole centered on the dowel as the hole is drilled. Shape a rounded point on the protruding metal rod so it can be stuck in the ground easily. The marker poles can be made more visible by spray painting a 4" wide red band at the top to make the marker easy to see at a distance. Old rake or shovel handles make excellent re-purposed hoop marker poles!

I have also made Mazza sets and simply tied a bright piece of cloth to the ring instead of using the hoop marker poles. Most players find the hoop marker poles to be much easier to see when they are 20 paces away from the scoring ring.


The scoring board is made by cutting 5-1/2" radius ends on a 11" length of 5" width 3/4" board so it will fit inside a standard 5 gallon plastic pail and gluing it to a 13" by 5" by 3/4" section that will rest on top of the bucket. A 1-1/4" pocket is drilled at the top of the scoring board. Eight rows of 9/16" diameter holes on 1" centers are drilled in 4 columns to keep score, and two additional 9/16" diameter holes are located at the bottom to hold unused scoring pegs. All holes are drilled to a 1-1/4" depth. In use the bucket can be moved to make it convenient to keep score during game play.


The entire Mazza set can be stored and transported in the 5 gallon bucket. Disassembling one mallet head from it's handle makes arranging the pieces much easier in the bucket. A section of 3/16" cord is passed through the mallet and hoop marker poles to bundle everything together.


Here's an earlier version showing all of the Mazza game components. The scoring rings shown are 10" and store easily in the bucket, although 12" diameter rings are easier for less skilled players. The rings are widely available on Amazon. Some brands are more heavily constructed than others, and my rings are made from plated 3/16" wire with welded ends. The softballs I purchased are Franklin 12" composite cork center balls with a stitched outer synthetic cover and work very well. They are less than $20 for a set of four. Numbers were added with an extra-wide black Sharpie permanent marker.


Basics Of The Game Of Mazza

Equipment:

  • 4 Mallets
  • 4 Balls, (regulation 12" softballs) marked with numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 to identify player sequence
  • 2 Twelve inch diameter scoring rings (10" can also be used)
  • 2 Marker posts, positioned outside the scoring rings to help visually locate rings during game play
  • 4 Score pegs, each identified by ends marked with the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • 1 Score Block with 4 vertical rows of 8 holes, marked as "short" or "long" game

The score block also has a 1-1/4" top recess that is used to hold the score pegs (numbered ends facing down) when drawing to determine order of play. Two additional holes at the bottom hold any unused scoring pegs.

The score block is designed to sit on top of a standard 5 gallon bucket, also used to store game equipment.

Determining initial player number assignment and shooting order

1. Score pegs matching the desired number of players are placed numbered end down in the score block large recess. Any unused pegs are placed in the lower two holes of the score block for players who might join in a current round of play.

2. Players now grasp a score peg and withdraw them from the bored holes in the top of the score block to determine order of play. This is only done for the start of a new session and is not done for subsequent games.

Setup for play

3. The player drawing the #1 score peg is the lead player (for the initial first game only). Each new game starts with the player who sequentially follows the previous game winner becoming the new lead player, so the lead player might be different for subsequent games.

4. All players now place their respective score pegs in the numbered score block row at the starting row "8" and select a ball to match their assigned number. Each player needs to remember their number!

5. The lead player (#1) now sets up the field of play by spacing the rings approximately 20 paces apart on a somewhat level playing field, driving in the marker posts about a foot past the scoring ring. The scoring block is positioned off to the side and half-way between the two rings. The scoring block can "travel" as the game progresses as the distance between rings can increase substantially.

Game play

6. The game starts with the lead player placing the ball a foot to the side of the shot ring and taking the first shot.

7. Players continue to shoot sequentially until a ball lands within the target ring at the far end of the playing field.

8. If any player taking their first shot from the side of the shot ring lands within the target ring that will constitute a "Ringer Shot", closing the round and advancing their position upward on the scoring block. Since that player’s "Ringer Shot" is the only ball in the target ring they may also choose to relocate that ring in any direction up to 10 paces, as long as the distance between the rings doesn’t decrease to less than the original 20 pace distance.

Don’t get excited, though. Scoring a "Ringer Shot" is difficult, highly unlikely and extremely rare!

9. With the exception of that ultra-rare "Ringer Shot" the first ball to land within the scoring ring triggers an "end of the round sequence" , with all of the other players taking a final shot to attempt to land their ball within the scoring ring, and possibly knocking other balls out in the process.

10. If there are NO balls within the scoring ring after all players have taken their "end of round" shot then sequential shots continue until a player lands within the scoring ring.

11. The shot that lands a ball within the scoring ring then triggers an "end of round sequence" (See #9) and the process continues until there are one or more balls remaining in the scoring ring after a "final round" of shots are completed.

12. Any player whose ball remains inside the scoring ring advances their scoring peg one position in the score block.

13. If only ONE ball remains in the scoring ring at the end of any round then that player not only advances one position upward, but may also choose to relocate the ring in which they scored in any direction up to a maximum of 10 paces, as long as the distance between the rings doesn’t decrease to less than the original 20 pace distance. The player may, of course, opt to leave the ring in the same position.

Note: Any time the scoring ring can be moved so an object (such as a tree) falls on the path between the two rings that increases the complexity of the next round for ALL players.

14. The next round starts with the player who sequentially follows the last person to score, becoming the new lead shooter, taking the first shot from one foot to the side of the shot ring.

15. The FIRST player to advance their score peg to the top score block position (large hole) is the game winner. In the event of a "tie" extra shots are taken to determine a single winner. The balls are positioned 3 paces back from the scoring ring.

16. Subsequent games start with the next player in numerical sequence becoming the new "lead" player.

17. This new lead shooter reestablishes the standard 20 pace distance between rings to start the new game.

Each new game proceeds from step #6, above.

Additional rules:

18. A winning player may choose to offer their mallet and ball to anyone in the gallery who wishes to play. The new player assumes the position previously held by the retiring player.

19. Players are permitted to shoot their ball into any other ball that is currently in play.

20. Balls should remain in contact with the ground as much as possible during play.

21. An additional player can enter the game at any time if there are unused scoring pegs by selecting the next number of peg and starting from the scoring position of the lowest positioned player of the game in progress.

22. Note that the lead shot is ALWAYS taken by the next player in numerical order after player(s) who scored in the previous round. (See #14)

23. Mazza can be adapted to smaller areas or backyard play by reducing the setup distance between rings to 10 paces and moving the target ring by 5 paces or less by the sole winner of any round. (See #8 and #14)

24. The number of rounds for a game can be reduced to 5 for a shorter version of the game.

25. The marker posts are used to make the scoring ring location easier to see. They should be relocated a foot to the far side of the ring any time a ring is moved.

"How To Play Mazza"abbreviated instructions

See detailed rules (in parentheses) for clarification if necessary.

1. Players draw pegs to determine order and place pegs in starting row 8 of the scoring block (1-4)

2. Lead Shooter sets distance between rings at 20 paces and takes first shot towards target ring (5-6)

3. A "Ringer Shot" on first shot of a round by any player immediately closes the round (8)

4. First player to score after the initial shots triggers "end of round" final shots by remaining players (9-10)

5. If no score after "final shots" play continues until a score triggers new "end of round" final shots (11)

6. After final shots are taken, scoring pegs are advanced for any ball within the target ring (12)

7. A sole winner of a round can relocate the ring in which they scored by up to 10 paces (13)

8. A new round always starts with the next player in sequence becoming the new lead shooter (14)

9. A tie game is broken by playing additional rounds to determine the winner (15)

10. New game begins with new lead shooter setting 20 pace distance (16-17)

Mazza can be played using only these abbreviated "How To Play" instructions, or you can further simplify or modify the "rules" as you see fit! The only real rule is to have fun!


You can email Randy with any questions about making the game or game play at rcordle@fastmail.fm.

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