Want a fun DIY project to try out? This step-by-step guide on how to make a giant abacus is easy to follow and comes together fast.
This is a DIY project that has been years in the making.
I’ve wanted to build this giant abacus ever since I saw it in the Pottery Barn catalog years ago. I knew that I knew that I knew…..it would be perfect in the house.
If only I could figure out how to DIY it.
I could figure out the sides and I could figure out the metal corners and I could figure out the rods in the middle….but I couldn’t figure out how to make the beads that you used to count with.
Giant wooden discs?
Giant metal washers?
And then one day I saw these.
I know, right?
Can you believe it?
We have friends who are commercial fisherman and I saw these at their house when they were stringing up lines.
As we say in Kentucky….I almost had a come-apart.
Visions of that long-ago DIY giant abacus danced round my head.
So here is the projdect in all its glory courtesy of those fishing floats—how to build a giant abacus.
How to Build a Giant Abacus
13 feet of 1 x 4 pine lumber
8 feet of small dowel rods
30 fishing floats
metal L-brackets for the sides
dark wood stain
Step 1: Build your frame
The frame is 42″ long and 18″ wide with a center piece that is 40″ long.
Cut the pieces to fit (or have your home improvement store cut them for you).
Nail the center piece in place.
Don’t nail it exactly in the center.
Make sure when you attach the center piece you have one larger side and one smaller side.
Step 2: Make sure fishing floats fit
The fishing floats are styrofoam and the holes are different sizes.
You may have to enlarge some of the holes with a drill bit.
You could just buy a smaller dowel and save this step….
But some of us are stubborn. 🙂
Step 3: Drill holes to create the giant abacus
Line up the dowel rods and drill holes on both of the side pieces.
Drill a corresponding hole all the way through the center piece.
(Keep in mind….you have not attached the side pieces yet….so this makes it easier).
Step 4: Stain frame and dowels with dark wood stain
I liked the look of stained wood, so I stained the frame with Provincial by Minwax.
Then I sealed it with a clear sealant.
You could also paint it or just leave it plain wood and seal the wood with a clear sealant.
Step 5: Fit dowels into holes and attach side pieces
Thread dowel through center hole.
On the larger side thread four fishing floats on each dowel and two fishing floats on the smaller side.
Fit dowels into holes and attach side pieces.
This takes time and a little patience and lots of compliments. 🙂
Step 6: Attach L brackets
Just like jewelry.
A project isn’t complete without a little accessory.
Attach the L brackets to all four corners.
The history of the abacus:
Now that you’ve built a giant abacus—here’s a little bit more about abacuses and what they were used for.
If you know—you know.
- The abacus is an ancient calculating device with roots that date back over 2,000 years. Used across various cultures and civilizations, the abacus served as a precursor to modern calculators and contributed significantly to the development of numerical skills.
- The basic structure of the abacus consists of a series of rods or wires on which beads or counters are slid. The beads are arranged in specific groupings, with each representing a different place value. Users manipulate the beads to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
- One of the primary purposes of the abacus was to facilitate calculations in everyday life and commerce. Merchants and traders, particularly in ancient markets, relied on the abacus to perform rapid calculations involving quantities, prices, and transactions. Its portability and simplicity made it an invaluable tool for those engaged in trade, allowing for quick and accurate computations without the need for pen and paper.
- In educational settings, the abacus played a pivotal role in teaching mathematical concepts and fostering numerical fluency.
- Beyond its utility in commerce and education, the abacus found applications in various fields such as astronomy, architecture, and engineering. In astronomy, for instance, it was used to calculate celestial phenomena and planetary positions. Architects employed the abacus to ensure precision in measurements and geometric calculations for constructing buildings. The adaptability of the abacus to different mathematical tasks made it a versatile tool for professionals in diverse disciplines.
I LOVE how it turned out and every time I walked by it yesterday…..I smiled.
A DIY project years that was years in the making.
And it happened….
….all because of a fishing float. 🙂