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Go bonkers for conkers - a recipe to make the perfect horse chestnut seed

Useful tips and designs to create the perfect conkers match

This traditional knock-out game has been played for centuries so we've put together a guide on designing the ideal conker.

Let's get started.

First things first, grab some water and pop in the conker, if it floats it's rotten on the inside but if it sinks then perfect.

To conquer the battle you can opt for either a hard or soft approach.

A hard conker will cause maximum shock on impact and break your opponent's shell but be careful as it could cause cracks in itself.

On the other hand, a soft conker is often used by a more defensive player as it allows the shell to bare the brunt of your opponent's attack.

This approach is often similar to the suspension of a car driving over a pothole.

General tips:

  1. Make the string hole as small as possible. The hole is going to be one of the weakest points for cracks. We want the conker equivalent of the exhaust port on the Death Star, not a train tunnel through a cup.
  2. Don’t use wire as it can be dangerous. It’ll be more likely to cut the conker from the inside and it won’t absorb any impact.
  3. As with people, the older your conkers are, the harder they get. The long game pays off in this business, so keep some for next year.
Have a go at the childhood game this Autumn!

The traditional method:

Soak it in vinegar, then bake it in an oven at 120 C for no longer than two hours.

Common problems with the traditional method:

Pickling it too much can rot the inside. Although you can coat it repeatedly, we’re not here to paint, we’re here to do battle.

Baking makes the outside brittle and if you over bake the inside of your conkers will char like burned toast.

The whole thing takes ages. Boring.

So now what?

Some kids have been smearing their chestnuts in hand cream . This softens the shell so it can take more impact (see "soft approach" above). Apparently that does the job against the traditional vinegar method.

Varnish. This makes it shiny and tough, but it could take a while depending on how dedicated you are.

Remember that these things are designed to break at some stage, so don’t spend your life making it too pretty. Varnish is also detectable, which is apparently a big thing in the world of professional conkers.

There have also been cases of people getting disqualified from national championships because they vacuum-impregnated their conker with epoxy resin, which we think is a bit industrial for your average playground, but you never know.

Conkers

Injecting the conkers with glue. The idea is that the glue will keep your conker tough from the inside, like a vaccine, or a cushion. We suggest filling the string hole with glue to minimise air gaps.

Charlie Bray , a former two-times World Conker Champion (yes, that’s a thing ), advises a more organic approach.

“There are many underhand ways of making your conker harder. The best is to pass it through a pig . The conker will harden by soaking in its stomach juices.”

Gross. Also, we’re not sure if that constitutes animal cruelty and we don’t want to get our wellies dirty.

(Image: Helen Rayner)

Things that the conker society will ban you for:

  • Dipping it in concrete
  • Using things that aren’t made of conker e.g. a billiard ball
  • Diamonds painted to look like conkers
  • Stones
  • Actual fighting

For the full players’ rules, look no further than the world conker championships website .

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