Backgammon Set

many woodworkers consider veneering to

be the most intimidating new skill to

learn but we're going to simplify the

process here on wood Quetta me as we

build this lovely backgammon set






this is a relatively simple project and

there aren't really any unusual hazards

that we have to worry about as we have

in some other episodes but as I work

with my lathe I will be wearing a full

face shield I'll be wearing my eye

protection under normal circumstances

and of course I always have my hearing

protection in as always paying attention

in the shop being aware of what you're

doing not working when you're tired or

distracted these are all common sense

items these are all up here you are your

own best protection in the shop

backgammon is said to be the oldest of

board games with examples haven't been

found in archaeological digs going back

5,000 years and if you come from a Navy

family like I do you'll know it is

acey-deucey rules are a little different

but the board game is the same now to be

perfectly honest I don't even play

backgammon yet but I thought it was much

more interesting than making a simple

checker board for practicing your first

veneering skills and we've done a few

things to make this whole process much

simpler I turned the dice Cup and the

checkers that we use to play the game

but the dice I bought now if you don't

have a lathe no worries you can buy the

dice Cup and the checkers and the dice

separately and use them on your game

board or you could simply buy an

inexpensive game throw the boarder out

that comes with it and make your own

secondly I simplified the game board

I designed it so that all of the

triangles the backgrounds and the two

colors for the players are all the same

size so one template allows you to cut

all of the veneers you need for the

backgammon board itself this greatly

simplifies the process we're also going

to build this set backwards from doing a

normal box normally we'd build the box

and then cut the panels to fit but it

be very difficult to put all of these

pieces together that makes up our game

board and fit it perfectly into the

opening available so we're not even

going to try we're gonna build the game

board first and then if necessary adjust

the size of the box to fit much simpler

to do that way and you'll get better

results and finally we're not going to

be using hot hide glue to apply our

veneers that's the traditional method

and it works very very well but it

involves expensive equipment that most

of us don't own and so I'm going to show

you a technique using standard yellow

glue that allows you to set your parts

in place and hold them down instantly

without waiting for glue to dry and

without needing a vacuum press so let's

get on with the build

before we get started let's take a

minute and talk about material choices I

made an error here and I want to make

sure you don't do the same backgammon

like most board games uses two different

colors of counters to represent the two

players and the tradition is to use a

dark colored wood for one player and

unlike colored wood for the other and

that's exactly what I did

I used walnut for the dark counters I

used maple for the light counters I had

some in the shop it was suitable for the

turnings and that's what I used

and so those colors directed the veneers

I chose for the light and dark triangles

that the game board requires I simply

used walnut veneer for the dark

triangles I needed and Holle veneer for

the light triangles I could have used

maple but Holly tends to maintain its

bright clear white color over decades

and generations and maple will tend to

darken over time so I wanted to use the

Holly for that the problem comes in with

the background material I chose the part

that goes in between the four quadrants

that we're going to create and the

triangles that go between the two colors

I chose a bird's-eye maple I thought it

would have enough contrast and I thought

that the bird's eye would give us an

interesting look I was right about the

bird's eye but I was wrong about the

contrast the maple that I got was way

too bright and close to the Holly there

was almost no way to tell the two apart

so rather than buying another veneer I

simply applied a little bit of golden

oak stain to my bird's-eye maple and

used that but in reality a better choice

of background veneer would have been the

right thing to do so consider things

like satin wood or pear or steamed

European beach some coast grained good

quality hardwood veneer that will have a

natural tan to rose color to it would be

an excellent contrasting veneer to the

two already being used on the game board

thicker or more brittle veneers are

often shipped flat but whenever

practical veneers will be rolled to save

you on shipping costs and if that's the

case you're gonna want to unroll the

veneers and flatten them out to make

working with them easier simply lay them

out and lightly clamp them between a

couple of flat panels leave them like

that for a few days and they'll be more

than flat enough to work with

all of the parts that make up the game

board can now be cut from the various

veneers and a veneer saw really is the

proper tool for this job

it cuts clean edges on your veneered

parts both width and across the grain

and won't try to follow the grain lines

like a knife blade we'll start by

cutting a couple of sections of each of

your veneers at five and a half inches

long a simple steel ruler makes an

excellent straight edge to guide this

initial cut and the game board requires

at least 52 triangles cut from three

different veneers so a template will be

used to ensure they're all the same

this is carefully marked out on a small

piece of stable plywood or MDF then

roughed out and carefully sand into the

layout lines taking the time to get this

template right will pay off as the game

board is assembled the base of the

triangular template is carefully aligned

with the cross cut end of the veneer

section then clamped in place and is

used to guide the saw to remove the

outside waste edge and being careful

that nothing moves the other leg of the

triangle is sawn along the template the

edge of the remaining veneer is already

cut to the proper angle so it can be

flipped over the template realigned and

the remaining leg sawn and then the

process repeated across the width of the

veneer section the design calls for a

border between the triangles and the

main background sections these are just

long thin pieces of veneer also known as

stringing the stringing is cut from the

dyed black piece of veneer using a

simple jig to ensure all the pieces are

the same width the jig

is made from a piece of hardboard with a

rabbet cut in one edge that is then

glued onto another piece of hardboard

the edge of the veneers fitted into the

rabbit and the lip above the rabbit

guides the saw for perfect cuts every

time you also have the option of buying

the stringing for an inlay banding

already made to use as your border the

last pieces of veneer we need to cut are

the center sections of the background

two of these pieces are needed and to

ensure they're the same size a small

piece of plywood is cut and that is used

to guide the saw when cutting the

background veneers

four sections are needed to make up the

actual gameplay part of the board these

quadrants are made up of the triangular

veneer pieces cut earlier the triangles

are pinned to a piece of foam core or

common cardboard to hold them in place

as they're laid out a simple strip of

tape along the foam core acts as a

straight edge to align all the triangles

begin by placing one of the player color

veneers along this base line alternating

between the colors and filling in with

the background triangles in between each

quadrant begins and ends with a

background piece use full triangles for

now they'll be cut in half later the

pins keep all the pieces in place while

you're working but don't worry about the

holes they leave those who closed

naturally as we apply glue and finish

each quadrant is assembled it's taped

together before the pins are removed I

secured two of the quadrants with

traditional veneer tape and the other

two using blue painters tape both work

perfectly well but the blue painters

tape is easier to get use and much

easier to remove once the quadrants were

bonded to the substrate the outer border

pieces of the quadrants now need to be

trimmed in half and another simple

plywood template makes this easy and

keeps them the same it should be the

same five and a half inches that the

triangles are in height and it should be

nine inches long according to the plan

but you may have to adjust this a little

bit for your triangles

the panels were glued up of cherry

grease on and planed down to a quarter

of an inch and this is also a good time

to mill up the half-inch stock that will

make up the box sides two panels are

glued up sanded smooth and trimmed

square leaving a little bit of extra in

both dimensions if you don't have the

ability to resaw and glue up thin panels

these can be cut from quarter-inch

plywood or MDF but you will need to

purchase extra veneer to cover the

outside face

now begins the veneering process a line

is struck a quarter-inch in along two

adjacent edges of each panel and these

borders are then covered with blue

painters tape these marks will be the

starting point for laying out the veneer

traditionally this sort of veneering is

done with liquid hide glue but it

requires specialized equipment tools and

training contact cement is also commonly

used in veneering but absolutely does

not allow for adjusting the fit of parts

as they're laid out so that's not the

best option for this project either so

we're going to use common yellow wood

glue but not in the way you might expect

apply an even but complete layer of glue

to the face of the substrate and the

back face of all the veneer pieces then

set them aside and let them dry without

putting them together the veneer parts

will want to curl from the glue so pin

them down to your board while they dry

as you can see here my glue coverage

wasn't quite adequate you want smooth

but complete coverage across all your

parts a quadrant is now laid glue

facedown on top of the panel carefully

aligned with the border marks scribed

earlier and secure it in place with a

couple of pieces of painters tape

the secret to this entire process is a

hot iron a piece of brown craft paper is

set over the veneer and the veneer is

pressed in place using a common

household iron set to the cotton setting

the heat and pressure from the iron will

bond the two dried glue layers between

the substrate and the veneer this is

about as easy and effective a process

for veneering as there is one of the

black border strings is carefully

positioned along the top edge of the

quadrant secure it in place and bonded

to the substrate using the iron the

section of background veneer in the

center is next and the same process is

used note that I'm working from one side

to the other this helps to prevent air

from being trapped between the veneer

and the substrate the second border line

is placed and pressed down and then the

second quadrant to complete this side of

the game box a straight edge is clamped

along the outsides of the game board and

all of the various components slightly

trimmed to give a clean edge the excess

is removed with a sharp chisel note how

well bonded these parts are even at the


the panels were originally made oversize

and two edges scribed with a quarter

inch border with the gameboard laid down

the other two edges can be trimmed off

so they also have a quarter inch border

we won't go too deep into the process of

making a box but there are a few tricks

I want to show you as we go four pieces

are ripped to four and one-eighth of an

inch wide and each gets two grooves

quarter inch wide quarter inch deep and

a quarter inch in from the edge normally

when building a box the sides would be

cut to length and then the panel trimmed

to fit inside the grooves that I created

but I can't do that here because of our

veneered surface so there is a fairly

simple trick to get around it and what

I'm gonna do is I'm going to dry fit two

of the sides onto the panels and just

lay them up using my parallel clamps

just a little bit of pressure just

enough to hold everything firmly

together then I can lay my longer side

in this case across I'm aligning it with

the panel so that I know it's square but

I'm just going to mark the intersection

on the outside of each piece and I'll do

the same for the shorter pieces rotating

this all 90 degrees and then strike

those lines right across that gives me

the final size of my mitered sides

in a perfect world you could now just

lay the bevel of your saw over at 45

degrees cut all four sides and have a

perfectly square mitered box when you're

finished but that's rarely the case so

I'm going to show you a quick tip here

on how to get perfectly mitered sides

even if your saw isn't quite up to snuff

both long sides and both shorter sides

are cut to the exact length measured out

previously and using the stop on the

miter gauge ensures that both pairs are

exactly the same

the ends are recut with the blade set to

45 degrees but I'm not mitering the full

thickness of the material I'm leaving a

small flat at the bottom of each end

the actual miter joints themselves are

cut on the router table removing most of

the waste on the table saw

makes for cleaner cuts and using the

router bit ensures that the cuts are

exactly 45 degrees the micro jig grip

block safely holds and controls the part

and the MDF backs up the cut and keeps

the part Square to the fence

it's time to start finishing the panels

that we've created before assembling the

box but sanding is really not an option


the sanding dust especially from the

darker pieces will tend to get into the

pores of the lighter pieces spoiling the

contrast that we've worked so hard to

create in this panel and that's where

our card scraper comes in handy the card

scraper is a flat piece of quality steel

we've squared the edge and then rolled

the corner flaring a little bit just a

little bit of the steel outward creating

what's called a hook and this acts

almost like a plane blade to micro

scrape the material removing material

not creating dust but rather tiny little

shavings that then do not get further

buried back into the pores of the wood

it gives us a very fine surface it's a

very smooth surface and it's a really

wonderful technique to add to your

repertoire and I can't recommend it

highly enough

you'll want to scrape along the grain of

your surface and using your thumbs

behind the scraper to give it a little

bend will keep the corners from digging

in the game board should be as smooth

and durable as possible

so a clear water based grain filler from

Crystal Lac is applied a soft plastic

squeegee is used to work the grain

filler into the pores working diagonally

across the grain sort of like grouting


several layers of a high solids top coat

is what's recommended and with boxes

it's almost always easier to finish all

the parts before assembly just avoid

getting finish on the miters

assembling the game box is quick and

easy the side pieces are laid out in

order face down carefully aligned with

one another then secured together using

painters tape this assembly is then

carefully flipped over

and glue is applied to all of the

mitered faces cover the edges completely

but sparingly to avoid squeeze out the

panels are then inserted into the

grooves and the box sides wrapped around


the tape applied previously acts as a

hinge holding the joints together and

aligned until clamps can be applied

get all the clamps properly positioned

before applying any pressure and gently

tighten the clamps in sequence applying

pressure equally in both directions to

keep all the mitered faces aligned as

pressure as applied

now the sealed box can be split in half

on the table saw this is why the sides

were created to 4 and 1/8 wide the RIP

fence is set to 2 inches the blade set

to just over 1/2 inch high and three of

the four sides cut with the saw cutting

the fourth side like this is not safe

the box could come apart uncontrolled or

could pinch the blade a pair of spacers

the same thickness as the blade are

slipped into the curve of the box and

gentle pressure applied with the clamp

to hold everything together during the

cut a few quick passes with a good

quality block plane will clean up the

saw edges building the box is one unit

and cutting it in half ensures that the

grain pattern will match when the box is

closed the final details to complete the

game board include a pair of hinges a

couple of latches and a handle

as I mentioned at the beginning of the

episode if you don't have a lathe you

can simply buy the game pieces to go

with your backgammon board but for those

who do heavily here's how I turn the

pieces for my game the counters or

checkers can be any size or style that

you like the important part here is that

they're all the same so I turn one that

I liked and double-faced taped it to my

tool rest which made turning consistent

pieces much easier as each chicka is

turned and sanded it's much easier to

finish them while they're still on the

lathe I used doctors woodshop walnut

finishing oil simply applying it with a

paper towel while the parts were still


the chick can then be parted off and the

whole process repeated 15 times for each

color the backgammon set should also

include a dice Cup and should you decide

to turn one it's not all that difficult

I turned mine with a slightly narrowed

waist and a bead detail on top and

bottom a waist at the top of the cup was

parted off and a 1 in 3/8 hole board

into the center if you have a drill

chuck for your tail stock boring out the

waist really speeds the hollowing

process the cup is sized inside now

large enough to allow the dice I bought

to be properly shaken but the sides

shouldn't be too thin the finish here

was also walnut oil applied on the lathe

and finally the cup parted off and

that's all there is to it the backgammon

set is now ready for game night in the

next episode of wood Kadim II I'm gonna

show you how to use the factory miter

gauge that comes with your table saw

we're going to a cure eyes it so it fits

properly within your slot show you how

to clean it and tune it up and show you

an easy way to set angles perfectly

every time and as a bonus we'll also

show you how to make this excellent

auxilary fence it can slide back and

forth to adjust to the blade position

whether you're angled or not has a flip

stop that can be positioned anywhere

along its length and an extension for

longer pieces so be sure to join us for

the next episode of wood Kadim ETV

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