2 October 2014

On Woodworking: The easiest thing I know how to make, part 3

Wherein the board is completed. As always, basic instructions in bold, followed by elaborations in regular print.

Step 7: Put an edge around the board.

For this board, I chose a simple plain edge. I picked some thin pieces of wood, planed them to be as wide as the board is thick, mitred the corners and attached them to the board.

A word about cutting mitres: for a piece this size, don't bother measuring the size of the board and then measuring that out again on the piece you want to cut. Just cut the first mitre, then hold the piece with that mitre in its correct corner, and then mark where the second mitre will go Easy. Which leads me to a word about measuring: whenever you can, don't. Just the other day I heard a professional woodworker say: Measurement is the enemy of accuracy. It sounds almost heinous to most people who live by the "measure twice, cut once" rule, but the mere fact that you would have to measure twice just to be sure tells you that measuring is inherently an opportunity to make a mistake. Many times- not always, I admit, but still many times- you are better off just holding the piece you wish to cut so it fits into someplace up against the place where it is to be fit, marking it, then cutting.

One final word about cutting mitres: pay attention to the direction of the cut. when the two mitres are cut your piece should resemble an elongated trapezoid. If it instead looks like a parallelogram, you've blown it. And yes, we've all done this boneheaded move from time to time.

The edge can be simply glued on the sides where the grain runs straight, but will need some reinforcement on the endgrain. I used finishing nails, which I then countersunk and covered with woodfiller made of sawdust and glue.

You can dress up the edge or leave it plain. It's up to you. I put two coats of red paint and three of green. I then sanded the paint lightly along the edges and corners, so a little of the red paint and some of the bare wood shows through. It's an antiquing effect.

The board ready for the next step.  Those things around it are Christmas ornaments I am making for bazaar season.

The edge of the board is a place where you can jazz the board up a bit. Here are some variations I have made using moldings I made with some of my molding planes, or a game with wells for the captured pieces. They are all based on an eight inch square board. You can do it however you like.

Optional step: Oh yeah, this thing has two sides...

You may, if you so desire, put a second game on the underside of the board. For this one I chose to put on the oldest continuously game in history: Nine Men's Morris, which, coincidentally, is often referred to in gaming circles as "the game on the other side of the board". The layout is very simple. I used a ruler, square and paint marker.

It's just three concentric squares with a right angle line crossing from the outer to the inner square on each of four sides. In all honesty, just look at the picture and copy it. Rules for the game are available all over the web. Or put on it a game that you like.  It's up to you.

Step 8: Finish the board.

Once again, how and with what is up to you. You should put some kind of protective coat over the wood, but what kind is your decision. You can paint on a coat of urethane or varnish, or rub in some oil or wax. You can make it glossy, or semi glossy, or matte.   I sprayed on some lacquer. It was quick and simple. Whatever you do, read the instructions, follow the safety rules. If you varnish, urethane or lacquer, remember to sand very lightly between coats. Don't be worried if you find that your first coat seems to have completely vanished without a trace. It sometimes happens that the wood sucks in the first couple of coats before you start to see the finish build up. Be patient, keep trying.

My only warning is to be careful if you are using some form of brush on finish.  If you used a water based paint for the squares don't use a water based urethane or varnish for the finish.  It will tend to begin to dissolve and spread the paint around, leaving you with a mess.

And now the board is finished and ready for years of games... assuming you have the pieces. I will cover a few ways to make the playing pieces in one final bonus post coming up real soon.

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