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Game Board - WWK-411

David Marks in a well-matched game of chess played out on a handmade game-board of

wengae and maple.

This game board is a union of five spectacular woods: wengae and quilted maple create the
checkerboard pattern, while an ebony and satinwood inlay separates the grid from the claro-
walnut frame.

Don't let the size of this piece deceive you. After all, good things do come in small packages.
This project is actually an exercise in advanced woodworking -- as two contrasting hardwoods
are joined to create an exquisite pattern. Through a clever technique, the checkerboard pattern
is created without having to cut out the individual squares.

Veneers are created by cutting stock into 3/32-inch-thick laminates that are then glued onto 2-
inch-wide substrates. Once dry, the strips are laid out and edge-glued into an alternating
pattern of light and dark wood. Next, this "striped block" is cut across the grain, forming strips
with a checkered pattern. A decorative banded inlay is created to distinguish the checkerboard
from the walnut frame.
Veneered Strips and Constructing the Checkerboard


At the band-saw, cut 1/8-inch laminates from maple and wengae stock that has been milled 2-
5/8 inches wide by 24 inches long (figure A).

A total of sixteen strips are needed: eight strips of wengae and eight of maple (figure B).

Run the laminates through the drum sander, milling each one to a thickness of 3/32-inch.

Use a caliper to confirm that the strips are a uniform thickness.

At the table saw, prepare the substrate of the board by cutting eight strips of apple plywood
that are 2-5/8 inches wide by 24 inches long (figure C).

Creating the checkered board actually involves three separate glue-ups. The next few steps
involve the first of those -- gluing the laminates to the substrate. The strips are glued up in two
separate stacks: one stack of maple, and one of wengae. Cauls set inbetween the strips will
separate them and keep them from sticking to one another. Cauls clamped on both ends of
each stack will protect the veneers and help even out the clamping pressure.

Tip: Prior to the glue-up, add paste-wax to the cauls to prevent glue from sticking and drying to
Begin by applying slow-setting plastic-resin glue to a substrate and a veneer piece (figure D).
As you glue them together, use blue carpenter's tape to prevent the veneer and plywood from

Place the first stack in the clamps, and add a caul (figure E).

Glue up the next laminate and substrate in the same way. Repeat the process, and continue
placing the stacks in the clamps (figure F).

When you've finished one set of laminates and strips, tighten the clamps and add additional
ones to the top of the stack (figure G).

Repeat the process for the other set of veneers and substrate-strips.
Once the glue has dried for 24 hours, remove the clamps, take the veneered strips to the
workbench and clean up one side of each strip using a belt sander (figure H).

At the table-saw, place the sanded edge against the fence, and trim-cut each piece.

Next, set the fence to 2-1/2 inches (i.e., the size of the game-board squares), place the freshly
trimmed side against the fence, and cut the strips to final width. We cut the strips with a 40-
tooth carbide combination-blade for an extra smooth cut. Use anti-kickback rollers to help keep
the stock firmly against the fence (figure I).

Important: Be sure to leave one wengae strip and one maple strip wide. Simply clean up one
edge, and mark them. The wide strips will be needed for some adjustments later in the project.
To avoid mixing the pieces up, label the two oversized pieces with chalk (figure J).

Once all of the strips are cut to size, the next glue-up can get underway. Set the eight strips
onto some waxed MDF so that they won't stick to the flat surface. Alternate the colors to form a
striped block, keeping the oversized pieces on the outside edges of the square.
For efficiency, stand the veneered strips on edge and add yellow glue to one side (figure K) --
keeping the strips in the order in which you laid them out.

Then, as you set each of the pieces in position, add glue to the opposite side of each strip.

Use pipe clamps to pull the strips together, then apply cauls along the top and clamp the
assembly to the workbench to provide even downward pressure (figure L).

Once block has dried, use a hand-scraper to remove the hardened glue from the top surface
(figure M).

Using the cross-cut sled at the table saw, trim one edge of the striped block to form a 90-
degree corner (figure N).
Using the freshly sawn edge as a reference, cut 2-1/2-inch-wide strips from the striped block.
Set the stock against the fence, and cut the striped board into strips (figure O). Once all the
strips are cut, you'll have all the pieces necessary to make the checkerboard portion of the
game board.

Now the third glue-up can begin. As before, stack the strips and add glue to the edges of the
cut strips.

Then, carefully add glue to the opposite edge of each strip (figure P) as you lay the strips edge-
to-edge, flipping every other strip to create the checkered pattern (figure Q). Take your time,
and align each strip so that the corners of the squares line up properly.

Use blue carpenter's tape to keep the strips from slipping out of place, and use pipe clamps to
pull the board together (figure R).

As before, provide even downward pressure by adding cauls along the top and clamping the
board to the workbench (figure S).
Allow the glue to dry for several hours.

The finished game board displays the luxurious walnut frame highlighted by a contrasting
decorative inlay.

With the, checkered center portion of the game board glued up and dried, it can be trimmed to
its final dimensions. Then work can now begin on the walnut frame and inlaid border.


At this point in the project, the checkerboard has two finished edges and two slightly oversized
edges that are slightly uneven. The extra width was needed to adjust the squares so that they
would line up perfectly during glue-up. Now that the two wide strips on the outside have served
their purpose, their two edges can be trimmed to make the checkerboard a perfect square.

Measure out 2-1/2 inches from the first glue joint, and use a steel-rule straight-edge to draw a
line (figure A). Do the same on the opposite side of the board.

At the table saw, carefully trim away the excess stock on both sides using the layout marks as a
guide (figure B).
As seen on the prototype, an inlaid band is added to separate the frame from the checkered
portion of the game board. The decorative accent is created by sandwiching a strip of
satinwood between two strips of ebony (figure C).

At the band saw, cut ebony and satinwood stock into banding strips that are 30 inches long by
1-1/8-inches wide and 1/16-inch thick (figure D).

Run the strips through the drum sander to take them down to final thickness.

With the banding strips cut, work can begin on the walnut frame. To visually differentiate the
frame from the checkered portion of the board, we selected figured claro walnut. The stock we
used was 1 inch thick and ripped to a width of 4-1/4 inches. Four such pieces were cut to a
length of 30 inches.

At the jointer, flatten the edges of the inside edge of the stock (figure E).
To attach the ebony and satinwood to the frame, apply a thin, even coat of yellow glue to the
edge of the frame and to the banding (figure F). It's a good idea to use a rubber roller to
distribute the glue evenly.

Center the banding onto the edge, adding the pieces a layer at a time (figure G). Attach the
banding with carpenter's tape so that they don't slip.

Note: It's not necessary for the banding to run the full length of the frame stock since miters
will be cut on each end of the frame pieces.

When you clamp the pieces together to dry, set the glued stack down onto a 1/16-inch shim.
This will raise the stock to ensure that the banding will overlap both sides.

Add cauls to both sides, and tighten the clamps securely (figure H). As you tighten, gently tap
the edges of the banding with a dead-blow hammer to seat the pieces.
Once the glue has dried, use a cabinet scraper to smooth the banding flush with the frame
stock (figure I).

Next, the miters can be cut on the frame stock so that the pieces will form a square frame. The
miters must be cut carefully to avoid damaging the thin banding that is now attached. Cut the
stock pieces one at a time using the mitering jig on the table saw (figure J).

After making the first 45-degree cut on the end of the frame stock, line it up against the
checkerboard (figure K) to mark the position of the miter cut on the other side.

Tip: As you cut the frame pieces, mark each one with chalk reference marks to match the frame
pieces to each side of the board.

Using the layout mark as a guide, clamp a stop-block on to the fence of the miter jig (figure L),
and cut the second 45-degree miter.
Next, miter the end of the second frame-stock piece. Line the second piece up against the
checkerboard (figure M) and mark the position of the second cut.

Repeat these steps for the other frame pieces, methodically working your way around the board
and marking each piece to correspond with a specific side of the board. Continue until you have
each section of the frame cut and fitted (figure N).

If necessary, plane the mitered edges to make any adjustments to the fit.

With the checkered center and the frame-pieces made, can begin on the spline joinery to join
the frame to the board.


At the table router, cut a dado in all four sides of the checkerboard using a 3/16-inch slot cutter
set for a dept of 3/8-inch.

Use the same settings to cut through-dados along the inside length of the frame (figure A) on
all four parts.
Stop-dados are cut along the miters, since there will be some decorative shaping of the frame
later. Mark the miter about an inch from the end (figure B) to indicate the end of the stop

Remember that each miter has a left and right side, so clamp mitered stop-blocks to the fence
to ensure accuracy.

Referencing the show-side of the frame-stock down, cut a stop-dado on the right side of all four
pieces (figure C).

Next, re-set the stop-block on the fence, then cut stop-dados on the left side of all four pieces
(figure D).

The splines for the dados are cut from walnut on the band saw. Cut a piece of walnut stock into
strips that are 3/4-inches wide by 23-1/4 inches long and 3/16-inch thick.

At the drum sander, sand all of the walnut strips to uniform thickness.

At table saw, cut the strips into four long splines and four short splines.
Check the fit of the splines before gluing (figure E). Avoid splines that are too tight, as this may
cause problems due to expansion of the wood later on. If the splines are too snug, you may
need to do a little extra sanding or scraping to finesse the fit.

To cut the miter on the ends of the four long splines, use the disc sander. Tape the four long
splines together, and use a 45-degree jig at the sander to ensure the proper angle (figure F).

Since the wing-cutter left a curve at the end of the stop-dado on the mitered frame, the ends of
the short splines need to be rounded to match the fit of the dados. To do this, trace the
rounded shape onto the end of the spline stock using the wing-cutter as a guide (figure G).

At the disc sander, grind the stack of short splines to match the curve of the layout mark (figure
The challenge of the final glue-up is to getting all of the pieces to line up so that the decorative
banding of ebony and satinwood runs seamlessly all around the frame. Begin by placing the
checkerboard onto a 1/4-inch caul (figure I) to raise it enough match the height of the 1-inch
frame. Check the fit of the pieces to ensure that all pieces come together perfectly.

Use slow-setting plastic-resin glue to allow ample opportunity to line up the joints during glue-
up. Brush glue onto the short splines, then slide them into position in the corresponding dados
(figure J).

Brush glue into the dados and onto the long splines, and slide the long splines into position as
well (figure K).

Bring the pieces of the frame together with the board, and use a band-clamp to pull the joints
together (figure L), making any necessary adjustments to the alignment as the clamp is
Once the pieces are lined up precisely, secure the assembly with clamps from all directions
(figure M), and allow the glue to dry.

The contrasting colors and complementary textures come into play to make the finished game
board a visual reflection of fine woodworking.

For the expert woodworker, the next challenge might be to use a lathe to turn and curve a set
of chess-men from wengae and maple. Or you might just opt to play checkers.

For the final steps in the creation of the game board, the edges of the board are given a
decorative bead and bevel, and a wood finish is applied.


Once the frame has dried, the banding lines are inspected to make sure that they matched up
precisely (figure A).
To give the frame a little more dimension, the edges are shaped. A decorative bead is added
along the upper edge, and a bevel is cut along the bottom.

At the table router, use a 5/16-inch beading bit to cut the top edge of the frame (figure B).

At the table saw, cut the bevel along the bottom edge of the board. Set the blade to 25 degrees
so that he bevel cuts into the underside of the bead on the top (figure C).

It's a good idea to use pressure-rollers clamped to the fence (figure D) to help keep the board
flat as you cut the bevel.

Clean up the edges and level the top surface of the board using a hand scraper (figure E).
Use a sanding block with 320-grit sandpaper to eliminate any small imperfections left by the
scraper on the surface (figure F).

For the finish, we applied a linseed-tung oil combination (figure G) to penetrate the wood fibers
and provide a finish with a warm glow.


FINAL DIMENSIONS 29" L x 29" x W 1" D
Apple Plywood 8 20 1-8" 20 1-2" 1-2" Substrate
Wenge 8 20 1-8" 2 1-2" 3-32" Veneer
Quilted Maple 8 20 1-8" 2 1-2" 3-32" Veneer
Claro Walnut 4 29" 4 1-2" 1" Frame
Claro Walnut 4 4 3-4" 13-16" 3-16" Splines for Miters
Claro Walnut 4 20 1-8" 13-16" 3-16" Splines for Frame
Ebony 8 20 1-2" 1" 1-16" Edge Banding
Yellow Satinwood 4 20 1-2" 1" 1-16" Edge Banding
Finish : Tung-oil