Checkers, Anyone?


Permalink 01:28:32 am, by daryl Email , 1845 words, 13205 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun, Etc.

Checkers, Anyone?

For Christmas 2011 the adults in my family all agreed participate in a hand-made gift exchange. I drew my brother's name and after discarding several ideas I knew were too ambitious for my own limited home-made gift-building skills, I settled on a plan to build a checkerboard of wood, from scratch. This too was beyond my limited skill set, but it sounded fun. And I decided to document the process regardless of how it turned out...which wasn't too bad!

Wooden Checkerboard


The idea crystallized during a trip to Lowe's. I noticed some pre-cut hardwood ply sheets .25" thick and 23.75" x 23.75" square--just about the right size for a checkerboard. I figured I would use the plywood as a base, then glue thin squares (comprising the checkerboard) and trim to the plywood. ApplePly isn't cheap, but it's excellent quality and I figured my overall board would be lighter and stronger with a plywood base (versus using solid wood for the base).

ApplePly hardwood ply

A checkerboard is an 8x8 grid, so to fit on a sheet of ply that's less than 24" square, each grid square would need to be less than 3" (and I planned to add a border around the checkered grid too).

4-foot lengths of 2.5" Poplar strips (1/4" thick) seemed like a great option. Poplar is soft, but I picked strips with an almost white color--for better contrast when staining later.

Poplar strips
Poplar strips (4' x 0.25" x 2.5")

White Poplar
White Poplar strips

I knew it would be critical to cut my strips into exact squares or the checkerboard grid would never fit together, so I used an extra length of poplar to build a jig I could use while cutting. Basically, it acts as a stop: with this clamped in place, I can slide a strip of poplar in from the left and at the stop it should be exactly the right length for a cut.

Miter saw with jig
Miter saw with jig (basically a "stop" block glued to a strip of poplar)

The miter saw made quick work of the poplar strips. I had a new blade on the saw, but (in retrospect) I would have gotten better cut results from a finish blade, especially with soft wood like poplar. So I pulled out the Dremel tool and an attachment to (carefully) grind off some of the burs on my checker squares before sanding.

Dremel with course sanding attachment

Note: If you're ever trying this, use the lowest speed on your Dremel and a very light touch--this grinding wheel will chew through wood in a hurry.

Grinding wheel
Grinding wheel

With the initial bur removal done, hand-sanding commences! 64 pieces will be required for the checkerboard, but I've cut extras so I'll have more choices when fitting later. So, around 80 pieces to sand. My first pass was with a 120-grit foam sanding block, and I was focused mostly on the two edges of each square that I'd cut with the saw--smoothing those out.

Sanding: First pass

After a second sanding pass with a couple of 220-grit foam blocks, my pieces are smooth and bur-free. (How about my awesome sanding area? which I mean the concrete floor of my garage.)

Sanding done
Dremel and two passes of sanding complete

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Comments, Pingbacks:

Comment from: Lisa Bissell Paulson [Visitor] Email
Wow Daryl, really impressive! I love the idea of handmade Christmas presents and you have really done a fabulous job! Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year to you and yours. Lisa
PermalinkPermalink 12/31/11 @ 06:49
Comment from: Redbeard [Visitor]
Just played checkers with Arthur last night - good times!
PermalinkPermalink 01/03/12 @ 08:50

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Daryl's Take...

"Meandering ruminations, shared for the benefit of those who probably need to get out more."

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