I was recently inspired to build some cribbage boards after seeing some really nice samples on this site as well as elsewhere on the web (and after taking up the game again and losing regularly to my wife :-). We currently use a crib board that I must have built almost 20 years ago using a scrap piece of pine door jamb, a felt tip sharpie pen for numbering and a drill press. But now that I have more experience at building ‘stuff’, I’d like to make some nice boards from some nice woods – maple, birch, mahogany, walnut, wenge, etc…. But I dreaded the thought of drilling all those holes in a straight line and with consistent spacing. I thought of a few approaches:
1. print off a pattern, glue to the boards, drill the holes – quick and easy but still prone to error.
2. purchase a template (like the one from rockler) – quick and easy but not cheap for a piece of plastic with holes in it. And besides, what’s the challenge in that!
3. build a jig! of course, that’s the answer.
The two primary issues to address are: (1) keep the spacing of the holes consistent (2) keep the holes in good alignment. My initial thought was to have a base that had holes in it to match the crib board holes and a moving ‘sleigh’ with a peg that would be used to as an index in each hole. But again, I had to drill all the holes consistently and make sure the peg was a nice snug fit to prevent any movement. Ideally, you would want to use two indexing pegs to eliminate the sleigh from pivoting around a single indexing peg. Nope, there had to be a better way.
So below is my approach and design to a jig that can be used to drill holes for a crib board. Note that this is for a crib board that has two tracks (one per side for each player) with each track having 60 holes + 1 finish + 2 starter holes.
Issue 1: Spacing the Holes Evenly
The jig uses a base with a series of grooves spaced apart to match the spacing of the desired holes. For this jig, I spaced each groove to be 1/4” on center so 5 holes span exactly 1 inch. Then the groups of 5 were separated by 3/4”. There a 6 groups of 5 holes running the length of the board. Here is a pic of the base. I made this from scrap 3/4” oak ply.
The most tedious part was marking out the lines on the base to the exact spacing and then taking the time to cut the grooves on the table saw. These were cut with a single pass over the saw blade using a table saw sled. But I took my time and it turned out great.
Issue 2: Keeping the Holes in Alignment
What can I do to keep the holes aligned? I though of a fence type guide on the base but they would need to movable fences since I need to have two rows of holes on each side of the board. So instead of going that route, I opted for two dados cut the length of the base and spaced to match what I wanted the rows of holes spaced apart.
Below is a picture of the base with the grooves cut for the hole spacing and the dados cut for the row separation/spacing.
So, I’ve got a base with evenly spaced grooves and dados. Big deal!!! Not much good without something to make use of them. So next, I built a what I will call a sleigh. The sleigh has a frame on top to hold a crib board blank (3.5” x 12”). The bottom of the sleigh has a runner that fits into the dados for row spacing and an indexing strip that is placed across the width of the sleigh which fits into the grooves for spacing the holes. Below are a couple of pics showing the top and bottom of the sleigh.
So how does it work? First, place the jig base on the drill press table and align so that the drill bit is over the first groove and in the middle of the inner dado. Secure with screws or clamps. Next, prep a crib board blank to the correct size (again 3.5” x 12”) and place the blank into the sleigh frame. Position the sleigh so that the indexing strip sits in the first groove and the runner sits in the inner dado. Drill your first hole. Move the sleigh to the next groove and drill the next hole. Continue on until the outer first row of holes is done. Next move the sleigh back to the first groove but now position in the outer dado. Repeat the drilling process. When done, flip the blank around and repeat the above steps. Voila! One instant crib board!!! The pics below show the jig in action and a completed crib board test run using a piece of hardwood flooring. I think it turned out pretty good.
I need to get a really good drill bit now to produce clean holes and I might play with various size bits to see what is best. I think I’m going to produce another blank as well that has the dados a bit closer and narrower so that the rows of holes are a bit closer.
Thanks for your interest and reading along. If anyone has any questions, please let me know!