Building a Mancala 1.0 my process

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Project by JAGWAH posted 1525 days ago 5054 views 10 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have often seen from time to time pictures of ancient Mancala games. Old rubbed out stones or wood. The look of a Mancala board all worn down from hundreds of hands, time and the dropping of stones has always appealed to me.

While I can’t get that history of use and look into a Mancala board I make, I at least wanted to build one for myself.

This is about the first Mancala I’ve ever built. It’s not about the right way or the perfect way. This is about my process, wandering about my shop and my mind perusing the possibilities and creating a way to eventually build that final, my kinda perfect, Mancala board.

It was a dark and stormy wednesday and I had nothing better to do…

Looking about the shop for something to do it occurred to me it might be time to do a walk-about in the shop building a Mancala. I looked and really didn’t find very many choices for wood. I did have a nice piece of figured Cherry. That would do.

After deciding on the shape which was not difficult I pondered the cup cut outs and thought about turning the cups on the lathe, attaching them to the board.I settled on the idea of making a rossette type cutter. After a bit of mind wandering it occured to me that I had several panel raising bits. The ogee panel raising bit had a bearing I could remove. I drilled a centering hole for each cup the diameter of the panel bits bearing shaft. Rather than using the router it seemed to me chucking this puppy in the drill press might be safer and it worked perfectly.

Now when all the holes had been drilled it seemed the sides of each cup was to sharp and steep. My problem was, how could I route the edges of the cups with no surface for a bearing to guide on? It ocurred to me I might attach a disc the diameter of the cups to the router base with the round over bit at it’s edge. By inserting this into each hole I could spin the router and thus rout the cup edges. But as I was doing this it occured to me to simply attach a centering pin to the router base exactly the radius of the cups. This way worked perfectly. Shavings didn’t get trapped and I could see better what was going on.

The pictures show the process of each task. I made the pivot pin from a 1/4’ bolt. This may be a silly blog post but I thought it might be helpful to some who are new to woodworking and the process. You don’t need a perfect plan when you enter the shop. And the decisions you make may not work but the neurons you stimulate stay lit up and lay back to help you later.

This is just a prototype but like a lot of things I buildthis process typical to my habits. I have a pretty good idea now how I’ll build the final Mancala board although I know there will be a Mancala 2.0 before the final one.

I hope this is the proper place to post this. I wanted it as a blog but then couldn’t seem to post the pics.

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

21 comments so far

View Kate's profile


396 posts in 2471 days

#1 posted 1525 days ago

Looks good and I like the info along with it. Sounds like you put a lot of thought into it. Thanks for posting.

-- Kate,

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 1680 days

#2 posted 1525 days ago

I am pondering filling and sanding out the holes when I’m done but I already have discovered a uniqueness to the holes. They amplify the tone of the stones as they are dropped into each cup. It may be a nice side effect to their need..

Clearly in my mind if I was as talented as a few of the great carvers here like Jordan, Lisa Chan or Kolwdwrkrsgirl for example, I could carve a killer green heart gecko or ebony centipede shape for the board but alas I’m Just A Guy with A Hammer.

And please I only had room to note a few of the marvelous carvers here, I envy you all as I can only carve a turkey,but not so good, then again it is a tasty.

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

View Cher's profile


934 posts in 1690 days

#3 posted 1525 days ago

You have done a good job there Bob. Now let the games begin.

-- When you know better you do better.

View lumberdustjohn's profile


1246 posts in 1763 days

#4 posted 1525 days ago

My neighbor’s son made some of these for me to pass out at Christmas.
Not near as nice as this, but the thought was considerate.
Got the flat colored marbles they put in fish bowls for game pieces.

Very nice selection of wood for your project.
It looks great!

-- Safety first because someone needs you.

View DaddyZ's profile


2375 posts in 1637 days

#5 posted 1525 days ago

Nice Board JAGWAH !!! brings ideas

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View a1Jim's profile


111999 posts in 2173 days

#6 posted 1525 days ago

Hey Bob
Cool project I’ve never heard of this game before.

-- Custom furniture

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 1680 days

#7 posted 1525 days ago

Here’s a simple downloadible playable game Mancala. The kids will like it too.

And here is a better description of the Mancala game rules

Here’s a pic of a cool one, but I didn’t build it Photobucket

Just a thought…you guys have to forgive me for not sanding the burn marks out of the prototype. I mean sheesh i sanded for an hour and thought what the hey, it’s a prototype right?

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

View LesB's profile


1058 posts in 2039 days

#8 posted 1525 days ago

These are great games.
I have made a number of them.
Your method seems to work well but you might find it easier to make a pattern for the holes in a piece of 1/4” masonite. Then use a template guide on your router with a “dish cutting” bit (flat bottom with rounded bottom corners) cut each of the recesses. It is a lot faster and easier and there is no hole and little sanding.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Les Hastings's profile

Les Hastings

1274 posts in 2369 days

#9 posted 1525 days ago

I’ve never heard of it either. looks and sounds like a cool game. Great job on the board too. Thanks for all the info and the post. May have to make one or two of these myself for birthdays gifts. One for me and the wife too.

-- Les, Wichita, Ks. (I'd rather be covered in saw dust!)

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 1680 days

#10 posted 1525 days ago

LesB your right about the template idea. I was trying to get fancy with the shape.

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

View Cher's profile


934 posts in 1690 days

#11 posted 1525 days ago

Bob you have started something very interesting here. I’m sure these would make nice gifts.

-- When you know better you do better.

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 1680 days

#12 posted 1525 days ago

Actually there are a few here that beat me to the idea.

Amanda@ and

Steve @

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

View Cher's profile


934 posts in 1690 days

#13 posted 1525 days ago

I hadn’t seen them before so yours is the first for me.

-- When you know better you do better.

View grizzman's profile


6767 posts in 1899 days

#14 posted 1525 days ago

hey bob , this is really cool…this is wood working to me…inspiration when in your shop…and making the tools you have me there is no such thing as the only tool that will do a job…good work buddy…glad to see it…grizzman

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Jordan's profile


1358 posts in 1721 days

#15 posted 1525 days ago

Thanks for introducing me to something I’d never even heard of. From the photo it looked very big, what size are the hole diameters?


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