Checkerboard and Othello board

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Project by BobTheFish posted 06-03-2011 04:07 AM 1864 views 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

As part of my effort to show more of my various projects, here’s some of my very first attempts using veneer.

The checkerboard was my first dip back into the realm of woodworking in 5 years. I saw a number of interesting chess boards, and had many fond memories of my grandfather playing checkers with me.

My uncles all played chess, but for myself, the rules were a bit too complicated, and I loved the simplicity of checkers, which had only a handful of rules, and a simple way of moving the pieces. (in fact, all the board games I love tend to share that trait). It was autumn, and my grandfather had visited recently, and I felt as though I wanted to make something special for him for christmas.

I don’t have many tools, but I had stumbled upon a few sellers of veneer on ebay, (some of which I still use and love their product), and also decided upon paua shell, as a local artist is also a new zealander, and had pieces of the shell about. I fell in love with its striking loudness of color, and set out to find some sheet that I could incorporate into the project.

It’s not cheap nor easy getting paua shell, as it typically is sold in inlay blanks, and at much thicker chunks than what my purposes, and new zealand actually limits the amount that can be exported from the country per year. Nevertheless, I found a source I liked and order some, as well as some koa and birdseye maple.

Not only hand I been a bit ambitious project wise, but I also had inadvertently taken on some finicky materials, as shell loves to crack and break (unless you tape it first), the koa was dry and splintery, and the birdseye… well, it’s birdseye: the eyes LOVE falling out.

Nevertheless, I persevered, and cut all my veneers with a #11 blade and an aluminum straightedge, and made two matching boards. It was a learning experience, and I avoided the pitfalls of my first checkerboard, however, I also learned that it’s MUCH easier to make a small error with cutting veneer, and when it shows… boy does it show. The board itself looks fine, despite a few tiles being slightly more rectangular than square, but the edging is what killed me. less than 1/8th of an inch off on one portion of the substrate, or a slight variance in width made a HUGE difference. Veneer is still wood, and still wants to cut sometimes the way the grain dictates, and not one’s knife. A final outside frame was created out of Ipe (not pictured) and a coat of epoxy was applied (also not pictured). All in all, I was happy, and so was my grandfather. Though, I still have yet to make my own checkers.

The other picture was my second project. I used to play othello nightly with a friend from college, and thought I learned from my mistakes with the first board. I picked up some purple heart, got a bit too cocky, and decided to try and frame the squares with sterling silver square wire….. BIIIIIIIIG mistake.

My wire was a bit too thick, and stood proud. It also was half hard, so it didn’t stay put, and also wanted to bend back in a few places. I tried fixing it with sanding. It helped a bit, , but even in the pictures, you can see after some of the sanding, i still had wires that wouldn’t quite stay in place, (though it was now levelish), and gave me hell with the veneer. Though there isn’t a picture, I was able to fix a bit of the silver problem further with the use of some different glues, a little patience, and a LOT of swearing, pleading, and crying. The decorative edge is in a different wood that I forget its name, but has a bright yellowish orange color and some weird wavy grain to it. There’s some more purpleheart, cut against the grain to create a different effect, and some more of the dreaded wire.

If you EVER work with wire and want to do inlay, get the softest possibly wire you can, and DO NOT overwork it. you’ll work harden the metal and make it a pain in the but to do much with.

The othello pieces came out spectacular though with a bit of tape along the edge, which I proudly did by eye, and some black and white enamel paint.

the last picture shows why I really should invest in 3M. The amount of tape some of these projects require alone…

5 comments so far

View wiser1934's profile


524 posts in 3169 days

#1 posted 06-03-2011 04:14 AM

that checkerboard is fantastic. very well done even if you have a few minor glitches. still looks great

-- wiser1934, new york

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 2574 days

#2 posted 06-03-2011 04:21 AM

Thanks. I might give it another go some day. After I gain some more experience still, and perhaps with different woods (though again with the shell).

View degoose's profile


7234 posts in 3377 days

#3 posted 06-03-2011 11:44 AM

I love the Paua….

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View helluvawreck's profile


31348 posts in 2889 days

#4 posted 06-03-2011 01:20 PM

I think that these look great.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View dwlckn's profile


47 posts in 2586 days

#5 posted 06-04-2011 02:53 AM

I would feel honored to play a game on such a great looking board. Well done and thanks for sharing.

-- “Enjoy what you do, or do something else!”

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