Easy Gift Project: Homemade Board Games

One of the best things about making stuff, woodworking or whatever, is being able to give something you personally made to someone else as a gift. I was originally asked if I could make this board game 3 months ago and I’m just now getting around to making it. And as it turns out, the board game was really quick and easy to make even including the time it took to make the template.

The board game I made is called Aggravation (sometimes called Wahoo). I have no clue how to play it but I’m sure a quick Google search could change that. The game is played with marbles. To make the divots for the marbles to rest in I used a specific marble router bit that I bought from Rockler. It is to be used in a plunge router with a guide bushing. If you don’t have a plunge router they do make an alternative that can be used in a hand held drill. I also bought a few marble sets at Rockler as well.

Back in the spring of 2015 I came across a trashed oak foot rest that went around a kitchen island bar. After bringing it home I was pleasantly surprised with how much usable material it yielded as very little of it had nail holes in it. The widest and longest piece salvaged was actually a glued up panel with finish on one side. There was just enough material here, along with another narrow piece, to make a 20” square board game.

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Running the oak through the planer quickly removed the finish and revealed a perfect, beautiful oak panel. I was quite surprised at the good quality of the wood. The final thickness was 11/16”.

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After removing the finish at the planer the panel could be cut into two 21” pieces at my miter saw station. As I always say, making my miter saw station has been the best shop improvement I’ve ever made. Having a dedicated storage station like this has made a huge difference in shop organization and efficiency. I LOVE it. Back to the project…before cutting the pieces I did cut off the few inches of planer snipe that were evident.

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I didn’t worry about face jointing my material as it was as flat as my eye could tell right from the beginning. I did edge joint each piece though. This will give perfect glue joints and make the finished panel look better.

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I like to use floating tenons the same way a biscuit jointer would be used when gluing up panels. These keep the top surfaces flush during glue-up.

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The tenons allow the panel to be assembled before putting it in clamps. A little persuasion with a small hammer is all that is needed. And glue, of course.

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While the panel was in clamps I started on the template. I used 1/2” PureBond hardwood plywood for the template. I’ve been using this plywood since building my miter saw station and I really like it. It’s formaldehyde free and made in the USA which is just great. It’s only sold at Home Depot.

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Before making this project I used SketchUp to work out the dimensions and generate an image with all of the dimensions to take with me in the shop. By “take with me in the shop” I meant that I emailed it to myself so I can view it on my phone without printing it. Man, I love technology. For the rough image with dimensions that I used for this project click here.

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With all of the hole center points located I used a forstner bit to drill all of the holes in the template. This didn’t take as long as I thought it would though. But it did make a mess.

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I didn’t worry about preventing any tear-out on the back of the template. Doing so is just wasted time. Pulling off all of the tear-out splinters only takes a couple seconds. The only thing that matters with this template is that the template sits flat on the material and the holes are in the appropriate location.

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Focusing back on the material for a minute, I removed any glue squeeze out and cleaned the glue joints with a scraper. I think I’ve used my scraper on every project since getting it. It drastically reduces sanding time.

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Then the panel was cut to it’s final size at the table saw.

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After attaching the template to the material with double sided tape I plunged all of the marble spots. I did mess up when making the template though. I don’t know why but I had the wrong size forstner bit size stuck in my head when I chose the drill bit which resulted in every hole being about 1/16” too big for the guide bushing on my router. Instead of making a new template I decided to give this one a go by pushing the router to the same direction while plunging each hole. In the end this worked out very well. I was also quite surprised again at how quick this process was. I plunged every one of those holes in about five minutes.

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The playing surface turned out great. No burning of the holes at all. Just a little sanding is all that was needed.

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I also decided to cut a 30 degree bevel on all four sides to make the bottom side smaller than the top side. This not only looks great but also creates a full length handle on each side. The bevel allows room for your fingers to grab the board regardless of where you grab it from.

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I ended up not putting a finish on this piece as the person who wanted it said she was going to paint some of the marble holes. Final thoughts: fast, easy, and nice looking board game that can be given as gifts. I cant emphasize on how fast this was to make though. Even with gluing up the panel, making the template, and recording the entire process (with duplicate overlay shots) It only took 3 hours! Now that the template is made I think a panel could be made and cut within 45 minutes. Anyone looking for a gift idea?!!

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  1. Nice project Jay! Definitely one of those that would be a piece of cake with the accuracy and speed of a CNC . I really liked your way of compensating for the slightly oversized template – Nice Save!

  2. Jay, great project. I haven’t played this game in years. One thing we did, was change the rules so you can get out of the rest area by rolling a 6 or 1 and you roll again on 6. You should consider marking the start holes to the bottom left of each move area, and paint the top circle to show that they can be used as a short cut, as well as the center hole which you can get back out of only by rolling a 1. The top circle, you can move in either direction to either run home, or knock out an opponent. Another nice touch is to paint the home area to match the color of marbles being used, as well as the rest area to match. Now I want to make one. Thank you :)

  3. Nice video. A bit of electrical tape works wonders wrapped around that “undersized bushing”. Been there, done that!

  4. Jay, I would like to wish you and the family a Very Merry Christmas and a great 2016. I’m the old retired Fire Chief and Master Sargent from Georgia. Just to give you a heads up and hopefully a little support, I will be starting my YouTube channel around the 1st of the year, it will be called Georgia Bubba Workshop.
    I have watched all your video’s and download some of your free plans, but I purchased the Miter Saw Station that I plan to build soon, I may tape it and this will be my first building video. Hope to see you in April at the woodworking show, keep up all the great work. Again you and Jamie and the pups have a great Christmas. God Bless America!

    There is a problem with select Question or Comment on your contact me area I get an error.

    Oh, I like your new Logo

    Ed White

    • Hey Ed. Merry Christmas to you and yours as well. I’m looking forward to Atlanta this year :) Thanks for letting me know about the error on that page. I’ve fixed it. Thanks!

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