I love a good game of that classic world domination board game risk. I like it so much that I play the game with family and friends to the point where we needed a traveling trophy to encourage more face to face games instead of electronic games. The solution: A wooden board capable of being played upon, but intended as a trophy for the victor the that tournament.
I currently have a custom risk board my father made me years ago, you can see that amazing piece of wall art (and special occasion game board) above, so it seemed appropriate that since I have recently taken up woodworking as a hobby, I would recreate a similar board for a trophy using the same techniques.
**Upgrade Option: I will try and include techniques that will potentially cost more, but produce much nicer results similar to the non-trophy risk board above.
Step 1: Materials
To start off with I had a few goals in mind: Keep it cheep, and have it look nice enough to be desired as a trophy. So when I created a fretwork shelf (picture above), I had a lot of 1/4" scrap laying around from the edges. This appeared to be the most economical way for me to create a risk board, using nothing but scrap, and put together with time and talent. (I spent around $35 on stain and thats about it, and i have a TON left, so it virtually cost me nothing.)
A variety of 1/4" scrap hardwoods (Mahogany and Hard Maple in this case)
One piece of scrap 1/2" birch plywood at least 21x29 inches in size
One scrap piece of 2x4 about 31" or more in length
Wood Stains (6 of any color wood you prefer, and 1 island water for the ocean)
A paint marker (or talent with a brush and some black paint)
A computer with printer to print out your pattern
Painter's tape for clean cuts
Can of spray glue
Scroll Saw (Could use coping saw for a handmade approach)
Table saw or miter saw (Handsaw also works)
Router table with straight bit (Dado blade on a saw would work, or a nice set of chisels would work)
**Upgrade Option: Instead of staining the wood, use a variety of different hard woods with different grains and natural colors for a very elegant look. Also replace the 2x4 with a nice piece of hardwood.
Step 2: Pattern and Cutting Your First Continents....
The first major step is to get a copy of the map that you prefer. I have about 3 different styles of risk boards in my possession, and have decided upon one of the newer styles based off personal preference. Use whatever board you have available (you will need the countries to match the same shape as the cards in the game).
Pattern Creation (Most likely not the most efficient way, but works):
1) Lay out the map and take pictures from the same height above the map and take enough pictures so there is overlap between the multiple frames. Then test print one of the images on your PC, and ensure it prints to the right size of your board. Adjust the print scaling percent to enlarge or reduce the size as needed.
2) Print all pictures, lay them out and tape them together to assemble a full board pattern.
3) Cut out each area that isn't connected to another area with a scissors, or where a natural break won't matter (ie. an ocean, or another body of water). If you are using different styles of wood, ensure you cut each continent apart from each other (ie. Europe and Asia).
Prepping and Cutting the countries:
1) Take your scraps of wood and tape both the top and bottom of them with painters tape, this helps reduce tear out from the scroll saw, lubricates the blade, and also makes it easier to remove the pattern after its cut.
2) lay out your wood pieces and pattern pieces to ensure you will get the best pieces of wood with the least amount of waste from each country cut out.
**Upgrade Option: Attempt to cut out full continents from the same piece, not only does this create nice wood grain continuity, but also makes them fit together like a puzzle with virtually no effort. I was able to do this for 4/6 continents, but didn't have enough large scraps for Europe and Asia, so they were more difficult and less pristine upon assembly.
3) Once you have everything laid out, you can use the spray glue to attach the pattern to the painters tape on the wood. Let it dry for a few minutes.
4) Start cutting via the scroll saw or coping saw after you get your safety gear on . Cut out the whole connected continents first, then just piece them apart afterwards to create pieces that fit together like a glove. Don't worry about being exact with your cuts, that is the beauty of a natural shoreline, once the pattern is gone, no one will know the difference between the cut and what it was supposed to be. Just try to ensure any pieces that touch the edge of the map are straight as you can get.
Step 3: Test Placement
Once all the pieces are cut, test the fit and remove the painters tape from them, sand off any rough edges if any. If any have a rough fit now, make sure you sand/recut them as appropriate to fit. In my case, I had a lot of work to do in Asia as I needed to make individual countries rather than the whole continent and then cut the countries out. This took some time and very interesting results, but some real character.
It helps to place them on the original board as we get ready for the next steps.
**Tip: write the country name on the back of each piece to ensure you remember what country it is in case they get mixed up, unless you like puzzles.
Step 4: Prepping the Ocean
Cut a piece of 1/2" plywood to the desired size of the board. Mine was 21x29" and provided enough space for the countries and a bit more for the overlapping frame in the upcoming steps. Once cut to the appropriate size we need to turn the ocean blue.
Option 1: Paint it blue
Option 2: Color it blue with a marker (previous results are decent as this is how it was done on my original wooden board)
Option 3: Stain it blue with some custom mixed wood stain (Island blue is the color my local big box store could make for me out the clear wood stain base. (Now I have a solid quart of blue wood stain for... future use i guess).
**I really liked the outcome of the wood stain option as it gave it that nice wood grain look for the water. Turned out very nice. The other 2 options take away from the nice solid wood look, but do have their place.
1) Simply apply the wood stain as directed on the can with a rag or towel, wait the designated amount of time, and wipe it all off until nothing else comes off the wood. Let it dry.
Step 5: Make Your Continents Unique...
**Upgrade Option: Skip this step if you have a different hardwood for each continent. Natural colors will look AMAZING!
Now expand upon the use of your stains and stain each continent a different color. Let them dry.
Once all have been stained and dried reassemble to see if the colors match your preferred tint. Reapply as needed.
Step 6: Creating a Border
1)Put on your safety equipment, ensure you know what your doing with your equipment. Use featherboards and push sticks when needed. (I chomped into my push stick while prepping the wood here, and its the first time for that, but mistakes do happen. Wreck your push stick, not your hand)
2)Next cut your 2x4 in half and then in half again on your table saw. This should create roughly four 5/8"x 1.5" boards.
3) Now, using your table saw or miter saw, cut the 45 degree mitered corners with each board being 2" longer than the width and 2" longer than the length of the ocean plywood. This gives you a 1/2" overhang onto the ocean and 1" beyond the board so you don't see the edges of the plywood. (In my case I had a 21x29" ocean board, so I used 23" height mitered cuts, and 31" mitered width.)
4) Using you router table create a 1/2" groove down the insides of your mitered boards. After multiple passes you should end up with a 1/2"x1/2" groove that will perfectly fit the plywood used for the ocean. After you get it set, clamp it together and do a test fit over the board. If needed, make the groove a bit wider to fit properly.
5) After the test fit is good, you can glue it up (not on the ocean board), ensuring all corners are square and let it dry. Once dry, stain it a desired color to make it less "construction grade" and more elegant.
**Upgrade Option: Ditch the 2x4 and get some quality hardwoods. Look to change your frame to any style frame you desire. Lots of frame styles out there. I would say if you want it playable ensure your frame is above the thickness of the pieces by a good 1/4". This will allow you to seal them all up in liquid acrylic as decribed in the final step.
Step 7: Glue Up
Once you finish up the frame is ready. Glue it on. Then assemble the board pieces in place and start gluing them one by one. Ensuring they are all in the right place.
Use the glue sparingly as you don't want to clean up any squeeze out. They shouldn't have much abuse anyways.
I suggest using some weight to ensure proper adhesion as necessary. All in all don't panic as you start the glue up and don't forget your towel. After the glue dries admire your work so far and gear up for the next step.
Step 8: Final Touches
As you continue you have some options. I am electing to leave it basic and have each conquering champion add a bit to it as the trophy travels I did add the connecting dots to show what countries share borders with others (some versions of the game have varying connections so I wanted this to be obvious). I am not planing on writing in the country names (as we all have them memorized) and a few of the other details are unnecessary costs to this piece. We will be writing the names of the victors on the back and it should be a nice display piece.
**Upgrade Option: Ohhh how many there are here to make it fully functional and a fantastic battleground.
1) Use letters that rub off onto the wood (don't use a sharpie as they fade over time as my main board is fading).
2) Make yourself some decorations and country worth tokens for the ocean (see the above picture)
3) **BIG ONE** Pour in liquid acryic to seal up everything and give it a flush glass-like surface for playing. Nothing will fall off the edge of a country and you can simply push from one country to the next. You will need a bigger lip around the frame because the frame should be at least 1/4" above the countries so that it can fill in properly. Use a hairdryer to help move the air bubbles to the top.
4) Really fancy up that frame. Nothing like having a game board be a piece of wall art. I have had mine displayed on my office wall for almost 10 years now. Fantastic piece to display.
5) Again, I strongly recommend (if you are willing to spend the money) having a different hardwood piece for each continent with exotic or at least very different grains and colors. This will make the entire project come to life.
6)You can also add a bit of beauty to the project by cutting out your shorelines at a steep angle on the scroll saw to give it a beach type 3d effect instead of the sheer cliff that is results currently.
Step 9: Conquer the World
If you built it by now... you had best be trying to get you and your friends to conquer the world! Hope you enjoyed the instructable and hope it inspires you to go beyond a cardboard game board and upgrade them to the respectable wooden version they deserve.