DIY Kubb Set

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Introduction: DIY Kubb Set

About: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture

Kubb(aka Viking Chess) is a fun outdoor game in which you throw batons at blocks of wood:


It can be played on any surface - grass, sand, snow, dirt, whatever. Making a set is easy if you have some 4×4 lumber and dowels around, and one of the first projects I followed on this site was fungus amungus's instructions for doing exactly that. I've made a couple of sets for friends since and I wanted to make another, but had no 4×4 lumber or dowels and was disinclined to buy some when I had a lot of other wood lying around. This instructable will show you how to make an entire Kubb set with very little waste from 4.2 m of 2×4 construction lumber (~$4) and some wood glue, assuming you have access to a table saw. If not, buy the dowels and 4×4 you need, or pick up one of the many commercial sets (~$50) available. Or just use some firewood!

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Step 1: Kubbs

Glue together two 1540 mm long 2×4s using plenty of wood glue. I used my garage door as a clamp (more examples of improvised clamps here). Rip away the edges to provide one square 70×70×1540 mm length. Cut into ten 150 mm lengths.

Step 2: Batons

Cut a 910 mm length of 2×4 and rip into 38×38 mm lengths. Rip again to an octagonal cross-section. There is an easy way to do this without measuring - just set the distance as shown in the second photo. For a square of side length 1, this generates a perfect octagon of side length √2-1 (0.4142...). Crosscut into six 300 mm lengths.

Step 3: King

Trim two 45° corners off a 1255 mm long 2×4 to give a trapezoidal cross-section. Cut into four 310 mm lengths. Glue together to form a square with 88 mm sides. I used some rubber surgical tubing as a "clamp". If the small hole in the middle bothers you, glue a piece of wood trimmed to the right dimensions inside. Trim the whole thing to exactly 300 mm, then carve additional decorations to make it as kingly as you see fit. I continued with the octagonal vibe and made some bevels with the table saw, and made a cross motif on the top to echo a chess king.

Step 4: Corner Markers

Use the 45° offcuts from ripping the king. Trim the edges and sharpen one end (I used a miter saw). You'll have enough to mark the corners and the center line and have spares. I made mine 350 mm long, cut out the knots, and got seven (1 spare). Use them to mark out a playing area 5 paces wide by 8 paces long, with center markers half way along the longer side. If you're feeling in a making mood, why not make a mallet to pound in the stakes?

Step 5: Finish

Coat with whatever you see fit. I put a clear coat on this set. It's going to take a battering so I can't recommend putting in too much effort into a softwood version.

Step 6: Go Play!

The rules are available online (pdf), or just watch the video. Both came from the U.S. National Kubb Championship webpage. Note that social games of kubb use the "tower rule" to prevent the games becoming interminable: thrown kubbs that are touching get stacked on top of each other.

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28 Comments

Very nice. What would you recommend as weight for a single kubb block?

1 reply

Thanks. Speaking as someone who went camping near an old brickworks and played with bricks and sticks - it really doesn't matter. Even very heavy kubbs fall easily. Have also made a set out of (very light) cedar: also fine.

Thanks Man! Great ibble. I just got turned on to Kubb a few weeks ago and happen to have a supply of 4x4 cut offs that should be about right. I'm thinking a length of closet dowel and a few hours and I'll be the proud owner of my very own Kubb set! Thanks Again !

1 reply

Perfect - that was pretty much exactly what I did when I first encountered the game. Enjoy!

Looks like a fun game and thanks for showing the trick for making an octagon without measuring.

It does in fact make a perfect octagon of sides equal to 0.4142135... multiplied by the length of the side of the square. So for a square of √2 the sides will be 0.585786...

1 reply

You're absolutely right; each cut
off triangle is a right-angled isosceles triangle with 2 sides (sqrt2 - 1) (0.41421356)
and the other side = sqrt(2(sqrt2 - 1)^2) = 0.586. The remaining side is
sqrt2 – 2(sqrt2-1). That is much more satisfying. I must have made a transcription error in the initial calculation. Thanks!

As a Norwegian I can assure you that kubb is NOT viking chess. That would be Hnefatafl (It means the "King's table"). There are some speculation that kubb might have been around in the viking age, but there is no evidence.

1 reply

Hnefatafl looks interesting. Have read about it but never played.

I love how kubb has become known as "viking chess" when there is no evidence of it's existence before the early 1990s. Contrary to popular belief, we're not still vikings in Sweden!

3 replies

I think the nickname has arisen because of where it was invented and the fact it contains strategic elements with wooden playing pieces (and like in chess, the king plays a central role in the coup de grace). I don't think it should be taken literally.

Perhaps, though I lost count how many times I've seen it referred to as an ancient and historic game.

wow this is the first time and place I have ever heard of it ! but being open minded I will have to try this out some day soon !!!! Thanks for this lible

"I used my garage door as a clamp."

I love it!

Love this game! I came across Kubb by accident several years ago on Pinterest and have been hooked ever since. I got the whole family playing it and we like this game better than horse shoes, washer toss, etc. I made mine out of 4x4 post and some closet rod. I use fiberglass driveway markers for my corner posts and have orange paracord already measured out with loops in appropriate distances. We can set the field up in about a minute.

2 replies

Nice. Also my favorite yard game. We usually just pace it out but friends with a big yard also use knotted loops in cord. It somehow feel more official. Do you use the tower rule?

Hell yes we do the tower rule! We've gotten them up to 7 high. We also do the " 6" behind the king " whensomeone tosses a field Kubb out of bounds 2x.

Well done. These look great. my brother in law was just talking about making his own set. I'll have to direct him to this. I love that you used 2x4s.

1 reply

thanks. It's a fun build.

Very cool. Looks like great fun and a great use for all those 2 X 4 scraps I have lying around.