Both my family and my in-laws are big Settlers of Catan fans, and with the holidays coming up, I thought I would supply a nice, homemade set to each side of the family. Originally, I planned to make it out of plywood, following the design of other instructables, but then inspiration struck. I had recently purchased a glass cutter for a different project, and I had a pane of glass from a table that was taking up storage space. I didn't want to throw it out since it seemed like nice glass, but I also had no use for it, so I had no qualms about destroying it for a good purpose. I ended up turning it into two sets of Settlers of Catan.
Apologies in advance... I didn't decide to write an instructable until near the end of the project, so I have lots of pictures of the later stages, but very few of the early. Hopefully everything is clear enough.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
Most of my materials were either spare pieces I had laying around the apartment or things I salvaged from broken equipment. Some things, like the paints, had to be bought, but this was still a very cheap project to make (monetarily speaking... the amount of time it took is another story).
For Glass Tiles:
Pane of glass - mine was 1/4" thick, which makes for nice, sturdy tiles. I had a piece about 3 ft x 3 ft which gave me more than enough tiles for two sets of the game.
(Faux) Stained Glass Paint, such as https://www.amazon.com/Gallery-Glass-Window-17030...
Spray acrylic sealer
Wood planks for edges (1/2"x3" poplar boards were my choice. You need about 7 ft. worth... Two 4-foot planks works well)
Plywood for bottom (1/4" thick and 2 ft by 2 ft is plenty)
LED strip and barrel jack adaptor (Very easy to find on eBay or amazon)
Frosted plastic sheet (I used the piece of plastic from between the backlight and LCD of a broken LED TV)
Wooden Dowel (to cut up and support the plastic)
Cheap thrift store box
Block of packing foam
For Glass Tiles:
Rotary Tool with diamond grinding bits
Sand Paper (I used sanding bits with my rotary tool)
Hot Glue Gun
Safety Note: When working with glass cutter, always wear safety glasses and work gloves. There will be shards of glass, and you don't want them in your hands or eyes.
Step 2: Cutting the Glass
For all of my cuts, I used a small glass cutter that I got from Harbor Freight for $2. It would have probably been easier with nicer equipment, but it got the job done. The cutter works via the "score and snap" method. It can be difficult to cut all the way through glass without causing shattering or unwanted breaks, but if you etch a line into the glass and apply force on either side, there will be a controlled break along that line.
To cut glass, you apply pressure to the cutting wheel and pull the cutter along the line you want to break. You should hear a scratching sound. Then, apply force to either side, and if all goes well, the glass should break on the line. If the glass does not break right away, you can flip the glass over and try a new etch on the opposite side. You can also tap along the line with the ball on the end of the cutter to try to get a break started. In my experience, this leads to a less clean break, so it should be a last resort, but I found that it was sometimes necessary, especially to break off small pieces.
With my very limited experience with cutting glass, I initially thought it would be easiest to cut my big pane into small rectangles, then cut the corners off to form hexagons. This was both a terrible idea, and didn't work at all. I couldn't get the glass to break along my first score, and when I forced it, my glass broke along a curved path, which luckily only ruined some of my glass. Thankfully, I was working on the edge of the pane at the time, so most of the glass was left unscathed.
So, it was time to consult the internet. After doing some reading on the score and snap method, I learned that my initial attempt was destined for failure. When cutting glass, the closer you are to the center line of your glass, the easier and cleaner the snap will be. Not only that, but it becomes impossible to break off pieces that are close in size to the thickness of the glass.
What I ended up doing was cutting my glass into quadrants, then cutting each quadrant in two. From there, I used my copy of Catan to trace hexagons onto the glass and etch along the lines. For each line I cut, I would trace my line using a permanent marker, then clamp a piece of wood to the glass. The purpose of the wood was to act as a straight edge, and the clamp helped it to stay in place while I etched my line (which gave me both hands free, and held the straight edge more steadily than I could have using my hands). This worked reasonably well, and I was able to get a lot of hexagons this way. I was able to get about 40 from my pane of glass, but I'm confident I could have gotten maybe as many as 60 if I had known at the start what I learned through the process. 40 was perfect for me, though, because I wanted to make 2 sets (19 tiles per set), and it was good to have a few extra in case of mistakes. Unfortunately, many of the hexagons had unclean breaks or sharp edges that needed to be fixed, so this was not the end of the job. It's important to cut your hexagons as close as possible to the correct size. You can grind down the edges, but it takes a very long time (or at least did for me).
If I had to do it again, I would do things slightly differently. It turned out that the easiest and cleanest breaks for hexagons occurred when I had a equilateral triangle and just had to break off the points. This also gives you some nice little triangles that can be used as ports. So, if I ever do this again, I will cut my initial pane into triangles, then work from that.
Step 3: Fine Tuning the Hexagons
As I mentioned, most of the hexagons had some imperfections and/or sharp edges that I needed to fix before I could give these to people as gifts. This is where a tile grinder might come in handy, but all I had was my little rotary tool. After trying a few different grinding stone bits, it was obvious that this project would consume way too much time going that route. The stones ground away faster than the glass did. I ended up buying some diamond grinding bits, which worked much better.
Note: When doing this, wear eye protection, gloves, and a mask. You don't want to be breathing in the glass dust.
I also found that clamping down my rotary tool and holding the glass to the grinding bit worked very well. Holding the glass in one hand and the rotary tool in the other took much longer and tended to result in uneven edges. After many, many hours of grinding (and annoying my neighbors to no end, I'm sure... It's loud... ear protection may be a good idea.), I had all of my hexagons to the right size and with dull edges.
At this point, it's a good idea to test your tiles by laying them out as you would for a game. My tiles were not all identical, so there were some small gaps. The gaps are small enough, though, that they don't affect the gameplay, so I decided to call it good.
Step 4: Painting
I don't really care for painting, so this part was more of a chore than anything else, but the results were worth it. The painting needs to take place in two steps. First, apply the pattern to the glass with liquid leading. This keeps your colors separate and gives your tiles that authentic stained glass look. I first drew my patterns on paper, then put my tiles over the drawings so that I could trace rather than free hand. I found most of my patterns by just doing an image search, but made some adaptations to them so that they would be easier to draw on small tiles. There are 3 stone, 3 brick, 4 wood, 4 wheat, 4 sheep, and 1 desert tiles. I also used some triangles left over from when I was cutting glass for harbors. There are 9 harbors, 1 for each resource, and 4 wild-card.
The bottle of liquid leading that comes with the paint kit that I got had a nozzle that supposedly allowed for the application of designs directly from the bottle. Doing that clearly takes a lot more finesse than I am capable of, so I had to come up with some other way. I found that a syringe with a metal applicator tip worked nicely. Using that, I could control the flow very well, and the metal tip had a small enough opening that I could do reasonably intricate designs. I'm not sure where you would purchase something like this... We use these where I work, so I was able to use one of the extras.
Once you've applied the leading to the tile, it has to dry at least 8 hours before adding the other paints. Color them to your hearts desire. I used the tool that came with the paints to scoop paint onto the tile, then pushed it around with the back end of the tool. Lay on the paint pretty heavy. It lightens up considerably once it is dry. I don't think you are supposed to use brush, but I didn't try, so I couldn't speak to that. Once they're painted, wait 24 hours to dry.
A final step that turned out to be pretty important is to seal the stained glass with an acrylic sealer. The paint I used is meant to be washable, so I was worried that the paint would easily rub off if I didn't seal it. I just used a cheap spray acrylic sealer, and it worked nicely.
Step 5: Making a Base
At this point, your tiles are pretty much ready to go. The problem is, they look much better when light is shining through them than they do when just sitting on a table. Solution: Build a base with a surface that lights up.
First, you need a design. To that end, I laid out my tiles on a big piece of paper as they would be during a game and traced around the edge with a pencil. Then, because the wood that I chose to use was 1/2" thick, I measured 1/2" out and drew lines so that I had the outline of my base. Originally, I wanted to make it so that the wood was immediately next to the glass at all points, but after tracing that out, it looked like more work than I was willing to put in. Instead, I decided to leave a little extra space next to the harbors so that there would be fewer cuts to make. Once I had this design, I marked where the joints would be so that I could see the size and shape of the pieces I had to cut.
Even though my tiles weren't perfect hexagons and so didn't lay out perfectly symmetrically, I wanted my base to be symmetric. For my design, this meant that I would only need 3 types of pieces, with 6 of 2 types and 3 of the third. In my drawing, I measured the lengths of every piece of the same type and averaged them together to get the length to cut.
Now that that's out of the way, it's time to get out the miter saw. My design is nice in that you can set the saw at 30 deg and leave it there for every cut. Most of the cuts are 30 deg, but there are a few that are 60 deg, for which you just hold the wood perpendicular to the guard instead of parallel. See the pictures for more details.
Next, the pieces need to be glued together to form the frame of the base. If you're like me, you don't have fancy clamps that can hold wood together at an angle. Instead, I used both wood glue and hot glue. The hot glue dries very quickly and holds the wood together while the wood glue dries much more slowly, but creates a stronger bond. It's a good idea to set your wood out in the appropriate layout and glue one piece at a time so that it comes together correctly.
After the glue has dried, you can use the wood frame to trace out plywood to close up one side. On the other side will be some frosted plastic, so it is a good idea to trace out the design on that as well before you seal up the bottom with your plywood. Use a jig saw to cut out the design from the plywood, then glue it into your frame. I wanted it to be as close as possible to flat, so I used some textbooks to hold it down while the glue dried.
Before too long, we'll be adding some lights to the base, so now is also a good time to drill a hole for the jack that will supply power to the lights. At this point, everything that will be visible when the base is complete is finished, so you should stain the wood before proceeding any further.
Step 6: Light It Up!
The top of the wood base will be frosted plastic that is lit from underneath so that you have a bright surface on which to put your stained glass tiles. Before you glued the plywood into your frame, you should have traced the inside of the frame onto the plastic that you will be using. I had a 42" LED TV that someone had thrown away which I tore apart for parts. Between the backlight and LCD, there is a thin but rigid piece of frosted plastic that was perfect for this purpose.
This plastic was a bit brittle, so it was difficult to cut without cracking it. I made two different bases about a week apart, and after the first time didn't go as well as I would like, I tried a different method. For the first base, I used my rotary tool with a cutting wheel. This did not work very well, because rather than cutting through the plastic, it kind of just melted it. It did get the job done, though, and I think if I had better cutting wheels, it would have worked a little better. The second method I tried was very similar to cutting glass. I used a utility knife to start a controlled crack through the plastic, then gently broke it apart along that crack. This ended up looking better than when I used the rotary tool, but required a lot more care, and I still had a few stray cracks that I had to seal up with superglue.
Before you put the plastic in place, you need to mount your lights and put supports in place to hold up the plastic.
I had some 12 V LED strips that I wasn't using any longer that worked great for the lighting. I mounted a female barrel jack (2.1 x 5.5 mm) adaptor (with wires already connected) in the hole drilled in the last step and secured it with lots of hot glue (I'm sure there are better methods, but that's what I had at the time). Then, I strung the LED around the edge of the frame so that the LED's point toward the center of the base (not up). By doing this, I hoped to achieve more even lighting without bright spots, and it seemed to work pretty well.
To hold up the plastic piece, I cut up a 1/2" wooden dowel that I had laying around into 2" lengths. Then, I glued them (using the same hot glue-wood glue combination) to the plywood that forms the bottom of the base. My arrangement was pretty much random, and as long as they are more-or-less evenly distributed, it should work well. Once the glue dries, put the plastic on top.
Step 7: Box It Up
For the most part, you want to be displaying a work of art such as this, but for the rare occasions when you need to store it, you want something safe so that the glass tiles do not break. For this, I found some boxes from a thrift store and grabbed some used shipping foam from work. I cut the foam to shape to fit in the box, then cut slits in the foam so that all of the tiles could be slid into them.
Step 8: Put It All Together
And you're done! You just need to arrange your tiles on top of your base, plug it in, and play to your heart's content (Of course, you'll still need to own or purchase the original game for everything but the tiles).
This ended up being a bigger project than I expected... It took a lot of hours of work to get everything done, but I'm very pleased with the result. I just wish I wasn't giving both sets I made away...
I've already made note of a few things that I would change if I were to do this again, but a few more adaptations I would consider if I were to make another (and if I were inclined to spend a little more money) would be:
-Install a switch so that the LED's can be turned on and off without unplugging them.
-Use 5 V LED's so that the board could be powered by a computer or portable phone charger.
-Measure for my base more carefully. The first frame I made was a little too small, so I had to use a router to shave away some wood so that my tiles would fit. I didn't like the way this looked, and as I was trying to avoid the same mistake, the second ended up a little too big.
-Have an artist do the painting - I really enjoyed cutting the tiles and making the base for this project, but I thought the painting was a little tedious. Not to mention my lack of artistic ability... I'm very pleased with how my tiles turned out, but I'm sure that they could look much better with a more skillful hand designing and painting them.