This is a carved mancala board that I made. It was my first ever woodcarving project so the holes aren't perfect, but they are smooth, and you can't see any of the really minor mistakes anyways. Now that I am a little bit more experienced I realize that this may be the best possible beginner project because it teaches you how to carve most effectively with the grain, and how to know when you aren't carving with the grain. It also only requires 1 or 2 chisels, those being a medium sized #7 or #8, so it makes the carving less annoying because of all the tool switching. I made it out of wonderful basswood, or as the Brits call it limewood, which is the best carving wood, and is relatively inexpensive, (only a few bucks a board-foot if you buy it local) Although if you can't buy it locally, I recommend Eastern White Pine, or your local equivalent. I made the 2 large holes at either end that you dump your own marbles into in the shape of a D, but it ended up looking like a big smiley face. : ) For the marbles I used glass marbles that you can by at a craft shop or a flower shop, that are used to hold flowers in place while they are in the vase. For my stain I used a linseed oil based wood finish, which is nice because it doesn't have so many nasty fumes or hazardous warnings. Hope you try a project like this!
PS. The wood looks darker in the picture than it is in real life. It is actually a pretty light stain, it just has bad lighting.