I recently decided to make my own Settlers board with the following goals:
- More durable than cardstock
- Prettier than anything I could buy
- Easy to use in low-light venues
- Total cost under $60
I ended up making board from basswood, burning in the artwork and finishing it with acrylic paint and shellac. It took somewhere between 20 and 30 hrs of labor to complete and is incredibly durable, functional and snazzy. If you just make the tiles and purchase game pieces, you should be able to finish in 10-15 hrs.
There are many ways to improve on this design if you have a higher budget and more time. If I were to do it again, I might opt to stain the tiles or use different hardwoods before shallcking or varnishing to provide some more contrast. The colors I chose for the game pieces aren't the best in low light.; shellecked white and yellow, and blue and green are hard to distinguish in low, yellow light. More comments later, but first here's what I used:
- 3 3 1/2" X 1/4" X ~4' basswood pieces (hexes, ports, longest road and largest army tokens)
- 3 5/8" X 3/8" X 3" square dowels (roads)
- 84 1" wooden coins (pips, settlements, cities)
- Shellack (Amber; 2lb cut if you're mixing from flakes)
- Wood burning pencil
- Paintbrush (one for detail, one for large areas)
- Table, Mitre or band saw
- 30/60/90 triangle guide or protractor
- Art work
For a complete game:
-2 sets of Settlers of Catan Replacement cards (need 2 sets to play with 5 or 6 people)
-2 6-sided Dice
Step 1: Cutting the hexes and ports
The most important step is the first: cutting out the hexes. Having a nice monodisperse set of hexes is key to having a usable board; minor variations can cause the hexes to leave annoying gaps in the board. I'll go through the steps I used to cut the hexes on a a table.
I wanted 30 hexes for the 5-6 player version of Settlers; you only need 19.
I cut the hexes in two steps. First, I cut the 3.5" board into 3.5"X (3.5*sqrt(3)/2)" ~ 3.5"X3.0" rectangles. The rounding error is small enough that it didn't matter after sanding. See pic 1.
Each rectangle needs for more cuts to become a perfect hex; these cuts are illustrated in the next four images.
Set your guide at 60 degrees and line up the block of wood so that the cut enters 3/4ths of the way across the top of the rectangle and exits halfway through the side. Mark the edge of the block on your guide so that you only have to measure this once
Rotate the block by 180 degrees and line up the cut so it once again enters 3/4ths of the way across the top of the rectangle and exits halfway through the side. Mark the edge of the block on your guide so that you only have to measure this once.
Flip the block over and use the first mark on your guide to make this cut.
Rotate by 180 degrees and make the final cut.
I also cut the ports and tokens at this step. I cut 14 1.5X1 rectangles, for 12 ports, the longest road and largest army tokens.
Sand all the edges and faces of your hexes. I used a hand held sander with 300 grit for this step.