Color-Based Wooden Sudoku Board




Introduction: Color-Based Wooden Sudoku Board

This was a gift for my dad's birthday, and probably my most intricate woodworking creation to date. I wanted to make some kind of sudoku-related object for him, and became inspired by pictures I saw of color-based sudoku boards online such as this one. I figured creating my own version would be a fun project and make the gift more personalized. I also set out to make some improvements to the models I saw.

Mine has storage for tokens to mark givens (corners cut), guesses (solid squares), and possibilities (tiny cubes). I also chose rainbow colors so that it's possible to recite them in order when checking which are missing. I no longer have the measurements of the individual parts, but hopefully these pictures might inspire people to create their own projects!

The materials I used were:
  • Oak boards for the sides and drawer walls
  • Four sheets of thin plywood - two for the top, one for the drawer bottom, and one thicker one for the bottom of the whole board
  • Acrylic paints
  • Acrylic clear coat spray (for the game pieces)
  • 2-in-1 polyurethane and stain for the board

As far as tools:
  • Laser cutter for the pieces and their slots
  • Woodworking shop machinery (scroll saw, table saw, miter saw, disc sander, two metric tons of sandpaper)

Step 1: Cut Main Pieces, Dry Fit

Again I don't have the measurements, but the general plan was to have a large box for the main board and a drawer that fit inside.

The size of the playing surface was constrained by the sizes of the holes for the pieces and the spaces between rows and 3x3 squares. The pieces needed to be slightly smaller than the playing holes, and stored within the drawer. A lot of figuring went into making sure that everything would fit properly. Buy extra wood so that you have some degrees of freedom everywhere possible.

In the first picture on the right you can see the four outer sides with dadoes cut for the top playing surface and the bottom thicker plywood (with a lip to hold it in). In the center are the four smaller drawer sides with dadoes for the drawer bottom. Beneath them are the four sheets of plywood. Not pictured are the plywood pieces used for creating sections in the drawer, and the plywood used to cut the playing pieces out of.

The second picture shows a dry fit of the drawer and main board. You can see how there are two plywood sheets on top - one will have holes laser cut for the pieces, while the other will provide a backing. I had to cut a hole in the front board to allow the drawer through, and this was accomplished with a drill and scroll saw.

Step 2: Cut the Playing Pieces

I designed the pieces using Illustrator (as much as you can design squares) and had them cut with a laser cutter. There are 90 'given' markers with one corner cut off, 90 'guess' markers which are full squares, and a lot of tiny square 'possibility' markers. I made enough that I'd have spares of each color even in the worst-case scenario. The smallest squares are sized so that four can fit comfortably inside of one hole, with room to lift them out.

Many of the pieces had to be sanded a bit by hand to finish rough edges before painting.

Step 3: Glue, Sand, Stain the Board!

I cut a lot of finnicky dadoes for the drawer sections and glued the dividers in place once the drawer was built. Got access to a laser cutter to make the holes in the top plywood piece, and glued up the whole board. The knob on the drawer was hand-shaped on a disc sander.

Once everything was glued, I thoroughly sanded the whole thing until very smooth then applied 2-in-1 polyurethane and stain.

You can see the playing pieces arranged in the drawers. I cut some chunks of hardwood to use as separators within each drawer slot, so that the 'given' and 'guess' pieces can be held apart. They just float freely in the drawer and can be removed for ease of access.

Step 4: Paint the Pieces

I decided to go with colors rather than numbers because I thought it would be prettier to look at and easier to control the quality than trying to make nice numbers on every piece. I was also interested in any advantages you might get playing color sudoku from popout effects (it's much easier to focus on 'all reds' than 'all nines' because the reds jump out visually from the other colors)

I hand-painted every piece in one of nine colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, gray, and black. I used rainbow colors because an important part of sudoku is counting through the values to check whether you have any doubles or missing ones in a given set. With a rainbow color setup, it's easy to remember the colors in order and go through them to check which is missing. I tried to mix the paints to achieve a sort of rich, hopefully-sophisticated-looking array of colors rather than a traditional and possibly-garish rainbow assortment.

Each piece took two or more coats, as the darkened edges from the laser cutter would show through a single coat of paint. This process probably took as long as the entire woodworking portion. I watched a lot of science channel programming.

Step 5: Seal the Pieces

I sprayed all of the game pieces with an acrylic clear coat to preserve the paint. I wanted to get an even number of coats on all surfaces, so I laid the pieces out in diamond formation on some newspaper. I could then spray once from the right, once from the left, flip over and repeat - two coats for each surface. I may have done four coats total, I forget. Check the instructions on your spray.

Once they were coated I shook them all free from the newspaper and let them cure on a fresh sheet. Somehow my finish ended up very slightly tacky, so sometimes the pieces stick to each other or the board a bit. I guess there are more appropriate finishes than what I used, you might want to research boardgame finishes a bit more thoroughly than me.

Step 6: Play Sudoku!

That's all! Sort the pieces into the drawer as you'd like, and you're ready to play. To set up the board, simply find a puzzle you'd like to solve (there are lots of websites with free sudoku generators) and mark the given numbers with whatever colors you'd like. As long as you're consistent, the mapping doesn't matter.

In the picture, I set up a very easy puzzle for testing. You can see that there are a lot of non-square 'given' pieces. It's pretty interesting to play with colors instead of numbers, as you can really take advantage of your visual system. If you look at the filled-out board and think 'all yellows', suddenly you can see where they are all at once. It's immediately obvious when a row is missing a yellow, or you have two in the same section. This is easier with brighter colors, and it's important that the colors all look different. The orange and red, as well as the blue and purple on my board are sometimes hard to tell apart.

This was a very time-consuming project, from planning through execution. I think the final product is pretty cool though, and my dad loves it. If anyone is interested in making something related to this, don't hesitate to get in touch with questions! Thanks for looking!

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    Oh my gosh! Fanciest. Sudoku. Game. Ever. Do you have the laser cutting files you used?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! I was actually able to recover the file from my email, here it is:

    Let me know if you have trouble accessing it!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    PS Here's the board layout as well:


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    thanks for this great sudoku.

    I have trouble accessing the files, both of them. I guess they are deleted.

    Could you please re-upload or attach it to the topic?



    8 years ago

    I have a lot of issues with number sudoku so this is AMAZING!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    very nice. you have done a top job. very in pressed. can you please explain all the different pieces and how they are played. i think i get it but, would like to check. thanks.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! The big pieces are interchangeable depending on your preference, but one type is used to mark colors given by the puzzle which you know are correct. The other type is used to mark your guesses as you try to solve it. The smaller pieces are used to mark possibilities - say you conclude that a square must be either green, blue or yellow. If you want, you can put one of each of those colors into the square to remember that.