Introduction: Custom Wood and Metal Hive Set (boardgame)

A friend introduced me to the game Hive this summer (think chess-meets dominoes-meets insects!), and I was really excited to make a custom set for myself! The original game pieces had a really nice weight to them and I wanted to make sure that my set would be both beautiful, and feel good in your hand.

Materials you'll need:

wood (either 2 types, or 1 pale wood + wood stain) 3/4" thick
3/4" brass round
jb weld or epoxy
sand paper (rough and fine grit)

Tools I used:

Laser cutter
Horizontal bandsaw
Milling machine (drill press or hand held drill will also work)

Step 1: Prepare Your Files

The first step is to plan your designs. There are 22 pieces in total (11 for each player) which are made up of 5 different kinds of pieces:

1 - queen bee
3 - grasshoppers
3 - soldier ants
2 - spiders
2 - beetles

Designing your graphics within a vector based program will allow you to easily send the files to a laser cutter for engraving. Draw a regular hexagon that is approximately 1.5" wide. The exact size doesn't matter as much as all the pieces being the same.  Then go ahead and draw out your insects. Have fun! These can look any way you'd like them to.

Step 2: Laser and Metal Cutting

For my material I chose to use Ash and Walnut for their strong color differences.  The ash cut very nicely, but I had difficulties cutting through 3/4" walnut even on a 100 watt laser. In the end I was happy with how everything turned out, but next time I may simply use Ash for all the pieces and stain or paint half of them.

Adding a brass disk into the back of your pieces gives them a nice hefty weight (also brass and walnut look lovely together). Using a horizontal bandsaw made quick work of cutting my 3/4" brass round into pieces 1/2" long. Afterwards you'll probably want to use a file to knock off any sharp edges caused by cutting.

Step 3: Drilling and Sanding

Next, I drilled out the back of the pieces using a 3/4" bit. Whatever kind of tool you're using (milling machine, drill press, hand held drill, etc) try to make sure you make cuts that are reliably 1/2" deep. If you have to, err on the side of cuts that are a little deeper to make sure that the brass disk doesn't extend past the bottom of the piece.

With your pieces laser cut there may be some residue or slight burning, but that's easily handled with some sanding. Because small pieces can be a pain to sand, I put mine back into the piece of wood they were cut from, which helped hold them in place while I ran a sander over them a couple times.

After your pieces are cleaned up you can take an aggressive sand paper (60 or 80 grit) and a sanding block to knock down the sharp edges by hand. Finally go over all your surfaces with a find grit paper (220) until everything feels nice and smooth.

Step 4: Glueing and Finishing

Using a glue or epoxy that works for wood and metal, glue your brass disks in place. you may want to have a rag and a hammer on hand to encourage the pieces to go in all the way.

To finish everything up apply a little oil or varnish to make everything extra beautiful.

Step 5: Done!

And now you're ready to play!

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