Introduction: Hnefatafl Set for Less Than 20 USD

About: Just playing around with cheap DIY´s and restorations ;)

Hello, everyone. Before starting sorry for my bad english, as that´s not my first language.

Unlike the worldwide popular Chess ( probably the most famous boardgame in the world even if the majority of people doesn´t know the rules ), Hnefatafl is not a household name ( the name itself is hard to spell), in fact is more of a niche product known and played mostly by people interested in ancient viking culture, and that makes a Hnefatafl set expensive, normally starting at 30/40 euros and 150 and up for handcrafted sets, remember a simple cheap chess/checkers set can cost as low as less than 5 euros, is readily available in any store and different models. On the other side, as Hnefatafl doesn´t require more than a squared board and 3 different types of pieces that should be only that, different, is a extremely simple game to build, even with just one piece of paper and bootle caps from 3 different drinks. I guess viking riders would manage to play it with rocks and a simple board drawed by hand in the dust.

This is the second cheap Hnefatafl set I create ( the first one I allready published 2 weeks ago here . This one is however way more complex, and I made it by order of a good friend. As this is a hobby , I will not charge nothing for the work besides the supplies. While I had the majority of the materials allready home, I will try to make a estimate value, using only the cheapest supplies I can find. So, here we go.

Step 1: Supplies

A wood frame: 4 USD
Air dry clay: 2 USD Wood glossy varnish: 2 USD Matte varnish spray: 2 USD Bright black ink spray: 2 USD Bright white ink spray: 2 USD Permanent ink: 1.50 USD Black marker: 1.00 USD Brush set: 3 USD As you can see, pretty cheap. Here we go...

Step 2: Get the Board

Building the board is sometimes the hardest part, so I´ll cheat this one: just a wood frame, the cheapest I can get. 30cm square, a good size as it fits the A3 paper were I´ll print the board.

Step 3: Drawing the Board

I designed a board in a vector DTP software and showed him two options. As my friend wants to put this as a table center, he choose the "dark wood" option. I enclose both boards in PDF in case you want to use it.

Step 4: Staining the Frame

As the frame was pine/unpainted, it didn´t fit well the darker motive. Besides that, the transparent PVC "glass" was way to reflective to be used in a table, especially with direct roof light.
Staining is a technic used to change wood colour while keeping the pattern, as a invisible colored cover. I mixed a little bit of black permanent ink with water to make the light wood darker.

Step 5: Decorating the Frame

While the colour was better, it still looked too bland, so with a simple black marker design some viking motives on the sides ( there are way better viking motives but didn´t feel on the mood for a research that day ). In the end finished with high gloss varnish and let it to dry.

Step 6: Printing the Board

Printed the board in a laser printer in glossy thick paper with a measurement that fitted the frame back plaque.
Some matte varnish spray coats will protect the board and give it a satin low gloss look ( as the paper printed was already a little bit glossy )

Step 7: A Little Bit of Trial and Error (1)

You can skip this step, I only did it as an experiment. Painted the board with wood varnish and while it stood with a nice glossy was way too shiny/refletive to be used while playing, besides the ugly brush strokes in some angles. So bascially almost the same with the PVC frame cover.

Step 8: A Little Bit of Trial and Error (2)

So, let´s go back to the matte finish, just one coat of matte spray varnish was enough to restore it.
And then got and idea...why not make the board more visual without losing the matte finish? Something as simple as painting the grid lines with the wood varnish with a thin brush. Depending of the light angle, it can or not be seen.

Step 9: Finished Board

The board is dry, so I glue it to the plaque and assembled it into the frame as a normal photo-Next step and way more dificult...the pieces.

Step 10: Building the King Piece.

The King is the most important piece, so I decided to make it in...air dry clay. First attempt in doing a air dry clay sculpture and guess what, wicked hard as this is only about 3cm height. I guess I managed a ancient viking look and even the little imperfections don´t look out of place as viking art was mostly rustic.

Step 11: Building the Warrior Pieces

As it took me so long to sculpt the King ( the most important piece) and without a mold were I could cast all the 36 warrior pieces, I decided to make the warriors as simple tokens. While in other set I used simple beach pellets, I used this time the clay trying to achieve a more similar size between all pieces, and with a toothpick design some simple runes in both sides.
At the end of 48 hours the clay must be completely dry and can be painted. As water is lost, most likely the pieces will shrink a bit or brittle but that´s not a big problem because viking art was rustic and even adds a personality to each individual piece.
I opted to bake it in a cheap electric oven just to achieve a extra hardness.

Step 12: Painting the Black Pieces (Attackers)

As this is air dry clay, after being completely dry ( 48 hours ou more ) is advisable to put some primer before and a sealant ( varnish, lacquer ) in the end to avoid any humidity that will make the pieces weaker with the time.
I opted to paint the attacking pieces in high glossy black spray to make it stand out in the dark wood board. I could use any other colour but in this case I wanted to play it safe. In the end sprayed a coat of glossy varnish to make it stand out even more.
The white pieces where a little more dificult. Sprayed them with glossy white spray but, being white the little details were almost invisible.

Step 13: Painting the White Pieces (Defenders)

To make the details stand out more mixed a little bit of wood varnish with water for very light coats. Not only it´s as shiny as the black pieces but turned into a very light white coffe colour that darkened details, loking like ancient ivory sculptures. So, pretty cool. In the end glued a felt pad ( like those used in furniture ) as a base just for a little extra protection against bruises on the board.

Step 14: End Result

Well, let me tell you...I would keep it for myself LOL

Whatever, I think my friend will like it and was almost free :)

Feel free to comment, upvote and thanks in advance.

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