Introduction: Laser-Cut Travel-Sized Catan Original and 5-6 Player Extension

About: I like to make useful things with my laser and 3D printer. I share the best of them here and/or on my Etsy page.

This instructable will show you how to make a smaller version of Catan and its 5-6 player extension as well as a box for it to fit in. All the game mechanics are identical to the official Catan so the only differences are cosmetic. All the pieces, from pips to cards to settlements are included in the files. The only additional items you need to purchase to play the game are a set of dice and the original Catan resource and development cards. The laser cutting files are available in .ai, .svg, .dxf, and .pdf formats from the Travel Catan.rar compressed file here. Thank you Klaus Teuber for creating this amazing game and allowing fans to create remixes like this!


  • Box: 195 x 195 x 68 mm (7.68 x 7.68 x 2.68 in)
  • Base Catan: 243 x 211 mm (9.57 x 8.31 in)
  • 5-6 Player Extension: 271 x 363 mm (10.67 x 14.29 in)

See the last three photos in this section for scale comparisons with the original Catan border tile and a quarter.


  • Laser cutter
  • Calipers
  • Orbital sander with 220 and 320 grit attachments (you can do this by hand, but the sander will save time)
  • 150, 220, and 320 grit sandpaper sheets
  • High grit sandpaper or micromesh pads (1200 grit or higher)
  • 3mm/1/8in Plywood for cards, border tiles, box, and robber
  • 3mm/1/8in hardwood (optional, but strongly recommended)
    • Canarywood for wheat
    • Padauk for brick
    • Poplar, ash or maple for desert
    • Maple for sheep and base game pips
    • Yellowheart for expansion pips (any light wood will work, but don't make both sets of pips with the same wood. I used cherry, but I think yellowheart would have been better)
    • Ash for ore
    • Mahogany for timber
  • 1/16 in hardwood veneer. (This is optional, but recommended and will be explained further in the next step)
  • Thin Super Glue
  • Thick Super Glue
  • Wood Glue
  • Wide Blue Painters' Tape
  • Acrylic Paint Set
  • Blue spray paint for the ocean part of the border tiles
  • White spray paint primer
  • Various brushes, including detail brushes
  • Deft Wood Gloss Spray (You can probably find this at much lower prices outside of Amazon)
  • Forceps (not strictly necessary, but they will make weeding and painting small pieces much easier)
  • Duct Tape
  • Boiled Linseed Oil
  • Long Rubber Bands or a box clamp
  • Black or other dark wood stain
  • Furniture or cutting board wax

Step 1: Choose Wood and Tile Method

  1. Choose your wood. These files can all be cut from plywood, but I highly recommend using several species of hardwood for the hexes. I listed the species I used in the previous step. The cards, the robber, and the box must be cut with wood that is between 2.8 and 3.4 mm thick, inclusive. 1/8 in wood is approximately 3 mm thick and will work. All the other pieces except for the veneer can be up to 4 mm thick, but 3 mm or 1/8 in is recommended.
  2. Choose your preferred style of tile. The pips have to fit in a hexagonal slot on the top of the tile. The first way of creating the slot is by raster engraving about 1 mm deep into a single sheet of wood. This method uses the "Flat Hex Tiles" files. If you decide on this method, you won't need to buy the veneer. The other way, which I prefer, is to cut a hexagonal hole all the way through a sheet of wood, and then glue veneer to the back. This method uses the "Stacked Hex Tiles" and "Stacked Hex Tile Veneer Pieces" files. The veneer doesn't have to be exactly 1/16 in thick. You can use any veneer as long as it's rigid and not thicker than 2 mm. This method will be explained further in later sections.
  3. Avoid using warped wood. It will cause you endless headaches later if you do.

Step 2: Preparing the Wood

  1. The plywood for the box should not be sanded or sprayed with gloss before masking. Follow the below steps for all other wood.
  2. Sand all your pieces if they have splinters or rough spots. 220 grit by hand or orbital sander is fine. The bottom side of the wood for the hex tiles can be skipped since they will be sanded later.
  3. Prepare the ash wood for the ore hex tiles.
    1. Mix gray acrylic with water until it has the consistency of watercolor.
    2. Paint one side of the ash and then wipe away the excess. The board should look gray and still have all of the grain still visible.
    3. The water will cause the board to warp. Put it between paper towels and two flat sheets of plywood or MDF and use something heavy like a cinder block to keep it flat until it dries.
  4. Spray Deft Wood Gloss on all the pieces, including the ash. I used 3 coats on each side of each board at least 20 minutes apart, but you could probably get away with just two on the top and one on the bottom. Don't bother spraying the bottom side of the wood for the hex tiles.
  5. Mask each side of each board with blue painters tape, except for the bottom side of the wood for the hex tiles. Use a gift or credit card to force out all the bubbles.

Step 3: Select Files

  1. Download the .rar file.
  2. Unzip the main .rar file with Winrar.
  3. There are four folders within the .zip. Each folder contains files in .ai, .svg, .dxf, and .pdf formats
    1. The "2.8-3.4 mm pieces" folder contains files that require wood with a thickness within that range. Within that folder, the robber and the box have interlocking pieces, so their thicknesses matter. Use the calipers to measure the wood's thickness. Select the next largest file size. For example, if you measure the wood as 3.14 mm, you should use the 3.2 mm file. It's better that pieces fit together loosely than not at all, so always round up, not down.
    2. Select the folder with the hex tile files that correspond with your style choice, either flat or stacked. There is an alternative brick hex tile file that you can substitute for the regular brick hex tile if you prefer. You only need to cut one of these folders' files, not both.
    3. The "All other pieces" folder's files don't differ by thickness and should work as long as the wood is no thicker than 4 mm, although 3 mm/1/8 in is recommended.

Step 4: Cut Pieces

  • DO NOT cut all the files at once, especially if you're using expensive hardwoods. Start with just one piece like a hex tile and see how it goes. Adjust your laser's kerf and other settings until it's just right before you continue. Cut out just one hex tile and one pip and make sure that they fit together properly. If they don't, decrease the kerf when cutting the pip and try again.
  • Be especially cautious when cutting the border tiles. You want them to fit together somewhat loosely because in later steps you will be spray painting and adding Deft gloss, which will cause the fit to get tighter. Cut two of the small extension borders and see if they fit a little loosely. If not, adjust your kerf and try again until they do.
  • If you're doing the stacked hex tile method, you will need to cut the "Stacked Hex Tile Veneer Pieces" file from the veneer you selected in the wood prep step.
  • The city, settlement, and road pieces are very small and easy to lose, so there are extras in the cut file. Don't worry if a few get lost.

Step 5: Weed and Spray Paint the Border Tiles and Boats

  1. Collect all of the border tiles and boats.
  2. Weed the border tiles as shown in photo 2. Only remove the tape that is covering the ocean. Leave the tape on the land, rocks, and boat.
  3. Weed the boats as shown in photo 3.
  4. Areas with blue tape still have engraving lines that will bleed if not covered. Cover up all of the engraving lines on the taped areas with additional small pieces of tape. See photo 4.
  5. Arrange the pieces on a piece of scrap.
  6. Spray one full coat on the pieces. You don't want to apply too much or else it will bleed.
  7. Remove the rest of the blue tape.
  8. Check to see that the pieces still fit together. If they're too tight, you can use a rolled up piece of sandpaper to sand the inside of the puzzle piece shape. See photo 8.

Alternatively, if the masking and spray painting sounds too difficult and you're having bleeding problems, you can just hand paint the ocean instead. That way you can just remove all the masking at once right after cutting and won't have to worry about bleeding. Hand painting will take significantly longer though.

Step 6: Assemble Stacked Hex Tiles

Skip this step if you're using the flat hex tile method.

  1. If you haven't already cut one, cut a pip and make sure that it fits inside the hexagonal hole in one of the hex tiles. If it doesn't, adjust your kerf and try again.
  2. Apply a thin layer of wood glue to the bottom of one or two of the hex tiles. Don't do too many at once or the glue will dry prematurely.
  3. Put the hexagonal veneer piece on the glue and align it.
  4. Clamp the two pieces together.
  5. Once the glue is dry, undo the clamp. For all hex tiles other than the desert, put a drop of thick super glue at the bottom of the hexagonal hole in the hex tile. Put one of the small hex veneer pieces in the hole on the glue and use the pip to force it all the way to the bottom.
  6. Remove the masking from the hex tile.

Step 7: City and Settlement Assembly

There are two shapes in the "roads cities settlements" file. A city is made from 3 of the larger shapes stacked together. A settlement is made from one of the smaller shapes stacked on top of one of the larger shapes, as shown in the photos.

  • Remove all the tape from all of the pieces.
  • Use thick super glue to attach three of the large pieces together to make a city.
  • Glue a small piece to a larger one to make a settlement.
  • Do this until you have at least 30 settlements and 24 cities. These pieces are easy to lose, so it's worth making a few extras.
  • Forceps make handling the small pieces much easier.

Step 8: Sand Hex Tiles

  1. Set up the border hex tiles and test to see if all of the hex tiles fit inside. If they fit too tightly, lightly sand the edges of each hex tile with 220 grit. It's important that every edge of every hex is sanded an equal amount. After sanding, test to see if they fit and repeat this step as necessary until they do.
  2. If you used multiple species of wood, inevitably some of the sheets will be thicker than others as shown in the second photo. Take one of each type of hex tile and compare to see which is the thinnest. Sand the bottom of each of the thicker hex tiles on 150 grit sandpaper until they are the same thickness as the thinnest hex tile.

Step 9: Paint and Finish the Hex Tiles and Pips

  1. Make sure that all of the masking and masking residue have been removed. Duct tape is good at removing small pieces and residue left behind by the masking.
  2. Using a fine detail brush, paint the tiles like the second photo.
    1. Sheep: White
    2. Timber: Dark green
    3. Brick: Red
    4. Wheat: Yellow
    5. Ore: Black
    6. Desert: White skull, black nostrils, red eyes
    7. Paint the dots on the 6 and 8 pips red. Paint the dots on all the other pips black.
  3. Spray the hex tiles with Deft wood gloss spray. Apply three coats at least 20 minutes apart.
  4. Sand the bottoms of the hex tiles with 220 and then 320 grit sandpaper. If the bottoms of the pips are also rough, sand them too.
  5. Apply boiled linseed oil to the bottoms of the pips and hex tiles and wipe away the excess.

Step 10: Paint and Finish the Border Tiles and Boats

  1. On the border tiles and the boat pieces, paint:
    1. Sails and Sheep: White
    2. Boat wood: Brown
    3. Timber: Brown or Green
    4. Brick: Red
    5. Ore: Grey or Black
    6. Wheat and Question Mark: No enclosed shape, so no paint required
  2. On the border tiles, paint the shore and ocean rocks grey.
  3. Spray the border tiles and boats with Deft wood gloss spray. Apply three coats at least 20 minutes apart.
  4. Check to make sure that the border pieces still fit together. If they don't, you can use a rolled up piece of sandpaper to sand the inside of the puzzle piece shape. See the second photo.
  5. Lightly sand the bottoms of the border tiles and boats with 320 grit sandpaper.

Step 11: Paint and Finish Cards

  1. Carefully paint the cards as shown in the photos.
    1. Longest Turn Card: Light blue border and border tiles. Red, white, orange, and dark blue board pieces
    2. Largest Army Card: Red border and helmet, grey sword, black helmet and sword detail
    3. Building Costs Cards: Border, road, settlement, city, and development card one color. White sheep, red brick, brown or green timber, grey or black ore, no color for wheat because it doesn't have an enclosed shape.
  2. Longest Turn:
    1. The hourglass is supposed to look like it is made out of tinted glass. The colors you use are up to you, but I chose a purple and black theme.
    2. Paint the bones in the hand white.
    3. Paint the sand a solid color of your choice.
    4. Dilute that same color in water until it has the consistency of watercolor. Then paint it over all of the "glass" part of the hour glass, including over the parts of the hand that the glass covers. This will give the impression that the hourglass is tinted, but you can still see the bones through it.
    5. Paint the border a solid color of your choice.
  3. Spray the cards with Deft wood gloss spray. Apply three coats at least 20 minutes apart.
  4. Lightly sand the backs of the cards with 320 grit sandpaper.

Step 12: Paint and Finish Roads, Settlements, and Cities

This was by far the most difficult step for me. There is probably a better way of doing this, so feel free to do it differently and add your method to the comments. The method I am listing below worked, but it took up to 3 coats of tedious hand painting per piece.

  1. Arrange the pieces on a sheet of aluminum foil.
  2. Spray a coat of Deft wood gloss spray. After 20 minutes, flip all the pieces over and spray another coat so that all sides are covered.
  3. After 20 minutes, repeat step 2 with the white spray paint primer instead of Deft.
  4. Once the pieces are fully dried, paint them by hand. The original Catan colors are red, blue, orange, white, brown, and green. It might take 2 or 3 coats to get complete coverage.
  5. Spray the pieces with Deft wood gloss spray. Apply two coats at least 20 minutes apart, then flip the pieces over and spray another two coats on the other side.

Step 13: Robber Assembly, Painting, and Finishing

  1. Stack the two hexagon pieces and put the helmets together back to back. Don't glue them yet.
  2. Insert the helmets into the slots in the hexagons. If they don't fit, sand the male part with 220 grit sandpaper until they do.
  3. Drip thin super glue along all the seams until all the pieces are solidly attached.
  4. Paint the top of the base, the details on the helmet, and the detail on the sword black. Paint the rest of the sword grey. Paint the rest of the helmet red. See the photos.
  5. Spray the robber with Deft wood gloss spray. Apply three coats at least 20 minutes apart.
  6. Lightly sand the bottom with 320 grit sandpaper

Step 14: Box Assembly

There are many ways that the box can be stained/painted/left plain. The instructions below include staining, but feel free to use any method that you like.

  1. Remove the masking from all of the pieces except the one that reads "Catan Trade Build Settle". Remove all the masking from that piece except for the letters.
  2. Lightly sand the engraved side of the engraved pieces with 320 grit sandpaper by hand only if necessary. Try not to get sawdust in the engraved lines. Sand the non-engraved sides with 220 grit and then 320 grit if desired.
  3. Spray two coats of Deft on the engraved side of the engraved pieces and the two long and thin pieces, 20 minutes apart. Make sure that the thin pieces are arranged in a mirrored configuration as in photo 3. That way when the box is finished, the stained side will be facing up on both of them.
  4. Remove the rest of the masking from the "Catan Trade Build Settle" piece.
  5. Apply a dark stain to the two thin pieces and the engraved side of all of the engraved pieces except the desert piece. The stain should appear grey on the parts that got gloss, and black on the letters that didn't.
  6. Sand the non-engraved pieces with 220 grit sandpaper until the splinters are gone. Sand again with 320 grit if you desire.
  7. Assemble the box without glue according to photos 7-33
  8. Use the rubber bands or box clamp to hold the box together as in photo 34.
  9. Glue the box together with thin super glue, but don't get glue anywhere near the rubber bands or clamp. Once the glue has set, remove the rubber bands or clamp and add more glue. Make sure to drip glue along all of the seams where two or more pieces meet.
  10. Flip the box upside down and drip glue along all the tabs on the bottom too.
  11. Sand the bottom of the box smooth with 220 and then 320 grit.
  12. If there are any gaps, fill them with the thick super glue.
  13. Put the "Catan Trade Build Settle" piece on top of the desert engraved piece so that the desert is centered. Put both pieces on the box and then fit the two long thin pieces over them. See photo 40. Don't glue anything yet, just make sure that everything fits together.
  14. Apply a thin layer of wood glue to the back of the "Catan Trade Build Settle" piece. Place it on top of the desert piece on top of the box just as it was in step 13. Put something heavy on top of everything to keep it flat while it dries.
  15. Take EXTREME caution with this step. You need to glue the long thin pieces to the top of the box without gluing the lid in place. The lid has to be at least part way on as you're doing this or else the thin pieces could be glued with too small of a gap for the lid to slide through.
    1. Start with the lid 1/3 of the way pulled out as in photos 45 and 46. Drip a small amount of thin super glue on the thin pieces away from the lid.
    2. Pull the lid out a little further and glue again, making sure that the glue never touches the lid. Do this until the thin pieces are weakly glued in place.
    3. After five minutes, check that the super glue is completely dry. Try sliding the lid back in. If it doesn't fit at all and the thin pieces are mis-aligned, try to break the glue seal and start over. If it just barely won't fit, try to fix it by sanding the part of the lid that slides in the notch on the box.
    4. Remove the lid and apply thin super glue more liberally to the thin pieces until they are securely glued in place.
  16. Close the lid on the box and sand all of the sharp edges and corners of the box with 220 grit until they are dulled. Repeat with 320 grit if you desire.
  17. Remove the lid and mask the notches of the box as shown in photo?.
  18. Apply two coats of Deft to the inside of the box, 20 minutes apart and then remove the mask.
  19. Close the lid of the box and apply 3 coats of Deft to the sides and lid, 20 minutes apart.
  20. Apply a coat of wax to the parts of the lid that slide in the notch on the box. Try sliding the lid back in forth. It should slide easily without binding.
  21. Tilt the box to see if the lid will slide out under its own weight. If it does, follow the substeps below:
    1. Apply a strip of wood glue to the underside of the rightmost edge of the lid. When it dries, it will bind with the side of the box below it and prevent the lid from sliding out. See photos 51 and 52.
    2. Once the glue is dry, repeat the gravity test. If the lid still slides out, repeat the previous step. If the glue layer is too thick and the lid becomes too tight, lightly sand it until it's just right.
  22. Once the lid is working properly, feel the gloss finish of the box. If there are any rough spots, sand lightly with high grit sandpaper or micromesh pads, (at least 1200 grit), until the box is smooth.
  23. Apply a coat of boiled linseed oil to the bottom of the box.
  24. You're done!

Step 15: Organizing the Box

  • It can be a pain to switch between a 3-4 player game and a 5-6 player game if you only have enough resource and development cards for the 5-6 player game. To fix this problem, I suggest buying an extra set of cards so that you can have the entire 3-4 player deck separate from the 5-6 deck. To keep the decks separate, I inserted the wood cards between them. The wood cards are the same width as the resource cards for this reason.
    • 3-4 player:
      • 19 cards of each resource
      • 14 knight cards
      • 5 victory point cards
      • 2 monopoly cards
      • 2 road building cards
      • 2 year of plenty cards
    • 5-6 player:
      • 24 cards of each resource
      • 6 knight cards
      • 1 road building card
      • 1 monopoly card
      • 1 year of plenty
  • The hex tiles for the 5-6 player extension are kept separate from the rest of the tiles to make it easier to switch between 3-4 and 5-6 games. The extension hex tile slot should have 2 of each resource hex tile and 1 desert. The rest of the hex tiles go in the longer hex tile slot.
  • There is a notch to the side and below the border hex tiles to make it easier to pick them out of the box.
  • All the other pieces go in bags in the largest slot.