Introduction: Mancala Board Using a Router Jig

About: Be limited only by your imagination.

A while back I saw a video demonstrating how to make a jig to make a mancala board. Unfortunately I can't find the link but I wanted to demonstrate the jig I made and how it operates. Mancala is an ancient strategy game involving moving markers around a board and seeding them in your home base. You can find many directions on the internet.

In this build, I first made a prototype using pine and then moved up to a board made of American Walnut and Curly Maple strips glued together. The set folds like a clamshell and is held together with rare earth magnets.

This makes a great table game and a really good gift.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

  • Tools
    • Table saw
    • Ruler
    • Palm Router with a 1/4 inch box cove bit
    • brad nailer
    • driver
    • chisel
    • drill
    • sandpaper
  • Materials
    • Plywood, both 1/2 and 3/4 inch for the jig
    • glue
    • Tung oil
    • Beeswax
    • Either a solid board or glued up boards 4X13X3/4 inch

Step 2: Making the Jig

  • Cut a piece of 1/2 inch plywood into 8 X 10. Please note that I mislabeled the ply as 3/4 inch when it was actually 1/2 inch.
  • Cut 1 inch runners out of 3/4 inch ply and attach them across the 10 inch span of the plywood. Use the board you will use for the mancala set in order to determine the space between the runners and to keep the runners parallel. I put a playing card for a bit of extra width but don't use more than one. You don't want the board to wobble in the jig.
  • Then measure the distance from the tip of the cove bit to the end of the router. if you want 1 inch wide trays as I did you would need to add this distance all around. Turning the jig over transfer the end of the inner runners to the top. You will need to set the top runners the distance between where you want to tray to end adding the distance between the end of the cove bit and the edge of the router. You can see the dimensions I used in the pictures in this step.

Step 3: Mark Where You Want the Different Trays to Begin. Route the Trays Out

  • On the Mancala Board, mark the rightmost line of the home tray and each of the 6 playing trays.
  • You will first route through the jig itself.
  • Then you will line the hole in the jig with the marking.
  • This is where you need to be mindful if you are making a double width tray for the home versus half height tray for the each of the 12 playing slots.
  • To make a half height tray, move the small spacer to the top or the bottom of the jig. I had a major "oops moment when I forgot to add the spacer on the first playing trays. I fixed this by routing it flat. Cutting a piece of walnut to fit in the residual space and then re-routing the playing slots. This was a pretty good fix and you have to look hard to even see the mistake.
  • You want to start shallow and gradually move up to full depth.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

  • Mark the position of the hinges and inset them. Drive them in
  • Mark the position of the rare earth magnet. Select a bit that is equal in diameter and drill low enough that they are flush.
  • Epoxy them into the set and let the epoxy harden completely.
  • Sand all surfaces flat and even. This is going to take a bit of hand sanding of the slots.
  • Remove dust with a vacuum, microfiber cloth, tack cloth
  • Put on 3 coats of Tung Oil or finish of choice
  • I finished it all with Bees Wax.
  • I got the Buddha Beads on Amazon but you can use stones, nuts, or whatever.