Introduction: Woodburned Castle Panic Pallet Game Board

About: Science fiction and fantasy author. Once-archaeologist. Foodie. Mom. Occasional woodworker and beginning gardener.

My son's favorite board game is Castle Panic. Everyone works together to defend their castle from invading monsters. We've played it so often that the board split in two. I decided to make him a new game board -- something rustic and big that would fit right in with the theme of the game and add to the experience.

Things I used for this project include:

1 pallet

Circular saw or jigsaw


Wood glue


Hand planer

Orbital sander

Pencil, paper, compass, straight edge

Wood burner

Acrylic paints & a foam brush

Beeswax & mineral oil wood finish

Step 1: Break Down the Pallet

There are lots of ways to break down a pallet. This might be the simplest. I cut the wood with a jigsaw (a circular saw would also work great) just outside the nails and wooden support pieces. No need to deal with glue or actually removing the nails. This gave me planks about 18" or 47cm long.

Step 2: Lay Out the Boards

I wanted to alternate the darker and lighter woods that I had. I gathered enough to make a roughly square shape (six boards, in my case), and I spent some time flipping them over and seeing how they naturally fit best together. Then I lightly sanded the front and backs of all the boards.

Step 3: Connect the Boards

I initially drilled pocket holes to connect all the boards, since my Kreg Jig has a setting for 1/2" thick wood. After this failed to work, and reading up on the internet, it turns out that the Kreg Jig isn't very reliable for connecting pieces of wood this thin. Alas.

The best solution seemed to be grabbing two more boards. After lightly sanding them, I attached one to either side of the back of my square of planks with wood glue, holding the boards in place with clamps. After the glue dried, I added two 3/4" finishing nails through this bracing board into every board it was attached to.

Step 4: Plane the Surface

During Castle Panic, the monster tokens constantly move in toward the castle. I knew I wanted this to look rustic, but that the surface actually needed to be pretty smooth. I ran this simple hand planer over the surface until no large bumps remained, then sanded. And sanded some more. I got out the monster tokens to test the slideability of the board, and declared it good.

Step 5: Draw the Board & Burn It

This proved trickier than I'd hoped. The compass I'd planned to draw circles with was very flimsy and had difficulty with the wood. Instead, I traced quarter-circles onto paper with my compass, cut out the paper, and used it as a template. I used a long straight edge for the diagonals. Even with that, I wasn't always happy with how things looked, and erased and re-drew things several times. Working in pencil was a great idea.

On the original board, the various rings are labeled with words,but I thought that would look fussy here. Instead, I used the symbols present elsewhere in the game and designated the archery ring with arrows, the knight ring with a horse silhouette, and the swordsman ring with a sword. I printed a small template for the horse and drew around it. For the arrow and sword, I used a ruler to give me a straight, two-inch line, then freehanded the rest of the drawing.

Once I was happy with the pencil lines, I got out the wood burner. Actually, I borrowed a friend's woodburner, really enjoyed the process, and ended up getting my own (much simpler) wood burner to finish. This was my first wood burning project. I started on the circular and straight lines to practice and see how the tool worked, then moved to the finer symbols and numbers.

This was a great beginner project. Some of the imperfections and hatching were done intentionally to make the board look battle-scarred. Some were not. But now that it's done, I can't tell the difference, and I'm happy with the effect. This much burning took several hours. I couldn't have done it all in one sitting -- my hand eventually got tired. Still, I'm glad I chose to burn instead of paint. It's a great look for this game, and I love knowing that it's not going to rub off or smear.

Step 6: Painting!

The board has red, green, and blue sections. I wanted to add that without hiding the wood grain. I grabbed some red, green, and blue acrylic paint. I mixed each one with water, at roughly a 1:1 ratio. After painting it on, I gently dabbed off the excess with a paper towel. Sandpaper took care of a couple spots where I dripped paint in the wrong spot. The board dried in under an hour.

Step 7: Finishing

After the paint dried, I covered the whole board -- back and front, including the painted section -- with a simple wood finish made from this fine Instructable here:

Then I rubbed it down with a dry towel to make sure I didn't have any globs of finish anywhere that might stain the board game piece.

And then it was ready to go! We tested it out, and the added drama of the big wooden board just really works for this game. My son is very happy.

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