Intro: How to Make a Wooden Backgammon Board
I decided to make a backgammon board as a gift and wound up making two sets. I didn't find any good plans online so I'm posting them here in case others want to follow them. I made it at Techshop and got a lot of great advice from the folks there.
Step 1: Choose Dimensions
The first thing to decide is the size of the pieces that you want. The two sets I made were 1 1/4" and 1 1/8".
From there, you can figure out the height of the points - I used points 5x as tall as they are wide so that five pieces fit nicely on each point.
Many sets have extra room on the edges of the board to store the pieces as they are taken off. It's up to you if you want this - I made one with and one without. If you include it, you'll need to add extra room for the width of one piece plus another 1/8" or so for the separator.
The last thing to decide is the width of the frame. I used about half the width of the pieces.
Using all that you should now know the dimensions of your playing surface and the inner and outer dimensions of the two frames.
Step 2: Cutting the Frames
Making frames could be an entire instructable in itself, so it's worth searching around for tips on how to make really good frames, and maybe making a practice one or two.
I made the frames for one board using a chop saw and the frames for the other one using a table saw. Whatever you use, you'll need to make sure that the miters are exactly 45° and that the pieces are exactly the same size. When you go to assemble the frames even a small difference will result in an ugly gap or a frame that isn't square at all four corners.
In the photos above, you can see I made the miter cuts on a board roughly twice the width of the frame height I wanted. Then I ran the pieces through the table saw to get them to exactly the right height. This meant fewer miter cuts, so fewer opportunities to fewer chances to make cuts that were slightly off. On the flip side it meant that those few cuts had to be right!
If you're going to add separators for the piece storage, and want to use a notch in addition to glue/nails, you'll want to add that now (or at some point b
Step 3: Cutting the Playing Surfaces
With the dimensions from Step 1 you should know the width and height of your playing surface plus any extra for the storage shelf. The tricky part here is the thickness. If you attach the surface directly onto the back of the frame without any inset, you'll want it to be pretty thin, and it can be difficult to get a large, thin piece of wood.
I used a band saw to take a ~3/4" thick piece of 11"x19" wood and do a resaw into two 3/8" thick pieces. You'll need a good blade and possibly a jig to keep it completely square against the direction of the blade but it can be done.
There's another option for attaching the playing surface to the frame using an inset, which I'll detail in another step. If you use this option the playing surfaces don't have to be quite so thin, which makes it easier to either find a good piece or to do the cut.
Step 4: Making the Points
To make the points, I bought thin veneers (< 1/32") and used a laser cutter at Techshop to vector cut 12 of each color. Most places sell huge 4"x8" sheets of veneer, but Macbeath's in Berkeley has smaller quantities.
To create the inlays for the points, I again used the laser cutter to raster etch outlines of the points. You'll need to do some testing to determine the right speed and intensity for your piece of wood to get the right thickness.
You could also do the inlays using a router or a shopbot, however, the laser cutter will give you a nice sharp corner to lay the veneer into.
Step 5: Attaching the Points
I used contact cement to attach the veneers to the playing surface. Make sure you fully coat both sides and leave the cement open for enough time; you don't want the points peeling off, especially at the corners.
I bought some tiny paintbrushes to get the adhesive fully into the corner, and Q-tips to clean up any that got outside the inlay area.
Step 6: Assembling the Frames
To assemble the frames I used Titebond III wood glue because it dries relatively clear. Ideally you'll be able to wipe away any excess glue, but that can be tricky in the corners.
I clamped the corners using clamps like this one.
Step 7: Hinge Insets and Optional Surface Insets
If you want the hinges to be on the inside of the board, you can use a table router to rout out the depth that matches your hinge size. Attaching them on the outside is probably easier but I think this looks a little nicer.
There's an optional step here where you do a rabbit cut on the underside of the frame such that the playing surface fits into it and is therefore flush with the bottom edge of the frame.
You can see the difference (sort of) in the second picture between the top board (with the rabbit cut) and the bottom board. I think the rabbit cut makes it look a lot nicer and is worth the extra work. You can do the cut with the right table router bit, or simply by doing a few passes with the table saw at the right height.
While you're on the table router, you can also do a couple of extras, like cutting out a small lip on the side of the frames that will open up (see second picture), or adding a bevel to the frame on any of its edges.
Step 8: Attach the Frames to the Playing Surfaces
I used Titebond III again here and clamped for about an hour, with additional clamps on the corners (not shown in the image).
You can also use finishing nails for a little extra stability. I found the wood glue to be plenty though.
Step 9: Attach the Separators
I cut a thin slice of wood to run down the length of the board and slotted it into the notches from Step 2. They fit pretty snugly without any additional adhesive but I added just a few drops of wood glue in the center to keep them from wiggling.
Step 10: Sanding and Finishing
I don't have a good image for this but it's up to you how much time to spend and what finish you want exactly. I used teak oil since that was the material for the main board.
Be careful when you sand and finish the points - this is the most likely time that they may break off and you'll have to try to reattach them.
You can buy pretty good hinges and clasps for the box at most hardware stores.