Monday, November 18, 2013

Quick and Dirty Gift Project - Cribbage Board

Pear and maple scraps
This time of year is stressful for me because I am probably the world's worst procrastinator when it comes to holiday gift giving.  This year I intended for things to be different, and instead of me shopping on Amazon on December 23rd, I wanted to send out some wooden stuff I made.

Great in theory, but now things need to get in the mail if they are to have any hope of getting to the intended recipients on time.  A project that can be finished in one session is called for.

I came up with a brilliant concept to help me out with this - a cribbage board.

What could be simpler?  It's just a board with a bunch of holes drilled in it.

I found a clever design while googling for ideas.  I wish I could take credit for it, as it is a neat little cribbage board.  It is intended to be a travelling board, as it it easily transported.  OK, a regular cribbage board is easily transported, too, but this one has a more unique look.

I started by looking in my scrap bin for a nice hunk of something, and came up with an offcut of pear.

Don't ask me for measurements on this piece, I don't know.  It's about "yea" long because that's how long my scrap was.  It is "yea" thick because that is the biggest this stick would be after planing everything flat.
I know, it doesn't look like much.

Projects like this are a great opportunity to practice hand tool fundamentals.  There is no reason this project needs a board that is perfectly square, but I marked it out and planed it down to perfection just because I can.

That, and I think the more one practices this skill the more accurate and faster one becomes.

After that, I marked a line on two faces, and planed down to the line to establish the big chamfer which will become the bottom.  It only takes a minute with a course plane.

With small pieces I sometimes clamp the plane up and push the stock over the blade.
 With that done, it is time to mark out lines for the holes.  I didn't bother finding the center.  I layed it flat on my bench, pushed a piece of particle board next to it that looked about half as thick and drew a line.  It looked good, so I took a thin piece of plywood and set it on top of the particle board to draw the outside lines.

No need to make this rocket-surgery.
I used dividers for the layout.  I eyeballed about how far I wanted the first hole to be, and marked that off of each end.  I transferred those marks to a story stick, and stepped off six equal measurements.  From here, I stepped off a distance that I thought would look good for the holes to be apart, leaving some space traditionally used to make counting easier.

An easier way would be to buy a store bought template.
All in all, accurately marking off the holes wasn't too bad.  It took only a little less time that actually drilling them out.

I used my eggbeater Miller's Falls #5 to drill the holes.  A drill press might be nice for this, but I don't have one.  I don't think it would have been any faster, as I am only drilling 1/8" holes about half an inch deep or so.

If I didn't have an eggbeater, I would probably use a cordless drill.  Just be carefull not to go too far.  I used masking tape here for a depth stop.

Do yourself a favor and buy some of those nice drill bits from Lee Valley.  They made this job a snap.
 After all the holes are drilled, I cleaned up the faces with a fine set plane.

I have to say, these are really cool shavings.
The only thing left is a space to store the pegs while not in use.  I used a 5/16" bit in a breast drill to make a cavity in one end.  Turns out it isn't centered too good, but that adds to the "hand-made" charm.  I made a plug for it out of a scrap of maple.

Hopefully, someone doesn't bang it in too hard and split the pear wood.

This tool is great for bits that are too big for the MF#5.
That's it!  All that is left is a nice finish that I'll blog about in a separate post.

And a deck of cards.

In case you are wondering, I am using store bought pegs from Lee Valley.


  1. I would love to make a bunch of furniture as Christmas gifts, but I just don't have the time to properly finish it. If my relatives wouldn't mind unfinished furniture (unless you want to count wax as a finish) I would be all in.

    1. Funny you should mention wax. I'm working on my next blog post right now.

  2. Hi Brian! Pear wood? it becomes that dark when waxed? My bench top is made of pear, 2 slabs 2 m x 20 cm x 7 cm.I haven't put any finish on it yet, I wanted to put blo + varnish +ms mixture, but now I don't really want to do it...

    1. Hi Aymeric,

      The pear wood I got is supposedly a true pear. Also, I'm guessing it was kiln dried and probably steamed, like beech often is, to boot. Steaming really brings out a red color in beech, perhaps it does the same with pear. It really is gorgeous wood.