Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cribbage Board Disaster

I guess not a complete disaster.  More on that later.
There is about one week in the year when the tree in the backyard is in bloom.
I need a quick and dirty gift for someone, so I decided to knock out another cribbage board.  I like making these, as it allows me to be creative without worrying about joinery too much.
I started from a nice piece of 5/4 cherry.
I like to find a piece of wood in my scrap bin (which is getting WAY too big).  Then, I let the wood define the cribbage board.  Most cribbage board tutorials on the internet involve a template which you have to fit to a pre-determined piece of wood.  I think this is fine, but it is not the way I want to build this one.
I had a little trouble with my panel gauge.  It took a bit too much effort to lock the wedges in.  Perhaps this tool needs a bit more work.
The piece of cherry I chose had some sapwood, and a check all along one side.  This part of this board would never be used for anything else, so I thought it would be perfect here.  The end product will have a crack that shows which some might not like (I'm not sure I like it yet), but it is stable, and is a reminder, along with the sapwood, of the unique character of every piece of wood.
That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.
I got lots of opportunities to try out my new French holdfast today.  This thing works very well with my thick bench.  Three light taps with a mallet locks it so that nothing could ever move, and a light whack on the back to release.  In my bench with more than five inches of oak top, it works much better than my Gramercy holdfasts.
Mongo the holdfast in action.
I decided to put a profile all around the board.  I have used this profile a couple times before, and I like it.  You can also do it with only a rabbet plane, but I used three tools today.
This small cross grain rabbet was easy to do with a chisel.
It only took a couple of minutes to do the cross-grain rabbet with a chisel.
The next step was the long grain rabbet.  My tool of choice for this one is the rabbet plane.
I am really getting to like this holdfast.  Have I said that already?
The last step is to use the two arises  to define a perfect chamfer.  I stop a little before the bottom to leave a bit of the rabbet showing.  That's my easy profile.
I used a block plane for the last step of my profile.
The trick for using a random piece of wood for a cribbage board, is laying out the holes with dividers.  I first marked the optional holes that keep track of who won how many games (there is probably a word for those, but I can't think of it).  Next, I define where my starting holes should be, and define where the last holes on the other end of the board should land.  Then, it is just a matter of spacing the groups of holes so they fit evenly along the board.  Last, I mark the individual holes in every group of five.
This picture probably explains better what I am doing than my writing.
Laying out the holes.
Let the long slog begin!  This board is for three handed cribbage, and required a total of 111 holes drilled.  I used a 1/8" drill bit which fits the pegs I bought from Lee Valley.
What can I say.  I'm drilling holes.
I wanted to include a photo of my method for drilling straight holes.  Notice I put my chin right on  the handle of the drill.  In my experience, this is the most accurate way.
Drilling holes...
I like using an eggbeater drill for this.  There are a few holes that aren't perfectly straight in a line, but it helps clearly identify it as something made by hand.

I hope.
I used my Swedish (or English) egg beater drill.
There should be some kind of compartment for storing the pegs.  I forgot I had a 3/4" Chinese made wood threading kit, so I decided to use that.
Not quite square, but it will work.
I finished it by burnishing with a polissoir, and one coat of BLO so far.  It will probably get a few more coats, followed by a good paste wax.  Since it is cherry, I took it out onto the balcony for some sun to darken it up.
I also experimented with a new letter punching set I got.  There was no period in the set, so I used a cribbage peg instead.  A little big, but it works.
The disaster came right after I snapped this photo.  A wind came up and blew the threaded plug off the balcony into a bush in the neighbor's yard, never to be seen again.  I suppose I have to make a new one.
With threaded plug,


  1. Hi Brian

    I really like that panel gauge of yours, did you build it yourself? It is a very funky design, mate.

    1. http://toolerable.blogspot.com/2013/11/building-panel-gauge-part-i.html

      Hi Gerhard!

      Thanks for the compliment. Believe it or not, the design turns out to be traditional. The three links above are my posts regarding it. Here is a link to a post about the original one, including a scan of the profile in case you want to try building one:


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  3. Sorry to hear about the threaded plug. That's a nice way to store the pegs. Have you thought about opening up the crack and turning it into a carved accent or a place for some inlay? Then it becomes a design opportunity instead of a flaw.

    1. It shouldn't be too difficult to make another plug. That is, if I can find the right dowel in my shop!

      I'm not so sure I'm crazy about the crack, either. I had briefly considered filling it with epoxy, but thought that it might be more trouble than it is worth. It' isn't too late to add somthing, I like the idea of inlay. Perhaps some contrasting wood.

  4. Perhaps there is a way to make a lanyard for the plug (perhaps inside the hole) so something similar doesn't happen to the end user with the next one.

    1. I could put a warning on it not to play cribbage on the balcony!

  5. Hi Brian,
    nice project. And again I've learned something. Namely what Cribbage is.
    The idea with the plug is pretty good. Maybe you should really fix it as Jeremy proposed.

    1. Hi Stefan,

      Cribbage is really a pretty awesome game. Too bad more Europeans don't know this game. If you would like to learn amongst a good group of people, head over to eCribbage.com. It is almost like the real thing.

  6. Perhaps I should try to find out how to play it. I guess making a cribbage board could be a really fine project to do with children, and if the rules aren't too difficult, they could play a game they have made themselves.

    1. I learned to play cribbage when I was the age of your kids. It is fun. Plus, you never stop learning something about that game. If you like to play cards, it is a great two handed game, and three handed is really fun too. Four handed is possible, but a little ponderous in my opinion. I also like to play pinochle. I like that better as a 3 or 4 handed game, but prefer cribbage as a two handed game.