Sometimes things that seem so simple turn out to be just the opposite. This is one such case.
It all started when Dave Kilpatrick, my supplier of highly unique wood stopped by two weeks ago with three slices of apple. He thought that one would make a great cribbage board and we discussed which one would work the best. We both agreed that one wouldn’t work that well, so that left us with two. I strongly felt that the piece on the right would be perfect – the small separate oval area would be perfect for a scoreboard and that alone had me sold. Dave wasn’t convinced though. He loved the shape, colour and grain of the left piece. So I suggested that I make two boards – one for him and one for me and he agreed.
Cribbage boards… simple, right? Just drill a bunch of holes in a piece of wood and you’re done, right? I started by laying out the 4-player track Dave had requested. I wanted it to follow the live edge, so I used a pencil in a compass to draw four parallel lines to the edge of the slab. That was the easy part. Laying out 4 sets of 120 holes so that they all appear evenly spaced around a track that is neither straight nor regular is not at all an easy task. I was not happy with either of the first two attempts, so I fed the board through the thickness sander to remove the marks. On the third time (I think), I got a pattern with which I was happy.
Then it was a simple (but tedious) task to drill all 517 holes. I would not do this without a drill press. I set the depth stop and started drilling. Good lighting is paramount here. I found that every 50 holes, I needed to take a break because either my eyes (or possibly my mind) would start to lose focus. Without being able to see clearly, it’s impossible to do a good job. Without mental focus, its way too easy to drill in the wrong place which would put all the previous work to waste. Not good, either way.
A good cribbage board always provides a storage compartment for the pegs, so I had to do some brainstorming. At the bandsaw, I cut off a small bit of the board that was protruding to use as a cap later. Then I drilled a 1-3/4” deep hole into the edge of the board and turned down a synthetic cork to fit the hole. I screwed the cork to the underside of the cap, being careful to get it positioned correctly.
Now all that remained was to carve the lines separating each 5-point section. Given the serpentine nature of the track, I also opted to carve the path of each track. Finally, I engraved the skunk line with an S and the double skunk line with a DS. For a finish, I applied two coats of Lee Valley’s Gel Finish, then rubbed out the top surface with 0000 steel wool. Time for the final inspection. I cleaned out a few holes in which finish had gotten into, then used compressed air to clean sawdust and steel wool out the holes and crevices. I applied black adhesive-backed felt to the bottom and signed my name to complete the board.
One last thing – find some suitable cribbage pegs. Most cribbage boards use 1/8” diameter holes, but this board, being 23 x 15 x 1-3/8” needed larger holes so I used a 3/16” brad point bit. This board (and Dave) demanded a more interesting peg than the standard turned variety, so I went for a walk around my neighbourhood looking for twigs from various trees. I trimmed them to 1-1/4” long and whittled one end to fit into the holes.
All that was left was to play – gotta make sure it works, right?
By the way, to anyone who decides to do a photo shoot like this, it would be much easier to figure out the hands first, then place the pegs accordingly. I had just randomly put the pegs in the holes and was left with a puzzle. Good thing I’m always up for a challenge.