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cribbage board woodworking plans

Added/Modified on November 20, 2016
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Build the base

Start by dressing and dimensioning lumber for the base, bringing it to a final size of 7/8″ x 5 1/2″ x 15 1/2″. Use a 45º chamfer bit in a table-mounted router to create a 1/4″ bevel around the entire top edge of the base. Mark out the recess for the deck of cards as shown in the plans, then use a 1/2″-dia. straight bit in a plunge router to mill a 3/4″-deep recess. You’ll get best results if you prepare a router template from 1/4″ plywood or hardboard, then use it to guide the process. (The plans show you how.) While you’re at it, mark the location for a 1/2″-deep peg compartment at the opposite end of the base. A two-inch Forstner bit is the perfect helper to use for this job.

Top player

To make the game board itself, start by preparing a 3/4″ x 4 3/8″ x 14 1/4″ piece of wood. I prefer a light and interesting species, such as bird’s-eye maple, for this high-visibility piece. Finish-sand the surfaces of the board and get ready to drill a lot of holes. This is where a paper template really helps. Use your computer-or a friend’s-to download the full-size template in Acrobat format. You can also have the template doubled in size on a photocopier with an enlargement feature.

Once you have the template, glue it to the best face of your game board blank using spray adhesive. Using a bandsaw, cut the rounded profile on one end of the board to within 1/16″ of the template line, then sand up to it with a stationary disc sander.

Accuracy drills

While the template makes placing the holes easy, the real challenge lies in drilling them in such a way as to end with nice clean edges. The best way to help ensure a minimum of sanding later is to use a sharp, high-quality 1/8″ brad-point bit chucked in your drillpress, and to spin it as fast as possible. A faster speed results in less tearout and cleaner holes, although you do need to monitor drill-bit temperature. Stop every few minutes, touch the bit and let it cool down if it’s hot.

Drill all of the holes to a depth of 1/2″, except for holes in the centre of the board at the 102 mark and at the centre of the score holes at the bottom of the board. These need to be drilled all the way through, using sacrificial scrap wood underneath to prevent tearout where the bit exits the game board. You’ll use these holes later to assemble the base and top.

Make a sandwich

Bringing the base and top together properly can be tricky unless you use double-sided adhesive tape. It gives you multiple shots at centering the game board on the base properly. Remember those two holes you drilled completely through the game board? Place your 1/8″ drill bit into these holes one at a time, then give it a gentle tap with a mallet. The marks made on the base show where you need to drill for the centre pivot and rare-earth magnets.

Separate the two parts and bring the base back to the drillpress. At the mark in the centre, drill a 1/8″-dia. x 3/4″-deep hole to receive a 1″-long x 1/8″-dia. brass rod. In the other location you marked, drill a 1/2″-dia. x 1/8″-deep hole using a Forstner bit. This is where one of two rare-earth magnets will sit. While the Forstner bit is in the drillpress, make a matching hole in the bottom of the game board. You’ll install another magnet here, completing the “latch” mechanism.

Epoxy the magnets into their respective holes, ensuring they sit flush with the wood surface and are oriented so they attract each other. While you’re at it, put a dab of epoxy into the 1/8″ centre hole in the base and insert the brass rod, making sure there is 1/4″ of rod left protruding from the base.

Final touches

Apply labelling to the game board. You could use paint, but I’ve found that dry-rub transfers (available at most craft stores) work best. After the lettering is done, apply the finish of your choice. I used three coats of water-based poly­urethane. Next, add some feet to the base. A tool-and-die maker friend made some brass feet for me, but simple stick-on felt or cork surface protectors would work just as well.

Line the two hidden compartments with felt and bring the board and base together, ensuring that the brass rod protruding from the base goes into the centre hole of the game board. Add a deck of cards, some pegs, then call in the competition for a friendly game!


Part Material Size (T x W x L*) Qty.
Base walnut 7/8″ x 5 1/2″ x 15 1/2″ 1
Game board bird’s-eye maple 3/4″ x 4 3/8″ x 14 1/4″ 1
Brass rod brass 1/8″ – dia. x 1″ 1
Magnets rare-earth type 1/2″ – dia. 2
Cribbage board pegs brass 2
Cribbage board pegs nickel 2
Cribbage board pegs black steel 2
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