A given board does not need much in terms of wood quantity, so I often buy the small
quantities of exotic wood from commercial wood vendors. The face of the board
determines how big the board is, the hole pattern, etc. I currently have 59 unique drill
templates (and counting) in a wide variety of shapes & sizes, so it’s never a problem to
find a template to fit a given board. I then use a less dynamic wood for the bottom of
the board. Some typical bottom woods I use include oak (red or white), redwood,
poplar, pine, mahogany and walnut.
a Board “Sandwich”
Next, I glue the board face and the bottom of the board to a center core piece –
typically a nice piece of cabinet grade plywood or Finnish Birch. The board’s face and
bottom pieces are typically 1/8” to ¼” thick, so the thickness of the board is really
determined by the thickness of the center core. This allows for lots of variation in
design and makes for a board that should (in theory), never warp, cup or twist due to
changes in moisture/humidity/dryness, etc. since the board core is extremely stable and
itself is made of 7 to 15 laminated layers.
I use a foaming Polyurethane glue to mate the board face and bottom to the core. I
moisten the board core (both sides) with a little water and then apply glue to the board
face and bottom, spreading the glue out evenly. Water acts as a catalyst for the glue.
The board face and bottom are then sandwiched to the core. I always wear gloves when
using this type of glue, otherwise the glue stains my hands.
My only “complaint” with the glue is that when I get to the bottom of the big 36 oz.
bottle, I can no long easily squeeze out the glue (it tends to thicken up over time) and I
have to resort to more drastic measures to get at what glue remains. It’s expensive glue
and I don’t like to waste it. What I typically do, is ready several board glue-ups and I
then cut off the top three-fourths of the glue bottle using a hacksaw and I now have
easy access to the rest of the glue. Then, I quickly glue up the boards scraping the
remaining glue out of the bottle as I go. It’s necessary to quickly use up the remaining
glue since, it reacts (and hardens) when exposed to air.
I apply 8-15 clamps to complete the “sandwich” and then set the assembly aside while
the glue sets up overnight. There is pretty much zero chance that the face or the
bottom of the board will delaminate of come off of the board core. They are mated for
A board looks pretty messy when it firsts comes out the clamps, but it’s easily cleaned
up. I scrap off any "glue ooze" on the face, bottom and one edge of the board. I then
“joint” the one edge (where the glue ooze was just scraped off). Jointing an edge (on
the jointer) gives me a clean, straight edge to reference from and then I clean up the
remaining 3 edges on the table saw. If needed, I will plane (smooth out) the bottom of
the board at this point. The face of the board will be very lightly face jointed either
before or after I drill the pegging holes .
If I decide to add inlay that is not for point separation, I would cut the inlay groove(s)
at this point and tap/glue the inlay into place. The inlay strips typically hang off the
edge, so I saw the edge off to make it flush with the edge of the board before applying
the first edge.
Drilling the Peggin'
Now, I drill the pegging holes. I first pick a plastic template that seems like a good fit,
mount it using 1” long #6 square-drive screws (screws designed for pocket holes ) to
hold the template snug against the board face and drill away. It typically takes me 5-10
minutes or so to drill a board. I have metal drill templates, but they’ve been “cloned”
into plastic, since plastic is much easier to get sit flush against the board face and
eliminate “tear out”. Also, the plastic template is much lighter and easier to handle
than the metal template. If I want to add inlay for point separation, I would add it
once the peggin' holes are drilled.
Apply 1st Outer
For the inner edge, thin strips of wood are cut. I try and use a color of wood that
contrasts nicely with the board face: purple, red, white. Colored woods make for nice
contrasting inner edges. I use a good quality PVA glue for the inner and outer edges.
The edges are clamped up and allowed to dry over night. After the inner edges dry, I
pull the clamps off, joint a reference edge again, thinning the edge as I go, and then
thin the other 3 edges of the board (on the table saw) to match the first edge. I like a
thin inner edge. It makes for a nice accent on the board.
Apply 2nd Outer
The outer edge is a little bit more work, since unlike the inner edge, it’s quite a bit
thicker and the four corners where the outer edge pieces meet are “mitered” at 45
degrees. I always start with the long edges and glue them on first. I rough cut the long
pieces on the miter saw and then do the fine cutting with a miter trimmer, which
“shaves” off little wood slices, until I get the length just right. With the long edges
glued and clamped, I now have a reference for the short edges. Again, I rough cut the
pieces on the miter saw and fine tune the cut on the miter trimmer. It usually takes me
a couple of tries on the miter trimmer to get the length of the short pieces just right.
These short pieces are then glued and clamped in place. The outer edge gluing is
allowed to dry overnight.
Initial Clean Up
This step levels and smoothes out both sides of the board and brings the board to a
nice, consistent dimension. I use a heavy 120 grit sandpaper for this initial clean-up
sanding. The board is starting to look more like the finished product after its initial
cleanup sanding. At this point, all the glue residue has been removed. Since I have
already done the majority of face board cleanup on the jointer, the face of the board
only gets a one or 2 passes with the drum sander.
Drill & Tap Peg Cap
Next, the cap hole is drilled. This is typically either 3/8”, ½” or 5/8 in diameter,
depending on the thickness of the board. Thinner boards get smaller holes. I use a
Davis & Wells horizontal boring machine (converted to horizontal drill by way of a
mounted Jacobs drill chuck) to start the hole since this assures that the hole will be
exactly centered in the board and won’t wander or “blow-out” on one side of the board
or the other. I then lengthen the hole using a regular drill to make the final peg
storage hole to be about 3” deep. The hole is then “tapped” to have threads, so a small
threaded wooden cap will mate with it and securely hold the pegs in the board when
the board is not in use. Finally, I counter sink the hole to bevel the edge of the peg cap
hole. I periodically make small batches (in different sizes) of the threaded caps using
Beall’s Wood Threader.
Initial Finish Sanding
Using a hand sander, I go back to an 80 grit sandpaper and sand the face, sides and
bottom. I then apply a “sanding sealer” and let the board set overnight. I then use a #0
steel wool to even out the where the sealer was applied.
More sanding… kind of boring…ZZZ…sanding through the grits: 120,180,220,330
using a hand orbital hand sander.
I'm always changing up how I finish the boards, so step 13 is one of those steps that I
consider a work in progress.
Let there be light
It’s possible to “speed-up” the natural oxidizing of wood on the board a little bit by
putting the board underneath a very bright work light. This works especially well for
the purple/red colored border woods. Sometimes the purple woods appear a little dull or
brown at first – but a few minutes under the light, the color really pops.
Stamp, Sign and
Date the Board
I use a custom made electric branding iron (complete with my web address) and
"brand" the stamp onto the bottom of the board. I then sign and date (the
month/year) the board was made. I also add the board's name, it's series and the
species of wood used in the board.
Not surprisingly, the board peggin' holes get plugged with the various finishes and
must be carefully re-drilled.
Final Hand wipe &
Buffing on the
It gets a 2 coat wax buffing on the lathe buffer and then 2 more buffings on the
dedicated buffer. A good hand buffing with a dry cotton rag does wonders for a board.
It spruces it right up.
boards and upload
onto the website
I struggle a little bit with getting the pictures just right. I want the picture to look as
close as possible to the color of the board. The pages have already been generated in
Yahoo Sitebuilder since it’s easy to work with and I don’t like to spend a lot of time
designing and maintaining my website. At this point, I usually have a good idea as to
what price to ask for a given board and will set the price in at this point. Once the page
is done, it gets uploaded. Select boards are offered for sale on etsy.com.
Package and Ship the
After I sell a board, I need to pack and ship it to the customer. I store finished boards
on a high shelf, out of the way, so they don’t get knocked around. To make it easy to
find the board, each one has a little piece of blue tape with the board’s name. After I
retrieve the board from its perch, I visually inspect the board to make sure there are no
plugged holes, give it a quick machine and hand buffing, find the right size threaded
cap, mark the cap with a couple of unique board related items, wax the cap and then
test the cap to make sure it threads on and off easily. I then put the requisite number
of pegs in the peg holder hole and thread the cap on. Sometimes I will “chase” the
threads on the board if the cap feels tight. I then put together the board’s player
package. This package includes a little COA (Certificate Of Authenticity) printed on
maple veneer denoting the name of the board and the board series it belongs to, a copy
of Wikipedia rules for playing cribbage and a complimentary Enumero Cribbage
Boards refrigerator magnet (and who can’t use another fridge magnet!). The board is
then carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and put in its USPS provided 2-3 Day Priority
Shipping box. I use bundled up wads of paper to act as padding – easier to reuse and
recycle than foam peanuts. The USPS shipping label is applied and then dropped off
at the Enumero Cribbage Boards International Shipping Center, where Mark, our
mailman picks it up and starts it on its journey it to its new home.