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Home > Projects & DIY Toolkit > How-To Articles > Building a Family Game Box

Building a Family Game Box

This self-contained game box includes a reversible table top with game board layouts for checkers, chess, backgammon and cribbage. A storage area is included in the design and is appropriate for storing checkers, chess pieces, cards, poker chips, cribbage pegs, dominoes and other similar game items. The finished dimensions of the box are 24" x 24" x 3 1/2". Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.

Tools & Materials

  • ½” Plywood
  • Table Saw
  • Drill
  • Nails
  • Wood Glue
  • Wood
  • Paint
  • Brushes
  • Sandpaper
  • Water-based polyurethane

Cutting the Pieces

The woodworking involved in making this project is elementary. Most of the time required will involve painting the game boards-a tedious but rewarding experience. The base of this project is a simple box with finger-jointed corners (see illustration below). The bottom is a 1/4" plywood panel that floats in a groove cut all the way around the inside of the box. The whole assembly is strengthened by a pair of dividers that cross in the centre of the box dividing it into four equal sections—just right for storing your game pieces and cards.

Cutting the Finger Joints

Step 1: Cut four 2 3/4" wide strips from the 1/2" plywood. Cut the strips with the grain. You will then have four strips, 1/2" x 2 3/4" x 24", which will be used for the box sides.

Step 2: Cut two 2 1/4" wide strips from the 1/2" plywood. Again, cut the strips with the grain. These will become the cross-braces which cross inside of the box.

Step 3: Cut the dadoes (grooves) to receive the box bottom.

  •   a) Set your table saw fence to 1/4".
  •   b) Adjust the blade height to 3/16".
  •   c) Make a pass along the lower inside edges of each of the four box sides.
  •   d) Set your fence so that another pass above and beside the one you just made will widen the groove to 1/4". The width of your saw blade will affect this measurement. If you don't know how wide your blade is, you can make very small adjustments and find the right setting by trial and error.
  •   e) After your fence is properly adjusted, make another pass along the sides to complete the dadoes. Make certain that you orient each of the sides properly before you run them through the saw or you will end up with extra grooves in the wrong location.

Step 4: Trim the 24" x 24" x 1/4" plywood panel down to 23 1/4" square. This piece will fit into the dadoes to form the bottom of the box.

Assembling the Base

Step 1: Place one of the sides in front of you with the dado facing down and running along the edge closest to you. Use this same orientation when performing all the operations necessary to lay out the finger joints.

Step 2: Using a pencil, mark across the left side 1/2" in from the edge (against the grain).

Step 3: On this line, place a mark 1" in from both the top and bottom of the side. Do the same at the very edge of the side.

Step 4: Connect your marks between the line and the edge of the side. You should have two horizontal lines (with the grain) running between the pencil line and the end of the side.

Step 5: Cut out the two outer boxes formed by these lines. This will leave you with a 3/4" wide by 1/2" deep tongue in the centre of the side's edge. Use this as a template for the left edge of each of the sides. Mark and cut them all exactly the same.

Step 6: Next, place two of the sides in front of you, edge to edge. Then, overlap the cut edge of the piece on the right over the square edge of the piece on the left. Mark the area in the centre of the edge which must be cut out to receive the tongue.

Step 7: Cut out this area and test fit the two pieces. Make any adjustments necessary so the joint looks like the illustration. Do this with all the side pieces until they fit together to form a square, finger jointed frame.

Making the Game Boards

Step 1: Assemble all the pieces before gluing to make sure it all fits. Slide the frame joints together, place the bottom in the groove and pull it all together.

Step 2: Make any adjustments necessary and reassemble the base using glue. Use glue only in the finger jointed corners. Do not put glue in the dadoes which receive the bottom panel.

Step 3: You may clamp the whole assembly or drive finishing nails through the fingers to hold the box together while it dries. Check to make sure it is square by measuring diagonally from corner to corner both ways. Make any necessary adjustments.

Step 4: Prepare the cross pieces.

  •   a) Trim the two 2 1/4" wide strips of 1/2" plywood so they will fit across the inside centre of the base snugly.
  •   b) Then, mark a line across the centre of both pieces (across the grain).
  •   c) Mark lines 1/4" to both sides of the centre line on both pieces.
  •   d) Using these lines as guides, cut out a 1 1/8" deep notch 1/2" wide in the very centre of both boards.
  •   e) With the two notches facing each other, fit the pieces together to form an X.

Step 5: Mark the centre of each of the base sides to help align the cross pieces. Glue the cross pieces in place.

Step 6: After the glue is thoroughly dry, sand and stain the base assembly.

Final Assembly

Step 1: Sand the 24" x 24" x 3/4" piece of plywood to your satisfaction. Stain the piece to match the base.

Step 2: Layout and paint the game boards as illustrated in the drawings. Lowe's recommends that you paint freehand-that is how the prototype was painted. It takes a while, but the finished product is charming and obviously handmade. Strive for perfection, realizing, of course, that it "just ain't going to happen." That's good though, since clinical perfection would take away from the charm of the game box.

If you feel that you must use masking tape to do a good job, be certain to fill the grain of the wood beforehand. Otherwise the paint will creep under the tape and spoil your edges. Another trick that painters sometimes use is to paint a coat of clear over the masked area before putting on the colour. The clear prevents the colour from creeping under the tape and helps create a well-defined edge when the tape is removed.

Step 3: Seal and preserve your hard work with several coats of water-based polyurethane. Don't sand until after you've put on a couple of coats and be careful not to sand through your hand-painted areas.

Step 4: If you choose to incorporate a cribbage board, now is the time to do it. Drilling the holes after finishing the table will prevent them from filling with polyurethane.

Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please visit our terms of use.

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