During those long, cold winters I spent growing up along the shores of Lake Vermilion in the far north of Minnesota, one of the ways that we wiled away the long dark evenings was playing cribbage. Young or old, it made no difference. It is such a popular pastime “up North,” that I would not be surprised if it was the primary way most of my friends learned to count and to add. (One of the ways you earn points in cribbage is by combining cards that add up to 15 or 31.) I can still hear someone counting out “that’s 15 for two and a pair is four!”
If you can believe it, this design was sent to us from a person who lives even further north than where I grew up. Bruce Beatty, a fire department training officer and woodworker from Orangeville, Ontario, submitted this project to the Woodworker’s Journal Google SketchUp contest. As the winner, his project was built for an issue, and when we finished photographing it, we sent it to Bruce as sort of a solid wood trophy. But before that could happen, I had to figure out how to build it.
Before You Get Started
Before you get started on putting the piece together, you’ll need these sometimes difficult to find parts for the finished product.
Starting with the Middle
Using Bruce’s CAD drawings as my starting point, I quickly did what all woodworkers do when working from a plan supplied by someone else: I changed it! After a couple of test cuts in 3/4″ stock, I was worried that the recess that stores the cards could become a problem. When I routed the recess, the amount of material remaining seemed a little too thin for my liking. I could, of course, make that piece from 7/8″-thick stock, but it looked a bit bulky. So, after a bit of noodling, I decided to rout the card recess completely through the 3/4″ stock and glue a 1/4″-thick piece of black walnut to the bottom as a base. To my eyes, that dark base visually anchored the cribbage board to the table and provided a nice three-layered look to the project. (You can choose either solution.) I also decided to use a pivot hinge and included a small magnet to keep the board closed.
With those choices made, I went ahead and cut blanks from which to form the three pieces that make up the cribbage board: the core, base and playing surface. While the choice is up to you, I made the base from walnut, the core from cherry lumber and the playing surface from maple.
You have another choice to make now: if you are going to make several cribbage boards (say, perhaps to give away as presents…) I recommend that you make two separate templates — one sized for the core and base, and one for the playing surface. If you are only going to make one or two cribbage boards, simply make the template for the core. (You can lay out and make the playing surface easily enough without resorting to pattern routing if you are only making a few of these cribbage boards.)
The core template needs to locate the positions of the rotating hinge, the peg storage hole, magnet hole and the card storage recess I talked about earlier. And the best way to make the card recess hole includes pattern routing as one of the steps. Consider this as a tip: I made my templates from 1/2″ MDF because it is easy to work with and inexpensive. But more than that, 1/2″ thickness, in my opinion, is better than 1/4″ for pattern routing with a bearing guided router bit because the bearing can be shielded within the thickness of the MDF. Take your time and make the template (or templates) accurately … any mistakes here will show up on your finished project.