Making Board Game Pieces

Making your wooden game board pieces

Making your wooden game board pieces.

This is just a quick post about making board game pieces.  A word of warning, when making wooden pieces, hexagons are hard to make. Luckily I have a father who is a carpenter, and because I certainly did not inherit his ability to work with wood, it was very helpful.  We eventually did make quite a few pieces, but it required plenty of heavy equipment.  That equipment made light work of what would have been a very slow process manually, and if I ever need to make more, it will be quite easy now that we know how.

How to cut your own board game pieces

First we worked out the height and width; 20mm and 17mm, and about a metre long Then we cut and planed the timber to size (planing gives timber a smooth edge).  With a circular saw we ran the lengths along an angled blade to create the first side, then rotated until all the sides were done (four in total).  The 17mm width needs no further changes, but the 20mm side is altered.  Dad made sure the angled sides were 17.5mm apart, so that we had and extra 0.5mm, or 0.25mm for each side.  This way, we could run it through the planer and get a nice smooth finish.  Then we just sliced it up, like a carrot, 10mm thick. (All the credit goes to my dad, thanks!)

I thought this diagram might shed more light on my description.

Cutting hexagon board game pieces out of wood

How to cut your hexagon board game pieces out of wood.

I then sanded back each piece, yes each piece, until they were nice and smooth on the flat sides, and I had removed most of the splintered edges. There are about four hundred pieces all up.

Painting the home-made board game pieces

The emblem on the home made wooden game board pieces

The emblem on the wooden game board pieces. They stack nicely, which will work well for armies.

I had two ideas; staining the pieces and using six kinds of wood, or painting the pieces.  Since we only had three kinds of wood at the time of cutting, painting was the option I chose. Painting them was easy if I just wanted them plain, but I wanted some pieces that could be distinguished from others.  I thought of a variety of ideas, but some were impossible (or at least very difficult), and as these are just trial pieces I didn’t want to get too far into the process.

Painting home made wooden board game pieces

Painting home-made wooden board game pieces. It was fairly easy and the paint dried quickly.

I found a hole punch in the shape of the Sovereign emblem (fleur de lis) and cut out some sticker paper into those shapes. Then I painted one side in a contrasting colour to the final colour, generally ‘slate grey’.  When that paint was dry, I stuck the sticker over the top, and then painted the end colour over the top of that.  The end result, once the sticker was pulled off,  left the emblem in the slate grey. It was very fiddly, but it looked nice when the sticker came away clean.

Some things to note about making your own game board pieces out of wood

  1. The first thing I found was that hard wood, with a fine grain, is much much better.  The pine was rough, light and didn’t paint well.
  2. Make sure you have plenty of pieces to trial out your ideas for painting etc. although you can always paint over them.
  3. Make it easy to reproduce, if you are only making a few one offs that’s fine, but four hundred to six hundred pieces can take a while (I am still not finished).
  4. Think about the colours you use; high contrast is best.  The yellow I used does not stand out too well on the board.
  5. If you can buy them and they are not too expensive, it’s not a bad option.

I will write about a really successful test-play we did the other week soon.

2 thoughts on “Making Board Game Pieces

  1. Just discovered this site last night, and I’m already tempted to take a shot at building it.
    In thinking about this though, I have some basic woodworking skills but no table saw (and I’d be uncomfortable working on something this small even if I had one, I think), and many potential players may not even have that. so I was curious if anyone has yet tried alternatives such as maybe metal hex nuts with the printed game tiles affixed to the top (the hole in the middle would probably have to be filled with something).. or simply not using hexes for the pieces and using discs instead, which would be very easily and cheaply cut from a wooden dowel from a home improvement or craft store.
    If not, if I get motivated enough to build this I’ll have to discuss how the results turned out – just not sure how soon that will happen as I’m not sure who I know who would be interested in playing this type of game, unfortunately…

  2. Hi Steve,

    Before I built the wooden hexes, which required a father who was a carpenter to make, I used glass beads, I bought them from the hardware store, but I think you can get them from craft and petshops as well. This link will show an image of the beads (first trial run for the game). I have considered using metal nuts as well and you should be able to find ones the right size. I have to admit that play is a lot nicer with the wooden pieces, compared with cardboard, and they are easier to see on the board. Good luck with making the pieces, and hope you enjoy the game.


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