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Project Ideas: Fun & Games

How to Build a Custom Checkerboard

Playing a game of checkers is something that anyone from ages 5 to 95 can enjoy. What's just as fun is making your own personalized checkerboard and pieces with materials available at your local Home Depot. 

As woodworking projects go, this is not only one of the simplest ones you can do yourself with basic power tools, but one that all can enjoy to play for years afterwards!





Paint brush


Table Saw


Measuring tape


Power sander w/ sandpaper


Wood Glue

furniture-grade finishing nails

Wood Putty

1" x 1" wooden corner bead at 4' in length min.

1-1-1/4” dowel at 4’ length

1- 2'x2' 1/4" MDF plywood

Tack Cloth

Marker or pencil

(optional) stencil

STEP 1: Gather Measurements, Materials, and Tools


Come into your local Home Depot with your supplies list above. While you may have some of the items, it’s always a must to visit the store, since the lumber associates can cut the large wood to size.

You'll have at the end of the project, you'll have the following pieces to make your checkerboard set.

  • 24 pieces of 1" thick 1-1/4" dowel rod pieces (cut more if needed for extras)
  • 1- 17" x 17" for the checkerboard
  • 4- 17" inch outside corner to outside corner wooden corner bead pieces 

Before you do any cutting, always make sure to mark carefully where the cuts will go for all pieces. 

Shown below, marking the 64 squares as well as the 1 inch gap for the wooden corner bead frame is a great start to help visualize the final design. 

After marking the checkerboard, now you can start to measure and mark the checker pieces from the 1-1/4" dowel rods every 1 inch. Mark at minimum 24 pieces, and cut more for extra in case those get lost.

STEP 2: Cutting Your Basic Pieces

For a regulation size 64 square checkerboard set, start with cutting down the board to a 17" x 17" size square. 

This can be done via a table saw (shown below).


All cuts can be easily made by a table and mitre saw. The latter saw is used for cutting down the dowel rod for your checker pieces, as well as the corner cuts (mitre) for the corner bead frame.

Remember, while your local Home Depot store can and will do basic cuts for you, anything very specific in the cut is best done with your own tools in your own workspace, if possible.

After making sure all the cuts are accurate, you can then do a 'dry run', or do a light assembly to ensure everything fits and functions well.

As shown below with the dry run, the wooden corner bead's 4 mitre cuts at a 45 degree angle will act as a frame, as well as raise the board itself off the floor. Plus, it makes for a good frame grip and holder underneath for your pieces after you are finished playing. 

STEP 3: Sanding Everything

Before sanding, if it is needed, to use wood putty for any gaps left by the mitre where they meet the other ones. Any remaining left-over putty will soon be sanded over. Inspect at this step and view to ensure all pieces and checkerboard/frame are in working order.

After making sure all the pieces are in good functioning order, you are now ready to sand. Using a power sander greatly decreases the time it takes to do this, versus hand-held sandpaper. 

Sanding is extremely important in building games, since this will be used frequently for all the pieces. A good reason why sanding is so crucial is shown in the image below. Lots of cuts reveal splintered wood pieces that can be easily removed by the sander.

Use 150 grit sandpaper for the power sander, and then use a final 220 grit sandpaper to ensure all surfaces are splinter-free and smooth.

Using a tack cloth afterwards on all the wood surfaces gets rid of dust and debris from the cuts. Having a clean surface free of sawdust now allows you to move onto your next step...

STEP 4: Gluing and Assembling the Frame

After making sure all surfaces are clean, you are now ready to glue the 4 wooden corner bead frame to the checkerboard piece. 

Using clamps and wood glue, carefully place each frame piece, but one at a time. Allow for adequate drying time. Since I used Gorilla Glue, I made sure to let each frame piece dry for several hours as per the instructions on the bottle.

Once all 4 sides of the corner bead are glued securely onto the checkerboard, you can now do a final inspection before beginning to paint it.

STEP 5: Painting & Customizing Your Checkerboard

This is where the "custom" in this project happens. Since a checkerboard is traditionally black and red, I chose for this game to make the board with a college with the same colors. 

Using an artist's brush set, I used red, white, and grey for my color choices. This particular type of small brush works wonders for small areas and the checker pieces themselves.

As an added step, using a primer over any bare wood guarantees the top coat will adhere to the surface properly and allow for a uniform coat. 

In my project, I used primer only for the checkerboard surface, but make sure all surfaces are painted at minimum 2 times in order for the paint to perform at its best.

To make the project go smoother, you can opt for using painter's tape to mask off the edges and hard lines for where you want the other colors to go over the primer. Start with the primer and white paint, and then 'fill in' the squares using the darker colors of your choice.


During this step, I decided to use the UGA logo in the center of the board. If carefully done and measured, you too can get any shape or design for yours without interrupting too many squares so you can play without issue.

It's optional, but you can use a stencil rather than free-handing the logo, as I did.

STEP 6: Finalizing & Enjoying Your Checkerboard

After painting and inspecting all parts of the checkerboard, allow for the paint to dry completely. 

As an added measure, I used Rust-Oleum's Triple Thick Clear Glaze spray to give all pieces a high gloss and durable finish.

Once you allow the checkerboard and pieces to completely dry, you can now enjoy it wherever and whenever you like!

The beauty of checkers is in its ease of play and portability. After making the game, I ensured that a good round or two was played with my family and me!

As far as wood DIY game projects go, making a custom checkerboard is simple yet looks great as a conversation starter for any space where you'd like to store it.

If you would like to get into making board games or fun projects, I highly suggest doing this as an easy beginning project.

For any other questions regarding steps in this project, please let us know here. 


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Posted 2016-10-24T15:13:06+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL Joseph_HD_ATL
Amazing! Thanks for sharing this useful post.
Posted 2016-10-25T05:30:29+0000  by lisadavis
Not what you were looking for ? Try posting a question