Part 1: The playing surface (maple)
The playing surface dimensions of the boards I make are ~17.65″ x 7.5″. This size equals the proportions of an NHL rink (200 x 85). I started by picking out a piece of hard maple that was at least 8″ wide.
Because I only have a 6″ jointer I had to do the best I could at levelling one side with the thickness planer. After surfacing one face I squared up a side on the jointer and then ripped the other side to it’s final width of 7.5″.
The original rough cut board had a thickness of approximately 1″ and I wanted to take the thickness down to about 3/4″. I initially tried to do this in my thickness planer but the wood was very hard and had a significant amount of figuring. All of this gave my planer fits when I tried to take off more than just a skim coat. Eventually I ended up setting the fence on my table saw to just over a 3/4″ wide cut and making a full depth pass along the length of both sides of the board to remove as much material as possible from each side. This left just a strip of the rough sawn material in the middle of the board that needed to be removed.
I was able to use the planer to remove the strip in the middle and then take a couple light passes to remove any saw marks from the table saw. This process of reducing the thickness ended up working significantly better / faster than it would have if I’d tried to reduce the entire thickness on my planer alone. After I had all four sides surfaced I cross cut the board into two ~17.65″ long playing surface blanks. I’ll use one of these for this board and save the other for later
Part 2: The frame (walnut)
The frame consists of two 17.65″ long pieces, two ~9″ pieces and four rounded corners. For this board I picked out a piece of walnut that was ~7/8″ thick.
The frame pieces will be roughly 1.5″ tall so I ripped a ~3.5″ wide strip from the walnut board to make surfacing easier.
After ripping the board to 3.5″ I took it to the jointer to flatten one of the faces:
After one face was flattened I squared up one of the sides on the jointer and then squared up the other side on the table saw.
Next it was off to the thickness planer to clean up the final face. I’d hoped to end up with about a 3/4″ thick board but the saw marks were too deep so I ended up only having about 5/8″ of usable board.
Here’s the walnut board after surfacing all 4 sides:
Before ripping the board into 1.5″ strips I cut off two blocks that are ~ 2.5″ wide. The rounded corners will be cut from these pieces in a later step.
Next I set the fence to 1.5″ and ripped the rest of the board to the final dimensions. After this I cross cut the 1.5″ wide boards into two long pieces that matched the length of the playing surface and two short pieces that matched the width of the playing surface plus the width of the two long pieces and checked the fit:
Gluing up the frame. Nothing fancy here, just some butt joints. These joints aren’t the strongest at the moment but once all of the other pieces are glued together it will be plenty strong.
While the glue is drying on the frame pieces I use a template to mark my rounded corners on the blocks I made earlier and then move over to the bandsaw to rough cut them:
After rough cutting the curves I test the corners to make sure they will fit square in each corner. Any adjustments that need made are done at this step. In this case the corners fit well but the height ended up being about 1/16″ proud of the frame. A block plane will make quick work of getting them level (after they are glued in).
While the glue dried on the frame I sanded the playing surface board from 100 to 150 to 220 grit, wet it to raise the grain, and sanded again to 220 grit.
Next I loaded up my hockey rink stencil file in the cutting software for my vinyl cutter and started the cut. This stencil was probably the hardest part of the entire process. It took many hours for the perfectionist in me to get it to exactly match the dimensions of an NHL rink. After loading up the file I sent it to the vinyl cutter and let it do its job. Each stencil takes about 10 minutes to cut.
After the stencil cutting is completed I slowly and meticulously applied the stencil to the wood. This part is very stressful as any deviation from square at the beginning can result in a significant deviation at the other end. Fortunately vinyl is stretchable so smaller mistakes can usually be compensated for during the process. Applying and weeding the vinyl takes about 20-30 minutes per board, not counting any time spent working on the logo in the middle later.
After the stencil has been weeded I apply wood stain to the exposed areas. I use the same color stain as whatever wood I’m using for the frame (Walnut stain in this case).
Playing surface after removing the stencil. The goal holes still need drilled out before this is glued to the frame.
At this point the glue is dry enough on the frame to remove the clamps and glue in the rounded corners. For this step I place the frame back around the playing surface so that I can make sure the bottoms are flush at each corner to help keep the board flat. The corners are glued and clamped in using a quick grip clamp across the corner and two squeeze clamps along each edge. After the glue has set for a couple minutes I remove the playing surface board to avoid it accidentally being glued in due to glue seepage.
Once the glue is dry on the corner pieces the curves are sanded at the oscillating spindle sander to to create a smooth, uniform curve.
Next the corner pieces are taken down to flush with a block plane and the entire frame is sanded up to 220 grit, wetted to raise the grain, and sanded to 220 again.
Next the “goal” holes are drilled into the playing surface with a 1″ forstner bit. I use a board with a 1″ hole drilled in it as a guide to make sure I get the hole lined up correctly. A scrap piece of wood underneath helps prevent blowout when the drill bit passes through other side of the board.
The resulting hole is very clean and only requires minimal touch up with some 220 grit sandpaper to remove any rough edges.
Before gluing the frame to the board I apply my logo to the back of the board using the same technique I used for the front graphics. Doing this now allows the stain to dry a bit while I glue the frame to the playing surface board is drying later.
Finally it is time to glue the frame to the playing surface. For this step, all four sides of the playing surface get an even coat of glue as well as the underside of each of the four curved corners. This helps to lock in all of the pieces together.
Final steps and finishing
Before applying any finish I need to drill and tap holes for the adjustable feet that go on the bottom. I opted to go with these feet to allow players to make adjustments to ensure that the game board is level while playing. Because the wood will move with adjustments in humidity it’s possible for it to warp slightly causing it to not sit flat. Additionally most “flat” surfaces like tables or floors will have slight variations in their surface that can cause the board to not sit flat either. The feet allow players to adjust the board to either situation.
For drilling the holes for the feet I made a jig that I can put over each corner. The hole in the top of the jig allows me to easily start my hole in the same place for all four corners. For the holes I’m using a 15/64 drill bit marked with tape to prevent from drilling too deep into the wood.
Next I use a socket wrench to thread in a hex bolt that matches the thread pattern of the adjustable feet. I used a Dremel with a metal cutting wheel to cut three slots into the bolt to act as a sort of tap to help cut the threads while minimizing the risk of splitting the wood.
After tapping the holes I thread the feet in to make sure all four feet fit without issue.
After I’ve made sure that all of the feet fit as expected I remove them so I can begin applying finish to the wood. I begin by applying 3-4 coats of spray on shellac. I prefer the even coatings that spray finishes offer as opposed to brushed on finishes. I’ve found that if I use brush on shellac it usually dries too fast to self-level and I end up spending a lot of time removing brush strokes. I also like how shellac builds up a nice base with only a few coats and dries very quickly. After the final coat has dried I sand with 320 grit sand paper and then spray on two final coats of Polycrylic. I use Polycrylic as the top coat because it offers some durability to prevent against scratches that a sliding penny might cause and also dries very quickly. I hate spending a day working on a project and then having to wait 2 days to use it while coats of Polyurethane dry.
After letting the final coat of Polycrylic cure I apply a coat of paste wax and buff it out. The wax mostly serves to help the penny slide across the board more smoothly.
After the wax is buffed out the board is done and ready for delivery.