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How To Make a Cribbage Board

Updated: December 28, 2022
Learning how to make a cribbage board can be as easy as cutting a piece of wood to length, using a template to drill the holes and applying a simple finish. In this guide learn the tips and tricks to making this classic game.
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How To Make a Cribbage Board

Overview

While cribbage has been around since the early 17th century it remains popular as a simple, easy-to-learn strategy game. By using a simple board, pegs and a deck of cards two or more players use strategy and card counting skills to advance pegs around the board to a win. 

And, as a woodworking project, a cribbage board offers woodworkers of all skills a way to be creative and build a fun and useful game (or gift).

In this guide learn how to make your own cribbage board that will last for decades.

Step 1: Choose Your Cribbage Board Size

Cribbage Board Sizes
Cribbage boards can be made with 1/4-inch (left) or 1/8-inch pegs (right)

Before buying wood its best to decide if you will be going with a standard sized board (~6 x 17-inches) or will build a large board or custom shape.  

And, for a first-time cribbage board build, sticking with a standard board size will let you learn the process and from there you can venture into larger or non-standard sizes. And, in standard sizes, there are plenty of drill jigs available to allow for precision holes.

Step 2: Pick a Wood and Build Style

Purple Heart Cribbage Board
End Grain Purple Heart Wood

For many, the hardest part of any woodworking project is choosing a wood. 

And with a cribbage board the decisions can go from a simple oak board to using an end-grain exotic wood. With that in mind, your choice will be influenced by budget, tools and skill a few popular options are:

  1. Exotic wood blank using Acacia, Purple Heart or other sustainable species that has been harvested according to international guidelines.
  2. Domestic figured woods like curly or Birdseye maple.
  3. End-grain designs that use an exotic or domestic wood that is cut to show the end grain in a pattern like the Purple Heart end-grain board shown above.
  4. Or, live edge slabs that highlight the natural look of the board.

Step 3: Glue Your Board (Optional)

Glue Cribbage Board

As you guessed, if your choice in boards is to glue strips of wood or build an end-grain design than you’ll need to glue the board using clamps. 

A few tips when gluing:

  • Layout your grain pattern before gluing. For the best visual appeal, make sure to alternate grains and avoid repetition.
  • Then, use a wood glue like Titebond II that is formulated for woodworking.
  • Lastly, avoid excessive clamp pressure

As the directions aren’t always clear, always let the cribbage board sit for at least overnight before running through a planer or sanding. By doing so, you’ll allow time for the glue to cure and fully set which will help prevent joint failure.

Step 4: Rough Sanding

Sand Out Deep Scratches

While preferences vary among woodworkers, most like to do rough sanding before cutting any piece of wood to size. Why? Well, this allows for any snipe or other defects to be fixed (or not) and lets the final piece be finished with just hand-sanding.

A few tips when planing or sanding:

  • Never plane end-grained wood as it will risk rip-out of grain
  • When planing use light passes and setup your planer to avoid snipe. Most woodworkers make projects an extra 2 or 3-inches long to allow cutting snipe off.
  • Start with 60-grit paper, then move to 100, 150 and 220-grits. 
  • Avoid excessive down pressure when sanding as it can leave swirl marks
  • Lastly, always use high grade sandpaper for the best wood removal

Step 5: Buy a Cribbage Board Jig

Rockler Cribbage Board Jig

The thought of laying out a cribbage board by hand and precisely drilling holes would be a challenge for even professionals.

So, instead of attempting this by hand, be sure to pick-up a jig. You’ll find the standard size is a 1/8-inch kit that makes a compact sized board. But, larger pegs are great for less delicate or older fingers and is why some choose a 1/4-inch kit that has extra large sized pegs. 

Why do you need this jig now? Well, the jig sets the size of the board:

  • A 1/8-inch kit requires a board roughly 5-1/2 by 17-inches
  • And a 1/4-inch kit requires a 6-1/2 by 27-inch board

However, these vary by manufacturer (Rockler’s brand is shown above) so having the template first will save you later.

Step 6: Cut Your board to Finish Size

Once your project is sanded to 100 or 150 grit the next step is to cut the board to the proper width and length. 

Following the size chart supplied with your cribbage jig you can cut your board to the proper width and length. Also, and optional at this step, you can use a trim router to provide a slight quarter round (or other style) to the edge of the board. Most woodworkers prefer simple with this type of project.

Step 7: Drill The Peg Holes

Drill Peg Holes in Cribbage Board

With the board cut to size, in this step simply clamp the jig to the board and drill holes according to the instructions. As you can see by the picture above, a high quality template set will have indexing pins that will keep the template locked in place.

However, woodworkers prefer to use wood clamps to keep the jig firmly locked down. As a tip, this also prevents wood chips from finding their way under the jig and creating issues with the drill bit depth. 

Step 8: Finish Sanding

Finish Sanding Cribbage Board With Sander

Now that the holes are drilled the last step before applying a finish is to finish sand the surface. 

A random orbital sander, as shown above, works best in this step. While any sander will work, at this step its best to use a high quality random orbit sander that will help prevent swirls. Woodworkers will always debate, but using a sander like from Festool with proper technique will give you the best chance at a quality finish.

Before calling sanding done, be sure to hold your workpiece up to the light and look for swirls or imperfections. You may find around the holes that drill bits have left some slight tear-out and that should be sanded prior to moving on to the next step.

Step 9: Apply A Low Build-up Finish

Applying Butcher Block Oil to Cribbage Board

It’s tempting to put polyurethane on a cribbage board. 

But rather than clog the holes with a finish like that, woodworkers like to use a penetrating finish like a mineral or tung oil that will protect the wood.

And, as a bonus, these types of wood finish are generally toxin free and food safe which make them a healthy choice for both application and use.

Step 10: Let Dry and Use

For most wood finishes it will take at least overnight for the finish to dry and be ready to use. By adding a deck of cards and high quality pre-made metal cribbage pegs you’ll be ready to play. 

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Last update on 2022-12-28 at 09:36 / Images from Amazon

  • About the Author
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( Woodworker )

Eric has been a professional woodworker for over thirty years and has worked in small cabinet shops making everything from kitchen cabinets to hand-made furniture. Now working from a home woodworking shop Eric is sharing his passion for woodworking, tool advice and how-to knowledge from his Minnesota-based woodshop.

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How To Make a Cribbage Board

Learning how to make a cribbage board can be as easy as cutting a piece of wood to length, using a template to drill the holes and applying a simple finish. In this guide learn the tips and tricks to making this classic game.

Read More »
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Disclaimer: DIY projects can be dangerous, hire a professional (link to Home Advisor) if unsure.