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Tic-Tac-Toe Board

This attractive game board is a work of art that can be left on display to welcome an impromptu, friendly game of tic-tac-toe, anytime, anywhere!

Tic-Tac-Toe BoardBy Rob Brown

This attractive game board is a work of art that can be left on display to welcome an impromptu, friendly game of tic-tac-toe, anytime, anywhere!

What You'll Need

  • quarter-cut (preferable) or flat cut stock
  • contrasting inlay material
  • 3/4" x 4' hardwood dowel 2624-449
  • stain of your choice
  • satin protective finish 1877-259
  • natural finishing wax 1874-751
  • #0000 steel wool pads 1665-272

Here's How

  • Breakout the workpiece, ensuring it is long enough to fit through your power planer. To reduce seasonal movement, use either quarter-sawn material (photo 1), or rip a piece of flat sawn wood into strips, rotate them, and glue them back together.
  • Plane the blank to final thickness, and then cut it to final width and length.
  • Divide the length of the blank into thirds, accounting for the width of the blade.
  • Machine two evenly spaced 1/8" deep grooves across the grain on your table saw. (photo 2)
  • Machine enough inlay strips from a contrasting wood to fit in four of these grooves.
  • Cut the inlay strips to rough length and glue two of them into the grooves. (photo 3)
  • When dry, trim them flush with a hand saw, block plane, and sander. (photo 4)
  • Machine two more grooves parallel with the grain for the final two inlay strips. Glue the final inlay strips in place, and flush them when dry.
  • Rout an edge treatment. I chose a two-pass approach: I used my router table to machine a cove in the underside of the four edges with a 11/4" diameter bit. The bit removed slightly more than half the height of the edge. Without changing the position of my fence, I lowered the bit to leave a 1/4" wide section of flat edge, then routed the upper edges of the workpiece. Always rout the cross-grain sections first to reduce tear-out when exiting the workpiece. (photo 5)
  • Mark and drill nine 3/4" diameter x 1/4" deep holes in the game board. (photo 6)
  • Cut ten 3/4" long lengths of dowel with a hand saw. (photo 7)
  • Ensure the ten markers fit into the game board holes easily. Sand their sides, if necessary.
  • Sand the routed profiles, face, and bottom of the game board, as well as the ten markers. Break all the sharp edges.
  • Stain five of the markers a contrasting colour.
  • Apply a protective finish to the game board and the ten markers.
  • If the markers are at all snug, apply a coat of paste wax with #0000 steel wool to allow for easier usage.
1. Reduce Seasonal Movement
Quarter-cut material moves less with the changing seasons and will pose fewer problems once the inlay is glued in place perpendicular to the grain. Here, 11/4” wide strips were ripped from a 2” thick flat-cut board, rotated 90 degrees, and glued back together to produce a quarter-cut blank.
Tic-Tac-Toe Board
2. Two Grooves
The first two inlay grooves are cut across the grain, then the inlay material is cut to fit the grooves. The last two grooves will be machined after the first two inlay strips have dried and been flushed.
3. Nice Fit
A fit that’s not too tight, not too loose, is perfect. Apply glue to the grooves and then insert the strips and allow the glue to dry.
4. Flush It Up
Once the glue is dry, trim the ends with a hand saw, roughly flush the face with a hand plane and sand the face of the game board to create a smooth surface.
5. Rout an Edge Profile
Here, two passes were used to complete the edge profile, but you can use one pass to produce a different profile if you like. The first pass added a large cove into the underside of the four edges, and then once the bit was lowered to leave a 1/4” wide flat edge, another pass was made on the top four edges of the workpiece
6. Mark and Drill
With the hole locations marked on the workpiece, your drill press will ensure straight, clean, consistent holes.
7. Use Your Hands
A band saw may grab the dowel rod you’re cutting and cause damage to you or your machinery, unless the dowel is held very securely. The safest approach is to use a hand saw to cut the markers to length.

Rob Brown designs and builds custom furniture and is editor of Canadian Woodworking and Home Improvement magazine.

Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement