Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Cribbage Board Coffee Table - from Attic to Living Room

So I made a table.  It's a low table, suitable for placing in front of a couch, and, perhaps, setting your coffee on.  So it's a Coffee Table. It's also a Cribbage Board.  So it's a Cribbage Board Table.   It's a Cribbage Board Coffee Table.  Maybe someday I'll come up with a less clumsy name.

Cribbage is a game that I associate most closely with my father.  I remember playing the game with my dad, and eventually my sister, once we were both old enough to actually understand the rules (and count to 15), long back into the fuzziest pieces of my mind.

I have always had an affinity for cards, card games, and the strange, arcane rules and lore that tag along with the whole notion of playing games with cards.  I am quite sure that cribbage is a huge part of why.  Long before the whole 'Jack of Spades' thing was even a thing, I liked cards.  I liked the secret languages and words that you used only in card games, and I liked the idea that a deck of 52 little cards held somewhere within it the power to do so much.  Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let me back up.

A few years ago, I punched another hole in yet another wall in my poor old house.  I was curious about what was lurking in the space behind the attic walls, and wanted to access the inner workings of the attic in hopes of adding electrical whatsits, and ultimately insulating things up there in hopes of trapping a bit of the heat I send up into the airspace above my house all Winter long.  Round about January of this year, Master Furda and I got the bug and decided to follow up on my explorations into the creepy-crawly spaces behind the funky walls in the attic, and made a plan to put in insulation, flooring, and maybe even a little door to make it into a genuine little piece of added storage in the attic.  Like so many things in the home improvement world, it got a little outta hand by the end.  But ultimately, good things happened.

We added a great deal of extra storage in the space between the attic walls and the slope of the roof, and even put in cute little hobbit doors to access it.  Insulation was added in great quantities, and theoretically, the attic living space will now hold considerably more heat than it did previously.  Theoretically.

In any case, the point of all of this retrospective is that in the process of tearing out these parts of the attic, we removed a few dozen pieces of old pine tongue & groove flooring from a couple places.  You can see it up in that first picture up there, in the upper-right of the photo.  It's back in the weird little recess where the ceiling is two feet high.  For whatever reason, I kept it, rather than sneaking it into any of the enormous trash bags I put out for my poor garbage man.  This instinct is very likely something akin to the beginning stages of hoarding, that itch that stops you from throwing it away, when you think, "Well this might be useful for something someday..."

That evil little voice is one that I argue with on a fairly regular basis, but at least in this case it turned out to be right.  In conversation over a game or two of cribbage with my dear sister and her husband, (two of my favorite people, and who are no doubt at least partially to blame for putting this particular hare-brained project into the forefront of my priorities) I somehow got it in my head that a coffee table with a cribbage board on it would be extremely cool, and that I probably should make one right away.  And I did have this old flooring from the attic, after all...

So I ran down into my basement as soon as had the time (after the play at Avella was over) and started putzing around with wood.  The pine flooring had a couple layers of hideous and evil shiny brown paint on it, which would probably have to go if I was going to make anything out of it.  So I grabbed an old plane that I'm sure I inherited from my dad, and started hacking away at the paint on the flooring.

After a few boards, a great deal of elbow grease, and a lot of swearing, I realized a couple things: 1- something was wrong with my plane, 2 - the paint smelled kinda nasty when it chipped off the wood (probably lead) and 3 - the plane was probably dull from grinding away at all this nasty old paint.  So now I had to learn how to fix a jack plane.  As it turns out, there are numerous creepy videos on the internet that claim to be willing to teach you just that.  Any time you feel like inspiring some strange nightmares involving creepy men in leather aprons surrounded by evil-looking instruments, look 'em up.  I think Deneb is my favorite.

Fast forward through a couple of weeks of me sharpening, adjusting, swearing, gouging, and generally fiddling with the stupid plane.  I never threw it across the room in a fury, but I was close a couple times. Eventually, I got it right.  So, with planing moving right along now that I knew how to keep the thing properly sharp, I planed down my flooring and was able to layout the holes for the game board.  This required a fair amount advanced mathematical calculations and a great deal of swearing.  Eventually I figured it out.

Next up was drilling.  Lots and lots of drilling.  Then I would take a break, and then there would be more drilling.  At some point during the drilling, a piece of lumber fell off the rack above the drill press and hit me in the head.  So that sucked.  Then there was more drilling.

Thankfully, I managed to finish the drilling without screwing up any holes (yay!). Next, I assembled the various pieces onto a frame that was put together from various scraps and random pieces of wood from my basement.  At this point I opt to plug the screw-holes used for holding the whole thing together with some sort of exotic hardwood.  I found a piece at construction junction.  It cost 4 dollars.  Thus far the total budget for this project was 14 dollars:  Four for the chunk of Brazilian rain-forest wood from CJ's, and 10 bucks for the honing jig I used to sharpen my plane.  Total budget for time and labor at this point is pushing the $1500.00 mark.  Sigh.

I had something of a dilemma when it came to covering the edge of the table, as my original plan of using some trim I had lying around wouldn't have looked right.  I struggled with this for a day or two, and finally the solution came to me in a flash.  I had a huge number of lath boards lying around.  To be specific they were lying around in the brush pile at the bottom of my yard.  I fished a few out and brushed off the ants, and got kinda stupidly excited about them. They were the perfect width, and were salvaged from the same piece of the house as the flooring.  Lath boards are exceedingly rough and generally filthy, but as it turns out, with a bit of planing, they clean up beautifully.  Yay planing.

With everything assembled and the edge dilemma resolved, I got to stain it.  Staining a project like this is by far one of the most satisfying parts of the process.  It is quick, instantly gratifying, and the stain smells good.  At least, I think it does.  Anyway, the result was nice.

With stain finished, I put together 4 legs from remaining pieces of flooring, opting this time to leave the crusty old brown paint on them, so as to have a record of the 'before' state of the wood.

I also assembled the drawer from leftovers up in the attic, and put it under the starting end of the game board.  The inside of the drawer has old cut-offs of the tongues from some of the flooring on one side, which keeps the pegs in place.  The other side has enough room for a few decks of cards.  I'm not entirely happy with the look of the drawer slide hardware, as the shiny metal is fairly out of place with the rest of the table.  I may still re-do the drawer slide arrangement, if I can figure out a way to make it work using more of the tongue & groove from the flooring to make the slides.  We shall see.

After that, all that was left was to bolt the legs on and give it a few coats of varnish.  And, of course to put together pegs.  So far I have 4 different designs of the pegs, two of which are pictured here.  I'm hoping to make some custom glass ones in my class at the PGC, but so far the sets I have are made from tapered steel pins with interesting hardware on top.

So that's it!   Muggins!


  1. Unbelievably cool. I am making one out of an old wooden box that I will use to hold other games and such. but this is awesome. I love how big the pegs/holes are. those pegs are sick, too. do you have any advice for a fledgling crib board table maker?

    1. Ps would you consider selling this table?

  2. beautiful!!! would you or did you sell it??

    1. Thanks! I haven't sold it, in fact my computer is sitting on it as I type this now.

      I could potentially be convinced to make one to sell, but I'm afraid I wouldn't know where to begin to quote a price.