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This project appeared in our December 12, 2009 Newsletter.

Here's a great Christmas present that you can make in time for Christmas. It was given to us by Matt, Ken's son-in-law. Matt is a fine woodworker and still had some trouble making this game board.
His main problem was the Purple Heart wood that he used. Purple Heart has a real propensity to burn when being cut or routed. The size of the router bit he used really made it a challenge.

For directions on how to play Mancala go to

Material: Wood of your choice 16 1/4" X 5 1/2" X 3/4"
48 glass beads

Special Tools: 1 1/2" Core Box Router Bit Core Box Router Bits Core Box Router Bits

1/2" Cove Router Bit Cove Router Bits Cove Router Bits

Cut the wood to size.
Using the 1/2" Cove Router Bit, route the edges around the back of the board.

Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of the set up but I'll try to describe it.
Because this will use a large router bit you need to keep everything stable. Build a jig the height of the wood about 6" wide all the way around your piece. This will give your router a nice flat surface to ride on and it will hold the piece in place.
Make a bottom for your router out of plexiglass about 12" square, this will make a good clamping surface to hold the router steady while making the large bins.
Route the bins and Kalah's with the 1 1/2" Core Box Router Bit. I would use a scrap piece of wood to set the speed of the router and the rate of your cut. You'll want to slow down the router and plunge at a very slow rate. Practice a few times before going on to the real thing.
The centers of the Kalah's and bins start 1 7/8" from the end and are 1 3/4" apart. The centers are 1 1/2" in from the sides and 5/8" deep.

Mark the centers for each bin and Kalah and plunge your router down with the motor off to center the cutter then clamp the router in place. SLOWLY plunge the router until the bin is cut then proceed to the next.
For the Kalah's set up a fence for the router to ride against along with a start and stop. Make shallow cuts from start to stop until you've reached the final depth.
The trough's between the bins are made with the same bit and are 1/8" deep.
Again the same set up that you used for the Kalah's will be used with a fence, start and stop.

The key to making a really nice looking game is in the setup and taking your time.

Matt wrote about a modification he made on the one for his wife. "The board I made for Jen and I was a little more complex, I took the board blank and ripped it in half lengthwise the routed one dovetail plow down the center of the newly exposed centerline ripped edge and mirrored it on the centerline edge of the other half. Then I milled a bow tie shaped spline that adjoined the two halves. A 1/2" gap was kept between the two halves which revealed the contrasted color and grain of the different species of wood the bow tie spline was milled from."

Thanks Matt for sharing this neat project.

That's about it. We hope you liked this project. If you build it and your friends ask where you got such a clever idea, please tell them that you got it at

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