I am so ready for the summer after this year!! You might relate to this but summer for me means hanging out in the shade of a tree playing board games for hours with my family and a pitcher of ice tea. It’s the sweetest time of the year. One game I’ve played since I was a kid is Chinese Checkers (I’ve heard people call it Halma too, but the board seems slightly different) and it’s so much fun! I wanted to create my own DIY Chinese Checkers that would become an “heirloom” piece, as beautiful to look at as it is to play.
This DIY Chinese Checkers is actually very easy to make. It’s a simple wooden slab with holes drilled in with a Forstner bit (a drilling bit that creates large holes) and engraved with a Dremel tool. For the game pieces, I was set on finding natural stone balls. It’s quite difficult to source these so I settled for large beads used for jewelry making.
This post contains affiliate links to products I recommend. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I only recommend products and supplies I love and may earn a small commission if you choose to purchase through my links.
Click on the categories below to find more DIY projects
- Wood boards
- Chinese checkers printable template
- Forstner bit
- Dremel or another rotary tool
- Wood stain
- 60 natural stone beads (I used 1/2″ – 12mm beads, 6 different types of stone with 10 beads for each type)
- Sanding blocks
- Wood clamps
Find more materials here 👇
Step 1: Create the DIY Chinese Checkers board
To start, find some lumber or salvaged wood boards (from a pallet for example) and cut them into 12″ (about 30cm) lengths. Depending on the width of your board, cut enough lengths to create a square. My boards were 2 3/4″ so I cut 4 pieces which was enough to fit the printed Chinese checkers’ template.
Make sure the edges of your boards are smooth and straight – if needed, sand them into submission! Align the boards and apply wood glue. Press the boards together and clamp them. Let the wood glue dry before removing the clamps.
Once the board is ready, sanding the surface and edges smooth with a sanding block or a sander.
Tip: you can save yourself this step by repurposing an old cutting board!
Step 2: Transfer the star pattern onto the wood board
When your wood slab is ready, print the DIY Chinese Checkers template (find it here). The template prints over 2 pieces of standard-size paper (like A4 or Letter). Use a pair of scissors to cut along the star and join the 2 sheets of paper with some tape. Use masking tape to attach the print to the wooden board.
You’ll have to pierce the paper template with a nail or another sharp object to transfer the pattern. Place the nail over the dot at the center of the circle and hammer it in slightly. The nail will create a mark on the wood. Repeat this over every dot before you remove the template from the board.
Step 3: Drill the DIY Chinese Checkers holes
Now, the wooden board is pierced with tiny holes. You’ll have to drill exactly over each of these marks to create larger holes for the game pieces.
First, equip your drill with a Forstner bit. I chose the smallest I have which is slightly over 1/2″ (1.5cm). Ideally I would have preferred smaller holes but this size works fine for 1/2″ beads.
I would recommend you practice on a piece of scrap wood first – I sure did! Just to get a handle on the Forstner bit since the feel of this drilling bit is quite different from the usual bit.
When you’re ready, align your Forstner bit so its center point fits into the tiny hole on the board. Start drilling, applying light pressure, to create holes 1/8″ (3mm) deep. Move on to the next hole until you’ve drilled all the holes for the star pattern and give the whole board a light sanding once you’re done.
Step 4: Engrave the wooden board
Now for the fun part! I’m admittedly a little obsessed with engraving these days. I created this wood riser recently and I will definitely come up with more projects because I genuinely love engraving!
There is no right or wrong way to engrave this DIY Chinese Checkers. It depends on your taste and how much time you’re willing to put in. Alternatively, if you don’t have a rotary tool, you could paint a motif onto the board after staining.
I’m from the South Pacific so I’m very attracted to Tapa cloth patterns. I have several Tapa in my house (like this Vanuatu Tapa in the top picture) and I draw inspiration from them all the time.
To create a mandala-like pattern as I did on my board, start by drawing concentric circles on the wooden board. Then, draw some diagonal line, using the star points as guides. These lines will help you create a symmetrical design.
To start engraving, equip your rotary tool with a diamond bit. I start with the carving bit that has a ball on top as I find it easier to draw with it. When I’m done engraving, I swap the bit for a pointy diamond bit which is useful for deepening the engraving pattern. And lastly, I finish it off by giving the piece a very light sanding with fine-grit sandpaper.
If you need inspiration, check out Pinterest for patterns. Whether you’re looking for Tapa, mud cloth, or mandala designs, you’ll find plenty of ideas!
Step 5: Stain the DIY Chinese Checkers board
Finally, stain the wooden board with your favorite wood stain. I love dark wood so I chose a dark chestnut with red undertones.
Brush the stain along the wood grain, making sure you fill the engraving with stain – this will highlight your design. To get stain into the drilled holes, push your brush around and, if needed, use a smaller brush. Let your stain dry and sand the board with a fine-grit sanding block to equalize the stain before applying a second coat.
And voila! Place your natural stone beads into the star corners, each corner should have 10 beads of a different type. And you’re ready to play 😊