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DIY Tutorial on Making a Wooden Checkerboard


Your options are endless when it comes to making your own board (check samples at bottom).  In these instructions you will need to choose what size board you want to make, how you’re going to finish your board (i.e. paint, stain, keep natural), if you want an embellishment and if you want to use vinyl squares or paint your own on.

Dimensions: Before you can do anything, decide if you want a small board (12″w x 16.5″t) or a large board (16″w x 21.5″t).  The small board has 1″ checker pieces and the large has 1.5″ pieces.

1) Basic Materials Needed:

Paint Grade Panel* (sm- 12″ x 36″; lg- 16″ x 48″)
24 Wooden “Wheels” (sm- 1″; lg- 1.5″)
-Leather Cord (at least 30″ long)
-Paint and/or Stain (recommend wearing gloves)

*These panels are $5-9 @ Lowe’s and you can make 2 boards

out of each one!  Best of all they’re already the width you need!

2) Choose a Design to Add (optional):

Wood Applique (need wood glue)
-Wood-burned Design (need wood-burner tool, xylene + blender marker, laser printer, downlaodable designs*.. sm & lg)
-Painted Design (not shown) – (need paints & brushes)

*Important: designs MUST be printed on a laser printer for transferring to wood.

If you don’t have laser, print at home and COPY page with a laser copier.

3) Choose Checker Squares:

-Vinyl (purchase HERE)
-Paint Your Own (download template.. sm & lg; need Xacto knife, craft paint & sponge)

4) Tools Needed:

-Saw (or have Lumber Shop cut when you buy)
-Sand Paper (various grits)
-Orbital Sander (recommended)
-Drill with 1/4″ Bit
-Painters Tape
-Rags (for Stain) & Fine Brush (for Clearcoat)

General Instructions:
I advise you to read through entire plan before beginning. Take precautions to work safely and in a ventilated area when working with chemicals.

Gather all supplies & tools needed from sections 1) through 4).  Remember you can make this project as simple or fancy as you’d like!

Print out all necessary downloads from sections 2) & 3).  Piece & tape pages together as necessary.


-Part 1- 


For small board, cut your 12″w panel to 16.5″; for large board: cut your 16″w panel to 21.5″.

Round corners with sander as much as you’d like; sand all surfaces with 100, 120 & 150 grit papers.  Wipe off dust.


-Part 2- 


  If using a wood applique, mark placement by marking center of board at least 1.5″ down from the top edge.

  Brush wood glue over back side of applique and place over center mark.  Hold in place with painters tape and use wood clamps or a heavy object to press down.  Let dry for a few hours.

  If wood-burning your design, print using a laser printer.  Cut design out and center and place face-down against board. Tape in place.

  Use your blender marker dipped in xylene to wet the back or your design.  Press hard and keep re-dipping marker to make sure image transfers.  I even do a second pass just to make sure.

 You can pull the paper off immediately after transferring.  Let xylene dry off wood for a few hours before proceeding.

Make sure your wood burning tool is hot and get to work burning your image.  It takes a little patience!


-Part 3- 


Stain or paint your board according to manufacturers directions.

Stain or paint 12 of your “wheels”.

For General Finishes brand I always do 2 coats.

Let dry completely and sand lightly with 220 or 320 grit paper.


-Part 4- 


If using vinyl, peel squares from the backing and press over board.  Make sure it’s centered on your board!

Scrap across the masking with a card or other stiff-flat object.

 Peel masking off slowly and at an angle.

If painting your squares, use an Xacto knife to cut out squares from the template you downloaded.  Center and tape template in place over your board.

Using your sponge and craft paint, dab paint over open squares.  TIP: don’t put too much paint on sponge or it can seep under template easily.


-Part 5- 


Mark center of board, about 1″ down from the top and drill a hole with your 1/4″ bit.  TIP: To prevent tear-out, clamp your board to scrap wood behind the area you’ll be drilling.


-Part 6- 


Using a fine-bristled brush, brush your preferred clearcoat over board in a thin coat.  Let dry; sand with 320 or 400 grit paper; add another coat.


-Part 7- 


 Fold your leather cord in half and stick the fold through the hole, starting from the back to the front.  Pull cord ends through the loop and pull tight.  Thread your checker pieces on and tie a single knot where you want your checker pieces to rest.  Cut off excess cord.

Below are pictures and descriptions of

how I achieved different looks:

 Added wooden applique, used “General Finishes” Whitewash Stain,
wiped on brown glaze, brown vinyl squares

  Wood-burned design, used “General Finishes” Whitewash Stain,
painted black squares

 Wood-burned design, used “Minwax” Jacobean Stain,
painted 2 coats “General Finishes” Whitewash Stain over that
and sanded back down to stain, white vinyl squares

  Wood-burned design, used “Minwax” Jacobean Stain,
painted 2 coats “General Finishes” Whitewash Stain over that
and sanded back down to stain, black vinyl squares

   Wood-burned design, used “General Finishes” Gray Stain,
painted white squares, wiped brown glaze on

 Added wooden applique, used “General Finishes” Gray Stain,
painted black squares, distressed/antiqued board by sanding

Wood-burned design, used “General Finishes” Brown Mahogany Stain, rubbed thinned-creme paint over design (to stand out), painted blue squares

Wood-burned design, used “General Finishes” Brown Mahogany Stain, rubbed thinned-creme paint over design (to stand out), white vinyl squares

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  • Reply Alexander Dyer

    Thank you so much. You are so generous with your projects. I love your style, attention to detail and motivation. I always look forward to your entries even when they are baby related. (This is supposed to be funny since I am a 49 year old empty nest husband) Well, comedy has never been my strong suit.

    I also admire your awesome industrial sewing machine. It is a beast. (That is a compliment)

    Please keep doing what you are doing, it is fantastic whatever you decide to do. Great stuff.

    November 7, 2015 at 11:20 am
  • Reply Dani

    Hi there! I'm so glad you like my blog! I don't know if anyone ever reads it… but I can't help but posting my tips & tricks! 🙂

    I JUST sold my industrial machine – BOOHOO!! We are buying our first house and need the money (plus with 4 kids I don't have any extra time).

    Thanks for your comment!!

    November 7, 2015 at 4:52 pm
  • Reply Jakeen

    I absolutely LOVE this idea… I just wish I had found it *before* Christmas! Lol
    Just one question… I'm having a hard time visualizing how (or if) the checkers come off the cord. Do you have to untie the knot every time, or do you just store it Ina different way?
    Thank you for providing such a beautiful idea!

    January 22, 2016 at 1:35 pm
  • Reply Dani

    Hi! Yes, the checkers are held by a knot which you untie to get them off. It takes less than 30 seconds to string and re-tie. You can get a head start on gifts for next Christmas 🙂

    January 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm
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