As a family, we try more and more each year to forage around in charity shops for those perfect second-hand designer shirts, or the most beautiful handmade patchwork quilt (that was my present!), or the most interesting books for one another… it’s both fun to look for things, and a more sustainable way for the environment and for our budgets at Christmas! Last year my brother got us all beautiful wooden French wine crates from where he works, one of my favourite presents!
But the other thing that we like to do if we can, is make things. This is a bit more time-consuming and requires planning. I found myself in my element the week before Christmas, doing some sanding, painting and cutting and sticking!
Step One: Find an old rectangular box that’s about the right size. I stuck some wooden letters to the front with very strong glue! But this meant I also needed to find some little bits of wood of the same width as the letters (perhaps buy an extra letter if you do this and cut into squares?) to make ‘feet’ for the underside, so that it lies flat.
Step Two: A family friend who has a harpsichord-making workshop just down the road helped me by fitting some scrap pieces of wood into the box, to make little compartments for the pieces at one end! And to cut down the feet for the underside, and to sand down the whole thing with an electric sander. This could be done more simply though by hand.
Then, before you paint, coat the inside and out with a couple of coats of a sealer (a mix of polyurethane and water in this case) which will smooth it over, and help the paint to take.
Now you can start painting! I used craft paints (you can see them in the photo below) and I went for a cream-brown-mint green colour scheme. To help me with ideas, I printed a picture of a John Lewis backgammon set
for ideas. Make sure you wait long enough between coats of paint or sealer – be patient!
Step Four: While waiting for coats of paint to dry, I cut out pieces of stick-back felt, to fit all of the inside “walls” of the box, as well as the underside of the feet. Measure carefully!
Step Five: Draw out your backgammon background! I did this by measuring the length of the box, taking off a cm or so for the middle dividing section, and then once I worked out the size of one triangle, I made a stencil from card to trace all the others with.
Once everything is pencil-drawn on, masking tape all of one colour (so every other triangle) and paint those in, two coats minimum, and leave until really dry before you tape the others, or else your paint will peel off with the tape!
To neaten up the edges and cover up pencil marks, I went around them all with a gold pen, which hid all manner of sins! I also made some dividers with sticky fabric-tape (blue & white striped, found it in France). Amazing stuff.
Step Six: I looked around a lot for old draughts pieces in charity shops, but I think even if I had found some, they might have been too big. So you have two main choices that I can think of. Either get some doweling an old broom hand and cut rings from the end to make wooden pieces (then paint them). Or, like in my case, make your pieces from coloured Fimo and bake them! This turned out to be a great idea, as they look lovely and handmade.
Finally, find two dice, and a little bag for your pieces. I happened to have this black velvet bag in my room (I admit I hoard anything that could be reused for crafts!).
This project took a few hours of love and attention! But hopefully it will last a long time. When I get hold of some, I will varnish the lot to keep the paint in good condition. Don’t you love playing board games at Christmas? I do! If you have never tried backgammon before, then do so… it’s a classic, and it’s really simple to pick up!