Goban Self Made

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I have now finished my first try to make my own Goban, beechwood, 21 kg.

broken link

I had access to a large workshop, where they had a milling machine, so the 9 pieces that the board is made of are equal in size. The board is glued together with ordinary white glue for wood. I used the values from Equipment Dimensions.

I bought the legs in a furniture shop, but they were very expensive. I found some special screws that had a thread for wood on the outside and thread for metal on the inside. With 4 of those in the board and 1 in each leg, and a metal thread bar in between, it is possible to unscrew the legs.

The lines are drawn with an overhead pen, and the whole board is painted with oil.

The only thing that is missing, is the pyramid like hole on the bottom side. Does any one have the measure for that?

-- Kjeld Petersen

Tamsin: That looks really gorgeous. I hope you get a lot of pleasure from it. Well done!

Karl Knechtel: Agreed. Impressive.

Eratos: How much could I pay you to make me another? :)

JamSon: I can only agree to the statements already written here. But how did you solve the "sound-problem". Did you work in some "sound supporting" technique to compensate for the fact it is not made out of the traditional japanese wood? If you or some other already enlightened person could answer, this would be great. I also do wonder that you only glued the pieces together, did you really not apply some woodworking techniques? Pictures of the underside are appreciated, too. I want to thank you very much for already sharing your knowledge. Best wishes. Regards, JamSon.

Kjeld Petersen: What do you mean by WoodWorking? Normal white wood glue is strong enough to hold the parts together even for an area this large which is glued and pressed together. They will never fall apart. About sound: Well!!! I just made the board, and I can say now, that if you tap on the board with a stone, it doesn't sound the same all over it. But maybe a pyramid like hole at the buttom will solve this problem. I still haven't found the size for the hole.

Another problem is the glue. It has to dry out. And because there is this big surface, there is also a lot of moisture in the glue. So finally now, after a year, the board is fully dried out, and I can finish the surface with sandpaper. I'm a little afraid that if I put oil on again, that the glue line will start swelling up again.

JamSon: Great that you answered that fast. Maybe I can inspire you with this (honorcode: I am in no relation to the company you will reach by following the link. The sole intention is to show out that there exist some innovations which lead to the traditional sound with non-traditional wood. So everybody can try to re-engineer. I added this honorcode, because the author is selling his product there and I donīt want to do his marketing. So be warned.) [ext] link. This site is in German. The author is telling there that he builds in a sound "thing" to compensate that it is not made out of a traditional japanese wood.

As you mentioned that it took you over one year for drying your glued piece I wonder if one can speed up production by using better glue or by drying in a drying room. Is this possible? -- JamSon

Kjeld Petersen: Somewhere I read that a board should have some strings (like a guitar) on the underside, so when you place a stone the strings would start to vibrate, but I don't know if this is true. There is also a story about the hole at the underside. It should be large enough, that if you lose, you can turn the board up-side-down, and you can use it when you decapitate your opponent. The head would then fall into the hole. But I think this is just a story.

About drying: I didn't have access to any other glue at the time I built it. But I think I could have used less glue. Not pasting the whole surface, but only 2-3 cm around the edge, and it would still hold perfectly. Don't forget that when you put on glue, it has to run out when you presses the pieces together. Then you will get best solution. Otherwise there is a risk that there will be some open gaps between each of the 9 pieces.

JamSon: Do any of the Sensei's Library users have a traditional goban? If yes could you be so nice and take the measure, as it seems to be one of the yet open questions at Sensei's. If you do a good job fame is almost guaranteed ;-)

By the way, a nice story. Thank you very much for realizing your project and informing others less enlightened of it. -- JamSon.

Bob McGuigan: The dimensions of traditional boards vary from maker to maker. See Equipment Dimensions and sources referenced there for more information.

PatG: I think JamSon? was referring to the cutout in the underside of the Goban which helps give the right sound. The equipment page doesn't appear to give any dimensions for this. It would be a useful addition to get even a rough estimate of the dimensions for the sound hole.

Davou: Divide the board into five units in regard to top and bottom, left and right (five lines up and across spaced equally)... you should end up with 25 sections if you've done this right (heheh)... anyhow, the center space is the sound hole's dimension... However, I doubt this will work with a goban made from separate pieces... Doesn't seem to me like it would resonate pieces placed on the other 'pieces' of the board... (based on a rough visual estimate from [ext] http://www.shogunsgallery.com/images/4J375-1pic7.JPG)

KjeldPetersen: That is very close. If the whole board is 1.5 x 1.4 shaku[1], the center space would be 0.3 x 0.28 shaku. I have used the same picture (and others) to calculate the size of the hole. It is not possible to know if the gobans on the pictures actually are 1.5 x 1.4 shaku, but in the belive of; I have calculated the hole to be very close to 0.3 x 0.25. That is 0.03 shaku smaller on the short side than your idea. I have made a model below here, that could state why it should be 0.03 shaku smaller. (Because of the crossing of the lines.)

[bogiesan@mac.com}: I do not know what the purpose of the inverted pyramid is. I've plunked many stones onto exquisite Japanese traditional floor boards at a Go Congress, a tournament in Portland OR, and at the Seattle Go Center. I was not playing, I was deliberately banging the stones to experience the sounds. I placed my head at several locations all around the board. The sound was interesting but if I cupped a hand over the pyramid in the base, the noise did not change. Pressed firmly against the base, my hand could not even detect the striking of the stone through the mass of the wood. As a woodworker, I am certain enough to swear on my stack of chisels that removing less than 1% of the mass, roughly 10 cubic inches of material (to be conservative, let's say the hole is large, 4"x5"x1/2"), from the underside of a block of wood that is roughly 1000 cubic inches in volume (again, conservatively rounding up, 18"x17"x3-1/2; 2000 cubic inches for an 8" luxury board), will have absolutely no discernible effect on the sound created and transmitted by the tiny mass of a clamshell or slate stone striking the surface. (11-25-2010)

JamSon: Please excuse my inaccurateness. Both Bob McGuigan and PatG are right. People already have done a good job on compiling data about goban(s), but the question of the sound hole still remains. I wonder if there is really anybody with a traditional goban.

Chris Greene?: I bought my Janapese go ban in Okinawa in the early seventies. INCHES: The board is 17 7/8 x 17 overall and 4 5/6 deep; 16 1/8 x 15 1/8 for the lines. The sond hole has two dimentions. Outside is 4 x 3 1/4 sloping inward and down to a deapth if 1/2. The deepest measure (inside) is 2 1/4 x 1 3/4 sloping upward to the peak, which is level with the bottom plane of the go ban, only slightly rounded, not sharp. Figure those proportions, and adapt for your board size. (I assume proportions are important here.)

yacdaiel: Hi, I'm making my own board too and while looking for some equipment on the Internet I came in to a Korean site where it's said that the hole in the underside of the goban should have a length and width of 8cm. I don't understand Korean, but that's the most I could read from the online (badly translated) page. It seems to be a discussion or some kind of argument about whether or not the hole should be made. Here's the page [ext] link. They sell boards and stones also, so this is not intended to be marketing, but the page has a photo of the sound hole that I hope will be very useful. The board appears to be made from three glued pieces and about 1 1/2 inches thick. Best wishes to all.

Ben Shoemaker: Here is a page selling used gobans: [ext] Shogun Gallery. If you click on the numbers by each goban, there are sets of pictures from all angles, including the bottom. Most of the holes cut in the bottoms appear to be the same size. 8cm could be quite close.

Kjeld Petersen: Thank you for the reference. I tried to print the pictures, and take some measure of them. It looks as if the size of the hole is 0,30 x 0,25 shaku. (Very closely actually.) That is 90,9 x 75,75 mm. The top inside is close to 0,192 x 0,16 shaku. There is about 0,125 shaku from the center to the bottom of the fold. If the fold is about 0,05 shaku, then the angle of the out-side fold is close to 45 degree. (but that is only guessing).

Can somebody confirm my calculations?

You can make this drawing, with the side length of 0,3 and 0,25 shaku:


Side length 0,3 and 0,25 shaku

I have made a copy of this on a piece of paper, so I can use it for reference. I also made some triangular edges around the outside, with a height of 0,05 shaku. I want to use them to measure if I cut deeply enough.

How to draw: First draw the outside square 0,30 x 0,25 shaku. Be sure that your drawing is in the middle of the board, and on the rear side. Then draw the 2 diagonal lines. Draw a circle with a radius of 0,15 shaku from the intersection of the 2 diagonal lines. Draw the smaller square by connecting each of the 4 intersections of the diagonal lines and the circle. Done


Here's my contribution to this page.

I've also finished my own legged Goban, it's made of Framire for the board and Oak for the legs, weight 19Kg. Dimensions L:455mm W:425mm H:180mm(board) 300mm(with legs)


I've made the board with three Framire pieces (each divided in three to avoid too much wood working) and glued together (one week of pressing and drying). Framire is a beautiful yellowish wood, but a true nightmare to work with (doesn't have straight grain) so i haven't done the pyramid on the bottom (but I plan to make it on an Oak board)

The finishing was quite long, sanding the board from grain 80 to 260 (glass like surface), application of two preparation coating (which caps wood grain), then three uncolored varnish layers (with sanding grain 600 between each layers, don't forget to put away the dust). I've made the tracing with a Rotring Rapidograph 1mm on a perfectly unpolished surface. Then, three final varnish layers to protect the tracing.

The legs are made out of Oak and sculpted with wood scisors, wood grater, saw and muscles ;) The finishing was made with Light Oak varnish (three layers)

http://pierreg.mongin.free.fr/images/legworking.jpg http://pierreg.mongin.free.fr/images/legworking02.jpg


This is my first attempt at a mini-goban set. 9x9 on one side, 13x13 the other. The size is around 10x10 inches, 1.75 inches thick. The total cost of materials was around $15. I've since made two much improved versions from the same piece of wood.


The wooden bowls and glass vase stones come from a hobby shop. The board is yellow pine, cut at the hardware store. The only difficulty is figuring out the best number and thickness of applications of varnish. Much sanding is involved. The wood must be sealed before drawing the lines (I used a permanent marker) or the lines will bleed.

Second effort (and some translucent stones):

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_J-tYWA5buSY/SegE0cYJZ1I/AAAAAAAAAh8/SpCNyMaNlfc/board-top.jpg http://lh6.ggpht.com/_J-tYWA5buSY/SegE0WiYe_I/AAAAAAAAAiE/xuV_1NUJmBE/board-side.jpg

Update: I ran across the following picture on ChiyoDad's blog: [ext] http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/755/1661/1600/Go%20Boards%203.jpg . It's another 13x13 goban clearly made of similar pine wood and shows the color and grain you can expect from pine a little better than my poor camera. The thickness of the pine rings can vary a lot (mine's a bit tighter) and depending on the finish you can get a more golden color.

[1] Phelan: What is a shaku?

Velobici: A [ext] shaku is a traditional unit of length in Japan. It is 30.3 centimeters, which is just about a English foot (30.48 centimeters).

Phelan: Thanks Velobici! I had already found out, when I bumped into the EquipmentDimensions page, but forgot to come here and say it. :p

Greg: Been wondering this for a while now, and cannot seem to find solid information. 1) How do i make the grooves? Are they traditionally painted or carved into the wood? 2) Does it make a difference to the game? Somehow, i feel carving to be better, but I would still like some feedback please. Thanks in advance

impu1se: They are typically inked lines on top of the wood, traditionally applied with a sword-like instrument. I think it's better to have a completely flat surface rather than grooves.

Shotan: Quick question: what have people found to be the optimum item to use to mark the lines on the board; I have seen things like permanent marker, draft pen, etc., listed. Is something like a thin sharpie okay, or would something else be better? Thanks.

impu1se: I used a sharpie on mine, but I've noticed that the lines have faded quite a bit.

LipidBilayer?: I posted this on the message board, but I thought I'd throw it on here too. Anyone who has made a table goban, where did you get the large block of wood from? My local hardware stores don't carry anything large enough- I think I'm going to have to resort to a flat goban with wood around the sides to give the impression of depth. Any advice would help! thanks!

[bogiesan@mac.com]: Acquiring a single block of wood large enough to make a floor board will be almost impossible. If you can find one, it will be outrageously expensive to purchase and to ship. Remember it needs to be larger than the completed board to account for rough preparation and fine finishing. An Internet search for "hardwood suppliers" will yield several firms you can call. More likely you will build up a large block by laminating several pieces together with wood glue and proper clamps. Choosing adjoining blocks is both an aesthetic and practical decision. You will want to carefully match or contrast grain and color. Laminating very large pieces of wood requires research and care so you do not end up with a go board unwittingly designed to warp and crack. (11-25-2010)

Gyom Some photos of my hand-made goban on Gyom/Goban. It's a simple piece of cloth, with sewed lines. Quite cheap and easy to carry.

hmiemad? : I know I'm going to break traditions and outrage people.

I made a goban out of the classic, cheapest, ikea table (10€ where I live). You know the small 55x55 cm lack. I had an old black one, I painted the top in white, then I drawed the lines with a black magic marker. It looks good and it's a piece of furniture at the same time.

But the woody colored one would look better. I thought that one could burn the lines with an angle grinder with a disc made to cut concrete (it leaves nice inhomogeneous black lines). As the lines have a little depth, the curved stones sit quite gently on the intersections.

Joe: I've been looking around on how to make my own 19x19 go board with a 13x13 on the back, im going to follow the sensei's average dimensions page (454.5mm with 22.5mm stones etc) and im using Medium-Density Fiberboard. I plan to woodburn the grid and coat it in a nice polyurethane. I plan on using This kind of glass gem as stones ( [ext] http://www.megaglass.com/pc/55879/emerald-transparent-glass-flats.html) and i was wondering if anyone has any advice for me. Thanks for any feedback! Edit: im in a toss up, what should i coat the MDF in, and what should i do to make the lines for a very nice looking board?


Abaddon: So I am considering making my own Goban in the very near future. I am planning and researching very extensively right now, both here and elsewhere. I plan to use Spanish Cedar for the board, and then give it a small border of a light Mahogany. It will have four feet, and the inside will be hollow. It will be a floor Goban, and I was thinking of having it be around one foot in height, not including the feet. It will be closed on the bottom except for a round hole in the bottom, much like a sound hole in a guitar. I am thinking that this larger resonating chamber will allow for a much fuller sound when stones are placed on the board. I play guitar myself and this design stems from my experience with guitar. I'm not sure if that breaks some ancient unspoken rule of Goban making or anything. Some clarification on that would be appreciated. I have a respect for tradition, and would not like to break any rules against that. I plan to wood burn the lines so there is a slight indentation in the wood so stones sit slightly better. I plan to have four bowls turned, two made of cedar, and two of mahogany, the same as the woods for the Goban. The Cedar bowls for keeping stones for use, and the Mahogany ones for captured stones.

I have a few questions on the construction of such a board. I understand that the Equipment dimensions are not symmetrical as is common in Western board game constructions. Being from America, this confuses me. I understand the aesthetics of these modified dimensions, however I am not sure how to put the Mahogany border on the board. I am also not sure how to correctly place the grid. Also, I am having difficulty finding wood that matches the width and length of a board. How is this normally overcome? I also do not want a five inch thick board. I am thinking one to one and half inches will be better for resonating purposes. Any tips, suggestions, or solutions to these problems as well as any thoughts comments and opinions on wood choice, design or anything would be greatly appreciated.

I have found a piece of wood the correct size for a traditioal floor goban, although it will not be kaya. =P It is self made so in my opinion that makes it more valuable. I found the wood by going to the city... not dump, but where ever you would take a dump trees that had fallen. we were taking branches there after an ice storm, and the policy is that if you can move it you can have it. I have used a chainsaw to cut the wood down to a little larger than the goban dimensions. it will be about eight inches thick. does anyone know a good way to flatten and smooth the surface that will be safe for the board? also, how tall are the legs supposed to be?

Potter117: When I was 16 I also went to the city. Like the above person said, not the dump but the natural material disposal location. I found a large piece of white oak (HEAVY!). I let it sit in my parents' garage for about a year to dry out, raised off the floor with the bark still on. When I was 17 I took it in a pickup to a sawmill a few cities over that had a band saw. I got it cut down to about a quarter of an inch larger than it needed to be for Japanese dimensions, and from there I sanded it down for the final size. I used a large level to go across the board in all directions to get it perfect as I could. I then sealed it only on the top with a clear sealant (can't remember what i used ask a local woodworking supply shop what they recommend). After a few coats I used a carpenter square and a pencil to measure and create the lines based on the Japanese standard, and then I Sharpied over them. Sealed it again two more times. For the legs I used a spade bit to create four holes and used pre-built Oak legs from Home Depot that were tall enough to allow bowls to sit underneath. The most expensive part was the band saw at $60. Not terrible expensive overall. With $100 and some patience I made a great board. When I was 23 the lines were still in great shape and I sold it for $300 to a local player who is all about buying things from local craftsmen and nobody else around here would make a go board. Since then I have purchased a traditional boards. If anyone still need sthe measurements from the sound hole I'd be happy to provide them. :)

Goban Self Made last edited by Potter117 on May 13, 2019 - 20:26
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