Material Goban

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Traditionally, go boards are made of wood. However, this is not really a requirement. One can find old boards which were highly decorative, and made to resemble e.g. a turtle back or similar.

I once played on a board made in Algeria, which was made of leather (pigskin, apparently) stretched out over a wooden frame, with engraved camels around the side and inset pieces of mirror. (!)

Nowadays, however, the trend seems to be towards simplicity and austerity.

The main requirement of the material used is that it is durable and does not warp. A secondary requirement is that the surface colour and texture must be so that the grid is clear, and that the sound made when hit with a stone is pleasant.

In practice this means that wood is used. For aesthetic reasons, the grain should be "masame", i.e. running straight, not bent.

Good quality plywood (not construction grade) is fine for home-made boards, as it is relatively cheap and easy to work with. You can get a thin piece of furniture or cabinet grade plywood and sandwich it to cheaper plywood for a thick, good-looking surface. Finish the edge with thin wood stock. Choose a type of plywood that is not too dark.

'Competition' boards, the ones which are in photos of 'Go World', are typically made of the Japanese 'Kaya' wood. Kaya has the properties as described above, it is quite soft (nice sound), the colour is light (yellowish) and the grain is subtle. However, kaya trees are reasonably rare and they grow very slowly. For that and other reasons kaya boards are very expensive.

Wood types which are used include:

  • Agathis
  • Ash Alder
  • Bamboo
  • Basswood
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Cedar (hiba? is a type of cedar)
  • Cypress
  • Elm
  • Hiba
  • Katsura
  • Kaya
  • Oak
  • Purpleheart
  • Redwood
  • Sitka Spruce
  • Soft maple
  • White walnut
  • Yellow Pine
  • Shin Kaya

Scartol: I made mine out of yellow pine ($6.99/plank at Home Depot) and added little feet (in my case they are wooden circles from a craft shop, but my pal Matt found some rubber dealies that are even better). The resulting space under the board means that it resonates very well when whacked with a stone (especially my big fat Ing stones). Several folks have said that mine provides the best sound of any board in the club.

axd: are you talking about the heso, or about the empty space between the legs?

Jared: I'm currently building a spruce table goban. The original plan called for a folding board, but I decided against it at the last minute. Just wanted to remind people who buy their lumber: avoid pressure treated wood.

Damian For my first board I used pine, and made it into an oversize breakfast tray shape (complete with handles). My wife loves it and I even get her to play a game on it occasionally ;)

Hignaki: I have found cheap fiberboard at Home Depot, and it acually sounds quite nice when it is covered by a thin piece of Oak. It acually looks quite good too, if I say so myself...

FuZZ: I used walnut for my goban and it has a nice color even with his dark tone. I'm going to make a new one and I'm considering using cedar.

Kosh: Check my homemade board. It's make of meranti hardwood, 4 pieces glued together. The legs are made of the same wood. The whole is waxed with furniture wax. [ext] (dead link)

  • FuZZ: Nice board and interesting bowls :) What did you use for your lines?
  • Kosh: The lines are drawn with an ordinary marker :) The bowls come from china. Do you also have a pic?
  • FuZZ: Yes you can look at them here
  • Kosh: Nice! I have created a new page on Gobans: Kosh/Gobans

PatG: I am designing folding goban. Are there any preferences, benefits or drawbacks for placing the seam on a line, beside a line or down the middle of a square? Thanks.

The board that I have is such that when folded, the two halves line up essentially perfectly. The cut is just off the center line: I think that in any case you will probably prefer to cut first and draw the grid later, since cutting will probably affect the dimensions of your board (removing material from the center and making the boxes along the cut smaller than the rest

LeeHungLo: A goban should be constructed with a softwood, so that over time the board develops indentations adding to its value. The stones should make a click when placed on the board, which is another reason a soft wood is preferred (a bit of give results in a nice click apparently). The color and grain is important for easy playability. Kaya and Katsura trees are popular probably because they meet these conditions so nicely.

axd: the click might not come from the wood, but from the way stones touch each other. (tetsuki)

Regulus: I have my eye on a beautiful bamboo Goban. It's strips of bamboo glued? I don't know the woodshop term for it, but it's strips all together that make a gorgeous checkerboard design on the north and south sides. I have yet to see how it works out. =]

Okay, I've tried it out and it's wonderful! The description said a multicolored solid rock of bamboo, but it weighs as much as a boulder. It makes a wonderful sound and has an extremely distinct scent that smells of sweet woody incense. The legs probably need replacing, I don't like the two-toned look of them. I'm not sure if this is a property of the bamboo, but when I placed a stone down ridiculously hard, a piece of the finish slightly scraped off, but it was fine after I rubbed at it. It never happened again. There's also a noticeable dent in on corner of the board. But otherwise, I love it. =]

eluusive?: I recently purchased a set similar to regulus' from [ext] Yellow Mountain Imports. It is an excellent board, and comes with yunzi stones and jujube bowls. I think I like bamboo best out of any material I've played on. It's very heavy and strong; seems very resistant to dents. The nicest part is that Bamboo is a very quick growing fiber, unlike most hardwoods. Up close Pictures of the board are on that site.

pashley Moved discussion originally here of Shin Kaya to its own page.

rmsp: At some point I ran across a really cool set of pages detailing the manufacture of kaya gobans, with pictures of the huge logs being cut and sectioned, the lines being drawn, etc. Kind of like what they have at [ext] Kurokigoishiten, but with more detail. Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Something like this? [ext] (dead link)

Was it [ext] (dead link)

bps? check out this site [ext] they have a video which is quite interesting (dead link)

jedwardh I have made several inexpensive wooden boards, some folding, some not. The non-folding ones are cabinet-grade (nice finish) 5-ply, 6mm thick, with surfaces of ivorywood (very pale, with clean grain). The folding boards are made either from Radiata Pine (softwood, very cheap in Australia) or Maple (somewhat more expensive, but still affordable). For the hinge I have just glued a piece of cloth to the back, using either PVA or Liquid Nails Clear (for a more water-resistant board). For Yunzi stones, I have made each cell 23x24 mm. I have also tried 22x23, and this is acceptable, but it does result in the stones being a bit cramped. All of the boards are finished with boiled linseed oil, then left to dry for two or three days. The lines are marked with permanent marker. It is easiest to mark the lines before painting with boiled linseed oil, though that does result in more "bleeding" of the ink. If you do it the other way around, make sure the oil is _completely_ dry (3 days at least) before you mark the lines, or they will look bad. The material cost of each board ranges from about AU$15 to AU$30.

Chonas: After doing a bit of research, the specific gravity (density measurement) of Torreya nucifera is .53. Similar woods are Atlantic/Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica), Linden (Tilia vulgaris or Tilia tormentosa), Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara), one type of kauri (Agathis Robusta), Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana only), Holly (Ilex opaca), Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), Hiba (Thujopsis), and several pines. All of these trees aside from holly and magnolia also easily exceed 1 meter in diameter. A 1.5 meter diamater would probably be sufficient for creating a masame board, at least 3/4ths of a meter is needed for itame. Of these tree types, pines would probably be the easiest to source. If you live in an area with any of these trees, try calling local arborists or tree services for chunks of tree trunks (I've successfully gotten 3 so far). Good Luck. A final substitute which may be even more expensive than Kaya would be Huon Pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii), which may be available to Tasmaninan Go players.

AshR?: Does anyone have information on the preferred method for drying the hardwood for use in a goban? Is air-dried preferred to kiln-dried or is there no effective difference?

Bob McGuigan: In Japan the traditional method is air drying. Rough board blanks are cut from logs and the end grain sides are coated with wax. It takes some years of drying this way before the wood can be used to finish a board. The problem, of course, is drying the wood in such a way that it won't crack or warp, which is likely to happen if the moisture leaves the wood too fast. I think the waxing of the end grain is also a crack preventative. I don't know what would happen if the thick wood were dried slowly in a low-temperature kiln. A friend of mine tried to make a traditional thick go board out of a tree trunk and never succeeded in getting a crack-free board blank. Chonas: There are several types of sealers that you used to slow the drying process (which supposedly limits cracks). Most people suggest the commercial stuff like Anchorseal which is mainly liquid paraffin wax. However, if you're in a pinch, anything you could put on to make an airtight seal (some people suggest coating the ends in carpenter or white glue). The ends you seal are the ones upon which the age rings appear. . . also called the radial end.

Material Goban last edited by on April 15, 2019 - 03:13
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