One of the most difficult tasks when making a goban is to put the lines on it, and to make sure they stay there.
Traditionally, a Katana (Japanese sword) is dipped in ink and gently rocked back and forth to deposit a straight, thin line. The goban is then left to dry and the process is repeated several times until the desired richness of colour has been achieved. Thereafter, a very thin layer of oil is added to the board.
Of course, this is a bit awkward if you're doing it in your garage.
The thing to remember is that the lines should be straight, and in a colour sufficiently rich to make them easy to see. This can be done with a fountain pen, Bic pen, overhead marker, Sharpie, or drafting pen. The advantage of the latter is that you will get a very even colour and that you can adjust the line width.
To ensure that the ink or paint does not soak into the woodgrain, leaving fuzzy lines, test the ink or paint on a scrap of the wood you are using for the board. It may work to apply one coat of clear finish to the wood before applying the lines, then apply the final coat(s) of finish.
Take care in choosing what type, if any, of varnish or other finish you use. Gobans should be matte, to reduce glare under various lighting conditions, and the finish should be hard and durable. Waterbased polyurethanes work well and dry quickly, but you can use lacquer, varnish, oil, wax, or any other wood finish, so long as you can see the lines clearly. Using a matte varnish will give you the chance to 'correct' the wood colour and may be desirable.
Make sure that your surface treatment does not dissolve or ruin the lines, so test it on your wood scrap.
Velobici: Katsura slotted go boards from Ishi Press shipped with a white powder wax applied to the surface of the board. (20061211)
Tamsin I have made a few gobans in the last year or so. I find it very effective to mark the lines using water-based black ink, then to apply a layer of acrylic matt varnish. Once that is dry, I apply a liberal coating of beeswax polish, which provides a hard and durable finish with an attractive low-glare sheen.
Protognsis?: Is there a particular reason why the lines cannot be inlaid? I used an awl to mar the wood, and I plan to put ink in the grooves tomorrow. Not finished though. Stumbled on this page after I did that.
Tyler: While my father was making a board he ran into someone who owned a laser for burning designs into wood. You set the design on a computer and the laser burns to whatever depth you desire. Made very nice lines, may be a bit pricey though.
Karl Knechtel: You might also do ordinary woodburning for the lines, either with a proper kit or perhaps even a soldering iron.
Lee Hung Lo: Whatever method you use, it had better result in straight lines. One glitch in a line and the board is ruined.
Greg Conquest?: Can anyone tell me about the finishes that are used on the standard commercial boards made in Japan? I mean, do all kaya boards have the same finish? Shin Kaya is the same or different, and Katsura . . . ? I intend to buy some go boards here in Japan and refinish the reverse side to make a hex board (isseki ni cho). This will involve some cutting and carving into the surface of the wood. After finishing, I want to get the wood back to the original condition. Can anyone give me any advice? Thanks. Greg
Bob McGuigan: I'm not an expert but here's what I know ... Shin Kaya is spruce wood and is finished differently from kaya. I don't know anything about the finish on spruce boards. Genuine kaya boards have a wax finish. Katsura boards also have only a wax finish, but I think it is a different kind of wax, harder and very difficult to rub off (which you shouldn't do anyhow). When you speak of putting something on the reverse side of a go board I assume you are not talking about the boards with legs. They almost all have a pyramidal inset (Heso) cut in the center of the bottom side. See the links on Go Board for pictures of various stages of traditional kaya go board making, including applying the wax finish.
Greg Conquest?: OK. Thanks Bob. I do mean to use the flat boards -- ones with no feet or removable pads only -- and ones with good bottom sides. So, wax it is. I'll try to find out more about the waxes used on kaya and katsura -- and whatever is used on the spruce boards. Thanks again. Greg
axd: If you have a good board, why ruin its bottom? Also, remember to protect the (Go) playing surface when you are turning it upside down; the lines are sensitive to scratches, just imagine you are moving (dragging) your "hex" board in place on the table. To be honest, IMO, if you have a great goban, show respect for it...
Bob: Traditional Japanese boards with legs do have the indentation on the bottom. It's tradition and, beauty being in the eye of the beholder, it doesn't ruin the board. Boards for use on table-tops do not have the heso, however.
Xialushi?: Any hints on how to draw the lines straight without having them off position, especially for those of us with the drawing skill of a drunken panda? Thanks.
Bob: Draw the outermost lines first. Use a right angle device to make sure the top and bottom lines are perpendicular to the side lines. Use a ruler to make (invisible) marks spaced properly on the top and bottom lines and on the side lines. Connect the dots.
Tamsin: Use a long ruler. Calculate how many lines you need, and then mark the spaces in pencil very lightly at one side of the board. Use the same measurements for the other side, and then mark out the lines lightly in pencil to check that you have got them straight. If you're satisfied, then you can use ink. Repeat the process to make the intersecting lines.
Dworkin: What kin of wax/polish should i use on a go table made of hard European oak? i have lines drawn with water solulable acrylic black ink. Thanks.
Bob: Try micro-crystaline wax (Renaissance Wax) but try it out on a scrap of wood before you use it on your board.
Video: TACHIMORI Board Making by Board Artisan Torayoshi Yoshida