Dominos Case

I loved playing dominos with my dad when I was young and I still love playing dominos with my dad and now my son. I introduced him to the game not long ago, and he loves it. The box that the dominos came in was getting a bit tattered, so I decided to make for my old man a nice new one. I guess the original is a vintage box now and probably worth something so if anyone wants it before it goes in the bin let me know. I’m taking all the measurements off the original box and will provide them for you here.  My choice of timbers is NGR (New Guinean rosewood) for the sides and American black walnut for the ends, top and bottom.

Sides 8” x 2 1/4” x ¼” (make 2)

Ends 2 3/4” x 2 1/4” x ¼ (make 2)

Bottom 8 x 2 3/4” x 1/8” (make 1)

Lid undetermined yet – we’ll get to that part later (make 1).

Start by preparing the parts.  Rip the sides and ends over-sized.  Flatten one side and plane one edge and end square.  From the reference edge, mark 2 1/4” and rip and plane to the line.  From the reference end, mark the overall length, square a line around the piece and crosscut to the line.  Finally, mark and plane to final thickness.

In the photo below, you’ll see the two ends have been prepared as a single piece, to be cut apart and cut to length later.

Plough a ¼” wide, 1/8” deep groove that is 1/8” from the upper edge on the inside of the side pieces.  The lid will slide in these grooves. It’s imperative that the two side pieces are of equal width. If one of those pieces were wider than the other, the grooves could be out of alignment with each other.

When adjusting the plough plane, it can be helpful first to scribe a gauge line on the workpiece 1/8” from the upper edge.  Rather than setting the plane’s fence with a ruler, line up the left edge of the blade to the gauge line.

Using a rule, set the depth stop 1/8” from to the tip of the blade and lock it in place.  Verify the distance one more time for good measure.

If the wood has reversing grain, set the iron to take a very light cut. You’re only ploughing to 1/8” depth so it won’t take long.
Using a sticking board with an adjustable fence can help in ploughing the grooves. If you’re interested in making your own sticking board, plans are available in Issue IV, which can be purchased from my store. With an adjustable fence, making the piece flush against the edge of the sticking board is easy and this gives a much better surface for the plough plane’s fence to ride along.

Following these tips should result in clean, accurate results every time.

The box will have single dovetails at each corner.

Make the tails protrude by about 1/32” by setting a marking gauge to slightly more than the thickness of the pin board, as in the above picture.  Use that setting to mark the baselines on the tail board.

One end of the box will be higher than the other so that the lid can slide in and stop.  For this reason, the dovetails will be offset from centre.

On the end grain of a side piece, measure in ¼” from the lower edge and 5/8” from the grooved edge.  At these locations, mark lines straight across the end, then extend lines down the faces to the baselines using the dovetail angle you prefer.

Cut away the waste and pare to the lines to complete the dovetail.

To transfer the tails to the pin board, use a trick from Mike Pekovic of Fine Woodworking Magazine. He uses painter’s masking tape on the edge of the pin board (as shown above).  Knifing the outlines of the dovetail onto the pin board and removing the tape in the waste area reveals very clean, visible lines.

This is especially useful on dark timbers like this walnut.  Saw and chisel out the waste and fit the tail board to the pin board.

To allow the lid to slide in and out, one of the ends will be reduced in height.

Choose an end to be the front and knife a mark from the lower wall of the groove onto the end piece. Extend the mark across the end piece and rip and plane to the line.

Reassemble the box and verify that the top edge of the end piece is flush with the bottom of the grooves.  When satisfied, glue the box together, clamp it up and check for square.

When the glue has set, pare the protruding ends. Plane as close as possible to the surface and finish it off by paring with a chisel.

Flatten the bottom using a plane or by rubbing on sandpaper adhered to a flat surface.

Just a few strokes is all that is needed.

Prepare the bottom piece, planing to about 1/8” thick, but keeping the length and width oversized.  Glue the box to it and when the glue has dried, plane the ends and sides flush with the box.

The box can be clamped in a vice to give good even clamping pressure all around.

All that’s left now is the lid.

For the lid, prepare ¼” thick stock.  Then plane the edges to fit into the grooves.

A shooting board saves a lot of time and minimizes potential errors in making the edges parallel.

The fit shouldn’t be too sloppy or too tight. There should be just enough slack so the lid can slide in and out freely but not so free that if tipped on its end it will slide out.

With the lid slid all the way to the back of the box, place a mark on the lid at the end of a groove.  Square the mark across the lid and crosscut to length.  The lid will have a lip added to it that will hide the two grooves on the ends and will also act as a pull to open the box.

Rip a small piece whose width is equal to the difference between the height of the front end and the height of the sides.  This measurement can be obtained as shown in the picture above.  The length of the piece should be slightly greater than the width of the box.

Glue the lip onto the end grain of the lid, ensuring the bottoms of the lip and lid are flush with each other.  Gluing end grain to long grain may not be as strong as gluing long grain to long grain, but if the end grain is coated with glue and allowed to dry, the lip can be glued as normal and the bond will be strong. This applies to all types of glue.  When attaching the lip, ensure that the ends on both sides are slightly proud of the box sides. Trim them flush to the sides after the glue has dried.

That’s all there is to it. The box is now ready for light sanding and finish. I used three coats of shellac, followed by a coat of paste wax.

While computer games become out dated almost as quickly as they are released, dominos has continued to be played by friends and families since the Song Dynasty in China (1232-1298). 

The pictures below show the original box and the new box.  What a difference!

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