Building a Go Board

Hey there! I am going to make an attempt to create a board from scratch in the next few weeks. I want it to be a standard dimension and about 6 inches thick with little legs like on “traditional” boards. Does anyone experienced have any personal suggestions or recommended online tutorials. Much help would be appreciated. :grinning:

Mr. GoBoard


Sensei’s Library has a page dedicated to making gobans.

Also, last year @Skurj shared how he built a goban / storage container.


What materials do you have in mind, how much experience do you have building with wood, and what kind of tools do you have access to?


The bad news is that I am a beginner, with very limited experience. The good news is that I want this to be a high school woodworking project, and my classroom has great resources: planers, jointers, table saws, band saws, router tables, drill presses and many other things. So I believe there should not be a problem with equipment. As far as wood goes it depends on what I can afford. Preferably something not too expensive. We have many different kinds of wood but I can say that bamboo and kaya are probably not on that list. My instructor is very experienced and could help me to a certain extent, but I want to keep this project as simple as I can being that I am a beginner. Hope this helps. :grinning:


Absolutely. I think you’ve got enough of the right ingredients to make this work. I will be happy to walk you through the process and discuss options to make sure you get what you want and perhaps avoid some pitfalls.

For starters, let’s talk construction. Do you want it to be a solid block of wood? Or would you be ok if the box was hollow? My personal board is 13 inches thick, but hollow with a friction fit lid so I can store all my books and stuff inside


I’m entertaining the idea of building my own tabletop goban as well and am interested in the kind of advice you may offer. First of all: materials. I am assuming you are in the US (from your previous posts about your great work)? would you know where to get cabinet-level pine or (possibly) spruce for a one-piece goban? The local Home Depot does not seem up to the task.

(BTW, I do have some wood-working skills, even though I unfortunately had to leave most of my tools behind in my last big move)


Yes, I’m in SW Florida. And it is true, big box stores here are not renowned for their high quality solid woods. If you have your heart set on a solid block board, check around to see if you have a local hardwood supply store. There are a handful of outfits in my area that do custom milled trim and cnc hardwoods, they will have a source for slabs and high-quality large format solid wood.

The major caveat with solid slabs is movement and distortion. All wood moves over time. The key is picking and working your piece so it moves the way you want it. If you’ve not got a lot of experience with solid slabs then the risk of seeing your beautiful work warp is higher.


Yeah, good point abuot the single-piece board/slab. I guess I’ll start with a safer technique first, at least to see if I have any skills left.
And thanks for the hardwood store suggestion. I have already found a couple of local suppliers.



Cool. If you still want the feel of a heavy solid slab, but don’t want to worry about distortion I would suggest a laminate board from multiple sheets of plywood, with an edge band/frame to hide the plywood endgrain. You can use some cool plywood (even exotic hardwood :heart_eyes:) for the surface texture, then glue + clamp/screw and stack as many regular layers underneath as you like to build the board thickness. Sometimes plywood gets a stigma from some folks as being cheap or chintzy. But good plywood is really a superior product due to seasonal stability and strength.

You can also build a hollow torsion box with plywood for top and bottom, and hardwood around the sides. I’ve often wondered how placing stones would sound on a hollow board with an acoustic hole in the bottom


Skurj, I have no knowledge of this subject, but I admire the help you’re giving to these folks.


Thanks it really is my pleasure.


Thank you! I appreciate your help! I believe I am willing to try a solid block of wood, as I seem to be most familiar with that kind of construction. I realize there is a concern with warping, but I am willing to take that risk. I believe my instructor could help with lowering that risk, but do you have any personal suggestions? Right now I still don’t have a guaranteed design in mind, as I still have at least a month before I can start this. Here is my working draft:

I plan to use solid oak and have the construction 18 x 18 inches (although I could go a little smaller). I also want the board to be about 6 inches thick with simple little legs at the bottom that are somewhere in the 2 to 3 inch range (long). As far as the solid block of wood goes, I think I will actually just glue together wood that will be 3 inches high and then do another layer like that on the top. Do you think there are any issue/risks with this procedure? Any thoughts? Oh, and one more question: What do you think would be a ballpark estimate for how much this would cost in wood. My instructor is not looking to make money off of me of course, but he does need the money to replace the wood I use. This last question might be hard to answer, but no worries as I will find out from him anyway. Thanks Again! :grin:


Just to make sure I understand, you plan to take two slabs of 3" thickness and laminate them vertically to reach 6" total thickness?

On the stability of wood:
Moisture content (more moisture = less stable.) Wood shrinks as moisture leaves, so if it dries unevenly you would see warping/cupping in thinner pieces (<4 inches maybe) and thicker pieces will crack if the dry part can’t overpower the moist part to bend it.

Choosing the wood:
Obviously you will want to start by choosing wood slabs that appear least likely to damage themselves during the drying process. You cannot use regular lumber since the trees cut are usually immature and the cuts are made arbitrarily in violation of growth rings to maximize production efficiency (see picture)

Now, take a look at some solid gobans from Asia and notice how the growth rings are positioned on the edge of the board


The best boards are rift sawn, that is, cut radially perpendicular to the grain. This is the most stable wood produced (traditionally used for boat building, since it will be exposed to many extreme wetting and drying cycles throughout its lifetime) but the % waste when rift cutting from logs is higher. Therefore rift sawn wood is more expensive. In white oak, rift sawing can also help avoid a blotchy, stripey or otherwise inconsistent grain appearance that quarter sawing and flat sawing can yield.

For a Goban it is generally advised to minimize grain appearance on the playing surface. High-quality Japanese boards are almost perfectly clear, meaning that they have minimal figuring, blemishes or other inconsistencies to distract from the grid pattern. Oak is less consistent than Kaya and some others, so it may be difficult to find a perfectly clear piece, or you may enjoy seeing some grain and figures. White oak has a finer texture than red oak, and is probably superior for board building.


In Asia I believe they wax the endgrain of unfinished boards, then allow them to air-dry for a number of years before the final shaping and finishing work. The wax and air-dry helps wood to dry evenly and, in addition to proper cut selection, minimizes chances of splitting in the long term.


Warping, cupping. You could also cut yourself. Same risks as always.

I think there are lots of good ways to build stuff. Understanding the pros and cons of each is a start.
If you’re talking about stacking two big slabs to reach the 6" thickness, I think you will have to be very careful selecting pieces, and be ready to pay good money for good material.

If you are talking about laminating multiple 3" planks face to face for a simulated slab, then stacking two of those slabs to reach the desired height, that’s a fairly sensible approach that will be much less sensitive to the particular characteristics of each piece of wood. Combining multiple pieces in opposition will counteract the tendency of any one piece to move or warp (that’s the main reason why plywood is so stable) The downside is that a configuration of face-glued planks turned edgewise means your board surface shows the edge grain of many wood pieces, and might not look as nice as a solid face.

In either case, you will want to build your board with a slightly larger footprint, and be ready to either saw or plane the edges flush once the pieces are assembled, since it is nearly impossible to ensure perfectly flush exactly matching dimensions during the glue-up. If your board is to be 6 inches thick, then just make sure your jointer and surface planer or whatever can handle a 6 inch piece with one pass. Otherwise you can use a hand plane but it will take longer.

Depending on the type and source you are probably looking at a couple hundred dollars for that much oak.


How about something like this:


Hollow box and hard wood… could you make a goban like this? :star_struck:


Mitered panels over a solid core can be done. You do sacrifice the appearance of any endgrain, which can be good or bad depending on how you view it.
The main difficulty is that your measurements and cuts must be VERY precise before glue-up.

Errors telegraph over distance, so joining long miters is a bit like rocketry in that a small deviation at the outset grows increasingly larger the farther along you go. 18 inch miters require very precise work.
AND since you will have 6 sides connected, even if you can “cheat” errors into alignment on one edge, they will ultimately double back on you and make themselves manifest somewhere

Now all this is not to say it can’t be done. I’ve done similar things building columns out of oak ply with 4 foot long mitered edges, with actual zero tolerance for gapping. BUT for the neophyte woodworker this technique might be less suitable.

@lysnew Where there’s a will, there’s a way


So after having spent a few night hours looking at possible solutions for home made desktop gobans, I reached the conclusion that it is not really possible to do a good job without decent power tools (at least at my skill level).

My preferred approach would be to go for a series of studs glued together, planed, cut, and finished, following the example documented here : I like the final result, and with a bit of care in selecting the studs it would be also a super-economical solution (probably below $15 for lumber, around $20/25 with stain and varnish). But I do not think it’s possible to get the kind of polished result I would enjoy without a planer and a good table saw.

The second approach would be to to follow Skurj’s suggestion and go for laminated plywood. The advantage would be a much simpler and warp-resistent construction, no planing needed, and the possibility to get quality hardwood plywood for top and bottom layers. The problem is that I think it would be quite hard to make a good job on the sides. The 8-miter joints solution Vsotvep suggested looks light a nightmare to me. I know I could not get it right, and certainly not with a hand saw, file, and plane. I haven’t looked into the option of gluing wood veneers on the side, but I am not too confident about the result.

The Yellow Mountain’s bamboo 2" goban has never looked like a better deal…

P.S. This video I chanced upon of a real Korean craftsman using huge blocks of nutmeg tree lumber to make beautiful boards was by itself worth the hours I wasted away!


If it makes you feel any better, it looks like a nightmare to me too. And I do this for a living lol. :sweat_smile:

You might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish. Working within the limits of your skills and tools, it might be possible to simplify the design and yet still arrive at a satisfying solution.

I’d suggest gluing a stack of plywood sheets, planing the edges flush and flat, then covering with an oak veneer edge banding. All you need is a saw, drill, hand plane, clothes iron and razor knife. Maybe a little sandpaper.

You can get 12" wide oak veneer edge banding on amazon for about 20 dollars in a 4-foot roll
…Just enough to wrap a Goban :grin:

Then outsource the grid pattern work. Sign shops usually have the ability to laser etch, CNC or print with very durable ink if you just give them a vector file of what you want on the board.
***You may want to have the design printed on your top sheet before adding to the thickness, since their printing machines may not accommodate stock that is 6 inches thick.

Couple of things:

Use Titebond 1 for your wood glue. Titebond 2 and 3 are slightly stronger and vastly more waterproof, but will inhibit stain and finish absorption if they get on any exposed wood.

Use true wood screws to clamp sheets together when you’re gluing. True wood screws have a sharp pointy tip, medium threads, and a smooth shank near the screw head. The smooth shank will pull wood pieces together much more tightly than a screw with continuous threading.

If you’re using 3/4" plywood, then screws of
1-1/4" length should be alright. Just enough to grab the next sheet, but not enough to poke through the front.

Space your screws about 3 or 4 inches apart across the entire surface and leave for 24 hours before removing them to glue the next sheet.

@cleinias Let me know what you think. If you decide to take this on I will gladly walk you through the entire process in excruciating detail.

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