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Ebony dominoes PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 15 December 2009 21:24

For Rachel's 3rd Hanukkah, I decided to make wooden dominoes. I chose Gabon ebony for the dominoes and rosewood for the box to hold them. Working with Tropical hardwoods was quite an experience because they are so much denser than any North American hardwood. Tropical woods hold an edge much better than cherry or maple, and combined with its near black color, made it perfect for small dominoes.


First step was cut the strips of ebony and maple to 1" x 3/8" which would form the dominos. Since the ebony I got was approximately 1 1/2" square and 10" long, I couldn't run it through the thickness planer. So I ran the blocks through the jointer on one side, then on an adjacent side square to the first. Then I cut a little over 3/8" wide strips on the bandsaw and face jointed those on the jointer. Jointing something 3/8" high isn't too difficult and as long as the jointer is setup to prevent snipe, it works well when the surface planer isn't an option. I then cut the strips to 1" wide on the bandsaw and jointed then.

I ended up with several strips of ebony and maple in the picture below:


The ebony is really beautiful wood with its nearly black color and occasional tan streaks. You can see the jointing marks in the picture below:


Then I cut the strips into 2" long blanks. So the dominoes were now a standard size of 1" wide, 2" long and 3/8" thick. The standard set of double size dominoes has 28 pieces. After cutting the blanks to length, I clamped them together and used an 1/8" round over bit to smooth the corners. Then, again using the router table, I passed them over a v-groove bit to create a small groove in the middle of the dominoes.

Making the holes proved to be challenging, and I tried many different dremel bits and router bits before deciding on a regular twist drill. When drilled so that the shoulder of the drill head goes just below the surface, the diameter of the hole will always be the same, even if the drill is slightly higher of lower than I want it. If I used a cone shaped bit, the depth would be extremely important, but not so with the drill bit. I also needed to make sure the hole was drilled exactly where I wanted it, so I created a template in which I had 9 holes for the 9 possible hole positions on the dominoes. I then pushed an awl through the holes to create a starting position for the drill bit. This created pretty accurate hole patterns on the dominoes.

Below are the results of the cutting, routing, and drilling. You can see the difference in the edges between the maple and ebony.


I painted the holes and middle groove to make them stand out:


Then the most important step! Sanding... After sanding, they looked very nice.


Next I wanted to make a nice box to hold the dominoes. I decided to go with the tropical hardwood and used rosewood. I first resawed some rosewood planks to ~3/8" thick boards and surface planed them to thickness. Then I ripped them on the bandsaw and jointed them to width, then cut them to length. I wanted an elegant box, so I chose a box-joint for the corners. There is a wonderful new type of router bit specifically for this, which wasn't around when I first started woodworking 20 years ago. It's a 1/2" shank bit that can cut a box joint up to 1 1/2" high, or 3" high if you flip the board over. This was an adjustable bit with shims, which turned out to be extremely challenging to get it to cut the right size fingers. There was a lot of trial and error before getting the bit just right.

The box sides before box jointing:


I wanted a hand-rubbed finish, and decided on just plain wax instead of tung oil or a rubbed out finish. Mainly because of the high price of tung oil and the length of time needed to rub out a finish. The only drawback to wax is that it will leave white areas in any crevice in the wood. If the wood is extremely smooth, this can work out, but it is noticeable in the joints and any defects on the surface.

Below is the finished box:

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 December 2009 18:03
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