By David and Brian Rae; For Me
Sometime in the early 2000’s David, Brian and I spent a Christmas break in a beech town in South East Asia. The town was had delicious cuisine and incredible scenery but also its fair share of that yucky type of tourist who travels with too much entitlement and too many layers of sun tan lotion. For the three of us, hot days, prolonged activity in the sun and all of that gave way to an epic marathon of connect four. You know the game – its the ramped up version of tic-tack-toe where you have to connect four in a row rather than three. Sitting at a beach-side bar, we threw down 4%-alcohol beer and little plastic chips – As the hours passed our skills regressed towards the mean and we were left with a lot of stalemates. Over the years my brothers and I have found a lot of ways to compete, when ever we find our way back to connect four I remember that trip. So it was, that David and Brian incredibly thoughtfully set it upon themselves to build a version of the game from oak and poplar rather than the cheap plastic the board is usually crafted from. A connect four board is one of the those projects which looks simple is to the eye but actually requires a lot of precision – each game chip has to line up with each hole – a task simpler conceptualize than actualize. Alas – I am impressed.
As in other posts I am going to pass the mic to Brian to talk about the process;
From This Point Brian’s Voice;
Our beach trip in Thailand may have been the genesis for connect 4, but by no means the end. Often while at a bar or while idle Matt, David and I enjoy mindless games to play while conversing which axe to buy next, listening to matt’s knowledge of NHL strategy or planning a trip. Connect 4, along with backgammon (another future project) is a favorite. However the board to me has always felt beyond cheap… the cheapest plastic known to man. When I saw a plan in Wood magazine, I knew it was for Matt.
The project was straightforward enough, though due to some user error, and rushing, we had a few false starts. Initially David and I wanted to finish the project in a day while he was visiting Portland over the holidays, this proved to be an error. We purchased plywood to avoid the need for laminating and used an old spade bit for drilling which caused the board to splinter below our expectations. We even got so far as to paint the board the same color as the original, but we could do better.
We then changed course and delayed the Xmas gift in order to take our time. The plan was for me to mill the pieces and finish the board, then mail (a common yet expensive solution for us) the wood to David for him to glue the box and do the finishing touches including cutting the pieces. I ended up choosing red oak for the project due to its strength, beauty and price point. I also invested a few dollars in a forester bit which created a much cleaner cut for the holes on the board. The board come together quickly on the second run with only a few errors on the laminating of the 1/4 board.
David then created the box and playing pieces. We used poplar doweling for the pieces, then stained them two separate colours. After the initial finishing, David decided to hand the board over to Matt prior to completion… why? Well, what woodworker doesn’t like to have a little sweat in a piece. And David was getting lazy near the end, new energy was needed!
The finishing touches has brought out a beautiful board, we included a leather carrying strap for easy transportation to bars and parks. Now the difficult part is to keep a well practiced Matt humble at connect 4… this will prove to be more difficult then building the thing!