Throwing sticks may be taboo on the playground, but it’s precisely the point with the Swedish game Kubb: The goal is to throw short dowels at your opponent’s pieces to knock them over. Yes, a wild toss can be hard on the shins, but the game has been entertaining Swedes for more than a thousand years, so it’s worth giving it a shot.
To get started, just cut up a 4×4 post and some dowels to make the game pieces and stake out the playing field with thinner dowels. This Old House‘s game experts, aka Team Saturday, walk you through the steps of fashioning the king and kubbs in a video tutorial. Then you, too, can learn to relish that satisfying clunk of wood-on-wood contact in your own backyard—a realm where your rule reigns supreme.
Overview for Making a Kubb, or Viking Chess, Game Set
The king and kubb pieces all can be cut from a 4×4, but before you unleash a Scandinavian fist-pump, you should know that the project will be a little more involved than sawing off a post. While the king retains his appropriately portly 4×4 girth, the smaller kubb pieces need to be ripped down to 2¾ inches, making them suitably easy to knock over.
Once you size the pieces, you’ll cut decorative grooves with a handsaw, and notch the top of the king to create a crown. All the better to recognize him, so you don’t accidentally bring him down until you’ve toppled all the kubbs. Long live the king.
- 4×4 king: one at 12 inches
- 2¾ x 2¾ kubbs: ten at 6 inches
- ¾-inch dowels: four at 12 inches (to the long point)
- 1¼-inch dowels: six at 12 inches
Steps for Making a DIY Kubb Game Set
Step 1: Cut king to length
Using a miter saw, cut a 12-inch piece from the end of the 4×4. Set the remaining length of post aside, to be ripped for the kubb pieces.
Step 2: Mark the king’s crown
- First, draw lines corner to corner atop the block to make an X. With the combination square, bisect both axes of the X, and the resulting lines will mark the centerline of each side of the post, without your having to measure.
- Using the 45-degree-angled edge on the head of the combination square, draw 45-degree lines on each side of the king-to-be, from the corners inward, and from the center points outward. These lines will intersect to create two Vs on each side. Shade the Vs as the portion of the block to be cut away.
Step 3: Cut the king
- Clamp the 4×4 to your work surface. Using a pull saw, begin by notching the front corner at the 45-degree angle, then notch into the marked angle at the corresponding back corner.
- Level the blade of the pull saw across the top of the block, connecting the two notches with the saw blade.
- Cut away the V-shaped channels running through the crown following the 45-degree cut lines. Turn the 4×4 a quarter turn and repeat this process on the perpendicular axis.
- Once the cuts are complete, the intersecting V channels will create 3-dimensional triangles atop the block.
Step 4: Rip the 4×4
- Clamp the remainder of 4×4 to the work surface.
- Set the blade of your circular saw to the lowest depth and fit it with a fence set to rip ¾-inch of wood from the 4×4.
- Rip the length, letting the fence ride along the side of the 4×4. A circular saw’s blade is not large enough to cut through the entire 4×4, so you must flip the 4×4 over and cut through the remaining thickness, again letting the fence ride along the side.
- Turn the 4×4 on the adjacent side and repeat the process to create a post that is 2¾ inches square.
Step 5: Measure and mark the kubb
Measure and mark the length of a kubb piece on a 2¾-inch post according to the cut list.
Step 6: Cut the kubbs
- Using a miter saw, cut the kubb pieces to length. To make the cuts without measuring each piece, clamp a stop block 6 inches from the saw blade.
- Lean the uncut 2¾ post against the block, make the cut, and repeat.
Step 7: Cut the decorative grooves
- On the king piece, measure and mark three horizontal lines ½ inch apart starting 3 inches from the top of the crown on all four sides.
- Clamp the 4×4 inside a miter box and, using a handsaw, cut grooves about ¼ inch deep along each of the lines on each side of the 4×4.
- On each kubb piece, draw horizontal lines 1 inch from the top and bottom on all four sides and cut the grooves along the lines in the same way.
Step 8: Measure the dowels
- The ¾-inch dowels used for corner stakes will be cut at a 45-degree angle, so measure from the tip to the opposite end.
- The 1¼-inch dowels for the batons should have straight cuts on both ends.
- Measure and mark the length of the first cut on each dowel.
Step 9: Cut the dowels
- Using a miter saw, cut the ¾-inch dowel to length according to the cut list, and set the miter saw to a 45-degree angle to angle one end of each piece.
- Cut the 1¼-inch dowels according to the cut list. To avoid measuring each piece, clamp a stop block 12 inches from the saw blade.
- Slide the end of the dowel against the block, make the cut, and repeat.
Step 10: Stain the pieces
Using a brush and wood stain, coat the pieces, then wipe off the excess stain using long, even strokes with a dry, lint-free rag.