Inlaid Tic Tac Toe Game

Having never previously attempted the technique of inlaying, I thought 'how hard can it be?' Well as it turned out, it's not that hard, in fact downright simple! I know there are many much more complicated inlay techniques and projects around, but by learning this very easy one, you can elevate the level of some of your woodworking projects significantly. Read on to see just how easy it is!

With Christmas coming soon, I wanted to make one of the gifts we'd be giving to my granddaughters Shelby & Sydney. I decided upon this inlaid Tic Tac Toe game and here's how I made it.


I had some ash 7 1/2" wide so that's what I used. After trimming & sanding, I ended up with 7 1/4" wide stock which I cut into a 7 1/4" square. I then routed 1/4" dadoes, 2 3/8" in from each side. There is a procedure for these dadoes that should be maintained, so as not to have any tearout where the dadoes intersect.

Since this was my first time doing this, I unfortunately did have tearouts but I was able to succesfully fill them by inserting and gluing whittled ash inserts in place and then sanding them flush.


Save yourself the hassle and follow this method.


Specialty woodworking stores like Lee Valley, supply a wide variety of exotic woods. I purchased some 1/4" mahogony from them for about $6.00. I cut strips 5/16" wide from the 1/4" stock and glued them into the 1/4" slots making sure that there were no gaps, when the smaller pieces were inserted.















When the glue had dried, with my palm sander, the protruding mahogony was sanded flush. Then the top edges of this assembly were rounded over at my router table.

The next step was to drill 1/2" holes, 1/4" deep in the centre of each division of this game board. I used a 1/2" Forstner bit because of the clean & precise hole this type of bit delivers. Half inch oak dowel was cut to pieces 7/8" long. After sanding and cleaning up the ends, they were glued and tapped into the holes leaving 5/8" protruding. Only a thin coating of glue in the hole is required because you don't want glue to be forced up and onto the game board, when you tap them in.


From some 3/8" oak I had on hand, strips 1 7/16" wide were cut. Lines are then drawn every 1 9/16". Each saw cut will take 1/8" from each piece, but because you've allowed for that by the extra 2/16ths, each piece will end up being 1 7/16ths.

From the end of the strip, mark a spot 23/32" from the end and 23/32" from the side. With a 5/8" Forstner bit, drill a hole at this point, and then cut that piece off at the line you previously drew. Proceed cutting and drilling these game pieces. You will need 10 in all, but it's probably better to make more in case some are lost by the little ones.

The X and O configuration is attained by cutting off the corners of the squares for the O's. The X is attained by cutting V's into the middle of each side. I used my scrollsaw for this function but it could be accomplished with a jigsaw or in the case of the X's, you could rout a V groove in 4 sides of a piece of 1 7/16 x 1 7/16 oak and then crosscutting it into pieces, 3/8" thick.



I also made a 3" x 5 3/8" holder from an extra piece of ash and 2, 4" lengths of the 1/2" oak dowel. It can be seen behind the game board. The dowel was inserted into the wood in a similar fashion as I explained above. It's upper edges were rounded over with my router too and it was finished with spray Flecto Varathane.



Finish sand the game board and all game pieces. I used no stain but 3 coats of Flecto spray varathane for the game board - any varnish would be fine though. With all of the protruding dowels on the game board, I think a better finish is attained with the spray as opposed to a brush.

In order to have the game pieces stand out, I stained them all with Minwax Jacobean stain which is pretty dark. When dry they were all given 2 coats of the spray varathane.


Try this project. For people like me who had never tried the inlay technique, this is a nice way to get started and you'll probably be thinking a lot about the next more complicated inlay project you'll try.


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