How-to: DIY Tree Branch Checkers

DIY tree branch checkersYou always need more checkers. I mean, surely it’s not just me who sits down to a game with my kid only to discover that at least half of our game pieces have vanished. Seriously, tell me that happens to everyone.

Fortunately, checkers are dead easy to DIY. For these tree branch checkers, all you need is a fallen branch, a saw, and a fun idea for embellishment (Hint: we used liquid watercolors and Sharpies).

checkers cut from a fallen tree branch

Any tree branch will do, as long as the diameter of the wood slices will be smaller than the squares on your checkerboard. For these particular checkers we used fir, specifically the trunk of the fir tree that was our Christmas tree last year (yes, I DID save it from last Christmas! AND I made tree blocks with the rest of the trunk!). If you don’t have trees in your yard, then take a walk through your neighborhood park after a storm and save the Parks Department a little clean-up work.

cut checkers from a tree branchYou can cut your own tree branch checkers as thick as you’d like–the checkers here are very thin only because I was worried that otherwise, I wouldn’t have enough wood to make 24.

If you want to sand the top and bottom of your checkers, do it now. Sanding the checkers will allow you to varnish or otherwise seal them, so it’s a good idea.

staining tree branch checkers with liquid watercolorsTo stain our checkers, we used liquid watercolors as a wood stain. Other options are acrylic paints or dark and light varnishes; as long as you can differentiate two distinct sets of twelve, there’s no need to make your own checkers specifically red and black.

After our checkers were dry from their staining, my older daughter drew crowns on one side of each checker, using a black Sharpie for the red checkers and a silver Sharpie for the black checkers. Another option would be to wood burn the crowns on, or to add another embellishment, such as stickers, to one side to represent the crown. You can also embellish the checkers any other way that you’d like at this time.

draw crowns on the tree branch checkersWhen you’re finished staining and decorating the checkers, seal them to protect them from water, greasy fingers, and coffee spills. If you’ve added stickers or other paper embellishments to the checkers, use Mod Podge or a similar varnish; if you’ve only stained and drawn on them, seal them with a natural wood polish, such as the DIY beeswax wood polish that I always use.

These homemade checkers are a lot of fun to use on a regular checkerboard, but I’ve been thinking how much more special they would be combined with their very own homemade checkerboard, too. Stay tuned!

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Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life, and my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties.

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