Make a Shut-the-box game


I really enjoy making wood games. They make great gifts and are a great way to try out some new woodworking techniques to customize them. This time last year I made a Quarto game, which holds endless design possibilities. Like some chess boards, they become works of art as well as pastimes.

Shut-the-Box is a very old game dating back to the 12th century. I’m going to guess that it is most popular as a gambling game, since it isn’t very involved and each game lasts a minute or so. I think it would also be a good early-learning game for children to reinforce simple arithmetic.

I made mine out of cherry and paduk left over from my recent cheese cutting board project. I used all 1/2″ thick wood because 3/4″ boards always look “heavy” to me on smallish-sized boxes. I like to add inlay on lids such as this, where I drop a plywood panel into a rabbeted frame. It looks good, but the main reason is to conceal any gaps where my cuts aren’t perfect!




  1. I’ve been planning to make one of these and never have. The ones I’ve played in the past had 12 numbers and three die. Once you got below a certain total (don’t remember exactly) you had the option of rolling only two die, but could still use three if you were feeling lucky. One big difference in the rules vs. how you played was that the sum of the die could be divided any way you liked. In other words, that double five you rolled at the end could have been the 1 and the 9. With that rule it’s not that uncommon to completely “shut the box”. Then the other player must force a playoff by also shutting the box or they lose. You can also play with more than two people. It’s especially interesting at $1 per game. 😉

  2. Great game project just in time for the holidays! That paduk is beautiful. Looks great as a focal point of the project. Is that a hard enough wood to use in an end grain cutting board? That may be a really dumb question as it may be way too expensive for that anyway.

    • As far as exotics go, paduk is actually pretty inexpensive. I picked up a 6″ x 5′ long board for about $20. I think it would be great on a cutting board. Really hard.

    • Here in Korea, Paduk is a little expensive I guess. Some woodworker use black wood from Africa-we say heukdan, maybe ebony in english. Anyway your video make me stress out and let me confident. Thanks Steve.

  3. Steve, great video I have been looking for plans for this game for over a year and plan to make one for my daughter. Played this game nearly 40 years ago but never knew the name. We played that you could flip down any combination of numbers to add up to the dice roll. Made the game play easier and longer I suppose. Can you by chance tell me what your source is for the hardware? It is a snap clasp but I have not located anything I like at the local BBS or online. Thanks

  4. Very cool! I have enough left over maple and walnut from a chess board to make two games. One with a maple box and one with walnut. Help me with something that’s driving me crazy. Do the numbers lay perfectly flat when I the shut position? If so, why do I feel like the fence should be higher or the dowel be lower?


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