-Tuesday, February 14, 2017
We’re often asked how long it will take for a board to be delivered; a lot of the time we give a lead time of around 8 weeks but it can be quite tricky to predict as a lot goes into your boards; including the skills of up to 4 craftsmen and women.
Of course, like any great family recipe, we cannot give away all the secrets which make our backgammons so unique; but, we can offer you an insight into the process behind these beautiful leather boards…
The making process behind one of the oldest games in the world is one you may not have even thought about or even imagined it could be so complex. There are multiple skills, processes and hours which go into making these luxury backgammon boards.
At the beginning of production, is the cutting of the leather. With thousands of colour combinations, we’ve got a warehouse of leather; after a craftsman has picked out the customer's colour choice they check the leather for imperfections and begin cutting for the specific size board. There are lots of different cuts needed for each process of production, and these vary depending on the size of the board. Our incredibly skilled craftsman will either cut by hand using handmade patterns or utilise our knife driven CAD machine and our 2-tonne clicking press to achieve all of the cuts required. They will also use a splitting machine which essentially shaves/thins the leather so they are all the same thickness; being a natural product, the skins can vary in thickness so the cuts are split so they are all equal – this process is imperative to the inlaying process.
Once cut, the craftsman will cover the external frame of the backgammon case. This is all completed by hand to ensure all of the joins are perfect. Using a scalpel to finely cut the leather they will ensure there are no visible joins, the leather is not wrapped completely around the case as locks & hardware are need to be attached before the case is completed.
Handles and Hardware
Next to be attached to the backgammon is the handle; like almost all elements of our boards these are made by hand, in-house. Surprisingly the handle is made up of leather & only leather. Traditional English bridle hide leather is shaped into risers and cut to be folded back on itself, wrapped in leather and stitched through by hand. We finish the handles with a double riser so they become a chunkier handle but much more ergonomic and comfortable.
Once the case is almost looking complete, the locks will be attached.
The Playing Field
Once we’re satisfied with the handles and locks, we begin to the inlaying the backgammon fields. The leather for the field is stuck to a moisture resistant substrate. Once stuck, the leather is then cut by the CAD machine. The points are then removed from the boards and the excess leather is scrapped away to create a flat surface. The leather points are then inlayed into the fields by hand. As each point may be different in thickness these will be split on the splitting machine before inlaying. The floors are then positioned, and applied to the case.
While one of our craftsmen or women are working on the shell and the playing field, often another is working on the gaming components.
The shell of our cups, like everything at Geoffrey Parker; is hand lined with suede and covered in leather with a fine edge to ensure the seams form an almost invisible join. Then, we create a trip (to prevent foul play) out of a combination of board and leather, and stick this to the top of the dice cup.
For the checkers, 60 discs are cut by the CAD machine for the 2 faces of the 30 checkers, the strips for the edges are also cut by the CAD machine. The leather will be split before inlaying so that it sits at the correct height. Our craftsmen then fine edge the outer strips and secure them all to the stones.
All 6 faces of the cube are cut on the 2-tonne clicking press, once ready, the embossing machine is setup for the numerals. Once all 6 sides are completed, the leather is then split so that it sits at the correct height and glued into position.
After the extensive process of the components have been made, the stowage area for them can be created; it’s always done last to ensure the components sit snug inside.
A custom made wooden lattice is positioned in the backgammon case and the components are placed into the stowage area; if there are any amendments needed the stowage will be altered. Once we are happy, the stowage is covered in leather, fine edged in places and glued together.
When the stowage area has been completed we can begin to assemble the backgammon. The stowage is always installed first to make sure that the components and interior all measure correctly. It’s then secured into position and the divisions are screwed into place.
Once all of the internals of the backgammon are in place, we can finish the board by making the lids. To do this a board template for the lids is created. The board is then skived on the edges to give it a rolled appearance. The leather for the lid is then skived, and the lid is laminated to the leather. The edges of the leather lids are then turned over the board then secured to the case and rolled on.
So there you have it; the 6 stages of making a luxury leather backgammon board. If you’re interested in purchasing one of our boards we welcome customers to our showroom and workshops in the heart of the English countryside to see the craftsmen and women at work.