My Catan Board

I thought I’d like to document my experience making a Catan board for my niece’s graduation present. I’m using a regular GlowForge (not the pro version).


Started from the Thingiverse set: by Carlotta.

Went to Etsy and got the seafarers expansion, ocean border tiles, base set accessories, and horse version of the pasture tile (I can’t stand the various sheep-based versions I’ve seen, and my niece likes horses) from EttuArtem.

Looks like Carlotta had access to a substantially larger laser cutter than a Glowforge, so I had to ask her to post svg files for individual tiles and then combine them appropriately using Inkscape. I found that for the main tiles, the Glowforge app could only handle two tiles at a time, and then only if I was careful to reduce the engraving resolution a bit. For the non-resource tiles like the desert and ocean spaces, I could do substantially more. Admittedly one could get around this by importing additional svg files as graphics so that it operated in stages, but that would require more work in terms of entering in the appropriate settings. The Glowforge software folks really need to put in something that allows you to save your own settings.

Design decisions:

I read in another post that one person regretted completely cutting out the circles for the numbers, so I decided to just do a heavy engrave and have the number tiles stick out. To make the number tiles slot in easily, I had to scale them in X and Y by about 95%. Because the Glowforge app doesn’t allow you to do a numerical scaling, I had to do this in Inkscape. Another item for the software wishlist.

I opted for quarter-inch thick tiles. Would have been cheaper to do 1/8", and the whole set would have been substantially lighter, but I think it would seem flimsier. Not sure if this was the right call.

I opted for the smooth edges instead of the interlocking pieces. Since I’m planning on doing a complete 5-6 player Seafarers set, I opted for the smooth generic border tiles as well.

Wood choices:
Forest: Walnut
Wheat: Yellowheart
Ore: Hard maple, with the stain recommended by Carlotta - two coats
Brick: Padauk
Pasture: Aspen
Gold: Hard maple, stained with MinWax “Golden Pecan 245” - two coats
Desert: Hard maple, no stain
Ocean and borders: Alder with MinWax “Island Water (41)” - two coats

Wood was bought from Inventables (had a gift card), Ocooch Hardwoods, and D &D Hardwoods. I bought one walnut project board from Home Depot, but it was pretty expensive. Overall the wood was much more expensive than I had been anticipating, and shipping costs were pretty high. I recommend really figuring out just what you need ahead of time and doing one big order. 4" wide boards were good enough for the center tiles. 6" wide boards can comfortably do a pair of border tiles side by side. Boards generally came in 24" length, which is longer than the basic Glowforge can accommodate, so I had to cut them in half first. I could fit three tiles in each 12" long section, so six per 4x24" board. If you are clever about how you cut the board, you might be able to get seven in. For the border tiles plan carefully, as 12" is just barely enough to get two of the long border tiles in, as shown in the picture below.

I bought a big roll of tape from Miller Supply, 1 x 12" x 300 yd Glass Paper Mask Tape (T-41), thinking this would last me for the long term. May have been excessive, but my Glowforge is ultimately destined to be a donation to a local middle school, so I figure it will get used up eventually. I’ve gone back and forth on the use of the tape: using it reduces the need for a lot of sanding, but the designs are detailed enough that it’s actually kind of a pain to remove all the various pieces of paper afterward. I think my final compromise is going to be to use the tape and then do a light sanding to get off all the tiny little paper pieces at once.

Yellowheart: Light (750/60/340) Dark (500/70/340), Cut: didn’t record
Alder: proof-grade poplar, Cut (150/full/2passes)
Aspen: Light (250/6) Dark (250/12) Cut 140/full Deep (500/70)
Hard Maple: Light (300/8), Dark (300/16) Deep (250/40)
Walnut: Light (250/6), Dark (250/12), Cut (PG 2 passes)
Padauk: TBD

I’m kind of committed to these settings at this point for consistency, but if I had to do it over I’d do some more experimenting to get similar results with faster speeds. With the Hard Maple and Walnut slow speeds, doing 2 tiles can take like 3 hours! I had to reduce the engrave resolution to 270 for the center and light engrave sections in order to get the app to process fully two tiles without running out of memory. That was a little disappointing. I expected more from the software.

For the deep center etch I had made a quick test cut that did three circles at varying power levels to get the depth I wanted.

For sanding the tiles I printed this:

The stain recommends pre-sanding with 220 grid sandpaper, but I ended up using 150 as it took too long to get the burn marks out with 220.

I used Carlotta’s recommended Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac spray, three coats.

For the pieces I’m staining, I haven’t totally figured out what I’m going to do with the backs. The overall design calls for felt backing, so I don’t think I need to stain the backs, but maybe I should at least shellac to seal? I’m leaving the edges of the pieces unsanded, as I kind of like the burnt look.

Here’s my progress so far:

I’ll continue to post on this thread as I make more progress. I’ve got a strict deadline of June 8 to complete, so I’ll be working hard over the next few weeks on this.


Ah, you’ll notice in the wheat tile the center circle is off-center. This was one of my first test pieces, and the center had defaulted to score when I first cut it. I tried to do the deep engrave after the fact, but couldn’t get it aligned just right. Having gained a little more experience I now think I could figure out how to align it properly using an adjacent throw-away reference piece.


Nice looking set! :grinning:

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Looking good so far! Those sets are a lot of fun to build and have lots of opportunities to learn along the way.

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Oh, lovely! Be sure to update us when you complete the set!

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Very nice write-up … Especially appreciate your settings. Really nice so far!


Re: cutting the 24" material in half…
If you have a Pro, it is possible to use the passthrough, and use the full 24", or in cases that I can nest and the material comes in bigger sheets I have it cut in sheets between 19-1\2" and 20" x 48" strips, so two designs that each one is 11" wide x 19" long but nested together they are 16" wide I can get a lot more out of a sheet as the second cut does not need to be precisely located to work at all.

Likewise on 24" material I often take 4-1\2" to 5" so I can use the whole piece where that length is needed then that small piece becomes experimental material. Unless I see that I can get more done with a different setup.

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Keep in mind, if you seal the back of the tiles, you will have more trouble gluing the felt to the back.

Ah, that’s good advice. I ordered this for the felt backing.

Other updates: I found that 95% scaling works well for the number tiles, allowing them to slot in easily but not move around too much.

4" boards just barely work when oriented with pointy rather than flat tops. Might be better to have a bit more margin or orient sideways. But for the desert I wanted the grain to go with the flow of the design, so a 90 degree rotation wasn’t a good option.

With the exception of the Padauk for brick and a couple ocean edge pieces, I’m all the way through printing the tiles I need for a full Seafarers 5-6 player set, and I’ve done almost all of the staining. I was just at the point where I was deciding whether to seal the backs or not, so this was timely advice. Anyone else have an opinion regarding sealing and felt backing?

I know it’s probably too late, since you’ve already started. But I have a suggestion.

You mentioned :

I opted for quarter-inch thick tiles. Would have been cheaper to do 1/8", and the whole set would have been substantially lighter, but I think it would seem flimsier.

You also said:

I read in another post that one person regretted completely cutting out the circles for the numbers, so I decided to just do a heavy engrave and have the number tiles stick out.

I think I would try 2 layers of 1/8" thick material glued together for each tile. The top layer being your nice wood. The bottom layer being a consistent material across all your tiles. I’m not sure what I would use as a bottom material. Perhaps black acrylic would be nice. I would have cut the circle out of the top layer, but not the bottom layer. And I would cut the number circles out of 1/4" material. That would make for a really nice channel for which the numbers to sit in.

Your board looks great btw. Keep us posted.

Here are the images of the playing pieces.

Some design decisions:

  • Left the center designs unpainted, as I was concerned that the ink would obscure some of the finer detail, particularly on the Aztec/Mayan cities.
  • Did the triangular sails inline with the ships, rectangular sails perpendicular.
  • Had one set of triangular-sailed ships right-facing and two left-facing
  • Painted only the masts on the fronts of the sails
  • Painted backs of sails and all bottoms black (obscures burn marks and looks good)
  • The pirate ship came out beautifully, so I’m thinking I’ll use that, and maybe the kraken piece for the robber. I’ve seen some interesting whirlwind-based 3D printed robbers on Thingiverse, but am worried the plastic won’t look good relative to the other pieces.

Lessons Learned:

  • The white and yellow ink were a bit thin, so to get decent coloration you may need to dab on thickly (so it makes a bit of a bead on the surface, which will dry out in a bit) and/or do multiple coats.
  • Hot glue gun worked very well for attaching the sails to the bases
  • Paint brush did not need to be small for the detail, just sharp-edged


Felt backing for tiles, one package should cover the entire set.

Spray Shellac, may need two cans

India Ink

Magnetic balls for card trays

Will post more later. I’m very close to done with the whole thing. Pics forthcoming of:

  • Awards, (longest road, etc) done with oak veneer inlay
  • VP chits for Seafarers, done in 1/16" Padauk (bought by accident, but worked out well)
  • Ports (my daughter is due to finish up the painting this weekend)
  • A full Seafarers scenario board set up

Also working on a box design, which I will probably 3D print. I have access to a printer with a 2 foot cubed build volume at work, so I can print something fairly large.

Has anyone else done the Seafarers pieces? I’m wondering about how to best protect the ships. Will they be OK just loose in a baggy, or should I print or cut a tray for them?

I tried cutting the card tray but don’t like the design very much. So instead I’m printing these from Thingiverse in ABS and plan on doing an Acetone smoothing treatment to get a nice shiny finish.

Also will post my final settings set.


A couple pics of the fully assembled set. The manifest from Etsy was short on a couple of things: to play full 5-6 player Seafarers scenarios you need 5 deserts, not 4, and more number counters than were specified. You also need two wool ports. Have some ideas for the kraken robber going forward: will probably glue two layers together to make it slot onto the number tiles, and then paint.


Not totally satisfied with the 3D printed card trays I used. (not what’s pictured above). Anyone find a design they like?

@pubultrastar shared a Monopoly bank rack that I’ve been eyeing for a possible Catan makeover: Owyn’s: Another Monopoly Board