Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Good Crokinole Board Is Hard To Find

Last summer when I was out in Manitoba, my friend brought out a crokinole board that got me salivating. It was a hefty piece of work, octagonal (the old style I grew up with), all wood, professionally lacquered. It played like a dream.

I asked where they got it. "Oh, that's my mom," said my friend's lovely wife. "She supports a local group of mentally challenged adults. They make these boards for fifty bucks."

My mouth went dry. I stood up on shaky legs, then gathered my strength and began a long and fruitless effort to track down these mentally challenged adults. The generous mother-in-law was out of town, so we scoured the phone book and the internet. Nothing. We drove the neighborhood. Nothing. We phoned and left messages with the mother-in-law. Nothing.

I returned to Ontario, defeated and depressed. This winter we scoured shops in Toronto for a good crokinole board. It's the perfect game for our family. It accomodates four players, relies on an easily learned skill, and has physically dramatic results. As for finding a good board in Southern Ontario, you might as well start looking for the Holy Grail.

We finally settled on a decent-looking board from a reputable store that sells "educational" toys. I gathered from the picture on the box that the board was made of wood, but probably pine and not a hardwood. The box was promisingly heavy, though, so I felt pretty good about the purchase. I asked to have it wrapped, then we carted it home and put it under the tree.

When I opened the box on Christmas, I was appalled. Other than the discs themselves, the only wood on the board was the pine caroms. Everything else was pressed paper that looked like it was ready to expand and warp on the first humid day of summer. There was a large smudge of glue across the face of the board, which I actually registered with relief (not sure what the store's return policy is, but they'll definitely have to take this back). The board looked like it wasn't too far removed from regulation size, and the posts were properly aligned, but in every other respect the board was a bust.

And the final sour note to it all is the price: $65 before tax. Which leads me to think either these fabled adults who built my friend's crokinole board are more mentally challenged than I first thought, or we're a little off on the price tag. I'm guessing the latter, because most wooden boards start at about $150. The beauty pictured below sells for $170, and is made by a fella with good Mennonite credentials (his first name's "Willard", for starters). I'm guessing his outfit is somewhere near Kitchener-Waterloo, and that's who I'll be contacting as soon as I return my current "board" and get my money back.


DarkoV said...

WP, After taking a longer gander at this crokinole board, I'm a bit surprised at your limited efforts. Drawing on that imported from Canada show's philosophy, "If women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy." , I can't understand why you haven't Red-Greened your dining room table into a crokinole table. It seems (to this casual eye) that just a few passes with a table or jig saw, some nailing of appropriate siding, you'da have that wooden crokinole table you've been pining (well, maybe oaking) about.
And if things don;t turn out as planned? Well, you DID want to get a table to match that Jetson couch you got some short time ago, didn't you?

Whisky Prajer said...

Good grief! I've been so intently watching reruns of A Charlie Brown Christmas, I've completely missed the duct-tape solution staring me right in the face! Unfortunately, only the kitchen table would work: too high for our snazzy couch. Perhaps if we nail some milk crates to the couch... (this really could be the merriest Christmas ever!)

Trent Reimer said...

Oh boy, the other day I was reminiscing with a famous menno about a "world championship" crokinole tournament held in Steinbach a couple decades ago. The prize? A beutiful crokinole board finely crafted from glass, at that time valued at an unheard of $300. These days I'm sure it would be well over $1,000. That thing was sweet enough to look at but those who had tested it vouched that it played more smoothly than anything they could compare it to.

Sadly I was not in competition shape...

Whisky Prajer said...

The only Steinbach tournament I recall was held in the mid-70s, with the local grocery store supplying free sunflower seeds for crokinole lovers (what would that be? "K'naack-zot fur dem k'nipp-spraat kleine-gemeinde"?). I don't recall the grand prize, though. I guess I was too busy climbing to the town arena's highest vantage point, the better to spit my seed-casings on the heads of observers!

Anonymous said...

Well, this is a couple years late, but let me add: A good board is definitely hard to find in 2009, as well. I bought a board from the famous "H" brothers, and it was absolute junk. A disaster. Returned it (they refunded the cost and shipping, as was proper) and bought a "Mr' Crokinole" board after an incredibly long phone call with "Mr Crokinole" himself. Unfortunately it is not all it was advertised to be, with some flaws in the playing surface, and the pieces really poorly finished. I guess I'll try Willard next, and if that doesn't work, I may have to make it myself. What a PITA! So are you still here, did you ever get your Willard board, and how is it? Cheers, T

Whisky Prajer said...

I finally went with Mr. C. as well. I was underwhelmed with what I got, but not enough to go through the bother of sending it back. In my case the playing surface and pieces were satisfactory. But if these images are an accurate indication of Willard's final product theirs should be very much superior.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought, from the Winnipeg Free Press:

Crokinole boards, clothes dryers from Occupational Training Centre of Altona

The name of the manufacturer could use a bit of work, but the products speak for themselves. This sheltered workshop makes high-quality wood products, including timeless crokinole boards and old-fashioned, criss-cross clothes-drying racks. It also makes picnic tables, wiener-roasting sticks and table and chair sets for tots.

Get it: Crokinole boards at Toad Hall Toys, 54 Arthur St., 956-2195. Drying racks at Pollock Hardware Co-op, 1407 Main St., 582-5007. Other products at OTC, 122 10th Ave. N.W. in Altona, 324-5401, otc@mts.net

Price: Crokinole boards are $59.95. Drying racks are $79.95.


Anonymous said...

I have a drying rack from this company and it is simply great. They come in a few sizes and fold up well. They are very sturdy. I've had many complaints on it, even from my male friends!

Anonymous said...

It is well known that the best players in the world skip the World Crokinole Championship and are descendents of the Eagan-Fitzgerald Cabal of the late 1940's. The extended family are said to secretly get together once a year in various parts of North America.

Joel said...

WP, I was intrigued by your tales of woe regarding the quest for a quality Crokinole board. I too, have visited Mr. C.com and saw the lovely photos and wondered if they were really "all that and a bag of chips." I have never actually encountered such a poorly-made board as those you described. The standard to which I have become accustomed is that of tight joints, excellent materials, and a several-coat lacquered finish. I'm now in my 30's and my father and I have been making these boards for our own friends and family ever since my school days when our kind Canadian friends introduced us to the game and showed us the finer points of the building process. I would love to have the opportunity to create custom boards for you and your circle of friends. Please tell me your thoughts on this idea. Thanks!  ~ Joel joelharpertf@gmail.com