I will always remember the Nordic Open 2008. It was my first international backgammon tournament success, as I reached the semi-finals of the advanced flight.
But also besides this it was a very interesting event with a lot of absorbing discussions and many new acquaintances made. Among other things
I met Volker Wenzlaff
for the first time. He may be known to some of you already as the manufacturer of the Gammoner™
backgammon boards. Of course Volker not only participated at the Nordic Open as a player, he also tried to to drum up business.
I seized the opportunity and asked him virtually everything about his boards. It's amazing how much know-how is required to build good backgammon
boards and how many ideas Volker has to further improve his boards. Here's the story:
His career as a backgammon board manufacturer started by accident. Volker owns a Dresen board. Dresen boards are known as the Rolls Royce of backgammon
boards, especially in Germany. Unfortunately Dresen boards are not built any more. A friend of Volker asked him to sell him his
Dresen Board. Volker really loves this board and refused to do so. But as his friend kept whimpering, Volker promised - probably after at least one
beer too many - to build him a comparable board. As the Dresen boards are top-quality boards, this promise proved to be a real challenge to Volker.
Volker started by partly dis-assembling his valuable Dresen board, to investigate all the special construction details of the Dresen boards, hidden
beneath the felt and leather. He adopted some of the smart details of the Dresen boards and improved others, i.e. the components of his boards are
not only glued, but also bolted together. The wooden parts are made from top-quality beech plywood (natural wood would warp with changing humidity)
covered by real leather. Between wood and leather there is a relining, to enable the leather to better absorb impacts.
In the inside of the board you'll find top-quality industry felt, which is more resilient than natural felt, will not stain and is easier to
cleanse. The playing surface consists of felt of 3mm thickness, the other felt surfaces (compartments for the checkers, dice and doubling cube)
are 2mm thick. The points are not printed, but carefully inlaid. There are 20 colours available for the design of the board.
Apart from that, Gammoner boards convince by many little construction details, all well thought-out and implemented with love
to detail. The distance between checkers if you put six next to each other in a quadrant is perfect. A little clearance, but not too much.
On each side of the board you can place six checkers on one point. Not until there are seven checkers on one point do you have to pile the
checkers on each other. On many boards you can place not more than five checkers on one point. There is a little compartment with a leather
cover where you can place dice and doubling cube.
On the other side of the board there is a plate with the owners name and serial number engraved. Next to it there is an additional
notch for four precision dice.
The board comes together with the checkers, two high-quality dice cups (lipped, made from leather, sewed), four precision dice and a doubling
The board is furnished with two combination locks.
Next to the hinges there are four little metal humps, on which the board can be placed and which also have the function of stabilizing the board
And that's how the board looks after more than 35 hours of handicraft. The boards can be ordered in all imaginable combinations of colours.
The board is available in two sizes - for 45mm or 50mm sized checkers. Each board is custom-made, so Volker Wenzlaff can realize any
special customer wishes.
Last but not least I'd like to mention that Volker Wenzlaff not only impresses by his top-quality boards, but is a very
pleasant person as well. For him the customer is king! Currently Volker Wenzlaff isn't a full-time board manufacturer yet and
has to work half-time at another job. I guess that this will change soon. As soon as the quality of his boards become common knowledge
the order situation will change and Volker will be busy as a full time board manufacturer.
When I win one of the major backgammon tournaments I will invest the prize money to replace my old Dal-Negro board by
a Gammoner product. This brings me to the only negative point: The Gammoner aren't really cheap. The smaller board (45mm checker size) cost
1,300.- EUR, the larger boards are available for 1,450.- EUR. A real Mercedes! But be assured: His boards will last a lifetime!
Summary: Great backgammon boards of outstanding quality which I can really recommend. I'll buy one myself soon.
For more information visit Volker Wenzlaff's website: www.gammoner.de
(only in German)
Last update: 15th August 2008