Square Dance Checkers

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Project by Dan Lyke posted 10-09-2014 12:41 AM 3477 views 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After years and years of my partner saying “Let’s go dancing”, and me saying “I don’t want to go dancing”, she finally dragged me out to a barn dance at a local farm. I admit, I kinda had fun when I had instructions for what to do, so when she suggested that we go for Modern Western Square Dance lessons, I said “okay”.

After diving into it for a year, I got to the “whatever you want to do, honey, I’m going dancing” stage. Soon, fellow dancers were asking me if, perhaps, I’d ever thought about calling, and now… well… it’s kind of an obsession. And I’m not sure that’s all good.

Modern Western Square Dancing, as defined by the CALLERLAB International Square Dance Caller Association happens at several different levels, “Mainstream” involves about 69 calls, Plus adds another 31, by the time you get to Advanced there’s 181 different calls, and that’s less than half way through the process. Although many people just dance Plus for many years. And many of those calls can be done from different formations.

Anyway, learning this all can be challenging, and different people have different learning styles. So at some point, I stacked up a bunch of 1/4” plywood on the bandsaw, cut out a bunch of circles and squares, hit them with milk paint, and applied some inkjet stickers to give me and fellow dancers some “checkers” to help us figure out formations and movements on the table top (rather than having 8 people crashing into each other). A few of those are on the table in that last picture.

These were a great hit at the club, but this summer we were headed off to Salt Lake City for a several day caller school, and I’d just become enamoured with freehand router use. So I grabbed some maple, mahogany, walnut and white oak (one color wood for each couple’s position in the square), cut some 1/4” thick slabs, used spray adhesive to attach templates with the patterns on them, routed in numbers for the 4 different couples (and “L” and “R” so I had a reminder of which hand was where), filled that with some gold pigment dust and epoxy, sanded it off, and came up with a set of 4 full squares (so I can keep different states of a sequence as I work out how to make it flow).

And then I needed to put together a box to keep them in.

I’m still learning to call, I’ll be headed down to Sunnyvale next Saturday for working on “sight calling” (calling off the cuff and resolving the square from wherever people are), I’m trying to get my voice into singing shape so I don’t feel totally embarrassed when I have lyrics to go along with the moves, but the checkers are a conversation starter.

Lessons learned:

  • That box is a little bulky and heavy, I should spend some more time with the grinder cutting it down.
  • That gold colored dust in epoxy ended up a dull yellow, next time I’ll go with black.
  • There are better and worse fonts for free-hand routing.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

8 comments so far

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

25485 posts in 4027 days

#1 posted 10-09-2014 12:44 AM

Neat, Dan. Nice rustic box for them too!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Napaman's profile


5533 posts in 4999 days

#2 posted 10-09-2014 01:38 AM

Doe see doe…fun stuff…

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View Ivan's profile


16407 posts in 3789 days

#3 posted 10-10-2014 04:26 AM

Nice and unusual shape. I like wooden hinges.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1522 posts in 5047 days

#4 posted 04-27-2015 11:52 PM

Just gotta toss this somewhere, and it’s not woodworking related, and all my woodworking-ish stuff recently has been house related, but as of Friday I got paid, so I’m a professional square dance caller!

There is much learning yet to be done.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View SKelem's profile


7 posts in 3602 days

#5 posted 01-15-2017 11:15 PM

What’s the projection on the floor in picture 3?

C1 dancer, California

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1522 posts in 5047 days

#6 posted 01-16-2017 03:25 AM

We put a projector in the ceiling to play Taminations on the floor to learn stuff.

And, yeah, I’m now club caller for Vallejo Pioneers and filling in other places. The square dance bug has me hard.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View SKelem's profile


7 posts in 3602 days

#7 posted 01-16-2017 03:45 AM

Excellent! I was thinking about learning calling, but am currently too busy with too many projects. I helped reboot the advanced club, Outlaws, in San Jose. I caught the square dance bug in 1975, when a college friend told my girlfriend and me to take a beginner class so we could meet at the convention in June. Been dancing ever since, except for a 14 year hiatus when kids were too hard to manage while we danced. Now I dance 3 nights per week!

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1522 posts in 5047 days

#8 posted 01-16-2017 04:05 PM

Sweet! If you’re still dancing in the Bay Area, I may run into you! I get down the South Bay way to dance with El Camino Reelers occasionally (calling for them in… I think… March), and then for the Rich Reel/Diana Hilliard organized caller’s workshops (super low pressure we get together and call at each other and try out ideas and critique each other beginners welcome, about one Saturday a month, dancers are super welcome).

And any time callers get together, the topic of “what sort of twisted need for approval drives us to put all of this work into not dancing, for very little money”, so it takes a special set of personality flaws to head into calling.

I dance through A2, although those muscles are atrophying because I’ve been teaching beginner’s classes and calling Plus and not dancing nearly enough…

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

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