Grand Lake: Cribbage gameboards in the cards for woodworker |

Grand Lake: Cribbage gameboards in the cards for woodworker

by Cyndi McCoy
Grand Lake, Colorado

Grand Lake, Colorado ” Antlers have a lot of uses, emulating strength, power, even an artistic flair ” at least that’s what Joe Drake sees when he gets his hands on a pair.

He learned to play cribbage when he was 5. Everybody in his family plays the pegging and card game.

“Cribbage has always been there,” he said.

He has been crafting custom cribbage boards since the winter of 1994 ” his first being a simple design he carved from wood and gave to his dad as a gift. Since then, Drake branched into using metal, ceramic tile, marble, but he specializes in boards made out of the shedded racks of elk, deer, moose and steer.

Drake admits, the more he made, the better they looked and the more he felt he had to replace that original one he gave his dad. He just finished the upgrade, and one of the most incredible specimens he’s made is a board about four feet long made to look like a snake skin. His mom liked it and so, he said, he gave it to her. He also just finished a bonsai tree board for four players.

After the last seven years in south Miami Beach, Fla., tending bar and attending Miami Dade College for hospitality and tourism management, he and best friend Patrick drove out to see Drake’s family this past year “to get out of the chaos.” They ended up helping out at the Daven Haven in Grand Lake and Drake said the area’s slower pace made more room for his hobby.

While he was here, he just happened upon the antler booth that usually sits at the Barn Store parking lot during the summer at the junction of U.S. highways 40 and 34. It was there that he found the exciting new medium.

He is working on his eighth antler cribbage board. One through eight were given as gifts. Drake has also discovered the successes of a modest new business.

He just loves the game and making the boards, he said, and when he started talking to Grand Lake resident Sheila Brown about his new venture, she became one of his first paying customers.

There are times when you don’t know what gift to get a person and Brown said a new board for her fiance “Golden” Gary Graham was a perfect idea for the cribbage fanatic. She told Drake about her fiance’s infatuation with the game and about the board dearest to Graham (a creation by his mother who made it at age 4 or 5).

She wanted to give him a new board with just as much significance, and the two began plans for a new board design in honor of Graham’s 62nd birthday. The finished work was so interesting, Brown said, and “really caught (Gary) off guard,” bringing tears to his eyes. “It was fantastic,” she said. The work features a bull in some brush on a moose rack face, with moose tracks along the outer points and peg holes.

“I put all my heart and soul into them ” all my love. So when I sell it or give it as a gift it makes me feel good to see their eyes light up,” Drake said.

This winter, he heads to the Colorado Springs area, where he was born and raised and still has a lot of family. He’ll stay at his grandma’s house near Lake George and Cripple Creek and hopes to restock his creative inventory from some of the harvest from this hunting season. Prices range from $50 to $300 and customization and inscribing are available. Samples of his work may be viewed at

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