Searching for the right table goban
I'm sure a lot of you have experienced this problem: choosing a goban. Mine is compounded by the fact that it must meet with ChiyoMama's aesthetics to be displayed in the living room while at the same time conforming to ChiyoDad's deeply-ingrained frugality (i.e. cheapness). Thankfully, I'm in no rush to buy.
For now, I'm shelving the idea of a floor goban since it doesn't seem practical.
I posted a call for opinions to rec.games.go with the hope of getting advice from experienced consumers but I still wish I could view, handle and compare my choices in person. The shortlist that I'm looking at includes:
A 2" spruce from The Go Gamestore - The Go Gamestore confirmed that this board is made from shin-kaya. The description says that it's made of 3-4 pieces of matching wood. I'd prefer one solid piece but have heard that solid pieces of this size can warp. One advantage of buying from this vendor is that they sell 9mm marble stones which I consider preferrable to yunzi (Note: I had compared these two types of stones in a previous post.). The bowls are made of jujube. The photo above is for the 1" board set which is special-priced at $145. They've offered me a set, replacing the 1" board with their 2" board, for $197. (One caveat: The marble stones are a little larger in diameter and would be a bit tight on the 2" board.)
A 2" agathis table board from Samarkand - Agathis is supposed to be a harder wood of Indonesian origin. Most agathis boards seem to be finished dark on the sides and don't appear to have the most attractive grain there. A lighter semi-opaque finish is often used on the top. I wonder if this finish gets scratched off and if it might be too glossy? In my price range, Samarkand sells 10mm glass stones which would be an acceptable alternative to marble. Combining all the preferred components, including shin-kaya bowls, will cost $198 excluding shipping.
2" boards from Yutopian - They offer agathis, spruce and an inexpensive "kaya" but only one of these has a photo and and the descriptions call into question whether they might be of lesser quality. Total material cost of a spruce board with shin-kaya bowls and 10mm high-quality glass stones would come to $194.
Various sellers on eBay - You can find "bargains" with bids starting at $100 for a full set (which only offers yunzi stones in jujube bowls); but you'll never know what you're really getting for your money until it arrives on your doorstep. If you don't like it, you'll have to shell out again just to ship it back (assuming the sale isn't final). It's never a bargain if you've not gotten real value for your money. Oddly enough, bamboo gobans less than 1" thick are getting bid higher than 2" shin-kaya gobans. I know bamboo is a durable material but it strikes me as odd that they would be valued over shin-kaya. Then again, as we learned in Economics 101, imperfect information leads to imperfect valuations of goods and services.
The set pictured above is sold by Yellow Mountain Imports for $250 at full retail price. They are now a prominent Chinese gifts auctioneer on eBay.
Kuroki Goishi Ten's 2" Bargain Special- About $330 excluding shipping. It's the most expensive option. In this case however, I would be buying actual 8.8mm slate and shell stones although not of the highest grade. The bowls are made of "new sakura". At a premium of just $133 over the set from the Go Gamestore, it's an interesting alternative if I go upscale in my budget. The set would be shipped via surface mail from Japan and that would add about $50.
If any of you know of other vendors, please feel free to post info on them in the comments.