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The Kubb Brothers: making paper from the new pétanque

Kubb is a “little-known, largely-loved Swedish lawn game” where the objective is to knock over wooden blocks by throwing batons at them. And the Kubb Brothers are making a premium New Zealand version.

Out of a joinery shed on the bank of the Tukituki River behind Havelock North, three Coltart brothers (aka “Kubb” Brothers), their dad – “brother” number four – and a group of builders produce handcrafted Kubb sets out of New Zealand Elm.

“We build here locally because we couldn’t really find a decent Kubb set in New Zealand,” says Sam Coltart. “You can easily find the international specifications to make the pieces, so we downloaded those specs a couple of years ago and made our own.”

It all started in 2012 when George Coltart saw the game being played at a festival overseas. He returned home to Hawke’s Bay, and the family made their own set to play.

“It was probably a year to 14 months later after building a couple of other sets, and sort of having a few friends come by who loved it and wanted sets, that we thought we would give it a go at making it [into a business],” Sam says.

Now the brothers are struggling to keep up with demand.

“We try and really pump it out over a few concentrated months over the year so we can have stock built up. But at the moment it’s so hard to build quick enough for the orders, it’s ongoing. Every summer we are getting over double on the summer before.”

It’s no mean feat considering the brothers are no longer based in Hawke’s Bay.

Sam handles dispatch and spends nine months a year in Madrid, Freddie manages the digital and social side of the business from Auckland and George, who designed and developed the website, is based in London, though he is moving back soon.

The builders themselves are sourced from around the country to work over summer, with some sourced through Student Job Search.

Demand for vintage backyard games has not only been felt by Kubb Brothers.

Yardgames, an outdoor games distributor, says its wooden games are particularly popular over summer and the lead up to Christmas has seen that demand increase.

From Yardgames, a Kubb set will set you back $89.95, however Kubb Brothers charge $220 for a set in a bag or box. Another $30 will get you an embroidered or engraved message.

For this price Sam says they are hoping to expand into the wider gift market, as they have already sold it as a wedding gift and, more recently, corporate gifts.

“Each one will be an engraved box set with the employee’s name on it,” he says.

“Our set is proving to hold a lot of value as being a gift, almost more than just a lawn game, as a hand crafted addition to the front yard or back.

“It’s like a nice set of furniture you can leave on your veranda and it’s also an activity at the same time.”


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