Instructables
Picture of Chess Pieces Made of CONCRETE!
all_pieces.jpg
I have often wanted to make a chess set out of something UNUSUAL and I finally did it.  Here is a chess set (pieces only, no board), made of CONCRETE.  I own a nice wooden chess set and wanted to reproduce it and might give them away as Christmas presents.  The nice thing about this set is it looks almost identical to my very expensive wooden set... yet these sets only cost about $3 dollars apiece to make!    I used an unusual method of making the molds that I have not seen anywhere else.  The set is pretty rugged EXCEPT for the queens crown.  If the queen is dropped, the spikes on the crown may crack off.  I have not thought of a way to remedy this... and maybe someone has an idea.
 
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Step 1: THINGS YOU WILL NEED :

Picture of THINGS YOU WILL NEED :
The first thing you will need is a NICE chess set that you want to reproduce.... and that you are willing to risk doing MINOR damage to them.  I discolored one of my pawns but only need to put some staining oil back onto the piece and it will be as good as new.  Also, I had to remove the felt bottoms of the pieces before painting them so that is easily repairable also. I had about equal success using the quick setting CEMENT-ALL or also the MORTAR MIX.  A box of the concrete is only about 12 dollars, and would make several sets. I tried many kinds of stains and paints including RIT-dye, women's hair dye, printer inks, brush-on-paints, and spray paints.  The best combination I could come up with was the ones pictured here.
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ahanover6 months ago
I wonder what would happen if you filled the concrete molds with tiny hardened steel shot, if it would just look really weird or be cool!
ccrome1 year ago
Nice. I like the techniques :-)

IIRC, Luke is embedded in carbonite. Thermite is the stuff that burns really hot.
fusion ccrome11 months ago
IIRC, that was Han Solo.
ccrome fusion11 months ago
Heh, of course :-)
Danation131 year ago
Very cool! I want to try this sometime. I've been thinking about making a nice wood set, but it would take quite a long time to make a really good one. This seems faster but with great looking results.

For the crown, I recommend a cyanoacrylate (e.g. Super Glue) finish. It is hard, strong, and glossy. You can also sand/polish, etc. This is what I use for wood rings.
I don't know if you have seen the Rude Osolsnick wooden set, it is very nice. It is turned entirely on the lathe including the knights. I have a copy of the plans and if you like I will be glad to make you a copy and send them to you.
framistan (author)  Verga1 year ago
I don't have a lathe..So I probably cant use the plans.. Thanks for the offer. but I wanted to see the set. couldn't find it on my searches.... saw a LOT of interesting instructables by searching "wood chess".
spylock framistan11 months ago
I dont have a lathe myself,and cant swing the price right now,but a cheaper bench grinder will do alot,you may be suprised at what it will do when working with wood.If you dont have a bench grinder,be on a look out at yard sales or flea markets,I bought a nice one from Northern for about 40.00 a few years back,and a couple weeks later found one a whole lot nicer,with a light for ten bucks at a flea market,also if you have a Harbor Freight near by,they have some pretty good prices.
http://books.google.com/books?id=jfsDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA18&lpg=PA18&dq=chess+set+turning+american+woodworker&source=bl&ots=tVqZJthTVL&sig=eI62Ed9WT32IcpFFLNp9JZNyMHU&hl=en&ei=11tXS8-LK4-Z8Aa7rMG7Aw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CBkQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false
Link to google books article. I made mine a bit beefier because I was using spaulted maple and walnut burl and they are very delicate woods.
Danation13 Verga12 months ago
That looks pretty cool, thanks for the link.
Danation13 Verga12 months ago
That looks pretty cool, thanks for the link.
framistan (author)  Danation131 year ago
Thanks for the tip. I will give that a try on my next set I make!
Eh Lie Us!11 months ago
I appreciate the failed pieces. You ARE mortal!
corncob312 months ago
Could you use glass chess pieces to make the molds?
framistan (author)  corncob312 months ago
Sure! You could use any chess pieces.... but it is a bit of work, and does cost something for materials so it might not be worth the effort to copy a cheapy glass chess set. My purpose was to make a copy of an expensive set and be able to reproduce it for 3 or 4 dollars. Maybe your glass chess set is extra nice or sentimental value?? making it worth more and worth-wile copying??
Rimwulf1 year ago
Hmm. I never knew that concrete came pre-made (just add water) go figure. I went to check out the product I can see why the heads kept falling off, the company that makes that concrete uses a fine grained sand- might I suggest minerals with a larger mass and more grainy or carbon fiber (same fiber in fiberglass), Kevlar or even steel wool.
framistan (author)  Rimwulf1 year ago
In the USA, bags of premixed is common for household small jobs. When concrete is very thin it is not very strong. The pawns "necks" are very thin so they break off easily. If other minerals are added, then it will cause problems pouring into the small mold... and still he neck would be thin so might break anyway. The nail placed in the pawn worked very well and didn't cost much. I am a beginner at this, so maybe your ideas would work, but I don't know how to implement those solutions. Thanks for the suggestions though, maybe others reading it will be helped.
Very nice! I actually think I could do this one! Which is saying something. lol.

Though... I kinda lost all respect for you and mr. ccrome down there when you said Luke was embedded in thermite (or carbonite)... It was Han... and it was carbonite... :P
XTL1 year ago
You might try these kinds of simple recipe silicone molding compound replacements:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-silicone-mold-from-common-household-materia/
http://www.instructables.com/id/Using-Silicone-Caulking-to-Make-Molds/
http://www.instructables.com/id/Worlds-easiest-silicone-mold/
First one is best IMHO
framistan (author)  XTL1 year ago
These are great ideas but I just want to caution people to be careful when making a mold of you NICE EXPENSIVE chess piece. Such as the example in my instructable with damage that occurred to my pawn becoming discolored and water soaked from the moisture in the water based paper mache' type compounds.
XTL framistan1 year ago
An ideal and simple mold separator for this kind of use is vaseline petroleum jelly. You can cover the piece in Vaseline and then use a heat gun or hair dryer to soften it. This removes the fingerprnts and coarse detail and lets you get a nice finish.
Not unsurprisingly - using silicon spray as a mold release when making silicone molds does not work. The silicone bonds with silicone.
wpritchard1 year ago
Make a silicon mold out of household
agis681 year ago
Totally crazy and ingenious idea.......double voted wish be the winner.........bravo!!!!!!!!!!

I will try it cause all summer i was busy to make a torned lathe pieces but was a mesh! Thanks for sharing this fine idea




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Could you mix pigment into the concrete?
framistan (author)  mitchellguyon1 year ago
Yes but it requires using more of the pigment. I prefer to just paint it on the surface. The staining and painting of concrete is a real art. It is also expensive trying to find something that works well and looks good. I think if I made a bunch of these sets, I would make a kind of BATH of stain to soak a bunch of them at once without the TEDIOUS brushing. Also, if you mix the pigment INTO the concrete, you must carefully control proportions to keep the color of each chess piece similar. This would be difficult to do. So your chess set may end up many shades of brown.
The cheapest way to color concrete by the square foot is by mixing in a powdered pigment. In college I made a black concrete table top using a sheet of glass as the mold, you could see you reflection in it. I went to commercial cement company, the smallest bag they had was a 5 lbs. The bonus is if it chips the color is though out the piece.
http://www.amazon.com/Midwest-Products-Stepping-Pigment-Charcoal/dp/B001GMXCC4/ref=sr_1_4
I am an absolute tight arse, but I do like to balance up cost vs. the hidden cost of time, vs. the commercial value of a skills set to draw upon.

OK denatured alcohol - is usually a mixture of ethyl alcohol and mineral oil fractions and a few other unpalatable nasties.. and having accidentally drunk a cup full of it - mixed with another cup of water, I can tell you "Twas not a good year for the Alley Way vintage.",

But shellac, mixed and filtered by settling, is an excellent release, in terms of absolute accuracy - because while it will physically separate the pattern and the molding material, it's about the only thing that dissolves in alcohol, and nothing else.

While I think it could be tricky or time consuming to soak apart the pattern from the mold, I also think that mounting the pattern on a board, with a container around it, and then hooking up a vibrator, and bottom filling the container with a regular silicon sealant, or simply adding 3 or 4mm or so thick coats of it, every 2 days, until a thick shell has been made and then using the 1 part corn starch to 4 or 5 parts of silicon sealant, as a quick setting block casting material around the pure silicon shell.

Then I would soak out the shellac coating, which could take a little while - but the mineral spirit part of the mixture is the issue that would probably ruin the plastic chess pieces, or the plastic coated / mineral oil based coloring on the wooden chess pieces...

Then I would invert the split mold and use a thickish pure cement casting material, with a vibration of the mold, and perhaps a bottom fill feeder tube, to fill the mold with and vibrate out all the air.

I'd also be inclined to add cement coloring - to the cement it's self prior to mixing and casting. One can also get white cements.

I am a bit of a nit picking pedant, as I really do like the black and ivory colored chess pieces as they are soothing on the eye....

And there are some excellent cement dyes around, me thinks a white cement - and a little red and much yellow, for the ivory and plenty of black for the blacke.

I like the idea of cement based chess pieces, for a HOME BASED because of the purity and smoothness of the finish and the general "massey-ness" of the chess pieces.

Yes I DO like the plastic chess pieces, but the WEIGHTED ones, do feel FAR FAR better to play with, than the unweighted.

So I am thinking that while pure stone pieces might be really nice, cast cement ones would be way nicer... and rather enduring.

The cross issue? Me thinks make a 3 step cylinder that LOOKS like a cross side on from all angles..., rather than a flat one that is easy to snap off.

Or just leave the rudiments to an obscure Dead Sea based cult off the pieces altogether.

(Tripping with John Allegro)
rimar20001 year ago
Very clever method, and beautiful result.

Could you use cheap silcone sealant instead of that blue and white?
framistan (author)  rimar20001 year ago
The cheaper silicone sealants are made to STICK. So be careful with that. You don't want to ENTOMB your nice wooden chess piece! Do some experiments with it with some item you don't care much about. Coat the junk item with SOAP or various substances to see if something works as a RELEASE AGENT. With the BLUE silicone stuff, it just peels right off because it is not made to stick.
Yes, it is as you say. I had a little problem for lack of release agent (I used detergent) in Step 5: Desmoldando (demolding) in http://www.instructables.com/id/Super-sopapa-super-plunger/


Actually PURE cement is a LOVELY thing. If the moulds are very good, as in glassy, they castings come out utterly glassy.

We used to do professional brass casting and you could easily produce more or less exact finger prints in the brass, by using a facing powder of pure cement on the patterns, when ramming up a green sand mold.
bob30301 year ago
Wow, great job.
In order to stain concrete in larger quantities get either a 1 or 5 gallon bucket of stain. After mixing well, take either rulers or the clean paint sticks that came with the stain. Adhere the pieces by their bottoms with temporary sticky glue to the paint stick or ruler. CAREFULLY turn them over and dip the pieces into the stain fully, leaving about a millimeter 1/10 inch. If you get stain on the bottom or the adhesive you will have to go fishing for chess men (very not fun) Leave for a few minutes (your going to have to experiment) take them out and use a shop towel to wipe off excess. Viola!
HollyMann1 year ago
Amazing! I love it - and loved learning how you made the mold of the pieces...great job!
framistan (author)  HollyMann1 year ago
I was going to build these and SELL them and not tell anyone my SECRET method of molding them. But I decided to just go ahead and release the information for others to benefit from it. Making chess sets is a LITTLE BIT more work than I originally thought. This set took me about a MONTH of trial and error failures. Like anything else though, I learned tricks and shortcuts and better methods as I went. I find it interesting that building something the 1st time compared to the 20th time it becomes much easier every time because of lessons learned by FAILURES.
ashcrafr1 year ago
How did you utilize the cross beads in the king's crown? Are they just set into the concrete?
framistan (author)  ashcrafr1 year ago
The cross on the KING will not mold easily because of 3 reasons. First, it will be difficult to GET CONCRETE into that tiny section during pouring. SECOND, it would be difficult to remove the KING (from the mold) without snapping off the cross during removal of the solidified KING. THIRDLY... Even if you do successfully mold the cross AND remove it from the mold, it will be FRAGILE because concrete that thin will break easily. So I decided to purchase the little crosses from a BEAD SUPPLY source (amazon.com). and just place it on top during pouring so it embeds itself into the concrete. The crosses come in many colors and are inexpensive.
darman121 year ago
Don't you mean like Han Solo in carbonite, haha? Anyway, cool idea, i'll have to try it out sometime, replace that pawn that went missnig...
framistan (author)  darman121 year ago
You would be right of course. At least I didn't say kryptonite! I have senior moments like that once in a while.
Haha, no biggie. At least you didn't reference Start Trek :P
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