Introduction: Chess Pieces Made of CONCRETE!

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.

Step 1: 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.

Step 2: MAKING THE MOLDS:

The blue and white tubs of silicone stuff is easy to use but kind of sticky.  Just mix equal parts of each in a separate container and stir it together for a couple minutes.  Set the chess piece on something like a jar so you can rotate the jar without touching the chess piece.  Paint the blue silicone stuff on the chess piece.  It is good to make a kind of THICK coating to help retain the shape of the chess man.  The blue silicone mold compound is rather expensive, so this painting method uses MUCH less than the BLOCK MOLDING technique of making a mold.  When molding the KNIGHT, pay special attention to the space under the horses chin.  If this area is filled with silicone gel... you will not be able to remove the knight from the mold.  To remedy this, just fill in the area under the horses chin with some clay.  Childrens clay will work fine.  then after you make your mold and remove the knight... the clay will come out easily from your original.  

Step 3: Now Let's Pour Some Concrete!

Mixing and pouring the concrete is really easy.  It's just like mixing pancake batter.  Add water to the powder until the mixture can be poured.  It should not be watery because the more watery it is, the weaker the concrete will be.  So try to make the mix pourable but only barely pourable for best strength.  

Step 4: Paint and Stain:

The white set is simply painted with Glidden palomino gold color.  Let dry overnight then paint with a clear coat of polyurethane.  All of the chess pieces will need about 2 coats of the polyurethane.  The dark chess men are painted with 2 stains to achieve a really impressive 2-tone almost WOODEN look!  First I painted them with quikrete RED concrete stain (available in the concrete section of your hardware store).  After the red dries.. it is not really "RED" it looks more like terra-cotta.  This dark reddish color will be covered with a coat of MINWAX ebony black color wood stain.  Pain the ebony black stain but don't cover the chess piece COMPLETELY.  Leave a little of the REDDISH showing here and there randomly.  This gives the chessman a 2-tone wooden look that just about perfectly matches the real chess set. 

Step 5: FAILURE CHESS-PIECES :

OK... not every chess man made it to the board.  Some of them only deserve the TRASH CAN.  This is about all I can think of to show how I made the chess set.  Hope it helps others who might be interested in making a chess set.

Comments

author
FMCC (author)2016-04-04

Would this procedure work with plastic chess pieces from Mega Chess set? To avoid deformation you can make a sand bed for the mold and carefully pour the mixture , but if it is too big it may not work. Would the chemical for the mold ruing the plastic chess piece?

Fort McMurray Chess Club Mega Chess set Interplay 4.JPG
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SparkySolar (author)2014-10-22

try again

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ahanover (author)2014-01-31

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!

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ccrome (author)2013-08-23

Nice. I like the techniques :-)

IIRC, Luke is embedded in carbonite. Thermite is the stuff that burns really hot.

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fusion (author)ccrome2013-09-23

IIRC, that was Han Solo.

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ccrome (author)fusion2013-09-23

Heh, of course :-)

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Danation13 (author)2013-08-21

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.

author
Verga (author)Danation132013-08-23

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.

author
framistan (author)Verga2013-08-24

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".

author
spylock (author)framistan2013-09-16

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.

author
Verga (author)framistan2013-08-24

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.

author
Danation13 (author)Verga2013-08-30

That looks pretty cool, thanks for the link.

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Danation13 (author)Verga2013-08-30

That looks pretty cool, thanks for the link.

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framistan (author)Danation132013-08-21

Thanks for the tip. I will give that a try on my next set I make!

author
Eh Lie Us! (author)2013-09-03

I appreciate the failed pieces. You ARE mortal!

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corncob3 (author)2013-08-28

Could you use glass chess pieces to make the molds?

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framistan (author)corncob32013-08-28

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??

author
Rimwulf (author)2013-08-24

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.

author
framistan (author)Rimwulf2013-08-24

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.

author
xKOBAYASHIMARUx (author)2013-08-24

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

author
XTL (author)2013-08-23

You might try these kinds of simple recipe silicone molding compound replacements:
https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-silicone-mold-from-common-household-materia/
https://www.instructables.com/id/Using-Silicone-Caulking-to-Make-Molds/
https://www.instructables.com/id/Worlds-easiest-silicone-mold/
First one is best IMHO

author
framistan (author)XTL2013-08-23

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.

author
XTL (author)framistan2013-08-23

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.

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wpritchard (author)2013-08-23

Make a silicon mold out of household

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agis68 (author)2013-08-22

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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mitchellguyon (author)2013-08-21

Could you mix pigment into the concrete?

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framistan (author)mitchellguyon2013-08-21

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.

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bwente (author)framistan2013-08-22

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

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rimar2000 (author)2013-08-21

Very clever method, and beautiful result.

Could you use cheap silcone sealant instead of that blue and white?

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framistan (author)rimar20002013-08-21

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.

author
rimar2000 (author)framistan2013-08-22

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 https://www.instructables.com/id/Super-sopapa-super-plunger/


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bob3030 (author)2013-08-21

Wow, great job.

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mitchellguyon (author)2013-08-21

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!

author
HollyMann (author)2013-08-21

Amazing! I love it - and loved learning how you made the mold of the pieces...great job!

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framistan (author)HollyMann2013-08-21

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.

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ashcrafr (author)2013-08-21

How did you utilize the cross beads in the king's crown? Are they just set into the concrete?

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framistan (author)ashcrafr2013-08-21

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.

author
darman12 (author)2013-08-21

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...

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framistan (author)darman122013-08-21

You would be right of course. At least I didn't say kryptonite! I have senior moments like that once in a while.

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darman12 (author)framistan2013-08-21

Haha, no biggie. At least you didn't reference Start Trek :P

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bluesophia1 (author)2013-08-21

my grandfather passed away and left my brother his beautiful chess set that he taught my brother the game with. in the move one of the pieces broke we were devastated, and were trying to figure out how to replace the missing piece, thanks to you I have a great idea on what our next move should be!

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Bio: I like building things. I like to experiment with alternative methods of heating and cooling houses.
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