Step 3: Design: Pieces

The chess pieces are made from stacked pieces of acrylic that sweep the outlines of the various pieces.  Picture 1 shows you a king.

I used SolidWorks to design my pieces.  It's long tedious work, easily the most difficult and unappealing part of the project, but the pieces look pretty sweet when they're all said and done.

Step one is to rough out some dimensions.  I checked all over the Internet for regulation sizes and ratios for the pieces.  In general it's a bit nebulous, always ranges of values, but here's what I ended up using:

Height ratios for King:Queen:Bishop:Knight:Rook:Pawn are 27:25:25:21:18:14.  I know what you're thinking, Bishops shouldn't be the same height as the Queen!  Well, you're right, but I think it looks good this way, but how you do it is totally up to you.

Each piece is comprised of stacked rings.  Picture 2 shows that each ring has a 0.125" inner diameter.  The outer diameter will vary from ring to ring.  I use the distance between inner radius and outer radius to define each ring's size.  The inner hole is for the rings to thread over the 0.125" diameter acrylic rods, holding them all together and in line.  

How do you actually design a piece though?  Check out Picture 3, it's a snapshot of the type of sketch you should make in SolidWorks.  This particular drawing is for the same king that you see in Picture 1.  It shows the cross section of the king with its farthest left vertical line indicating the center of the piece.  The 0.0625" dimension is the inside radius of each ring.  Each of the far right dimensions corresponds to the defining dimension of picture two.

Don't add those right dimensions right away.  Instead, leave those lines unconstrained in the horizontal direction.  Define everything else, but leave those right hand lines unconstrained,  Then, just drag them left and right until you are happy with what you see.  Exit the sketch, revolve around your far left line, and admire your handiwork.  If you like it, great!  Add dimensions, round them off to the thousands place, and move on to your next piece.  If your design needs tweaking, drag around the edges a bit more until you get what you want.

 The knight is a bit special and your opportunity to get creative.  It's not radially symmetric so it will need two central rods.  You can do the sketch in a similar fashion except you'll be dragging bars on the left and the right.  Picture 4 shows you how I accomplished it.

The rook is also a bit of a special case, it has a fancy top to make the top of a castle.  You'll need to use little spokes.  Check out the last image, it'll show you what I used.

But wait! You're just getting started! Doing this is just the design part, figuring out the dimensions for each ring. Now, bust out Excel, and record all of them.

The top and bottom rings of each piece work better if the inside diameter is a a bit smaller, 0.12" should do it, to create a snap fit on the central rod.

Your next step is to create an individual part for every single ring. That's right, in the end you'll have over a hundred files, each a ring.  I suggest a folder for each piece and a logical naming scheme.  I named each part using the first letter of each piece and the number of the ring (from the bottom of the piece).  For example, B_2 is the 2nd ring from the bottom of the Bishop.  Ki_15 is the fifteenth ring from the bottom of the King.  

Great!  Now you have a ton of individual rings!  And rectangles (for the knights)!

Now, drop them all into a drawing file, scaled one to one, and make sure they all fit into a 12" x 24" sheet because that's what you've got to cut them out of.  Also, make sure the pieces are in order, because if you can't remember which ring is which, well, you're hopelessly lost and sad.  Picture 5 is what my drawing file looks like.

Just for grins and giggles, I'll give you the numbers I used for my pieces, in case you like them so much you want to have a chess set exactly like mine.  It's all in the attached Excel spreadsheet.
This is so beautiful! Great work and wonderful 'Ible. <br><br>As a side note, while I can see why you'd have second thoughts about it I really like the look of the columns seen through the clear pieces. (And not just because they look like tiny models of futuristic buildings.)
Well done. If you want to avoid the &quot;blackening&quot; of the acrylic with the paper removed, try a higher speed (20-30%). You might not cut through in one pass, but you also won't char the acrylic. Rubbing alcohol also does a pretty good job of removing the black if you use it immediately. <br><br>I think I will have to make one of these before I graduate and lose access to our laser cutters.
Wow, what a great instructible. <br> <br>I for one am in your camp, I have always been fascinated with a great looking chess set, and have often thought of building or buying one of the nice themed sets (Star Wars comes to mind), but although I do know how to play, I also do not play well. <br> <br>good Job
Fantastic imagination AND execution. Thanks for sending including all the gotcha's. That makes it a great instructable IMHO.
I really love the set! If I may offer a suggestion though, attach a piece of felt to the bottom of the pieces. This helps them glide across the board and will keep the edges of the pieces scratching the surface of it as well. Just my $0.02.<br><br>Again, very nice!
awesome !<br>really impressive photos
the set is badasssss...........!!! and the MIT logo makes it even more so (wish i was an MITian :'( )
This is awesome!
Brilliant. Very attactive and certainly has the wow factor. Well done with the ible it's great.
Hi!, I loved your design. I tried to open de excell spreadsheet with several programs, but nothing worked..<br>Would you help me? How do you open a spreadsheet?<br><br>Thanks for your time <br>And congrats for your project! :)<br>
I'm not sure what's up with the file. The file that downloads is not an excel file, and I'm sure I uploaded the correct file. <br><br>Luckily, I still had the file hanging around, so it should be all fixed now. Let me know if you need help understanding it. You should be able to open it with Microsoft Excel, Open Office, or potentially even GoogleDocs Spreadsheet.
Hi, <br>I love your design, I tried to read de excell spreadsheet with several programas, but I couldn't...<br>Would you help me? how do you open a spreadsheet?<br><br>Thank you for your time :)<br>And congrats for your project!<br><br>
This is awesome, my <a href="http://igripromagiu.ru/">game</a>
Nice job! I would have bought such chess ...
I know this may be asking too much, but would you be able to upload your SolidWorks files? I tried designing the pieces myself, but as I've only successfully used SolidWorks once before (for something very simple), I messed it up quite badly...<br> <br> If not, I understand.<br> <br> Thanks for the awesome instructable :D
a duck? :P
i think ill make some wooden chess pieces one side will be chickens and tthe other side will be monkeys to celebrate the chinese zodiac
Ripper cober, intend to make one of these one day. To cut the clear acrylic, I made a raised bed, with tiny tables of clear acrylic to sit the sheet on, this way I can remove the sheet at will and replace it in the exact same position every time, still with drawing loaded and saved on pc. No burning marks this way. Hooroo from downunder.
Truly beautiful! I do not have a machine like that at my disposal, but i was thinking of making the pieces on a CNC machine out of billet brass and aluminum. One concept that I find really neat is engraved acrylic and LEDs. if properly placed, the LED will cause only the engraved portion to light up.<br><br> For Example, http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Your-Own-LED-Wedding-Table-Cards/ by JerseyJ <br><br>I am very impressed with the complexity and quality...GREAT JOB!

About This Instructable


91 favorites


More by jzzsxm: ElectroPlushies . . . Plush Circuit Components Custom Acrylic Chess Board Add Headphone Jack to Bop It and Toggle On/Off Primary Speaker
Add instructable to: