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Picture of Custom Chess Pieces from 1 Wooden Dowel
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I bought a sparkly, pretty travel chess board from the markets of Khan el-Khalili in Egypt (pre-revolution) a few years ago. It only came with little plastic, crappy chess pieces, and I wanted something a little better so I made these simple wooden chess pieces. 

There are already ALOT of nice instructables detailing some beautiful chess pieces made with lathes, but I wanted something simple (and unfortunately I do not have a lathe). 

I made these pieces out of a single wooden dowel and a dremmel in a few hours (and so can you!)


 
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Step 1: Supplies and Materials

Picture of Supplies and Materials
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You might have to take out a loan for this instructable; you will need: 
  • 1 wooden dowel (I used a 1/2'', but you can use something larger if you desire, like the 3/4'' shown in the picture)
  • dremmel tool
    • Rounded tip bit
    • Flat tip bit
    • Cutting wheel

Step 2: Step 1: Cut the Dowel

Picture of Step 1: Cut the Dowel
The first step is to decide how tall you want your pieces. for my board, I decided to have the smallest pieces (pawn) about 1cm tall, and have the tallest pieces (King and Queen) about 2.5 cm tall. The remaining pieces were sized in-between 1-2.5cm, and I'll give the details in the following steps.

You will need: 
  • 16 pawns
  • 4 rooks
  • 4 knights
  • 4 bishops
  • 2 queens
  • 2 kings

Step 3: Step 2: Craft the Pieces

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This is the fun part. Get creative with your designs. You can carve them by hand without a dremmel if you want- that would even more OG. 

After you make them, you can make one set a different color by using varnish or wood sealant. The darker pieces in the pictures were coated with sanding sealant. 

I'll detail how I made each piece step by step as a guide. 

Step 4: The Pawn

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This one is the easiest by far. The pawn is about 1cm tall.
  1. I just made cut the pieces into 1cm
  2. And I sanded the top and bottom edges.  I call it the "nugget"

Step 5: The Rook

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The rook is about 1.5cm tall. 
  1. I used a rounded tip to carve out a little bowl in the top of the piece, then used a cutting wheel to make a cross. 
  2. The cutting wheel burned the wood to create a dark detail. 
  3. And I sanded the top and bottom edges.

Step 6: The Knight

Picture of The Knight
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The knight is the same size as the rook: about 1.5cm tall. 

This one is a little more detail oriented. 
  1. I first trimmed half of the piece into a flat piece, leaving the bottom half rounded.
  2. Then I used the flat tip to carve a gap to make the nose stand out.
  3. For the eye I used the round tip to make a little indention.
  4. I used a flat tip to make some details for the 'mane'.
  5. And I sanded the bottom edges.

Step 7: The Bishop

Picture of The Bishop
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The bishop was a little taller than the knight and rook, approximately 2cm tall. 
  1. I used a rounded tip to distinguish the head.
  2. Then used a cutting wheel to make a slanted angled cut down to the bottom of the head. 
  3. And I sanded the top and bottom edges.

Step 8: The Queen

Picture of The Queen
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This one was fun to make. The queen was about 2.5cm tall. 
  1. I first used the rounded tip to carve out a little donut in the top.  
  2. Then I used the cutting wheel to cut a line to make a head, and to make a zig-zag design at the top edge.
  3. I also sanded the top and bottom edges.

Step 9: The King

Picture of The King
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Big Daddy. The king was the same size as the Queen-2.5cm tall. 
  1. First I used the cutting wheel to distinguish the head
  2. Then I used the flat tip to carve out a cross on the top. 
  3. And I sanded the top and bottom edges 

Step 10: Color the Pieces and Hone Your Skills!

Picture of Color the Pieces and Hone Your Skills!
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As I mentioned before, you can use a wood varnish or oil to make one set a different color. 

Then, play! 

I hope you found this helpful, and I'd like to see what variations you come up with. Post your pics in the comment section. 

If you like it, please vote for me by clicking "vote" in the box above. 

I use a simple Dremmel tool to do most of my wood cutting and etching, but If I win, I'd use the Hurricane Laser Cutter to make a boat load of more ibles.
I3uckwheat3 years ago
I wonder how well a tree branch and a pocket knife would work... Time to find out!
slylee (author)  I3uckwheat3 years ago
I bet it would turn out very well. Post pics when you finish!
It took me around 2 hours to finish a rook. It didn't look very good, so i am not finishing it, sorry. I really like the idea though, executed very well and its very nice looking. I wonder if i could find a way to make a lathe with a screwdriver... humm.... now you got me thinking!
slylee (author)  I3uckwheat3 years ago
Haha, yeah when you use a pocket knife, it will extend the project time quite a bit. There are quite a few number of good instructables on home-made lathes like this one: http://www.instructables.com/id/100-Homemade-Lathe/
It would have been worth it though if it looked half decent, but it looked like junk and i didn't want to waste time making a ton of junk chess pieces. thanks for that lathe instructable, i had tried to make one out of a dremel and some clamps, but to no avail.
slylee (author)  I3uckwheat3 years ago
no problem. Good luck with it!
exotictoad3 years ago
i used 3/4 in dowel. it turned out great! it fits nicely with my "prity" chess board!
thanks!

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slylee (author)  exotictoad3 years ago
Glad to hear!
caarntedd3 years ago
Nice board. You have complimented it well.
slylee (author)  caarntedd3 years ago
Thank you very much. That is what I was hoping for.
artworker3 years ago
Very stylish! You have my vote!
slylee (author)  artworker3 years ago
thanks, I appreciate that!
l3aca3 years ago
I know where there are a couple of old broomsticks, and i have this giant checkered blanket, it is exactly like a chess board, time to get cutting :D
slylee (author)  l3aca3 years ago
agreed. share what you come up with when you finish!
That is awesome! Chess sets get to be so expensive and this is so much better than those since it is one of a kind!
slylee (author)  Penolopy Bulnick3 years ago
Thanks! and I agree. Can't wait to see other people's versions.
nice pics, this is really creative!
slylee (author)  amandaghassaei3 years ago
Thanks!