Introduction: Giant Chess

Picture of Giant Chess

Whilst an artist in residence at Instructables, I took up playing chess at lunch times against Dave. With chess on the brain, when I went home at night I noticed that the black and white tiled kitchen of the family I was staying with would be PERFECT for a game of giant chess.

Looking online to see what was already available, I found three problems:
1) Size: none of the sets advertised as giant, were actually very big
2) Ease of storage: all of the sets I found online were injection moulded plastic. I'd need a lot of space to store them!
3) Price: for a truly giant chess set I'd need to shell out $300+.

My solution was a simple laser cuttable giant chess set made from a light and strong plastic material called Coroplast, it's the stuff used for political and housing signs. The pieces would be comprised of two parts each that when slotted together would stand up and give a good representation of a chess piece, while being quick to disassemble and easy to store.

Anyone with access to a laser cutter with a bed size of 24" x 36" can use the included files to make their own copy of this giant chess set.

Step 1: Design & Prototyping

Picture of Design & Prototyping

All of the pieces were designed in the free trial of my preferred CAD software, Alibre Design.

I first laser cut each piece from cardboard with a 6 inch base. Upon taking them back home to test them out I found I'd guessed the tile size in the kitchen wrong and so quickly scaled them up to a 9" base, giving me a king with a height of 27".

The 12 Alibre files are included in this step should you wish to modify them.

Step 2: Tools & Materials

Laser cutter
Sharp knife

7 sheets 4mm black coroplast (24"x33")
7 sheets 4mm white coroplast
a little patience

The coroplast came to about $50.

Step 3: Laser Cut

Using a 75W Epilog laser cutter I used the following settings:

Speed - 10
Power - 100
Frequency - 5000

I set the focus slightly below the top surface of the coroplast. I found with these settings it cut almost all the way through, leaving tabs where the ribs of the coroplast were. I chose these settings over a slower one which would cut all the way through to reduce melting and to get them cut quicker. A quick run round with a scalpel after cutting freed the pieces from the sheet.

Step 4: Assemble

Picture of Assemble

With these chess pieces, setup is fast and easy. Choose two opposing pieces and slot them together. Due to their construction they can be taken apart as easily after each game and stored flat for convenience.

Step 5: Play!

Picture of Play!

Once your set's assembled, lay it out and have a game!

Toddlers will find this at first very interesting, then very boring.


sstaples (author)2017-07-28

Is there anybody who has this file but not in zip??

Jayefuu (author)sstaples2017-07-28

Why can't you unzip it? It contains 10 or so files so it's easier to download all the files as one.

EdenM12 made it! (author)2017-05-06

scalde to 3 cm bace for a bord game :)

CarlaM55 (author)2016-11-21


Brilliant. Gonna make this. Currently re-landscaping backyard. Going to put in 12in pavers alternated with ground cover to create a chess/checkers board. Have a friend who collects election signs who will gift them to me for my pieces. Having difficulty interpreting the designs in Inkscape for size. (Never used a program like this, but have access to a laser cutter at the local high school) Can you tell me which/how many of the pieces would fit on 24x16 pieces? He has quite a few of those. He also has a few 33x27 pieces that I'm guessing I can get the rest of the taller pieces on. Thanks much!

Jayefuu (author)CarlaM552016-11-22

If you do make some, please make sure you take some photos!

Jayefuu (author)CarlaM552016-11-22

You're welcome. I've just opened the files for the first time in 5 years, I don't know why the scales are wrong, sorry. The best way I can think of to make sure your scale is right, is to make sure the slot width is the same size as the thickness of your coroplast.

I just did this for the king by ungrouping the paths and looking at the slot width. I divided 3 mm by this slot width to give me the scaling factor. After scaling the king_upper.dxf to the right size it is now 504 mm tall.

Hope that helps!


DorisNorris (author)2016-05-28

i would love to make this

mtee2 (author)2012-09-27

Thanks for this - we don't have CAD or a laser cutter, but adapted the designs and made a similar chess set. Works well (except when windy - thinking on solutions to that!) - thank you.

zootalaws (author)mtee22014-03-27

Velcro plastic milk cartons at the base and fill with water/sand.

marbear83 (author)2013-10-03

How do I download If I don't have a means to open a zipped file?

gubbins4ever (author)2013-05-17

Wonderful guide! Thanks so much for sharing this.

One question: Is it possible to open this file in another CAD program other than Alibre? We don't have that program. Or could you save the original file in a format compatible with Vectorworks?

Jayefuu (author)gubbins4ever2013-05-20

Step 2 has vector files (DXF) that you can open in Inkscape (free) and most 2d CAD programs.

dkelley1 (author)2012-03-29

Anybody know of cheap places to acquire coroplast? Would love to recycle rather than purchase new. Seems pretty ubiquitous with all the politicians, etc.

poofrabbit (author)dkelley12012-11-11

Ya might try out they have some really random stuff for sale.

willrandship (author)dkelley12012-04-01

Ask around during local elections, they might be willing to give you their old signs.

poofrabbit (author)2012-11-11

This is amazing! I'm sharing this info with the guys who run the chess clubs at the three schools, well done!

Dusk Shadows (author)2012-10-20

We have these at our school only HUGE!! like 3x the size of these and no1 ever uses them so it was kinda a waste of money

sunshiine (author)2012-09-03

This is so totally cool. Somehow I missed it. Thanks for all your hard work making this and sharing it here! Hope your day shines!

Jayefuu (author)sunshiine2012-09-03

Thanks, it was a lot of fun to make.

emilyvanleemput (author)2012-08-18


Lindie (author)2012-05-06

Nice! Great job. And I like Rimar's story, too!

kinetike (author)2012-03-30

I am so going to use this idea in my classroom, however, I will make the students redesign the pieces to be sea life as I teach design at a marine science based school! How fun! I can teach them the use of CAD to create their pattern and then teach them the use of some hand tools. Thanks for posting this!

Kiteman (author)2012-03-25

When you're down to a few pieces, how do you remember where the board starts and finishes?

Jayefuu (author)Kiteman2012-03-25

Lay tape around the outside of the board. Or argue about it :p

Kiteman (author)Jayefuu2012-03-25

Nah, drink beer and then argue about it!

Jayefuu (author)Kiteman2012-03-25

Awww you made me miss British beer. It's all fizzy and cold here. :(

Kiteman (author)Jayefuu2012-03-26

Oh, I have a nice bottle of St Peter's Ruby Red waiting for me at home...

Jayefuu (author)Kiteman2012-03-26

I hate you. :)

Kiteman (author)Jayefuu2012-03-26


yellowcatt (author)Kiteman2012-03-29

I have a week or so to wait before my next 23l batch of home brew IPA is ready to drink.
I have a London Porter kit that I will start making tomorrow.

CarolAnn525 (author)yellowcatt2012-03-30

Oh you guys are making me miss the pubs of England!

I could go for a pint or several pints of scrumpy.

canucksgirl (author)Jayefuu2012-03-26

... so you guys drink flat and warm beer? o_0 ?

BTW, Canadian beer is better than the yanks. ;)

Jayefuu (author)canucksgirl2012-03-26


canucksgirl (author)Jayefuu2012-03-26

Ok, I'm sorry, but.... eeeeeeeeeeeeuuuuuuuuuuuuwwwwwwww... :-\

Jayefuu (author)canucksgirl2012-03-26

Ha ha. We say warm, it's just warmer than US beer. Cellar temperature rather than fridge temperature.

agis68 (author)Jayefuu2012-03-26

beer is drinked ONLY when is well frozen in 4C and in well frozen glasses...anything else is list that we say in Greece...hehe. Once i tested this british beer and immediatly I had a puke.

Kiteman (author)agis682012-03-27

Too much flavour for you? Or just too strong?


agis68 (author)Kiteman2012-03-29

i didn't liked the flavor of dark warm offence!

Jayefuu (author)agis682012-03-27

"beer is drinked ONLY when is well frozen in 4C" - that's because it has no flavour :p

canucksgirl (author)Jayefuu2012-03-27

Not only that, but 4C, is "4 degrees above zero".... In Celsius, zero is the freezing point. "- 4C" would make more sense. ;)

canucksgirl (author)Jayefuu2012-03-26

Oh, ok. That's different. ;)

You know we have a brand here that comes with a fancy chill label. When its cold enough (for those hot summer days), it changes color to let you know its chillin'. ;)

Jayefuu (author)canucksgirl2012-03-26

Those damn marketers.

canucksgirl (author)Jayefuu2012-03-26

I know. Its a bit of a farce actually.

Kiteman (author)canucksgirl2012-03-27

Not entirely flat, just not pressurised and frozen.

LanceMakes (author)2012-03-29

Amazing! If I promise not to boobytrap the TP will you let me play a blitz game?

aje127 (author)2012-03-29

totally cool.

sitearm (author)2012-03-29

@Jayefuu; Hi! Tweeted and sent to my chess-fanatic relative. Cheers! Site

agis68 (author)2012-03-26

nice work...I guess you already had the black/white tiles at your space and then you said..."so i have it why not take advanceof it playing my favorite game" anyway is cool

rimar2000 (author)2012-03-26

Nice work, James!

In the little town where I was born, of 12k people, was a pharmacist –Don Cecilio Errasquin– who became very famous during the 20th century by the witty banter that made ​​many people fall.

One of them was: chatting with one of his friends, doctor, told him that his favorite sport was chess, to which the doctor said that chess was not a sport but a game. They discussed a while and then it ended.

Weeks later, the pharmacist called the doctor to play a game of chess at home. To the surprise of the guest, instead of taking him to the room took him to the backyard, where he had built a giant chessboard and the pieces were made of hard and heavy wood. The game ended by physical exhaustion!

The above parts are now in a museum in Buenos Aires.

Jayefuu (author)rimar20002012-03-26

Ha ha. Brilliant story :D

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