Introduction: Pop-up Paper Chess Set

Picture of Pop-up Paper Chess Set

This happens far too often --  in the middle of a heated chess game, something comes up to interrupt the flow. By the time you get back a few hours or days later half the pieces have been knocked over. Arrgh! Game over.

Since I design pop-up cards, I thought I could remedy this problem by designing a chess set and board which would fold flat, with all pieces in place. Need the dining room table for dinner? No problem! Fold your game up, put it on the sideboard, and open it again after the dishes are done...

Here's how you can make it:

Step 1: The Files

Picture of The Files

You will need the template files, which include instructions and all you need to print out a chess board and all 32 pieces (another advantage of this chess set: if you lose a piece you can just print it again). All you need to supply is a black and white printer, letter-sized paper, a pair of scissors and a bit of patience -- though I should clarify that I designed all the pieces to be easy and quick to make, so you won't need superhuman patience, just a little.

I designed the template, a 10 page PDF document, which I usually sell on my website for $3.95 -- but I've been on Instructables for a while, and I consider this is a site for sharing, not selling. So until July 31st 2013 or until 500 people download it I'm offering the files for free. When you "buy" it enter the code INSTRUCTABLES and you 'll pay me $0. If 500 people beat you to it, then use the code 2LATE and you'll still get 50% off.

Click here to get the PDF template

UPDATE: The 500 download limit has been reached, but the 50% discount code 2LATE will still work. 

Step 2: The Board

Picture of The Board
This is a simple 3D lattice rather than a flat board. I'm attempting to embed a video tutorial but if that effort fails, click on this link; the video explains the assembly better than words....

1. Cut the pieces in strips 2 squares wide
2. Fold them in half lengthwise
3. Cut notches into them where indicated (IMPORTANT: do not just snip the paper, you need to remove a slit of paper about 1mm wide, otherwise the chess set will look all wobbly and not open and close properly)
3. Assemble by slipping the notches into each other. 
4. (optional) put a few pieces of tape along the outside edge of the board, so your strips don't slip out

Step 3: The Pieces

Picture of The Pieces
All these pieces are symmetrical, which means you can fold the paper in half and cut the shape with a pair of scissors. 

Black lines indicate where you need to cut, dotted and dashed lines show where you need to fold. Start by making the white pieces to become familiar with the cut and fold lines; besides the knight template, the black pieces to not explicitly show them.

White and black pieces are reversed: the cut and fold lines should be on the back side of the white pieces, but the printed side of the black pieces should pop-up on the front.

Click on the links to view video tutorials for making the rooks and knights: once you've made those you can easily make all the rest.




angelgabriel (author)2014-06-29

Not trying to troll, but it's surprising how many chessboards are not set up properly. Please google and show us the right way.

belsey (author)angelgabriel2015-10-09

Sorry for not responding sooner -- didn't see your comment till now. I'd always been taught (and confirmed this by checking) that the "Queen is on the color." In other words, white queen on white, black queen on black. That's how this board is set up. (and BTW, pointing out errors is not trolling at all, it's helpful -- but in this case I think you're mistaken).

spychohead (author)belsey2017-01-23

You are correct in that the queen does always go on her color, but the bottom right hand corner of the board is always white.

Igloocrafts123 (author)2015-12-04

I need to make this I love chess ?

Awesome Bro (author)2015-10-06

Please stop making us pay im a kid i really like chess and know I have to pay because I was#2LATE

belsey (author)Awesome Bro2015-10-09

I give away plenty of free templates and paper projects which you can find here: plus I just posted another instructable for a concrete chess set, which includes free patterns for the knight and bishop. To be perfectly honest, the concrete set is much more fun to play with than the paper one, so you should try making that. Sometimes I wish I was a kid too, and didn't have to earn a living, but unfortunately I don't have a choice in the matter...

gzank6 (author)2013-07-03

thanks much for sharing... my son is learning chess and he's always knocking over pieces so this will be fun to build and useful.

Boppylop (author)2013-07-02

I'm just having a small problem- I don't have a paypal account, or a credit card... I'm only 14! If there are any freebies left, could you please send me the file in an instructables message?

belsey (author)Boppylop2013-07-02

It should still work without credit card or Paypal... Go to the page, put the item in your cart, click check-out and on that page where you put in your email (make sure you type it right...) there's a field where you enter the discount code. Once you enter the code (again, not typos) the amount should switch to zero and when you click "buy now" instead of going to Paypal you're sent to a webpage with a link -- which apparently doesn't work for everybody, but you'll also get an email with a link, which does. If for some reason it still doesn't work, then please contact me through my website, describe what your problem was and I'll email you the file.

Boppylop (author)belsey2013-07-03

Thanks! I downloaded the file and printed it, just in time for my overnight flight to the US tonight! Looking forward to making it!

binario (author)2013-07-03

Thank you for sharing!

cjraabe (author)2013-07-03

Thank you! This is a marvelous idea, and giving away your creation is really generous. I can't wait to make it and give it to my husband, who is ready to start teaching chess to a couple "grandies"--grand nephews.

inkstainedpapers (author)2013-07-02

I can't seem to download it.
When I click on the 'checkout' button on the page, it directs me to an empty shopping cart page.

belsey (author)inkstainedpapers2013-07-02

Would you mind trying again? If it still doesn't work after refreshing the page, contact me through my website and I'll email it to you, thanks!

inkstainedpapers (author)belsey2013-07-02

Alright, it works now for some reason.
Thanks for the reply! I've always wanted to try out these paper thingys.
Just a question, are these to be printed on A4 paper or can I print on A3? I like things to be bigger.

belsey (author)inkstainedpapers2013-07-03

These inexplicable intermittent technical problems are the bane of my existence... You should be able to scale this up when you print. The PDFs can't be modified without a password, and I'm not sure if Adobe considers scaling while printing a modification... If it won't let you, then shoot me an email or PM.

I just had the same problem. I had to refresh the chess set page then an add to cart button appeared.

ddh007 (author)2013-07-03

This is a great Instructable and wonderful project to do with the kids. I'm lucky to be one of the first 500. Thank you for this

agulesin (author)2013-07-02

The discount code doesn't work - it says total 0.00 at the bottom of the page, but when entering Paypal it says 3.95 + P&P.

Can you send me the template by email?

alcurb (author)2013-07-02

Brilliant work! I went to your site and looked at the rooms and I wondered how practical would it be to make a usable life-size popup room with a desk chair and a bed ! I think much more complicated because one would be dealing with the depth or thickness of the materials, hinges, etc.

belsey (author)alcurb2013-07-02

Making life-size usable pop-ups in this way would be tricky, at least until some new material is invented. But as an un-usable art project it's been done. That said, there are plenty of foldable or expandable pieces of real furniture which are quite cool and fascinating in their own right.

JRPeyesatsne (author)2013-07-02

There's nothing wrong with selling a service. Thingiverse is *THE* best site for getting downloadable 3D-printer files, and they're set up mostly to promote Makerbots. The fact is, whether it's got an ulterior motive or not, providing a free service is creating a benefit to people, and should not be denigrated.

djweaver (author)2013-07-02

That worked. Thanks. I travel quite a bit. This could be very handy. The cart is working.

belsey (author)djweaver2013-07-02

Very relieved it worked. I made my own website, but I don't have any real understanding of web design, which I find insanely frustrating, especially when there are intermittent and incomprehensible problems.

Wynfordeagle (author)2013-07-02

Well done. I am happy to pay. You have gone to the trouble of drawing up the plans for download and it is very impressive. I have come across another paper fold up chess set and always wanted to make one but with these plans it saves a lot of work. Thanks so much for putting this up. Also while on your site a bought three other pop ups which I liked too. So a big thank you for sharing this with Instructables.

belsey (author)Wynfordeagle2013-07-02

That's very nice of you. I hope you enjoy making the pop-ups, and if you have any questions on making them, let me know, I'm always happy to help.

grumpydad (author)2013-07-02

First off I want to say that this is a fantastic idea. I've never had the problem of pieces getting knocked over between the start and finish of a game, but there is always the storage issue (and pieces going missing).

The folding design is marvellous, and after a little bit of putting my imagination to work I was able to visualise how the whole things folds with the pieces in it during play. (It would be really nice if you put that into a short video as well).

So, onto the issue that seems to have cropped up (as it always does) with items for sale. Personally, much like Wynfordeagle and donedirtcheap (based on their comments) I think that the generous offer of free to the first 500 and half price to everyone else is perfectly fine. This is, after all, how you make your living, and a couple of dollars for plans that can be used time and again (for instance - printing the missing parts, which will turn up 6 months later underneath the sofa or someone's bed) is an amazing amount of value.

Besides, it isn't as though if people didn't want to pay a couple of dollars they couldn't work out how to do it themselves. But I think often people don't realise how valuable their own time is.

belsey (author)grumpydad2013-07-02

Thanks! I thought I had a video of the board folding with the pieces but when I was putting the instructable together I realized it was missing. First chance I get I'll add that and update the instructable.

jlms (author)2013-07-02

I think selling conflicts with the spirit of the site.

I think you should offer begin to end items that people can do for free, and then lure them to your website to buy other items.

belsey (author)jlms2013-07-02

The spirit of the site is DIY, and you can easily take a look at the pictures and videos and draw your own patterns. The principle value in this chess set is the idea, which I have shared here freely. The pattern itself is fairly simple and can be reproduced by almost anyone. It would be a bit silly at this point because you can still get it for free, but once the 500 coupons are taken, you'd save $1.97 by re-drawing them. The need to save money has led me many times to make things I saw, liked, and could not afford. If these inspire you to make your own for yourself, then I feel like I've succeeded.

nomij (author)2013-07-02

I love the "Pause Play" fold down option! It makes it just that much awesomer from it's already "This is awesome" level!
Thank you so much for sharing!!!

nomij (author)nomij2013-07-02

oh! I didn't see the contest entries.. I've voted!

belsey (author)nomij2013-07-02

thanks so much!

djweaver (author)2013-07-02

Tried to download, and never could get the shopping cart to let me check out. Showed in the shopping cart link under then menu, but when I tried to checkout said it was empty. Yes well. Great project

belsey (author)djweaver2013-07-02

This "empty shopping cart" problem is an intermittent issue some people had, and I'd been working on solving it for months... Finally I switched web hosts and thought it was resolved -- but apparently not, which is really very upsetting. This kills me... Would you mind trying again and refreshing the page? If it still doesn't work, let me know through my website and I'll email you the file. Thanks!

tinpusher (author)2013-07-02

Absolutely Brilliant. Thanks for sharing!

AliN1313 (author)2013-07-02

I just downoaded this and I have to say you are very talented! I browsed your site and your paper skills are amazing! Thank you so much for the free download, I think I will have to purchase something now :)

doriean (author)2013-06-28

i really like this but the fact that your trying to sell the files to a d.i.y community just seams wrong i understand that hard work and alot of time went into this but really only 500 people get for free then what everybody else has to pay 4 to 5 bucks for something that would have been so much more appreciated and respected if everything was just free ive tried to download with the instructables code but to no avail it would be really nice of you to extend your offer to another 100 or so people so we that really love this idea can build it and well for free thanks

Nxtfari (author)doriean2013-07-02

Are you serious? It's $4 for a design she worked hard on. It's generous of her to even give away 500 downloads - that's $2000 of product - and then take half price afterward. If you're so cheap that you can't afford $4 for a paper template, you don't really deserve one.

belsey (author)doriean2013-06-29

It is definitely something I struggled with: the desire to share for free conflicts with the necessity of earning a living from my work. I thought giving it to 500 people for free and offering it at half price to the rest of the instructables community was a fair compromise. Sorry you disagree. But on a more practical level, you must have made a typo or some other mistake when you tried to get it for free, because it's still available. Also, I'm not selling it to the instructables for "4 to 5 bucks" but for less than $2. You might consider that a minor distinction but for me (symbolically as well as financially) it's a significant one.

Johnkaye (author)2013-07-02

Quoting donedirtcheap-"You will sell plenty of these and there is nothing wrong with that. I can afford the $4 and I'll just pay it out of respect for your wonderful idea." I fully agree and will be paying for this. The chess set and board is an absolutely wonderful design. For those whining about not being free for everyone do the math--This person is donating almost $2000 worth of product to Instructables and then accepting half price on the rest. Show some gratitude for this generous gift.

taserian (author)2013-07-02

Is there a way to learn this type of paper engineering, or does it have an alternate name I can find it under? After looking up "paper engineering", it seems to focus more on how to make paper, instead of how to make structures and folds that can be folded and restored to 3 dimensions.

belsey (author)taserian2013-07-02

There are lots of books you can get, but I find the best way to learn is just to do it. Find some templates online (you can get my free templates here, but you can find plenty designed by others) make them, open and close them, observe how they work, modify them and pretty soon you'll be able to design your own from scratch. I drew this little sketch for someone who wanted to make a silhouette pop-up, you might find it helpful.

donedirtcheap (author)2013-06-29

You will sell plenty of these and there is nothing wrong with that. I can afford the $4 and I'll just pay it out of respect for your wonderful idea. I think this would make a great kit too, so that kids could assemble their own boards.
I admire your entrepreneurial endeavor. Please ignore freeloaders who lack the imagination to simply duplicate for themselves something you already invented. And please consider entering this into the toy contest and the kit contest. I love it!

belsey (author)donedirtcheap2013-06-29

Thanks! There are plenty of other free designs on my site (some of which are here on instructables too), mostly for beginners so people can see if they enjoy paper craft before investing the time, effort and money for the more ambitious projects. I've entered this into the toy contest, but the contest is moderated, so it takes a while to show up as an entry.

cfaber (author)2013-06-28

Thank you so much! I just got in on the free chess set, I'll keep an eye on your other things that aren't free. I understand that you have to pay bills. Thanks again. Don't listen to haters.

Roastie (author)2013-06-28

Awesome! Can't wait to try it.

darksideofyourmum (author)2013-06-28


flyingpuppy (author)2013-06-28

Very cool and intelligent chess game set!

skennedy9 (author)2013-06-28

This is really neat! I just downloaded the PDF file, and just wow. Well Done!

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I ... More »
More by belsey:Slug-killing Electric Zapper Raised BedRainbow Pussy HatDuck Tape Woven Heart Beach Bag
Add instructable to: