Pop-up Paper Chess Set





Introduction: Pop-up Paper Chess Set

About: 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 happen to need at the time. Lipstick, a mixing studio, all-p...

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

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

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

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.


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

    2 replies

    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).

    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.

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

    1 reply

    I give away plenty of free templates and paper projects which you can find here: http://www.makepopupcards.com/free-pop-up-card-sign-up/ plus I just posted another instructable for a concrete chess set, which includes free patterns for the knight and bishop. https://www.instructables.com/id/Concrete-chess-set-for-outdoors/ 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...

    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.

    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?

    2 replies

    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.

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

    Thank you for sharing!

    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.

    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.

    4 replies

    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!

    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.

    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.

    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

    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?

    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.