Introduction: Building a Heavy Duty Portable Chess Board

This is a guide on how I built a Heavy-Duty Portable Chess set. This chess set will fold in the middle to create a box that will hold all the chess pieces, latches to hold it closed, and a felt lined inside. I wanted to build this because I like to go camping and motocross racing and occasionally my friends and I like to have a game to play when we relaxing and drinking at the end of the day. Most chess sets that I have seen look delicate and like they would not with stand the abuse of a camping trip. This guide is meant for general guidance on how to undertake a project like this. Throughout this guide I will operate with the assumption that the builder is familiar with basic carpentry skills and safety measures. 


  • Elegoo Neptune 2 3D printer
  • Red PLA
  • Black PLA
  • Router
  • ¼” Drive, 2 flute 1” length, ½” diameter straight but
  • Circular saw
  • Tin snips
  • Screw gun
  • Drill bits
  • Philips head bit
  • Brad nailer
  • 1 1/4” Brads
  • Orbital sander
  • 220 Grit sand paper
  • 400 Grit sand paper
  • Machinists’ ruler
  • Old rags
  • Paper towels
  • Wood chisel
  • Safety knife
  • Safety glasses
  • Wood
  • Wood glue
  • Wood filler
  • Wood pre-stain conditioner
  • Wood stain
  • Wood clear coat
  • Foam paint brush
  • Spray adhesive
  • Felt bumpers
  • ½ square yard of black felt
  • Super glue
  • Latches
  • Hinges
  • Clamps or another set of hands

Step 1: Design

The first thing I did was make a sketch of the box and get the basic idea on paper. Figure 1 above shows my initial sketches.

The second thing I did was go to and find a chess set and board I liked and collected the files. I picked a spiral chess set posted by BigBadBison, found here: The board that I picked is here, , posted by 1sPiRe.

Then I loaded the king and queen into Cura. I decided that the base diameter of these pieces would be about 1 ½”. So, my squares would have to be a little bit bigger than this.

Next, I had to get dimensions on the board tiles. To do this I loaded them into Cura. I decided that if I printed the CornerColor01 at 51mm x 51mm (51mm is approximately 2 inches) with the original height, 1/8”, I could size my other pieces off that first one and have appropriate square size. While doing this I thought about what wood to use. I decided on using pine.

After I knew some dimension and what material I would be using, I went back and blueprinted the box and thought through the build process. Figure 2 above shows the blue prints for my box.

Step 2: 3D Printing

With all the chess pieces and board tiles needing to be 3D printed, I decided to start the prints and keep them going 24/7. I first printed all black pieces then the red pieces and this took about 130 hours of printing. Table 1 is a breakdown of quantity, print time, and cost to print.

Step 3: Woodworking

With the 3D printer running, I started to build the actual box. From my blueprint I found the total amount of wood I would need and bought three, ½” x 3” x 36” pine boards and one 1” x 10” x 4’ board.

I first marked and cut four 7.5” boards and four 14” boards from the ½” x 3” pine to use as my box walls. I then sanded these boards to remove any sharp edges/corners or splinters. Figure 3 above shows what the walls looked like after being cut and sanded.

Then I marked out the chess tops onto the 10” pine, with a ½” boarder around the edge where the tiles would go. I used a router to cut down 1/8”, leaving the ½” boarder around the edge so that the tiles can be inlayed into the board. Figure 4 above shows what the top board looked like after routing out the inside surface and leaving the half inch boarder.

After routing the centers out of both tops, I cut them free and sanded them to remove any sharp edges/corners or splinters. Before continuing, I test fit the tiles into the top boards to make sure they fit so that I could make any adjustments needed at this time. Figure 5 above shows both tops routed and cut out.

Note:After initial routing you may need to square the corners with a wood chisel or safety knife so the corner tiles fit snugly. Be careful, pine is a very soft wood and it is very easy to split or remove more material than you want. If you do remove more material then you meant to you can use a little wood filler to fill those spots in.

Step 4: Staining

After all the wood working is done and your tiles fit into the top boards, it is time to stain. The first step is to wipe of any dust left over from cutting and sanding. After this done you should use a pre-stain wood conditioner on all the pieces. Follow the directions on the can for the best results. Once the boards dry from this treatment you will need to power sand them smooth again and touch up the corners.

The next step is to stain them. Again, follow the directions on the can for the best results and allow plenty of time for this stain to dry before continuing to assembly. Figure 6 above shows what my boards looked like in the middle of there 2nd coat of stain.

Step 5: Building the Box

For this step it will be very helpful if you have clamp or an extra set of hands to help hold things in place while nailing. I decided to nail my box walls together first then nail the tops on. I used wood glue between all my wood contact points and 1 ¼” brads to secure them together. Figure 7 above shows the boxes assembled. 

Step 6: Clear Coat

After the assembly process it is time to clear coat the wood to protect it. You can use a glossy or matte finish whatever looks better to you, just make sure to follow the directions for the product that you have. Figure 8 above shows my boxes after 3 coats of clear coat.

Step 7: Hardware and Felt

After the clear coat completely dried, I lined the inside of the boxes with black felt to protect the wood and keep the chess pieces from getting too banged up. To do this I made a template of the inside and cut two pieces of black felt to fit. I applied spray adhesive to the back of one piece of felt and neatly stuck it to the inside of the box, repeating the process for the other side.

Then I butted the two halves of the box together with the top board pointing down. With the inside edges together, I attached hinges to join the two halves together. Once the hinges where on I put felt bumpers on the edges to protect the box and any surface it is on. Figure 9 above shows what it looks like with the felt and hinges installed. 

Next, I closed the halves together and installed latches on the front of the box to keep it closed during transport. Since my box is about 15 inches long, I placed the latches about 5 inches in from the sides. Figure 10 above shows the front of the box with latches installed.

Note: Although pine is a soft wood, I was having trouble screwing in the hinges and latches with the low-quality hardware provided so I used small pilot holes.

Step 8: Gluing the Chess Board On

The final step in this project was to glue the 3D printed chess tiles to the top of the box. To do this I used Gorilla brand super glue. Before I stared gluing, I was curious as to how I would get the best surface coverage of glue on the tiles, so I did a little glue test. Figure 11 above shows the three different gluing patterns I tested. The blue drawn on the black tiles is representative of where I placed the glue before sticking to the wood.

To me it looked like the five dots had the best coverage and was the easiest to do quickly and accurately. So that is the pattern I used when gluing my chess tiles on. I glued half the board at a time staring with the corners and then completing the boarders, and glued the middle tiles on last. After all the tiles where glued on, I placed a few books on top and a weight on each one to make sure the tiles made good contact with the board while drying. Figure 12 above shows what the board looked like after all the tiles had been glued on, completing this project.


Looking back this project went smoothly and I only ran into a few problems. The biggest one I ran into was the latches. The latches that I bought where not ideal for this project because of their dimension and how they fit together. With the latches installed they protruded off the edge of the box by about a 1/4 inch and contacted the tables surface before the felt bumpers on the bottom. If I were to undertake this project again, I would have used different latches and made sure they would not protrude past the boxes edge. Another thing I would do differently if I had to do this project over again is use a harder wood. With pine be a soft wood it was very easy to trim to much would or cause it to crumble / split. I believe a harder wood like red oak would have worked wonderfully for this project. Thank you for taking the time to read this guide and if you end up making something similar, please post your build in the comments!