Introduction: Custom Chess Board

Chess is one of the oldest games known to man and one of the most popular and most known board game of today's society. Chess is a game played and enjoyed by all ages, young and old. It is a great game to challenge your mind or just relax with a friend.

I have always enjoyed to play chess. It relaxes me as well as adds some friendly competition between my friends and I. This is what inspired me to create this project. I wanted to have a custom chess board that was designed, sized, and constructed to how I wanted it. I wanted it to show my personality as well as show something I was interested in. This chess board uses a laser engraver to create a custom design that is the centerpiece of the whole board.

The board itself is pretty simple. The top piece of acrylic, which will have a circle design engraved into it, will sit on top. The black squares (or in my case blue) will go underneath that. A border around the middle of the board will serve to house LEDs that will illuminate the board. All of this will be explained throughout the instructables.

This instructables will walk you through how I went about designing and constructing the chess board. It will also show you what you need to do during each step.

Step 1: Materials

The materials for this project are pretty simple, at least what I used. All of the materials in this project can be substituted for similar materials if there is something else you want to use. The lists below show what materials I used as well as what tools I used.


12 x 24 in. sheet of 1/8 clear acrylic

12 x 24 in. sheet of 1/4 clear acrylic

12 x 24 in. sheet of 1/8 blue opaque acrylic

1/2 in. wooden square dowels

(8) #8-32 bolts with nuts

(2) 9v batteries

(2) 9v battery terminals

Copper tape




(6) 5 mm blue LEDs


Laser engraver

Drill press

Band Saw

Scroll Saw

Various hand tools

Caulking gun

Step 2: Drafting the Design

In order to ensure that everything fit together, I made a mock up of the chess board by cutting and pasting pieces of paper together to create a full scale model of the board. This allowed me to see the full scale of the board to make sure I liked it. I had two major pieces that affected my designing. I had the paper that was a full scale model of the board, as described above, and I also had my technical drawing that had all my measurements and specifications. I highly recommend doing both of these in order to make sure the board comes out the way it is supposed to (or how you want it). Both can be seen in the pictures.

The general specifications for the board are as follows:

Whole board: 12 in. x 12 in.

Diameter of inner circle design: 10 in.

Chess Squares: 1.375 in.

Step 3: Creating and Engraving Center Design

The first thing that has to be done is to find the image that you want engraved into the board. The easiest thing to do is use a vector image, which uses points and lines to create the image. You can find the image you want as a vector online or just use a simple image-vector converter which can also be found online. Once you have you image, you will have to use your choice of software to edit it. The software has to be comparable with the laser engraving software. From the start, you should size the image to fit the specifications listed in the previous step.

The next part is going to be different depending on the image that you get. The parts of the images that you want engraved need to be black. This is where you will have to play around with the image to get it ready to be compatible with the laser engraving software.

Once you have your picture all set up, you are ready to engrave it. You should be sure that your material is either bigger than 12 in. x 12 in. or it is already cut to those dimensions. Along with engraving the image, you also have to set up the correct board dimensions to be cut and the bolt holes to be cut. It is important that you set the 12 in. x 12 in. boarder to be cut out by the laser. This ensures that everything is the right size. Next, you need to cut the 8 bolt holes (2 on each corner). Each will be 3/4 in from the side and centered. The bolt size can be to your discretion, but I used #8-32 bolts, which are about 11/64 in. When you cut the holes, you need to cut them one size up in order to ensure that the bolt will go through and the hole is not too small.

After it is cut and engraved, make sure you keep it safe and nice when your working on the other parts of the project. Keep the paper on in order to protect the clear acrylic, which was scratch very easily. Be sure to also keep the extra 12 in. by 12 in. piece for that will be used in the last step. At some point, you will need to cut the same bolt holes that you did in the top piece (2 on each corner, 3/4 in. from the side and centered), as you did before. This bottom piece will act as a base that everything will sit on. You will attach it in the last step.

Step 4: Developing the Boarder

The boarder is a very important part of the project because it connects the top acrylic piece (with the design) to the bottom acrylic piece, as well as everything in the middle. The borders borders are made out of 1/2 in. square wooden dowels. The measurements are as follows:

(2) 11 in.

(2) 12 in.

The above part is pretty simple, just make sure the measurements are correct. This will ensure that everything looks good when it is fitted together. The next thing that needs to be done is to drill the holes that the bolts will go through. The goal of this part is too make sure that the holes line up with the holes that are already cut into the top acrylic piece. Use those holes are you guild holes. You should put the dowel pieces around the outside of the acrylic piece, just like you would if you were actually attaching them. They should line up perfectly to wear they create a perfect boarder on the outside, with none of the boarder hanging off the end (use the picture in the next step as a guide). If there is some excess at the ends, you can sand them down in needed. You should clamp all these pieces right onto the acrylic piece, keeping the border in tact. You can then turn the whole thing over and trace, though the acrylic piece, where you need to drill. This will ensure that when the boarder is present that the bolts will be able to go through both sets of holes perfectly. Before I started drilling, I put a number (1,2,3,4) on each dowel, and then put the same numbers on the side of the square acrylic piece that corresponded with that specific dowel. This will help line things up after you drill. The holes need to be drilled to about 11/64 in., which is one size bigger than the bolts.

After the above steps are completed, you are all set to see if you did everything correctly. You can put your screws threw the board and then put the boarder on. Be sure that each piece is in the original spot that you had it in when you traced through the whole. If you switch two pieces around, it might not come out correctly. Once you put all the pieces on and see that they all fit good, you can move onto the next step!

Step 5: Wiring LEDs

The LEDs will be wired into the boarder piece that is below the image (that is, if you are looking at the project from the top, it will be the piece closest to you). This will prove a really cool and clean array of light shining under the square pieces and the laser engraved design.

You can start by drilling six holes.These will have to line up centered in the middle six squares on the bottom row. This can be shown in the third picture. The holes will be measured at the following points:

2 1/2 in.

4 in.

5 1/4 in.

6 1/2 in.

8 in.

9 1/2 in.

I used 5 mm LEDs for this project and a drill bit which is slightly bigger than the LEDs themselves, in order to make sure that they fit.

Once you finish this, you can start wiring the LEDs. I wired them in two separate circuits, both in series. This was in order to make sure that all LEDs got the right amount of voltage to stay clean and bright. These were just two simple circuits with two 9 volt batteries. Once you finish wiring and testing them, you can now work on the next step.

Step 6: Individual Squares

In total, you will need 64 individual square pieces, 32 blue and 32 clear. The blue that I used was an opaque blue, which means that it was not transparent. I then used clear acrylic for the other pieces. Each square is 1.375 in by 1.375 in. This measurement has to be exact because it will ensure that all the square fit perfectly, as shown in the third picture. Once you cut all these out exact, I would suggest that you lay them out and make sure that they fit good and look good. You can easily sand the edge of one of the square if one is slightly to big. To finish, just peal all the paper off the acrylic and lay the pieces out. Finally, you need to cut out a 10 in. x 10 in. piece of acrylic that will lay onto of all the pieces to keep them in place and down. I used a 1/4 in piece, but you can use whatever size you want. They will still be glued later on regardless. Just lay all the pieces down in the correct chess format (alternating colors) and wipe everything down with a clean cloth. This will get any dust off and help make the project look really good later on.

Step 7: Assembly

The final step is to assemble all the pieces that you have made so far. Up to this point, you should have the top piece with the design engraved into it. It will be easiest for you to turn this upside down so the top of the design is laying flat on the table. All the individual squares should be peal and laid out, with a piece of clear acrylic laying on top to keep them all together. You should also assembly each side of the boarder in their correct spot, with the on with the LEDs lined up below the design. The next part is critical to make sure everything stays in place. When you lay everything out, use a caulk gun with silicon caulk in it. As seen in the pictures, you should caulk a little dot on all the corners. Also, you should put a dot under all the blue tiles. The reason to do this is because you will not be able to see the caulk when you flip the board over. Overall, you are caulking and attaching the border to the acrylic piece that is holding the individual squares down. Allow time for everything to dry (at least 24 hours).

You should wipe everything down and put the 12 in. by 12 in. piece that you saved and cut holes in during the 3rd step. Just attach sit this on top of the project and make sure the bolts go through the holes. Finally, attach the nuts. You are then able to flip the project over and see how it looks! You now will have a awesome light up chess set that you can play anytime and with anyone!

Epilog Contest VII

Participated in the
Epilog Contest VII

Make It Glow! Contest

Participated in the
Make It Glow! Contest