Introduction: Custom Chess Pieces From 1 Wooden Dowel

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I bought a sparkly, pretty travel chess board from the markets of Khan el-Khalili in Egypt (pre-revolution) a few years ago. It only came with little plastic, crappy chess pieces, and I wanted something a little better so I made these simple wooden chess pieces. 

There are already ALOT of nice instructables detailing some beautiful chess pieces made with lathes, but I wanted something simple (and unfortunately I do not have a lathe). 

I made these pieces out of a single wooden dowel and a dremmel in a few hours (and so can you!)

Step 1: Supplies and Materials

You might have to take out a loan for this instructable; you will need: 
  • 1 wooden dowel (I used a 1/2'', but you can use something larger if you desire, like the 3/4'' shown in the picture)
  • dremmel tool
    • Rounded tip bit
    • Flat tip bit
    • Cutting wheel

Step 2: Step 1: Cut the Dowel

The first step is to decide how tall you want your pieces. for my board, I decided to have the smallest pieces (pawn) about 1cm tall, and have the tallest pieces (King and Queen) about 2.5 cm tall. The remaining pieces were sized in-between 1-2.5cm, and I'll give the details in the following steps.

You will need: 
  • 16 pawns
  • 4 rooks
  • 4 knights
  • 4 bishops
  • 2 queens
  • 2 kings

Step 3: Step 2: Craft the Pieces

This is the fun part. Get creative with your designs. You can carve them by hand without a dremmel if you want- that would even more OG. 

After you make them, you can make one set a different color by using varnish or wood sealant. The darker pieces in the pictures were coated with sanding sealant. 

I'll detail how I made each piece step by step as a guide. 

Step 4: The Pawn

This one is the easiest by far. The pawn is about 1cm tall.
  1. I just made cut the pieces into 1cm
  2. And I sanded the top and bottom edges.  I call it the "nugget"

Step 5: The Rook

The rook is about 1.5cm tall. 
  1. I used a rounded tip to carve out a little bowl in the top of the piece, then used a cutting wheel to make a cross. 
  2. The cutting wheel burned the wood to create a dark detail. 
  3. And I sanded the top and bottom edges.

Step 6: The Knight

The knight is the same size as the rook: about 1.5cm tall. 

This one is a little more detail oriented. 
  1. I first trimmed half of the piece into a flat piece, leaving the bottom half rounded.
  2. Then I used the flat tip to carve a gap to make the nose stand out.
  3. For the eye I used the round tip to make a little indention.
  4. I used a flat tip to make some details for the 'mane'.
  5. And I sanded the bottom edges.

Step 7: The Bishop

The bishop was a little taller than the knight and rook, approximately 2cm tall. 
  1. I used a rounded tip to distinguish the head.
  2. Then used a cutting wheel to make a slanted angled cut down to the bottom of the head. 
  3. And I sanded the top and bottom edges.

Step 8: The Queen

This one was fun to make. The queen was about 2.5cm tall. 
  1. I first used the rounded tip to carve out a little donut in the top.  
  2. Then I used the cutting wheel to cut a line to make a head, and to make a zig-zag design at the top edge.
  3. I also sanded the top and bottom edges.

Step 9: The King

Big Daddy. The king was the same size as the Queen-2.5cm tall. 
  1. First I used the cutting wheel to distinguish the head
  2. Then I used the flat tip to carve out a cross on the top. 
  3. And I sanded the top and bottom edges 

Step 10: Color the Pieces and Hone Your Skills!

As I mentioned before, you can use a wood varnish or oil to make one set a different color. 

Then, play! 

I hope you found this helpful, and I'd like to see what variations you come up with. Post your pics in the comment section. 

If you like it, please vote for me by clicking "vote" in the box above. 

I use a simple Dremmel tool to do most of my wood cutting and etching, but If I win, I'd use the Hurricane Laser Cutter to make a boat load of more ibles.

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