DIY Chess Board




Introduction: DIY Chess Board

Today, I'm going to teach you how to make a chess  set at home, with reasonably simple tools!!

Step 1: What You Need!

Materials for Board:
Eight 2x1s 24” long of both Ash and Cherry
Four 2x1”s 20" long of Red Cedar
16" square of 3/4" plywood
2x4" that is 20" and 16" long of anything

Materials for Storage box
Four 3 x 16 x ¾  Pine
One 16” square plywood (¼)
Three 1 ½ x ½ x 14 ½” long partition (Pine)

Materials for pieces:
10 x 1 ½ x 1 ½ Cherry for checker pieces
10 x 1 ½ x 1 ½ Ash for checker pieces
Stain for half of pieces
Clear coat for all of the pieces

Materials (misc.)
Wood glue
Wood filler
Sand paper
Wood Stain
1” wood screws (1/8 pound)

Table Saw
Mitre saw
Orbital sander
Belt sander
Rags for stain
Band Saw or lathe

Please note that all measurements are in imperial.

Step 2: Building the Board Part 1

Alternate the 2” Ash and Cherry strips, and glue together. Make sure that the edges are lined up at the ends, and that the end grains alternate direction to prevent warping.

Clamp the strips tightly with pipe clamps and leave to dry overnight. Make sure that everything is square. When you clamp the boards, put a chunk of wood on each part of the clamp to prevent it from indenting or digging into your board. 

Using a table saw, cross cut the board so that you now have 8 strips of 2” squares. Please do not cut off your fingers. That makes the rest of this build quite difficult.

Sand the strips on the belt sander, and ensure all edges are flat.

Offset each strip to create the alternating checkerboard pattern

Fit the pieces together by hand, and using a framing square, ensure that the corners are square, then prepare to glue!

Next, we need to build our square jig by dadoing the 20" pieces of 2x4 in the middle. Cut notches that will fit your dadoed 2x4s in the 17" pieces of 2x4. These will need a little playing with to get it to fit perfectly.

Fit your chess board pieces together by hand, and using a framing square, ensure that the corners are square, then prepare to glue!

Step 3: Building the Board Part 2

Do a quick doublecheck with all of your pieces before gluing to ensure the correct order

Put glue on each piece and then spread the glue with your finger or a popsicle stick, then put the clamps on the sides and bottom of your jig to ensure a square chess board. If any boards start to rise while you tighten the clamps, hammer them back into place with a rubber mallet. Make any adjustments to the shape you need to now and ensure that it is perfectly square.

Once glue has dried, remove the clamps and fill any gaps with cherry wood filler. Wait for it to dry and sand any excess glue or putty off the tops and side with orbital sander. You could also use a belt sander to remove the glue. Once more, verify that all edges are smooth and square. 

Grab your plywood, trace your chessboard onto its surface and then cut out the square. Spread glue evenly over the surface of the plywood and clamp the board onto the plywood. 

Sand off any extra glue, then use a fine grit sandpaper to sand the board's surface. Do a quick, light coat of stain

Step 4: Finishing the Board

Cut four 2 x 2 pieces of red cedar to be 20" long to be used for the trim using your chopsaw/mitre saw. You may choose to drill and tap your trim so that you may screw it to your board, however I chose not to.

Clamp the trim to the board for a rough fit, clean up any rough edges, then get ready to glue. 

Glue and clamp the trim on the sides of the board. Make sure it is entirely level and there are minimal gaps. If there are any gaps, fill them with cherry wood putty

Give the board and trim a final sand with a very fine grit sandpaper and seal with polyurethane or spray-on acrylic. 

Step 5: Building the Piece Storage Box

Take the 3 x ¾ pine boards and cut them to 16” long.

Sand to ensure a correct fit and a nice 90 degree angle in each one, then glue and clamp together.

Glue the 16” square plywood on to the bottom in the corners.

Cut your three partitions, and space them so that you can fit all of your pieces from each colour into one of the larger sections. The smaller sections at the end are there for checkers, if you choose to make them. 

Drill and tap holes on each side of the box  for each partition, and screw them together after adding some glue. 

You may choose to paint the inside or add felt lining, but as I do not care for either of these options, I chose to seal the storage box with spray-on acrylic or polyurethane. 

Step 6: Making Your Chess Pieces

You can do this one of two ways: either on the bandsaw or on the lathe. I chose to do so on the lathe.

Take your pieces of 1/2 square cherry or ash and put it on the lathe. For the most part, you just have to cut it by eye, however I have provided drawings for what your pieces should look like and their dimensions. 

Start rounding your block on a low speed with the crescent-moon shaped tool. One it is rounded out, (Having removed only enough material to make it round), switch to a higher speed and start cutting and shaping with some of your different tools. I would recommend using the small crescent-moon tool for the curves on pawns, bishops, queens and kings, and the straight tool for tapering down the body on any pieces. An angled straight tool can be used to make the rounded nubs on the tops of pieces. 

Knights can be done only on the bandsaw. Do not attempt them on the lathe, it won't work. Add the fine details like eyes and mouth using a dremel or other such shaping tool. 

Once the shaping on the lathe has been done, get some fine grit sand paper and sand the surface on the higher speed. 

Stain all of your cherry pieces once they are done.

Clear coat all of the pieces.

Step 7: Stand Back and Enjoy

That is all there is to do now. Stand back and enjoy your completed chess/checkers set, then break it in with a game. Have fun with your beautiful new set. 

Thanks for reading!

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    5 years ago

    i know this is an older thread but its a GREAT BUILD!!!! now as far as us folk that like to build things, i really get a kick out of others that have nothing but negativity for others work. please continue building!!!!


    Reply 5 years ago

    Thank you for the compliment Sandbox1! I have been fairly occupied as of late, and haven't had tons of project ideas lately but I will be getting back into it very soon!


    8 years ago

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


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Dude, you have violated one of the major laws of woodworking and have not allowed for wood movement due to moisture. Your hardwood cherry/ash board is going to expand and contract perpendicular to the grain, while your plywood base and cedar frame will not. In a couple years of moisture changing with the seasons (unless you live someplace tropical without seasons and changing humidity) your board is going to self destruct, or at the very least develop some serious cracks. You can glue veneer (very thin wood) to plywood without failure because it is so thin that expansion/contraction driver of the moisture is held in check by the glue bond. But 3/4" thick stock is another matter. The wood expansion and contraction will happen, and it will overcome the glue bonds, separating from the plywood and probably busting apart the frame where you glued wood grains perpendicular to each other. I strongly do not recommend that anyone else follow this instructable if they want an heirloom piece that will last.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I agree with SlickSqueegie here. Im sorry, but I do not believe that the board will self destruct. I have done my research on how boards were traditionally made, as well as working under a carpenter who has been in the trade for 50+ years so as to seek guidance regarding the construction. I also have a neighbour who made a board in a similar fashion, which has survived 30 years. I have confidence in the examples I have provided. I am not a person who rushes to conclusions or rushes into projects.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Campgrover, Chessboards have been made like this for centuries.... I don't understand why you feel so strongly that these type boards will fail? I know all about seasonal wood movement and believe it or not these won't fail... Do a google image search for "solid wood chess or checkerboard" you will find many many of these built the same way...


    8 years ago

    The king and the queen look way too much alike and could be the cause for errors. This is only my opinion of course. There should at least be a cross on the top of the head of the king.


    8 years ago on Step 7

    Set up the board with the a white square in the right hand corner!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Looks beautiful. Simple designed, I would totally rock it in my living room coffee table to play with my buds. :)