Introduction: Magnetic Chess Board With Resin Art
Magnetic chess boards aren't just for travel! There is something extra satisfying about your piece gently pulling itself into place on every move. And, epoxy resin transforms this into a polished work of art.
This is a great project for young kids, with adult support. They can pick the colors, paint the squares, add the glitter, and assemble the squares on the board. Adults should handle the magnets, drills, and epoxy resin. Your kiddo will feel total pride of ownership seeing their hard work encased in shiny glass. :)
NOTE: Initially, we bought magnetic chess pieces thinking they'd work on our board ... but no! The polarity of the magnets was random, and only half would stick to our board. So we made our own magnetic chess pieces as well.
I've included links to the products we used, for reference, but there is nothing special about them. You can also get these supplies at your local hardware store.
Our instructions make a 12" chess board with 1.5" squares. Alternatively, you could choose 1" squares and make an 8" chess board, or 2" squares for a 16" chess board.
- 12" x 12" plywood panel
- 64 unfinished 1.5" wood squares
- Clear epoxy resin (approximately 10 oz needed)
- 64 magnets for the chess board (flat circle shape)
- Wood for legs (optional) - we cut 2.5" lengths of a 1" wide dowel at a 45º angle
- Set of wood chess pieces (unweighted)
- 32 magnets for chess pieces (small cylinder shape)
- 32 adhesive felt circles for bottom of chess pieces
- Gel super glue or any other strong glue
- Wood glue
- Drill and drill bits
- Paint (one dark color and one light color)
- Paint brushes
- Glitter (we got a variety set to use dark and light glitter on the corresponding pieces)
- Painters tape or masking tape
- Clamp to hold chess pieces while drilling
- Sandpaper for smoothing the edges of epoxy after it hardens (optional)
Step 1: Drill Holes for Magnets, Assemble Base
Cut materials to size. Cut 12" x 12" foam core to size with a very sharp knife. Cut the plywood to size, if needed, and sand the edges.
Draw lines to indicate placement of the magnets. On the foam core, use a pencil to draw a line 3/4" from any edge. Then, draw 7 more lines at 1.5" increments across the board. Turn the board 90 degrees and repeat this process to create 8 perpendicular lines across the board.
Lay out a few tiles on the board to ensure alignment. The lines should intersect in the center of each square on the chessboard (not the edges). You'll see in the picture I got this wrong a couple times!
Drill holes in the foam core where the pencil lines cross. Choose a drill bit that matches the size of your magnets (the same diameter or slightly bigger). Rip off any little bits of hanging foam. I only drilled 1/2 way through, but I think it would work fine if you went all the way.
Glue the foam core and plywood together with wood glue. Wipe away any excess and place a couple heavy things on top until dry.
Add wooden legs if you like! We cut 2.5" lengths of a 1" wide dowel at a 45º angle. To install, we used wood glue, and then one wood screw into each from the top of the board. Make sure the screw is sunk below the top of the foam core.
Step 2: Glue in the Magnets
A few things to keep in mind when gluing the magnets:
Make sure each magnet is facing the same way. Otherwise, your chess pieces will attract to some squares, and repel from others. That would be a great way to confuse your enemies. But it might make playing chess difficult.
The magnets should sit below the surface of the foam core. A smooth surface is important so the squares sit evenly. Have a tool ready to push magnets down without getting glue on your fingers.
Step 3: Paint the Squares and the Base
Paint 32 light and 32 dark squares. Pick any colors you like! Here, we used purple and gold and plenty of glitter on top. For easy painting, hold them in place with long strips of double sided tape or painters tape, as in the picture. This also made sure they were no glops of paint on the sides.
Paint the plywood base and legs. We chose black. Maybe you like orange. That's cool.
Step 4: Glue Squares to Board
Once dry, use wood glue to place the painted squares on the foam core board, alternating colors.
Step 5: Pour Epoxy Resin Over the Board
Ensure everything has dried completely – the magnet glue, paint, and wood glue.
Create a barrier around the edges to ensure the resin will not run off the sides.
Add more glitter if you like; glitter floating in resin looks super cool and will distract your opponents.
Make sure the chess board is level and in a well ventilated place. Make sure you won't need to move it for 12-24 hours.
Then, follow the instructions for your brand of resin. A few tips:
- Pour epoxy resin at room temperature (72°F-78°F)
- Mix very slowly to avoid forming bubbles.
- Scrape the sides of the cup with your mixing stick.
- Pour slowly.
- Come back 30 min later to pop bubbles with a toothpick.
Step 6: Create Magnetic Chess Pieces
While the resin is hardening, let's make our chess pieces!
Select a drill bit slightly larger in diameter than your magnets.
Wrap a piece of masking tape or painters tape around the drill bit to indicate the right depth. To figure this out, measure the length of your magnets and add 1/8". If you drill too deep, the magnetic effect will be weak or inconsistent.
Drill a hole in the bottom of each piece. While drilling, use a clamp to hold each one securely.
Before gluing the magnets, determine which direction will attract to your chess board. Then, make sure the magnets are all facing the same way, glue the magnets in with wood glue.
Once dry, attach felt stickers to the bottom of each chess piece.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
If needed, sand the edges of the epoxy until smooth (progress through 80-200 grit sandpaper).
Attach felt stickers to the bottom four corners of the chess board. Or, one on the bottom of each leg.
That's it! Enjoy your extra fancy magnetic chessboard.