Introduction: Mini-chess Medley

There are lots of different ways to make a chess board, and there are many excellent Instructables on how to do so. A normal chess set is 8 ranks (or rows) and 8 files (or columns), but there are variations of the chess board called Mini-Chess. Obviously, it’s quite a different game, but people play demi-chess on 4 x 8 boards (shown above), and there’s even a 3 x 3 version. There are also 4 x 4, 5 x 5, and 6 x 6 boards. I don’t know which of these variations might be my favorite, so I decided to create a ‘board’ I could use for all of them.

There is much more about the variations of minichess here: Minichess - Wikipedia


I used these – obviously wood choice and size can be varied.

1.5” x 1.5” poplar board (nominal 2” x 2”)

Trunk from a small maple tree, about 3/4 inch in diameter

Dark and light stain


Miter saw

Scroll saw



Box cutter or knife

Step 1: Cutting the Squares

I used a poplar board to make the squares. The board was a nominal 2 x 2, so had 1.5 inch sides. I used a miter saw to cut 36 slices of the board, each with ¾ inch thickness for 36 squares. These squares will be used to make the various boards.

I stained 18 of the squares with a dark stain and used tung oil, which is very light, on the other 18 squares.

I skipped gluing the squares together. This step, the one that’s skipped, is the most important step in this Instructable. By leaving the squares separate, you can use them to create every different mini-chess board. With 36 squares you have enough to make the 6 x 6 board, and use fewer squares to create all the other mini-chess variants. By not gluing them together, you give yourself the ability to make the different boards as you fancy them.

Step 2: Some Possible Boards

With the unattached squares, you can set up whichever size board you wish. Photo shows a few of the possibilities.

Step 3: Manufacturing a Cylinder

To use the materials I had on hand, and to keep this inexpensive, I made the chessmen from a trunk of a small maple tree, about ¾-inch in diameter. Using unfinished, non-factory wood like a maple tree trunk means things are a bit rustic and each piece is slightly different.

For the pieces, I was inspired by the work of Lanier Graham. Although Graham’s set is much more elegant than mine, his design inspired me to think I could make some pieces that required relatively simple cuts. (Apologies to Mr. Graham for my rustic rendition of his beautiful chess pieces.)

(Here’s an Instructable that shows how to make Graham’s chessmen as he meant them to be made.

Mid Century Modern Chess Pieces : 6 Steps (with Pictures) - Instructables )

I had a trunk from a small maple tree that had been cut down a year before, so it was thoroughly dry. I scraped the bark off the trunk using the box cutter and a knife. Since the tree was less than an inch in diameter, the bark was relatively thin and scraped off easily. There were a few small recalcitrant pieces of bark but I used sandpaper to sand the trunk down to bare wood.

Step 4: Pawns and Knights

The pawns are just cylinders ¾ inch long.

The knights are slightly longer: cylinders 7/8 inch long and I cut a notch out of them. The resulting L-like shape is reminiscent of how the knight moves.

Step 5: Rooks and Bishops

For the bishops and rooks, I used one-inch long cylinders.

Since bishops wear a miter, which has a point on it, I tapered each bishop to a ridge. I made the initial cut using a scroll saw. To avoid getting fingers too close to the blade, I made the initial cuts on a section of trunk that was about a foot long. Then I cut to the one-inch length and whittled with a knife and sanded to a smooth ridge.

For the rooks, I drilled an indentation in one end, and then used a scroll saw to cut an X in the top so that it looks like a turret.

Step 6: Kings and Queens

The queen is a bit taller still, with a crown made from a cross-section of a slightly larger part of the trunk. I added a bead to the top of the queen, to symbolize a jeweled crown. I used a brad to hammer the bead in place.

The king is just a bit taller and broader than the queen. I added a disc and a cylinder smaller than the king’s body, to make a shape like a top hat, which I imagine a king would wear if he wasn’t sitting on his throne.

I stained one set of pieces with a dark stain and treated the other set with tung oil.

Step 7: One Possible Set Up

Put the squares together to make whichever size board you want.

The various styles of minichess use different combinations of pieces and different starting positions.

For example, in one of the mini-chess games that have 5 columns, there are 5 pawns, a king, a queen, and a bishop, a rook, and a knight. The photo above shows the version known as 'Baby Chess'.

Various starting positions for the various boards are shown at the Wikipedia entry for Minichess: Minichess - Wikipedia

With the myriad sizes and starting positions you will never get bored. And if you like this idea, you will have to make it your self, because I doubt you will find one in a pawn shop. Of course, you can check if you wish.

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