Introduction: Chessboard With Unique Plastic Flow Patterns Made From Recycled Plastic Waste!

About: Maker guy with a lot of love for paper and cardboard. Recently also working with recycled plastics. other related interests are photography, youtube, recycling, etc :-)

Hello Instructables! :-)

A new project just got finished! Binge watching Queens Gambit on Netflix and working with plastic recycling made me think of a way to make my own cool chessboard :-) Find more of my recycled plastic work on

I collect recyclable plastic for some time now and learned a lot from the Precious Plastic website how to work with it ( ) . This is an amazing website full of know how, how to's, video's, machine building plans and instructions for working with plastic waste. Every step from collecting, cleaning, shredding into granulate, melting, injecting, extrude it and so on is explained! You can find building plans to make the machinery yourself as basic as possible. If you have any interest in working with plastic and/or machine building than i can highly recommend to visit this page and youtube channel :-)

At the core of this project lays the Precious Plastic beam making process. With the use of the Precious Plastic extruder and a simple mold of a steel pipe, you are able to make beams of the plastic granulate. The color of these beams vary with the color mix of plastic you are using.


- Plastic waste (PP or PE or a mix of those) seperate by color and type.
- (self build) plastic extruder ( check the youtube video below for more info )
- Plastic shredder or find someone in your area with a shredder where you can get the job done :-) Search on this Precious Plastic community map to find your nearest help:
- Make a steel beam mold. for this project you will need a standard square pipe. The one i used was 30x30mm. Check out the video about the beams to learn everything about this process :-)
- Bandsaw or Jigsaw to cut the beams into cubes.
- Sanding and polishing pads for drill
- wood panel for making a chessboard base that can fit the
- Lasercutter or good woodworking skills :D

Step 1: Collect, Clean and Shred PP And/or PE Plastic

I collected a lot of my dog's food packagings because its nice white PP to recycle. The dark color is a mix of transparant and dark blue plastic coming from industrial plastic leftovers. I used an old industrial shredder to cut down the plastic in size. Shredding is a mindful part of the work and makes you happy when you check the result in the box and see all the potential of your ready to use material :-)

For the Chessboard I am going to make two types of beams. one mix with mainly white and a bit of the dark blue for making patterns and the other one is the other way around. So mainly dark blue and a bit of white added for patterns.

Step 2: Using the Plastic Extruder and Simple Mold

Here we go! time to use the plastic extruder, hope you have seen the video about making this machine in the first step. Let the machine heat for 20 minutes. Start the motor for a couple of seconds to let a bit of your plastic flow out so you are sure the machine is full with the right color. Now mount your steel pipe mold and activate again. pour in white, then blue, then white, then blue and so on so you will find patterns in your beams afterwards. As soon as the end of the pipe starts to flow out you can stop the machine and squeeze it down a bit. This creates a nice knob to hold on for removing the beam later. Remove your mold and let it cool for like half an hour. It should be shrunken a little by now and able to remove without all to much effort.

Step 3: Cool Off, Remove From Mold and Cut Into Lengths

When cooled you can remove the beam out of it's mold. Mine where still a bit hot and you can see in my movie they are still flexible a lot. In the end, PP and/or PE beams will always be a little flexible. When removing the beam, you can spot already a few of the gradients :-). Time to chop them in lengths for the chessboard. I cutted them into pieces of 3cm. When you want to cut the beams, make sure your blade is sharp and doesn't create too much friction = heat. The heat will melt it again and stick to your saw blade. A jigsaw and bandsaw worked best for me because of the low speed.

Step 4: Finishing the Raw Cut Sides

When all 64 cubes are cut to length, the next step is to finish them because the saw marks are not the prettiest thing around. I sanded them on a low speed with 160 and 320 sandpaper. Afterwards gave it a bit of shine with the polishing tool so the color pops up more. I couldn't get any higher then 320 sanding wheels so I will try to make something to be able to do that. After finishing all cubes I ranked most of them in the order they came out of the beam. Occasionally that was not convenient because when the dark cubes have a white outside it's quite confusing on the board.

If you ask me how the patterns are made, I'd reply that it's because of the cooling of the plastic on the surface of the steel pipe and it's core being hot enough to let the next flow of plastic in a different color passing trough. Combined with increased pressure in the end of the beam, this would be the reason of the effect as far as I know. The further away in the pipe, the patterns start to get more complex. In the beginning part it's always simple.

Step 5: Making a Base Board for All the Cubes

The cubes dimensions where a little bit too small for my standard wooden chess pieces so I'd liked to add some distance between them. I lasercut 2 sheets of plywood with the squares cut out of it and 1 plane square base to function as a bottom. Luckily the measurements of the cut out squares where tight enough to press fit the cubes in there without glue. PP /PE is a tough one to glue because almost no glue can get a grip on this plastic.

Step 6: Time for Queen's Gambit!

Hard work has been done and you are ready to play! Now I'll dive into the Netflix series again to figure out how to beat Borgov 😂 hope you are inspired to dive into recycling plastics with precious plastic!

PS: I'm thinking about making recycled plastic chess pieces for the next phase but that's a bit more complex so the board was a great start :-)

PS2: Find some more recycled plastic work I do over here:

Thank you!

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