Antique Toys: Chess Board




Today I am going to show you how to build a chess board that looks kinda vintage. This is one section of a series I am hoping to start about making old toys with new twists on them. I am hoping to publish an instructable on building custom pieces for this board. This project is good if you want to make someone a gift for Christmas or their birthday. It is also good for teaching someone how to play chess since it is an easy project and not a big deal if it gets dinged up. This instructable is for the Toy Challenge contest please vote for me.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

First things first we have to gather our materials. I used a band saw to cut my wood only because my parents won't let me use a table saw by may be dangerous! Anyways you can use a table saw if you like, actually I would recommend it because you get a straighter cut than with a band saw and it is also quicker.

Band/Table saw
Tape Measure
Hand sander
Rags or brush for staining
Exact-o knife/Drywall knife

Wood stain
Scrap piece of plywood 1/2in or thicker
Masking tape
50 grit sand paper
150 grit or more sand paper

Step 2: Cutting the Wood

To start the project you are going to need to take your piece of plywood and cut it down to a perfect square. I chose to use a 12x12 square but you can do what ever size you want. This is were a table saw would come in handy but if you are like me you parents wont let you use a table saw so your stuck with a band saw. If you are using a band saw take it slow and steady so you can get a straighter edge. Don't worry if you edge is a little off because you can sand it down later if you need to.

Step 3: Sanding and Smoothing

After you have cut your square you are going to need to sand and smooth the sides. If you used a band saw to cut the square most likely you are going to need to sand the sides a little bit to get a nearly straight edge. For this use the 50 grit sand paper or rougher. Don't sand it to much or you will loose your desired size. Now you are going to have to sand down the board so there are no splinters or sharp edges, after all this is a toy. To do this use the 150 or more grit sand paper and round the corners and the edges. Try and get the sides as even as possible so you get a better looking board. After you have smoothed the board you are going to want to take a damp clothe and remove as much sawdust as you can because you are going to be staining the board shorty. A useful tool for this would be using mineral spirit. It is great for removing any extra dust.

Step 4: Laying Out the Tape and Drawing Pattern

Now that you have you perfect square you need to cover the whole front side with tape so that you can draw on your pattern. I decided to leave a 1in boarder all the way around so i can add a little detail latter on. From this point you need to draw on the squares. Depending on your size board you will have different size playing squares. To figure out the size of each square divide the size of the playing area by 8. Below is a list of some playing square sizes. I wouldn't advice going smaller than 8in playing square because then you are going to have a really small board with small pieces.

12in playing area - 1.5in squares.
10in playing area (mine) - 1.25in squares.
8in playing area - 1in squares.

Step 5: Cutting Out the Squares

Now that you have laid out the tape and you have drawn on the grid it is time to cut out every other square. At this point if you want you can add detail to the outside boarder. For mine I added a secondary boarder about 1/4in thick. Just remember that what ever you add the color will be reversed since this is a stencil. This is probably the most tedious step there is. When you are cutting every other square out i recommend using a ruler and going slow so you will get nice crisp edges. After you have cut the squares use the edge of the razor blade and peel every other piece of tape. When cutting the tape it is okay if you cut deep into the wood because it will trap some of the stain and give it a nice boarder between each square, just don't go over board.

Step 6: Staining

Time to stain. For this step I used a nice semi-dark stain so it will show the contrast between the two colors of the wood. When staining you are only staining with one color to make it easier. The two colors you will have will be the original color of the wood and the darker stained squares. If you want after the stain has dried you can take a small paint brush and slowly paint the unstained wood a different color. To stain this I used a rag and dipped it in is the stain and rubbed it on. When staining don't let the stain sit on the tape to much or it will seep through and stain the wood underneath. I recommend using a second rag and wiping off the tape. Let the stain sit and put on a couple more coats. Don't forget to stain the sides and the bottom of the board.

Step 7: Finishing the Board

The last thing we need to do is remove the tape pattern on the the board after all the stain has dried. Carefully use the edge of the knife to pry up the tape and just peel it off. Since the stain is dried you can carefully wipe if down with a wet wash clothe so remove any extra dust or anything because we are going to seal it up and we don't need dust trapped in it. To seal the you can use a wood sealer if you want and go through the hassle of sanding and re applying the sealer and everything but I think that is to much work since this is suppose to be a simple project. In my case I prefer using a spray on polyurethane because you don't have to sand and re-apply it every couple of hours. With the polyurethane I chose to use it is a fast drying clear satin. Within two hours you should apply 3-4 coats and then let it sit for a couple more hours to dry. If you can't apply all coats within the two hours you should wait a day before applying the other coats.Don't forget to do both sides and the edges. If you want you can use a clear coat to give it a shiny glass like appearance but I chose not to because it is going to be dinged up anyways when playing chess or checkers. I hope you enjoyed making this project and please vote for me in the Toy Challenge contest. Post pictures of your boards.



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    15 Discussions


    4 years ago

    i made it with duct tape because i didnt have any masking tape and it curled a little so the die went down through the white in places but itmade it look more rustic


    Its always been my understanding that a band saw is far more dangerous than a table saw with proper hand guards.

    1 reply

    You are right a table saw with proper hand guards is safer than a band saw without any guards. But the table saw at my house has not been used in a long time and we misplaced the hand guards. So in my house a band saw is a lot safer.

    well good luck if you do. I was planning on making actual chess pieces with it but I can't make it over to my grandpa's house any time soon and he is the only person I know with a lathe.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is an awesome project! I like the staining method. I'm thinking of making a wooden chess set for this contest.

    Robot Lover

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable! Good job! Here's a tip, antique and vintage are different. Antique is supposed to be very old. Vintage is 20-60 ish years old. 5*

    1 reply

    Nope no inlay. Thanks i really appreciate all the nice comments. Just remember to vote for me in the contest.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Wow that is amazing looking, from the intro picture I thought it was all inlay.


    7 years ago on Step 6

    In alternative to leaving the lighter coloured squres natural you can stain the entire board a lighter colour prior to putting the tape on, and then apply the darker stain over the lighter stain once you have exposed the desired areas. Test the colour first on a scrap peice of wood to determine the best colour match

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

    true you could do that if those are the colors you want but I liked the natural look of the board. Plus I was trying to make this an easy project for like a father and son to do together. But you are right about the staining.

    Thank you. Like I said before I really like working with wood and making my own things from the bare essentials. I was originally going to add a lot of fancy trim and decorations but decided against it because I want people to see the true beauty in a simple project.

    Thanks. I like wood working a lot ever since my grandpa taught me to use some of his tools. I wish I could of used a table saw to get a better edge but I think it turned out nicely.