Chess Pieces Made of CONCRETE!

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Introduction: Chess Pieces Made of CONCRETE!

About: I like building things. I like to experiment with alternative methods of heating and cooling houses.

I have often wanted to make a chess set out of something UNUSUAL and I finally did it.  Here is a chess set (pieces only, no board), made of CONCRETE.  I own a nice wooden chess set and wanted to reproduce it and might give them away as Christmas presents.  The nice thing about this set is it looks almost identical to my very expensive wooden set... yet these sets only cost about $3 dollars apiece to make!    I used an unusual method of making the molds that I have not seen anywhere else.  The set is pretty rugged EXCEPT for the queens crown.  If the queen is dropped, the spikes on the crown may crack off.  I have not thought of a way to remedy this... and maybe someone has an idea.

Step 1: THINGS YOU WILL NEED :

The first thing you will need is a NICE chess set that you want to reproduce.... and that you are willing to risk doing MINOR damage to them.  I discolored one of my pawns but only need to put some staining oil back onto the piece and it will be as good as new.  Also, I had to remove the felt bottoms of the pieces before painting them so that is easily repairable also. I had about equal success using the quick setting CEMENT-ALL or also the MORTAR MIX.  A box of the concrete is only about 12 dollars, and would make several sets. I tried many kinds of stains and paints including RIT-dye, women's hair dye, printer inks, brush-on-paints, and spray paints.  The best combination I could come up with was the ones pictured here.

Step 2: MAKING THE MOLDS:

The blue and white tubs of silicone stuff is easy to use but kind of sticky.  Just mix equal parts of each in a separate container and stir it together for a couple minutes.  Set the chess piece on something like a jar so you can rotate the jar without touching the chess piece.  Paint the blue silicone stuff on the chess piece.  It is good to make a kind of THICK coating to help retain the shape of the chess man.  The blue silicone mold compound is rather expensive, so this painting method uses MUCH less than the BLOCK MOLDING technique of making a mold.  When molding the KNIGHT, pay special attention to the space under the horses chin.  If this area is filled with silicone gel... you will not be able to remove the knight from the mold.  To remedy this, just fill in the area under the horses chin with some clay.  Childrens clay will work fine.  then after you make your mold and remove the knight... the clay will come out easily from your original.  

Step 3: Now Let's Pour Some Concrete!

Mixing and pouring the concrete is really easy.  It's just like mixing pancake batter.  Add water to the powder until the mixture can be poured.  It should not be watery because the more watery it is, the weaker the concrete will be.  So try to make the mix pourable but only barely pourable for best strength.  

Step 4: Paint and Stain:

The white set is simply painted with Glidden palomino gold color.  Let dry overnight then paint with a clear coat of polyurethane.  All of the chess pieces will need about 2 coats of the polyurethane.  The dark chess men are painted with 2 stains to achieve a really impressive 2-tone almost WOODEN look!  First I painted them with quikrete RED concrete stain (available in the concrete section of your hardware store).  After the red dries.. it is not really "RED" it looks more like terra-cotta.  This dark reddish color will be covered with a coat of MINWAX ebony black color wood stain.  Pain the ebony black stain but don't cover the chess piece COMPLETELY.  Leave a little of the REDDISH showing here and there randomly.  This gives the chessman a 2-tone wooden look that just about perfectly matches the real chess set. 

Step 5: FAILURE CHESS-PIECES :

OK... not every chess man made it to the board.  Some of them only deserve the TRASH CAN.  This is about all I can think of to show how I made the chess set.  Hope it helps others who might be interested in making a chess set.

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    42 Discussions

    "The set is pretty rugged EXCEPT for the queens crown. If the queen is dropped, the spikes on the crown may crack off. I have not thought of a way to remedy this... and maybe someone has an idea." Maybe you can put some metal in the crown - especially the spikes. :)

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    FMCC

    2 years ago

    Would this procedure work with plastic chess pieces from Mega Chess set? To avoid deformation you can make a sand bed for the mold and carefully pour the mixture , but if it is too big it may not work. Would the chemical for the mold ruing the plastic chess piece?

    Fort McMurray Chess Club Mega Chess set Interplay 4.JPG

    I wonder what would happen if you filled the concrete molds with tiny hardened steel shot, if it would just look really weird or be cool!

    Nice. I like the techniques :-)

    IIRC, Luke is embedded in carbonite. Thermite is the stuff that burns really hot.

    2 replies

    Very cool! I want to try this sometime. I've been thinking about making a nice wood set, but it would take quite a long time to make a really good one. This seems faster but with great looking results.

    For the crown, I recommend a cyanoacrylate (e.g. Super Glue) finish. It is hard, strong, and glossy. You can also sand/polish, etc. This is what I use for wood rings.

    7 replies

    I don't know if you have seen the Rude Osolsnick wooden set, it is very nice. It is turned entirely on the lathe including the knights. I have a copy of the plans and if you like I will be glad to make you a copy and send them to you.

    I don't have a lathe..So I probably cant use the plans.. Thanks for the offer. but I wanted to see the set. couldn't find it on my searches.... saw a LOT of interesting instructables by searching "wood chess".

    I dont have a lathe myself,and cant swing the price right now,but a cheaper bench grinder will do alot,you may be suprised at what it will do when working with wood.If you dont have a bench grinder,be on a look out at yard sales or flea markets,I bought a nice one from Northern for about 40.00 a few years back,and a couple weeks later found one a whole lot nicer,with a light for ten bucks at a flea market,also if you have a Harbor Freight near by,they have some pretty good prices.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=jfsDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA18&lpg=PA18&dq=chess+set+turning+american+woodworker&source=bl&ots=tVqZJthTVL&sig=eI62Ed9WT32IcpFFLNp9JZNyMHU&hl=en&ei=11tXS8-LK4-Z8Aa7rMG7Aw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CBkQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false
    Link to google books article. I made mine a bit beefier because I was using spaulted maple and walnut burl and they are very delicate woods.

    Could you use glass chess pieces to make the molds?

    1 reply

    Sure! You could use any chess pieces.... but it is a bit of work, and does cost something for materials so it might not be worth the effort to copy a cheapy glass chess set. My purpose was to make a copy of an expensive set and be able to reproduce it for 3 or 4 dollars. Maybe your glass chess set is extra nice or sentimental value?? making it worth more and worth-wile copying??

    Hmm. I never knew that concrete came pre-made (just add water) go figure. I went to check out the product I can see why the heads kept falling off, the company that makes that concrete uses a fine grained sand- might I suggest minerals with a larger mass and more grainy or carbon fiber (same fiber in fiberglass), Kevlar or even steel wool.

    1 reply

    In the USA, bags of premixed is common for household small jobs. When concrete is very thin it is not very strong. The pawns "necks" are very thin so they break off easily. If other minerals are added, then it will cause problems pouring into the small mold... and still he neck would be thin so might break anyway. The nail placed in the pawn worked very well and didn't cost much. I am a beginner at this, so maybe your ideas would work, but I don't know how to implement those solutions. Thanks for the suggestions though, maybe others reading it will be helped.