Duct Tape Chess Board and Chess Set




Introduction: Duct Tape Chess Board and Chess Set

When I arrived at college, I realized that I was missing a chess board and chess set, the makings of which have kept me entertained for countless hours in the past.  When I went to target to remedy my lack, I realized that the prices of the chess sets exceeded what I wanted to spend for something I would only use once in a while, and were often far more extravagant than was necessary for a simple dorm room.  Rather then invest in such a hefty item, I saw an opportunity to conduct a project that would provide me with a chess set while also being kind to my wallet.  So, I instead purchased three rolls of colored duct tape, red, white, and black, my school's fight colors.  The ability to personalize my set made the project all the more intriguing.

The following steps provide a simple and effective means of using supplies attainable on a college campus for little to no money to create a full, usable chess set.  While these steps illustrate the means by which I conducted this project, they are in no way exclusive, and I urge you to customize the project based on your personal desires.

Step 1: Gathering the Materials

The first step in the process of creating this project is to gather the materials necessary to build the components of a chess set including a) The chess pieces and b) The Board itself

This instructable will first address how to construct the Board and then Move on to the chess pieces.

Materials for Constructing the Board

-Three Rolls of Duct Tape (Two rolls for the board, one for looks and structure)

-USPS Medium Size Standard Rate Box (Or another box with at least one square side)


-Sharpie Marker

-Ruler or Meter Stick

Materials for Constructing the Chess Pieces

-Remainder of the 3 Rolls of Duct Tape

-Two packs of Different Colored Pipe Cleaners

-36 Spare coins (mixture of quarters, nickels, and pennies..... NO Dimes)


Step 2: Marking the Square Surface

The first step to creating the board that the game will be played on is to create a grid like pattern on the square bottom surface of the USPS box.  To do this take the measuring implement, either a ruler or meter stick, and separate the length and width of the box into 8 even sized boxed areas on each side.  This means drawing seven lines across the width of the box at even intervals (see picture for clarification).  Using the Sharpie, darken the lines to the point where they can be easily seen through a thin piece of white printer paper. 

When You have finished this, you should have a grid like pattern across the bottom of the box. The pictures below show a decent example of what is required.

Step 3: Beginning the Alternating Chess Coloring

The next step is the process of repeatedly overlapping squares of different colored duct tape on top of one another to create a repeating pattern of alternating colors that correspond to the grid created in the previous step.  To begin this pattern, cut a piece of White duct tape that is just slightly larger then a single square.  Place it in one corner of the square grid aiming to place it as close to in line with the edge as possible.  Next, cut an equal sized square of a different colored duct tape (red in the pictures), and lay it along the grid line that you can see through the white tape.  Both squares will slightly overlap the grid lines.  This is fine, as the additional tape will ensure that none of the box shows through between the pieces.  Continue this pattern along the rest of the grid until you have finished the row. (See Picture for clarification) Fold over the additional tape at the end of the row and then turn your attention back to where you began.  

The second row will begin with a square that is the opposite color of the one you began the row above with.  When repeated, this will create the alternating grip pattern that is evident in commercial chess boards.  Finish the row, and repeat this process throughout the remainder of the rows.

Step 4: Finishing the Grid

Continue overlapping the squares repeatedly until the entire surface is covered, and appears as a red and white alternating grid.  Because I used thinner duct tape, I decided that it was pertinent to add an additional layer of duct tape to the grid already down, mostly for appearances sake.  This also ensured a more level playing ground, as the dual tape layers re-enforced the cardboard below it.

Step 5: Taping the Sides

For appearances sake, as well as to protect the cardboard from spills/water/wear and tear, I felt it was necessary to wrap the sides that were not a part of the grid with a layer of duct tape. To do this, simply wrap layer after layer of duct tape (black in my case) around the edges and sides of the box.  Repeat this process for the entirety of the uncovered box, making sure to overlap the edges of the long strips so that no cardboard shows.  Also continue this process for the bottom of the box, using long strips lain in a single direction to ensure efficiency and appearance.  (See Photos for Clarification)

Step 6: Gather Materials for the Pieces

For the Pieces, you will need to gather the previously mentioned materials.  For the duct tape requirement, use what remains of the previous duct tape rolls, as it should be more then necessary.  Gather also the different colored pipe cleaner packs, as well as at least 36 spare coins, ensuring that they are a mixture of pennies, quarters, and nickels.  You will also need a pair of scissors for the customization of each piece.

Step 7: Creating a Basic Piece

Now that you have created an acceptable board, it is time to create a matching chess set out of coins, duct tape, and pipe cleaners.  To begin, lay a piece of tape (which should be a rough square) out with the adhesive side facing up, away from the surface of the table.  Next, lay one coin at the center of the square.  Take a small length of pipe cleaner (roughly four inches in length) and bend it slightly at one end before placing it in the center of the coin on the table.  Using the edges of the tape laying on the table, fold them inward and across the pipe cleaner bent section, effectively holding it in place.  For the pawns, this was the extent of work, though I did bend the protruding length of pipe-cleaner, which was roughly three inches long in a spiral to give it dimension.  For the more specialized pieces, I altered the means by which I added their unique characteristics.  This will be discussed in following steps.  (See Pictures for Clarification)

For the opposing series of chess pieces, I used White tape (as opposed to red) and White Pipe Cleaners (As opposed to black), but the steps were the same.

Step 8: Customizing the Individual Pieces

In order to customize the pieces based on their specific purpose, I added a simple piece of tape to the top of the pipe cleaner and shaped it using scissors so that each piece was easily identifiable.  While I will not describe the process for each individual piece (as at this point I encourage as much customization as possible), I have included a picture of the different customizations I made and the chess piece I associated their corresponding shapes with.  The single enlarged piece is the red queen, which I added so you could have an enlarged view of a single piece.

I apologize for the difficulty in seeing the white pieces.  The general shape of each piece is as follows:

Castle:  Twisted Pipe-Cleaner upward in a cylinder like shape

Knight:  Slight bend meant to resemble the head of a horse after slight twist for dimension

Bishop:  Pope-Like Cap above curled pipe-cleaner, like a bent staff

Queen:  (Red: Jagged to personify chaos) (White: Large circle to personify order)

King:  (Red: Three Pronged; Chaos) (White: Cross; Order)

Step 9: Finished Set

Following the customization of the pieces, continue with completing the set.  A full set will include 16 Pawns (8 White 8 red), Four Castles (2 White 2 Red), Four Kinghts (2 White 2 Red), Four Bishops (2 White 2 Red), Two Queens (1 White 1 Red), Two Kings (1 White 1 Red) for a total of 32 pieces.  Once you have filled in the blanks, simply place the pieces on the board and you are ready to play.  The weighted bottoms will cause the pieces to tend towards the righted position, meaning that the chess set can be played even in places where you may be bumped or jostled. 

Congratulations, you have now completed the dorm room chess set!!!!  I urge you to go into the customization aspect of this project far more in depth then I have, and I look forward to seeing what others have created.  Let me know if you have any suggestions and I look forward to hearing from you soon!!!!

P.S. As an additional note, a small cut can be made in the bottom of the box, allowing the pieces to be stored inside the hallow USPS box quite efficiently.  In addition, spare duct tape and pipe cleaners can be stored inside for quick fixes and even more customization.  

Finalist in the
Duct Tape Tough Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Pocket-Sized Speed Challenge

      Pocket-Sized Speed Challenge
    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest
    • Maps Challenge

      Maps Challenge

    11 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Isn't the black queen confusingly like the king?


    6 years ago

    Not trying to troll, but it's surprising how many chessboards are not set up properly. Please google and show us the right way.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Cool chess set.
    Great technique overlapping the squares to make clean squares. Looks really good.


    9 years ago on Step 3

    An less time consuming alternative might be to alternate long stripes of tape horizontally. Then cut the rows vertically. and flip the column so you get a checkerboard pattern. Then you just glue these down to your surface.