I've always been a big fan of chess. Everything about it. I like playing chess, reading about its history, the great players, and I've always admired a really nice chess board. Ever since getting into woodworking, I've wanted to make my own chess board. Just recently, I've been doing a bunch of end grain style projects, so I figured it was time to take the plunge.
I know chess boards are usually made with contrasting woods, such as walnut and maple, but I wanted to make my board out of similar colored woods, but different enough looking so it was still be easy to play on. All that, and because I had these two pieces of wood sitting in my garage. Anyway, I had a piece of pine and a piece of cedar that were calling my name for this project.
This is my story.
Wood (pine and cedar)
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Step 1: Prep Wood and Glue Up
I had two pieces of wood that were of similar dimensions, but you want them to be exactly the same. So I broke out the old table saw and ripped both boards down to the same size, roughly an inch and a quarter square. Then I cross cut the pieces until I had twelve pieces about eight inches long. I layed them all out on two clamps, alternating the pine and cedar. Then cover them with glue and spread it around with your finger to make sure it is all covered, then clamp them up and let them sit.
Step 2: Repeat
Now pretty much repeat the exact same process, with subtle differences. This time, you will have one big piece of wood to start with. Cut it into strips at the table saw. Remember, a chess board is 8x8, so your finished project will need 8 squares in both directions. But you want to make it bigger than that at this point, so that at the end you can cut it down to final dimensions. I made mine 10x10, so cut your piece into ten strips, and remember that these strips will also be the depth of your finished board (how high it sits on the table).
After you've cut all your strips, it's back to the clamps. Lay out all your strips and take your time to get the pieces matched up the way you want them. Remember that you want the end grain facing up, so turn the pieces on their side to add the glue. Then when you flip the pieces the right side up, make sure to stagger every other piece, so that they don't match up, but instead alternate between the pine and cedar.
Clamp it up and let it sit. It's a good idea to put a board across the top to keep it from wanting to bow upward. Just make sure to add some plastic between the board and your chess board, or else they will certainly glue together.
Step 3: Sand and Frame
If I had a bench top planer, then everything would already be smooth at this point. I do not, so I broke out the old belt sander and a dust mask and spent some time getting it as flat as possible. Then, because both sides are jagged from staggering the boards, I used a circular saw to get one side flat. Then I was able to move back to the table saw to get all four sides square.
I wanted to frame it, so I used some pine strips that I had laying around. I mitered the corners (45 degree cuts) and used a band clamp to hold it all together while the glue dried.
I cam back the next day and sanded some more. Plenty of sanding involved in this project, but you want your finished product to be as smooth as possible.
Step 4: Finish It Up!
I finished it with butcher block conditioner (mineral oils and bees wax), because I've used it on my last couple projects and have been really happy with how it brings out the color in the wood. I was very pleased with how this chess board turned out, and will certainly make another some day.
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