Magnetic Travel Chess Set




About: I'm a video editor by trade but enjoy making all kinds of things to entertain myself and others.

I wanted to make a compact travel chess set using items I purchased from the dollar store.  Here is what I did.

Step 1: What You'll Need - Parts List

I bought all of parts for the chess men and the board at the dollar store:

3 packages of "Locker" magnets for the magnetic bases of the chess men.
1 Toy Bingo set for the body of the larger pieces.
2 packages of assorted plastic gems for the heads of the chess men.
4 miniature plastic zebras or horses.
1 square shaped sandwich container.
1 metal baking tray.

Some of the other items I used I either had already or purchased from the hardware store:

1 tube of Testors modelling cement.
2 cans spray paint 1 light colour and 1 dark colour.
1 can spray acrylic clear coating.
1 tube Super Glue.
1 roll painter's masking tape.

Tools needed:
1 metal ruler or straight edge.
1 piece medium to high grit sandpaper.
1 pair tin snips.
1 precision knife.

Step 2: The Pawns

The pawns were the simplest ones to make.  All that was required was to rub the top of the magnetic bases and the bottom of some dome shaped "gems" on sandpaper to give the glue something to adhere to and then cemented them in place. There will be 16 pawns. 8 for white and 8 for black.

Step 3: The Knights

The knights were fairly easy to make. I just cut the heads off of the 4 zebras with a precision knife and Super Glue-d them on top of the magnet bases.

Step 4: Rooks and Bishops

The Rooks I made using the toy Bingo tablets (blue) I sanded both the top and bottoms of the tablets and cemented them to the magnetic bases.  2 for white 2 for black.  

The Bishops were made by combining 2 egg shaped gems back to back and then sanding down a flat spot on the fatter end as a place to  cement to the bases.  Again 2 for white and 2 for black.

Step 5: Kings, Queens and Promoted Pawns

The Kings started off the same as the Rooks using the Bingo tablets to build up the body I then cemented pink "Bingo marker" discs to add a lip and added some gems in a conventional kingly style.  2 total Kings 1 for white and 1 for black.

The 2 Queens are very similar to the Kings, I just used more queenish gems for them.  As always I abraded the plastics so that they would adhere to the modelling cement.  

I decided to make a special piece to represent the queened pawns. This saved me from having to make extra Knights, Bishops, Rooks, and Queens. Instead I made 4 unique pieces which look like taller or matured pawns.

Step 6: The Board - Cutting and Masking

The chessboard needed to be metallic so that the magnets would hold.  I purchased a baking tray at the dollars store which worked really well.

I measured the inset that was on top of the green plastic container and copied the shape to the baking tray. Next I used a pair of tin snips to cut the shape out.

I covered the cutout with green painter's (masking) tape and divided the surface evenly into the 64 squares which make up the playing surface of a chessboard. I then cut along the divisions with a sharp knife and removed the squares which would be painted black.  I had decided to make the colours of my board black and silver and since the baking tray was already a silver colour it saved me having to mask and paint the board twice (once for black paint and once for white paint).

Step 7: The Board - Painting and Mounting

I applied 3 coats of black Krylon spray paint to the masked metal playing surface.  Once the paint had dried I peeled off the remaining squares of tape to reveal the lighter squares.  I then used sand paper to abrade the inset in the lid of the plastic container and the underside of the playing surface.  Next I glued the board to the lid with Super Glue.

To protect the painted squares of the playing surface from wear and tear I used a Krylon clear coat spray.  Before I applied the clear coat I masked off the edges of the plastic lid with green painter's tape.

Step 8: Painting the Chessmen

I divided the chessmen into 2 groups for painting.  A couple of pieces of scrap from the baking tray worked great as a magnetic platform to keep the "pieces" in place while They were being painted.  3 coats each.

Step 9: The Finished Board

After a few days of drying the chess set is ready to be played with.  The magnets hold the men in place quite well and the container works excellently to contain the "pieces" when not in use.  The men fit standing on the inverted lid which makes use of their magnetism and holds them securely while not in use.



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    15 Discussions


    3 years ago

    This shows how a little bit of imagination and a few bucks can turn into. Great job! Very clever


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Brilliant use of zebras -- all pieces are very recognizable (unlike many stylized chess sets).

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Step 8

    Wow! I really like the glossy-metalic finish :O


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I like the way you integrated these materials into chess pieces! Excellent work!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I considered making a more stylized and unique chess set, however I thought that it would be easier for the player to identify the pieces if they had a more recognizable appearance.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Those pieces look great! I thought they were already made or 3D printed, but you made them from scratch! That's awesome!!!

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It was a fun process figuring out how to replicate the look of the classic chess pieces.

    Wow! I thought you just found little chess pieces and put magnets in! Those little guys look so awesome! Nice job putting them together :)

    1 reply
    nsnipPenolopy Bulnick

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I was having trouble finding any magnetic chess sets locally within my city. Instead of ordering something online I decided to make this instead.