Steve Ramsey's chess board #1: No planer, no jointer - a lot of problems

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Blog entry by Jake posted 12-17-2013 08:51 PM 2814 reads 2 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Steve Ramsey's chess board series Part 2: Which woods to use? (design poll) »

Hello kind sir or madam. :)

I watched Steve Ramsey’s chess board project like 6 months ago and I determined that I have to make this project. My dad is turning 60 in the beginning of January, so I decided to make this for him. He likes chess and the set we have at home is cheap and like 20 years old. He deserves better.

Now I have started work on this project – yes I am late, I know… Anyhow, I have the wood and I started it, but I have a problem, a huge one to be honest. The boards I purchased had a slight warp in them, and I “planed” it out with a router sled. I am using Sapele and White oak. Here are the boards after router work.

They are different thickness, but I figured I’ll split them and then I will see where I am at. Which I did, but I did not do a very good job, I tried to make a quick jig, but that meant that I also did not get the result I intended – didn’t think that one through to be honest.

So now I am left with 2 sets of 4, which are out of square, well the sides should be square, but the thicnkess varies from from 5/16 to 1/2.. they are mainly wedge shaped, oak being the thicker version, because the stock I started with was thicker.. And the bad part is that i don’t own a planer and the company i used to rent it from went belly up and I haven’t found another company that rents these, and getting a proper one would cost me about 950$. As much as I do love him, I don’t have the cash to spend.

So here is my main question:
1. How do i get it to uniform thickness, I do have a hand held router which seems to be my best option, because I do not trust my table saw that much as well, and these small boards are flimsy. The only thing I could come up was to make an inset in a plywood, where I would fasten the strips with wedges, “plane” them from one side, and then see what is the max height I can leave them at. If I could get them accurate to 1/32 I would be very pleased, I can glue them and sand them down to uniform thickness after. Can anyone reccomend a good method or a jig?

Design questions:
I was planning on using the darker oak for the sides and top edge (see 2nd pic the long board) but it seems too light, my options are:
1. use the sapele for the edges instead and make the inlay around the board in teh darker oak and the sides as well, making the corner posts from Sapele to give it some contrast?
2. use the dark oak with white oak posts but stain the darker oak? (I do love wood without a stain to be honest)
3. Some other combination – the reason I would like to use the darker oak is that this stock is almost perfectly square.

(I don’t know what the “darker Oak” is actually called, english not being my first language I don’t know the proper names, so if you could educate me that would be awesome. :))

Additional question:
Should I oil the board before laquering t bring out the grain?

Sorry for the long post, but I am a bit worried about this project and I needed to get out of my cave and articulate my concerns/questions.


-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

11 comments so far

View Oldtool's profile


2365 posts in 1614 days

#1 posted 12-17-2013 10:41 PM


My preference would be to glue these boards together, then hand plane then as if flattening a long board or a table top. Trying to get them to the same thickness before gluing doesn’t provide any benefit, and would be somewhat difficult. Just make sure the sides are straight and you don’t have gaps between them. You should only need to plane one side, with the other side evened at glue up.
I can’t help with the design question, I usually just set the boards together & trust my eye off what looks best.
Good luck.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View comboprof's profile


277 posts in 1158 days

#2 posted 12-18-2013 12:32 AM

Two thoughts. There is probably a commercial shop that would plane it for you. You may be able to use the wood shop at the high school or Junior high.

-- -- Cheers, Don K. (Michgan's Kewenaw peninsula)

View NormG's profile


5434 posts in 2428 days

#3 posted 12-18-2013 01:17 AM

I like the school shop idea, makes sense and I am sure they would be willing

-- Norman

View mantwi's profile


312 posts in 1320 days

#4 posted 12-18-2013 01:42 AM

Best of wishes on this, it’s a nice thing you are doing. I’d be thrilled if one of my kids made the effort you are to handcraft a gift for me. This is one of those rare situations where it really is the thought that counts. God bless and merry Christmas.

View gfadvm's profile


14932 posts in 2114 days

#5 posted 12-18-2013 01:48 AM

I would glue the pieces up and then find a cabinet shop or someone with a wide belt or drum sander to flatten it for you.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1055 days

#6 posted 12-18-2013 03:40 AM

Alright thanks for the feedback. That was kind of what I was thinking as well, I will try to glue it up then and see what I can do after that.

It’s not just the thougth that counts, execution has to be top notch also. :)

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1055 days

#7 posted 12-18-2013 10:32 AM

Great news!

managed to get a planer for a day. Cost me like 36$, but at least i can plane all of the details to uniform thickness. My hand planing is horrific at best… :D

I will glue up the current pieces just in case anyhow and make the other cuts and stocks ready for planing, because I will have the planer on Saturday.

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2264 posts in 1793 days

#8 posted 12-18-2013 02:46 PM

For future reference, I don’t know where you buy your lumber from, but the placer I go to makes most of their income from making custom moldings/doors, cabinet doors, not from selling me wood. Around Christmas they also have cutting boards by the checkout counter. Point is, if I were in your situation I would just ask them to run it through their machine for me, and I don’t doubt that that they would. If you buy from a place like that and have a good relationship there that they’d run it through the planer or sander for much much less than $36.

Edit : I would use BLO and let it cure before finishing.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View lepelerin's profile


471 posts in 1749 days

#9 posted 12-18-2013 04:35 PM

hand planing would be my pick. good luck

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2758 days

#10 posted 12-18-2013 05:08 PM

It would have been a lot easier for you to use veneers for this job and glue them to a substrate after assembly. Check out psalm’s chessboard build here.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1055 days

#11 posted 12-18-2013 08:13 PM

Thanks all for your feedback

I was looking at the veneer chess board it and it looks awesome. But the closest veneer I could find is 0,6mm at max and I have to buy a metric f*ton of it, they don’t sell strips. And obviously I don’t have a veneer vaccum.

As far as the supplies and companies go I am in a bit different situation that you guys are. I live in a country with 1,3million people and the supplier list is extremely short, example: after scourging around the interwebs for 4 months I only found one company that sells quality exotic lumber (we only have aspen, pine, spruce and alder available in stores) anything above that is considered expensive and exotic…. So I have to make do with what I have.

And I will make do with what i have and do the best i can, I made the first glue up today, came up horrendeus, I will plane it tomorrow, see how it goes, in the mean time I am designing the chess board with different wood options in SU and put it up for feedback from you guys.

Once I get the wood set up complete I will make the rough cuts and once I have the thicnkess planer on Saturday I will start the “production” with fresh stock. Should advance a lot over the weekend.

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

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