Hidden Compartment Chess Table

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Project by CharlieM1958 posted 01-04-2009 10:58 PM 8964 views 23 times favorited 50 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was inspired not just by the contest, but by my grand-nieces and nephews, who have a tendency to play with, lose, eat, or otherwise mistreat game pieces. I came up with the idea of a removable top with hidden trays underneath. Rather than hinge the top, I decided to make both it and the trays unattached so that the game can be played at another table or on the floor.

There are runners on the underside of the top (see last photo below) which serve two functions: They fit exactly into the provided places in the table base to keep the top from moving around, and they slightly elevate the playing surface when the top is used by itself, making it easy to pick up. The trays rest inside the table base by their handles on the provided ledges. I divided the space into two trays so that one could be used for chess men, and the other for checkers.

Construction is all walnut except for the maple squares and inlays, and the birch ply tray bottoms. This was my first attempt at tapered legs using my new table saw and a taper jig. They are two-sided tapers, and actually went off without a hitch (which was a great surprise). The miters were also cut on the table saw, using a miter sled I constructed. I know some will want to take issue with my capturing the board inside the frame. Time will tell, I suppose. Here in south Louisiana, humidity is consistently very high, and temperature extremes are not that great. I’ve constructed a number of things this way over the past few years, and so far (knock on wood) no problems with wood movement.

Finish on top is oil-based wipe-on poly, sanded out after a number of coats so that , in effect, the poly becomes a grain filler for the walnut. The last few coats then leave a glass-smooth surface. Finish on the table base is also wipe-on poly, but without the smoothing-out process.

Thanks for looking. All questions, comments, criticism welcome.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

50 comments so far

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 4353 days

#1 posted 01-04-2009 11:09 PM

it’s a fantastic looking table, nice work.
love the look of the top.
best of luck in the contest!

View Bigbuck's profile


1347 posts in 3690 days

#2 posted 01-04-2009 11:10 PM

Very nice charlie, I like the removable top idea

-- Glenn, New Mexico

View johan's profile


162 posts in 3537 days

#3 posted 01-04-2009 11:13 PM

Ha,yes what a lovely table i like the more sleek lines of this table if thet makes sense.

-- Johan, South Africa,

View Matt (Upper Cut)'s profile

Matt (Upper Cut)

264 posts in 3840 days

#4 posted 01-04-2009 11:15 PM

Looks great! Great job on finishing it as well—I love wipe on oil-poly.

-- Matt Gradwohl, Upper Cut Woodworks,

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3912 days

#5 posted 01-04-2009 11:16 PM

Great job Charlie!!!!

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3554 days

#6 posted 01-04-2009 11:18 PM

Sorry Charlie, All I can offer is the Good ol’ WOW, that’s what I’m sure I’d say if I walked up to it for the first time. Master work. Love the details. The inlays are gorgeous , the wood is fantastic, the design is top notch the fit and finish superior. Super!

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3782 days

#7 posted 01-04-2009 11:21 PM


Absolutely beautiful table! The tapered legs and arched sides give it a very “light” look. And the finish on the top- well I wish i could do that level of work!

Best of luck in the contest.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3989 days

#8 posted 01-04-2009 11:22 PM

This probably the greatest of a long series of great projects. Charlie, you just keep getting better and better. A real master.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Mike_in_Ohio's profile


30 posts in 3476 days

#9 posted 01-04-2009 11:24 PM

Beautiful table!

-- Mike

View YorkshireStewart's profile


1130 posts in 3928 days

#10 posted 01-04-2009 11:24 PM

Absolutely first class Charlie; beautiful design, choice of materials, construction and finish!

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

View mrtrim's profile


1696 posts in 3907 days

#11 posted 01-04-2009 11:44 PM

youve outdone yourself there charlie ! what a nice peice that is , well done !

View TomK 's profile


504 posts in 3901 days

#12 posted 01-04-2009 11:56 PM

Really like the design fo this Charlie.

-- If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until it's free! PJ O'Rourke

View majeagle1's profile


1426 posts in 3523 days

#13 posted 01-05-2009 12:00 AM

What can I say that others have not already said….......... You truely have outdone yourself and you “ARE” a master. This is a piece that you call a “WINNER”. The only criticism that I can make is ” It’s not in my house”!
I really like ths design and sleek lines of the whole piece.

Great job and thanks for sharing.

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View Woodhacker's profile


1139 posts in 3750 days

#14 posted 01-05-2009 12:12 AM

Charlie, simply beautiful in every way. Well thought out design and excellent craftsmanship.

Thanks for posting it.

-- Martin, Kansas

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 3936 days

#15 posted 01-05-2009 12:15 AM

Charlie, that is a great looking table. I really like the inlays on the top. Thanks for posting it.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

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