Lanier Graham chess set

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Project by Douger posted 02-23-2016 07:36 PM 3657 views 23 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I wanted to make a chess set for my daughter and son-in-law. The board was a no-brainer (although I made mine in quarters, and embedded rare-earth magnets in the edges to join the pieces together), but I needed to make the pieces without a lathe. A bit of searching on the Interwebs turned up this design by F. Lanier Graham, designed in 1966 (, an elegant but simple design in which the pieces are shaped in a way that suggests not only their relative importance, but also the ways in which the various pieces move. The pieces can be nested together into a simple rectangular space.

The pieces (and the board) are made from walnut and hard maple; I rubbed in a coat of Watco Danish Oil and then wiped on a couple of coats of clear satin polyurethane. I have also built a box out of western red cedar to store the board and pieces in, but it’s not finished yet (I’ll add a photo to this post when it’s done).

The little black triangle in the center of the assembled board is for the proper orientation of the board segments—similar to the triangles we often pencil onto parts when we’re laying out parts in woodworking.

If you Google “Lanier Graham Chess Set” you’ll find several images and patterns.

-- Doug, Kansas,

18 comments so far

View ChrisK's profile


1959 posts in 3075 days

#1 posted 02-23-2016 07:55 PM

Very nice. I like the way the pieces stack.

-- Chris K

View GerardoArg1's profile


968 posts in 1987 days

#2 posted 02-23-2016 09:28 PM


-- Disfruta tu trabajo (enjoy your work) (Bandera, Argentina)

View Mean_Dean's profile


6477 posts in 3141 days

#3 posted 02-24-2016 12:42 AM

Beautiful chess set! I really like those chess pieces, and how they fold together for storage. And the magnet design really is a great idea!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View smitty22's profile


714 posts in 2940 days

#4 posted 02-24-2016 02:00 AM

Excellent, often wondered how to make a chess set without turned pieces!
Thanks for the post.

-- Smitty

View Jim Sellers's profile

Jim Sellers

435 posts in 2328 days

#5 posted 02-24-2016 02:24 AM

Good job and great design. (Lanier Graham) I’ll definitely have to steal this one. Simple and basic always works best. Thanks for your post.

-- J.C.Sellers, Norcross, Ga. Just cut it right the first time. The best carpenters make the fewest chips.

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


4515 posts in 2403 days

#6 posted 02-24-2016 03:38 AM

Excellent design, great idea with the pieces.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View kurtb's profile


10 posts in 2614 days

#7 posted 02-24-2016 03:57 AM

Very impressive. Thanks for sharing!

View Festus56's profile


2868 posts in 1222 days

#8 posted 02-24-2016 06:05 AM

I like that chess set alot even though I know nothing about playing the game. Simple and elegant at the same time. Good job !!

-- Mark -- Really we're not crazy, just "Limited Editions" -- --

View majuvla's profile


12267 posts in 2861 days

#9 posted 02-24-2016 06:52 AM

Very genious project, practical and handy. Also incredible idea of folding chess set. Figurines are so simple but good looking.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View tamtum's profile


197 posts in 1833 days

#10 posted 02-24-2016 10:33 AM

Beautiful chess set!

-- Alexander , Greece,

View Tennessee's profile


2870 posts in 2508 days

#11 posted 02-24-2016 12:53 PM

I especially like the way the board comes together. Very unique and what a great way to store it!
The stacked pieces are also very cool! This seems like both a great present, and a possible seller at fairs and festivals.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View helluvawreck's profile


31019 posts in 2860 days

#12 posted 02-24-2016 02:36 PM

Doug, this is very creative and nicely done.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View WirelessWoodworker's profile


57 posts in 1250 days

#13 posted 02-24-2016 03:33 PM

Agree with all of the above, really well done!



-- Tim, Delaware,

View Halc's profile


146 posts in 1596 days

#14 posted 02-24-2016 05:05 PM

Great timing! I was wondering how I was going to build a chess set without a lathe and without carving tools (or the skills that go with using each). I hope mine looks as good as yours.

View MrFid's profile


874 posts in 1898 days

#15 posted 02-24-2016 07:42 PM

Super job! I love the way it folds up into a small box.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

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