Hand Made Chess Set

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Project by KnotCurser posted 08-14-2011 11:39 PM 5721 views 9 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The first thing I wanted to do when I “Became” a wood worker was to make my own chess set. I don’t know why – I don’t play chess all that much and I’m not that great at it.

I think I was the idea that this was some grand goal that only a REAL wood worker could accomplish. Foolish maybe, but that’s what I thought…........

A couple of months ago, I decided I’ve learned enough and started on my first pieces. What you see here is the finished set – minus the four of five pieces that went into the firewood bucket. ;-)

Woods are white oak and walnut. The bases are are around 1 1/4” square and the queens are a tad over 3” high.

I started with my scroll saw to get the basic shapes cut out – thanks to Steve Good's Patterns for the layouts!

I really wanted them to look like they lived in a tavern for a few dozen years so I took a sanding mop and rasps to them to give them some “character” – no pointy edges and leave all the nicks and scrapes that appear.

Only finish is a soak in lemon oil to give them a bit of protection – I hope they get dinged up even more by playing with them!

I’ll tell you one thing – when you start your first pawn it’s a great feeling! When you are on number 12 and still have four more left it’s a totally different feeling. ;-)

So, do I think I accomplished a major goal in wood working? Maybe…... The verdict is still out.

Now all I have to do is make the chess board – a piece of cake compared to these!



-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: /

12 comments so far

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2703 days

#1 posted 08-15-2011 12:00 AM

Those look great. That is one of my next hundred projects. I have made the chess board for my grandson already. He wanted a checker board so I put the chess board on the back.

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3910 days

#2 posted 08-15-2011 12:06 AM

Nice job Bob.

When I was 13 I bought a wood lathe at a garage sale with money I earned on my paper route. I thought I was so grown up. One of the first things I did with it was turn a chess set. I don’t think I ever finished, so I know how much work it is. I did end up making a Stratego set, but that has nothing to do with this conversation.

Congrats on completing a life long goal. I can relate.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View CartersWhittling's profile


453 posts in 2702 days

#3 posted 08-15-2011 12:17 AM

very nice, you did a good job.

-- And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord... Colossians 3:23

View Roman - THE BOOTMAN's profile


949 posts in 2714 days

#4 posted 08-15-2011 12:35 AM

Credit to you in finishing your chess pieces.

I have had the similar problem of keeping my creative juices going and maintaining a high interest in a project. Presently I’m working on a prototype using the ‘Mobius strip’ as a basis of construction. So far it’s been a disaster! Must keep working on it.

I like your scroll work in your previous posts. Keep it going!

-- Author of POWER CARVING BOOTS & SHOES - Schiffer Publishing. Available online or your favourite bookstore.

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 2721 days

#5 posted 08-15-2011 01:32 AM

Such a rather uncerimonious picture for such a monumentious undertaking, the armys just thrown together in a heap. But looks great.

-- See pictures on Flickr - And visit my Facebook page -

View MontanaBob's profile


831 posts in 2712 days

#6 posted 08-15-2011 01:41 AM

I’ve used the Steve Good pattern for two sets of chess pieces….. I had a hard time not burning the wood when using Hard Maple….but have some of those Flying Dutchman blades that Steve talks about on his site. They are the best blade I’ve ever used, and the next time I have some Maple left over I’ll try cutting the pieces for the chess board set I made for my grandson…

View Bob A in NJ's profile

Bob A in NJ

1232 posts in 4027 days

#7 posted 08-15-2011 01:51 AM

Impressive work, shows great skill and patience.


-- Bob A in NJ

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3046 days

#8 posted 08-15-2011 02:03 AM

I tried making a chess set when I was in my 20s, had all the pieces glued together and stacked, ready to go, then we moved and I just can’t remember what happened to all those pieces. they were 4” x 4” x 10” . Yes I was ambitious and they were supposed to go on my coffee table/chess board. Later on I tried carving a set but gave up after carving 5 or 6 pawns! Too repetitious!

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View Doug McPherson's profile

Doug McPherson

114 posts in 3183 days

#9 posted 08-15-2011 03:12 AM

Wow! I’m very impressed. Looks like detail work for hours and hours. You did an excellent job. I’d chose to put a little more than lemon oil on them for protection after all of that work, but, I can hear wear you are coming from.

I’ve done the chess board, but never the pieces.

-- DullChiselDoug,

View clieb91's profile


3520 posts in 3963 days

#10 posted 08-15-2011 03:38 AM

Bob, Congrats on completing the set, I like the roughed up look to it. I would like to build one some day but I know I would get bored with making the pieces after while. Maybe some day.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3188 days

#11 posted 08-15-2011 04:21 AM

Looks like a nice set Bob. And shows your patience. I think I’d have quit after 5 pieces.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2948 days

#12 posted 08-17-2011 02:33 PM

Your set looks great! I also have a goal of completing a chess set. I want to do mine on the scroll saw, but I don’t want them to be like all the compound cut sets we see. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I know there is an answer in there somewhere and every once in a while when the cobwebs in my head settle down, I start pondering it.

Your set is really nice! I know what you mean about the first pieces being ‘fun’ and the last ones being . . . . well . . ‘not as fun’ I give you credit for your tenacity though and finishing this fine set.

You are always showing such wonderful projects! I truly enjoy seeing the scope of your work. Thanks for sharing with us! ;)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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