Custom Solid Surface Chess Board - Pear, Leopard Wood, Ebony, & Walnut!

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Project by Eric M. Saperstein posted 01-14-2012 07:52 AM 4532 views 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

OK – I for one have done some digging and found that the quality of chess boards available in the world today is just well POOR! They are all paper thin veneers, just junk!

I hate paper back veneer, I dislike lacquer … and generally – great it’s ALL walnut and maple or maybe a very high end board has rosewood. Who cares – done to death already!!!???

So we did something different for a gaming table we have in progress. We’re doing solid surface boards in unique hardwoods. This example is leopard wood and pear squares with an ebony band accent and a solid walnut frame. The substrait is a high grade 3/4” birch plywood. No warp, no distortion – assembled with polyurethane adhesives this is NOT coming apart any time in our lifetimes!

We’re planning to set these up in a variety of woods, expect leopard wood and osage orange as soon as we get our wood clear of the kiln! Maybe mulberry? Pending lots of interesting combinations!

The usual of course – this gets a Waterlox finish. Satin – hand rubbed down to actually a flat look to develop a glare free playing surface.

We made a serious of boards – and I hate to admit it but I screwed up a couple of them. One you’ll see at some point, it’s a zigzag the saw was off a few degree’s and dag nabit as I flipped the strips to layout the pattern OOOPS … oh well … we have a creative use for that one later.

Another one – well it just came out off, clamps slipped that was that – stupid, entirely stupid on my part. Cutting it up to make coasters out of!

Then we finally got two perfect boards! One is going into a gaming table that’s in progress now (we’ll feature that soon – VERY COOL piece …) This board being set to fit into a previously made gaming table where we made the mistake of using a factory made board. Well, that was back in 2006 and the board has already deteriorated. We’ll never use a factory made board again in one of our gaming tables – at the time it fit within the client’s request but going forward DENIED … live and learn!

So – about five years later we decided it was time for the table to get a proper centerpiece. This is table with the old board – it will ship out probably next week and we’ll update the project with a picture of the gaming table with the NEW board as shown above!

OLD board – stay tuned for photos w/ the NEW board soon!

-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman

9 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117276 posts in 3752 days

#1 posted 01-14-2012 07:55 AM

Interesting board.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3479 days

#2 posted 01-14-2012 04:12 PM

hey there eric, i remember this piece, isnt there some hidden places and such , it fact i remember reading of this and it seems like there was a lot of fun involved…so now your getting it back and will improve it, send it back out with a new board, and let the memories keep rolling on…....i made a few boards a few years ago, made one with antique southern yellow hear far as i know , its in good condition…i gave it to my pain dr..he loved it..but i do remember this one project here..and the cabinet itself has an interesting story with it, why dont you re tell it…grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

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Eric M. Saperstein

766 posts in 3423 days

#3 posted 01-16-2012 05:01 AM

Yes this one is a sequence chest – all sorts of compartments and procedures to get it to open. We’re just making a new board, we don’t have the piece back. Hopefully it fits! – I posted the original project a few years ago. Here’s the link!

Planning to keep experimenting with different woods – the backgammon board is in progress to go with the other gaming table we have going. Finally got that to come out – first attempt we did the wood in the wrong sequence it didn’t properly contrast. Fixed it … much better now pending photos!


-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman

View Martino23's profile


17 posts in 2497 days

#4 posted 01-17-2012 11:58 AM

Vice nice chess board.

View Eric M. Saperstein's profile

Eric M. Saperstein

766 posts in 3423 days

#5 posted 01-18-2012 02:26 AM

A set of the boards in progress … “four” total good ones in our initial batch in Leopard Wood & Pear … – the fifth is going to be interesting, it’s crooked so we are making a “druken chess set” to go with it … should be unique anyway. My father is busily carving it we’ll post it when it’s completed!

We’re REALLY liking this combination of materials. The backgammon board is coming along amazingly well for the gaming table project. More to follow on that soon!

-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman

View ItIsRocketScience's profile


22 posts in 2501 days

#6 posted 01-20-2012 05:06 AM


First, GREAT looking result. My brother’s an avid chess player and I’ve long considered building him a board but I lacked some good examples. I’ll definitely be using yours as inspiration.

Your tables are all set in gaming tables, yes? I’m curious about the back—is the birch plywood exposed, or covered in a walnut veneer to match the border?

-- "Down in the arena are the doers. They make many mistakes because they attempt many things. The man who makes no mistakes lacks boldness and a spirit of adventure." -- Gen. David M. Shoup

View Eric M. Saperstein's profile

Eric M. Saperstein

766 posts in 3423 days

#7 posted 01-20-2012 05:48 AM

This board is headed for Atlanta – we previously designed and built a gaming table (the that is also a giant puzzle box) ... the original board was a factory mass produced laminated one, it delaminated. We debated about making a board then, this was back in 2006. It wasn’t in the budget at the time …

Since then as I’ve maintained a friendship with our client – and we happened to get a commission for another gaming table. This time I decided it was time we start making some high quality game boards ourselves. So this one is designed to fit into the space originally designed for the 22” square factory board.

The bottom is plywood exposed on this board, I painted it black – but since it sits within a confined space it should be fine. The board actually lifts out of the chest to expose a hidden compartment. – this one is a double solid surface board. 1/4” or so laminated by the time we sanded it down to level it is about 3/16” thick.

Give me a few minutes – posting a few shots of the board in the table. It’s actually coming together and working!

We are planning a few designs also for stand-alone setups. I think I will solid laminate the bottoms as well just to be extra formal about it. Probably in oak or walnut depending on the frame – or solid birch I have quite a bit of that around.

LOTS of gaming projects coming!

-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman

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Eric M. Saperstein

766 posts in 3423 days

#8 posted 01-20-2012 06:02 AM – Updated gaming table project blog post!

-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman

View Cbro's profile


1 post in 1782 days

#9 posted 01-01-2014 04:14 PM

I have built chess boards out of solid surface (corian material) just as nice looking and will last longer than wood. I do love the chess board though

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