I usually just finish the chess pieces one at a time. I wanted to be able to get a good smooth finish on them like you do on the lathe but still be able to turn another piece without having to wait for them to dry in between coats.
This is what I came up with. I drilled a 1/4” hole into 3/4” dowel and inserted a 1/4” dowel to chuck in the drill. I drilled a 3/4” hole in the holder and used a round file to ream it out so there is enough play to let it spin freely. After finishing, the dowels just fit in my bench dog holes until I’m ready for the next coat. I made several dowels so I can do a few at a time. A great time saver. Find the link to the video below.
-- LAS, http://www.abettersign.com