Chessboard help

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by live4ever posted 05-31-2011 10:51 PM 1887 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3010 days

05-31-2011 10:51 PM

Topic tags/keywords: chessboard veneer question

I’m going to be starting my first chessboard and wondering the best way to go about it.

I was planning on facegrain squares and a mitered frame around the squares, with a drawer unit underneath (which is mostly irrelevant for my question). The usual cutting board approach won’t work because I’d just be gluing endgrain, but perhaps with biscuits for the endgrain strips? However, a recent FWW article on chessboards strongly suggests using veneer for the squares on top of a suitable substrate over all alternatives.

How have you done it? What would you recommend? Thanks!

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

11 replies so far

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2656 posts in 2922 days

#1 posted 06-01-2011 03:09 AM

I have made three of them inclucing the drawers underneath. There are a few blogs that cover making the checkerboard part. A search should find them for you. I make the squares of 3/8” stock and glue to 1/2” ply and add border. Basicly I cut strips and glue them up , then cut them the other way and reassemble with the required offset to make the chekerboaard pattern.

-- Website is No PHD just a DD214 and a GED

View JasonIndy's profile


187 posts in 3435 days

#2 posted 06-01-2011 04:24 PM

Another idea I’ve seen (but haven’t tried, by way of full disclosure) is using dowels to join the pieces. Space them 1/16” or so apart to compensate for movement and put them on top of a plywood substrate. It gives it more of a raised look as opposed to what I think you’d end up with using veneer. Using a drill press for the dowels ensures the spacing and height will be perfect for all the squares.

View fernandoindia's profile


1081 posts in 2943 days

#3 posted 06-01-2011 06:15 PM

I’ve done acouple of them. Following same Jim’s above guidelines.

I strongly recommend Steve in Marins youtube video on making a chessboard. Those were the firsts hollywood like appearances of Steve. The 7 part video is a must since he covers all the aspects of such building. From the rough lumbeer to the finishing. I’l tell you that this was my first woodworking project. I blog my firsyt steps depicturing the first chessboard in this blog

I tried a 1/16th veneering type, which is still in progress. So far I found more simple the making of the board as Steve explains, for a board that size.

My other 2 chessboards are in my projects page.

Take care

-- Back home. Fernando

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3010 days

#4 posted 06-01-2011 09:42 PM

Thanks guys, that was helpful. I’ve made many cutting boards but my concern here was the wood movement and endgrain glueup. Sounds like using 3/8” squares glued to each other and a stable substrate should be ok.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View MrRon's profile


4770 posts in 3243 days

#5 posted 06-02-2011 09:09 PM

Glue alternate strips of a contrasting wood edge to edge. After it’s dry, rip strips 90° to the glue lines. Now flip each alternate strip end for end and glue it up.

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 2552 days

#6 posted 06-03-2011 03:28 AM

I made a chessboard in HS, and two similar types of boards since. None have been perfect, but I can honestly say the veneer style boards are far easier, and more practical.

First of all, boards are meant to be, for the most part, lightweight (easy to move to a table, unless the board is the table, easy to adjust for a better view, and easy enough to put away… Unless you’re building a piece of decor and not a used board, which in that case, I often feel one should build a piece of decor rather than a game, though to each their own), easy to use, typically get very minimal wear (you typically aren’t using them as cutting boards, or to pound in nails. It isn’t supposed to be fido’s chew toy, and your pieces probably aren’t going to have sandpaper bottoms).

Because of all this, veneer is a great way to take care of all these needs without the headaches of using blocks. Regardless of veneer or blocks, you’re still going to need a substrate or bottom to build upon. The wood is still going to move, veneer or block, though my experience has taught me veneer, properly adhered and finished, isn’t really as mobile as blocks. And, unless you want end grain to show, you’re going to be gluing either face to face or side to face (dependent upon the veneer). The veneer typically will give you more bang for your buck, as you can get a variety of interesting figures, typically at a lower cost, and even a bigger variety of materials (such as shell).

I also found the ease of cutting veneer to be of benefit when trying to get perfect squares… Which is to be honest, where most of my boards have failed. (though, to be honest, my first attempt in HS was to create individual tiles, and didn’t take into account the problem with the accumulation of errors).

The other reason I prefer veneer for this particular application is that blocks end up making boards thicker (I also only use about 1/4” thick 15×15 plywood squares I get from casey’s wood supply, more on that in a sec.) which means more weight, and less mobility. Sometimes a chess game is nice at a coffee shop for example, or perhaps I might want to display my board on my desk, but play in my living room. It just makes it more user friendly.

I also suggest a plywood substrate, regardless of tiles or veneer. Plywood is not an evil thing. Plywood is resistant to warping, buckling, cupping, and other movement type issues regular wood has, with a bit more strength from the crossgrain pattern, all of which will benefit your board.

View steviep's profile


233 posts in 2647 days

#7 posted 06-03-2011 02:35 PM

i suggest you do a search of David Marks on u-tube. he lays out directions for a vaneered chess board that I did and it turned out great. Good Luck.

-- StevieP ~ Micheal Tompkins - you were not here on earth long but left a giant mark on us. RIP Brother

View ghazard's profile


382 posts in 3509 days

#8 posted 06-20-2011 05:40 PM

I realize this discussion is a few weeks old but thought I’s pipe up anyway. When wanting to make a chess board I had an adverse reaction to building it the traditional way of laying up a face grain “cuttingboard”, crosscutting strips, alternating every other then regluing. Probably because I don’t have a great table saw or sled and the crosscuts and cleanup of the strips that would be needed seemed like alot of work…I don’t know.

So I did it a little differently. And as I probably should have guessed…it was alot of work also. But I am glad I took this route…I was very please with the finished product.
After 440+ days, I have had no issue with expansion of the base wood, in my case pauduk.

That’s my 2 cents. Good luck on the project.


-- "Hey, you dang woodchucks! Quit chuckin' my wood!"

View WoodShopGirl5's profile


14 posts in 2525 days

#9 posted 06-27-2011 10:41 PM

This is the one i did. It has a drawer underneath with individual compartments for each piece.

View WoodShopGirl5's profile


14 posts in 2525 days

#10 posted 06-27-2011 10:42 PM

View Tootles's profile


808 posts in 2502 days

#11 posted 07-21-2011 03:49 PM

I did a chess board 25 years ago using the method Jim Finn described above. It was glued with PVA glue, clamed with three sash cramps (2 below, one above to stop bucking). No biscuits, dowels, tongue & groove, nothing. The chess board is still perfect.

Interestingly, I also put on a mitred frame around the edge, and that has recently broken the glue (not sure yet how I’m going to fix that).

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics