Chess board on a substrate

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Forum topic by Don posted 220 days ago 561 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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488 posts in 1839 days

220 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hey folks….

I finished a chess board last year and glued it down to a 1/4” piece of plywood. The board goes through a horrible humidity reaction and 1/2 the board curls up.

I just finished another board and glues it down to a 1/2” piece of plywood and guess what….it curled again.

So, for those of you who do chess boards and perhaps glue them to a substrate, is it the plywood that’s causing the curl in the board or something else?


-- -- Don in Ottawa,

11 replies so far

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 635 days

#1 posted 220 days ago

I have a checkerboard my grandfather made by overlaying a plywood substrate and edge-banding with solid wood. It’s as nice as the day it was built and he died over 24 years ago. It could be some other problem. Are you covering both sides of the plywood with the same thickness of veneer/solids? Are you using a high-quality plywood or some exterior-grade stuff you pulled out from that pile of trash behind the garage? Are you applying a finish evenly to all six sides when you’re done? What type of glue are you using?

-- This Ad Space For Sale! Your Ad Here! Reach a targeted audience! Affordable Rates, easy financing! Contact an ad represenative today at JustJoe's Advertising Consortium.

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2544 posts in 1566 days

#2 posted 220 days ago

JustJoe has it, you need to do both sides to balance it. What is the thickness of the squares?

View Don's profile


488 posts in 1839 days

#3 posted 220 days ago

The first board was 1/2 thick Walnut and Maple on 1/4” plywood (G2S). Titebond II glue used.
Second, and most recent board was Nogal and Maple 3/4” on 1/2” plywood (G2S).

-- -- Don in Ottawa,

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2544 posts in 1566 days

#4 posted 220 days ago

The plywood won’t change dimensions but the layer of solid wood on top will likely contract causing it to curl up at the edges, especially at those thicknesses. If you could make the chess board pattern from 1/16 stock and do the bottom with 1/16 material with the grain orientation the same, I think you would eliminate the problem.

View hydro's profile


208 posts in 349 days

#5 posted 220 days ago

This is a great example of how not to design a piece of woodwork, The checkerboard is a cross grain assembly and will expand/contract along the growth rings of the pieces used to assemble the board. This dimensional change creates considerable movement and follows changes in ambient humidity. The plywood is, for the sake of argument, dimensionally stable and constrains the cross grain movement, hence the warping issue. It is an unbalanced construction.

Renners has a good idea on this but the thin cross grain pieces may crack as they shrink in the winter months while the plywood core does not. Personally, I would build the checkerboard out of thicker pieces (3/4”+) and let the entire assembly float in a frame, much like a frame and panel door.

-- Minnesota Woodworkers Guild, Past President, Lifetime member.

View Don's profile


488 posts in 1839 days

#6 posted 220 days ago

Now I just feel stupid….I was using the ply to keep it tight, to do the exact opposite of what happened!

The chess boards with the drawers were all done without a plywood layer on the bottom and I really don’t know why I added it to these boards. Maybe to have a ‘finished’ look to the bottom.

Well, at least no one got hurt….except my pride :(

-- -- Don in Ottawa,

View mrg's profile


519 posts in 1596 days

#7 posted 220 days ago

Both sides need to be veneered.

-- mrg

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2544 posts in 1566 days

#8 posted 220 days ago

Did you ever make that Darwinizm table Don? How did it turn out?

View BentheViking's profile


1746 posts in 1161 days

#9 posted 220 days ago

the double veneer is my thought too

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View RobertT's profile


66 posts in 1378 days

#10 posted 220 days ago

Don I made a chess board just like you have described. The only difference is my top veneer is only 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick. My board only has a small twist that you have to be nit picking to see.

View gfadvm's profile


10539 posts in 1287 days

#11 posted 220 days ago

I did a valet top in similar “parquet” fashion glueing the 2×2 oak squares to a 1/8” hardboard substrate. I alternated the grain direction in the squares (right angles to each other). The squares were 1/4” thick and I banded the edges with mitered Jatoba (1/2” square) and no splines. No way this should have worked but it remains flat with no cracks and the miters remain tight.

I have no explanation as to why this worked. Any guesses other than dumb luck?

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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