Building Chess And Checker Sets

Several ideas on making handcrafted wooden chess and checker boards, and the game pieces.

Chess and checkers are very popular traditional games. While sets can range anywhere from basic inexpensive sets to very fancy, more expensive sets, hand made chess and checker sets can become family heirlooms. Of course here again, these can be as plain, or fancy as you would like. I am going to give you some basic ideas on which you can expand to make a chess or checker set that your family and friends will enjoy for years to come.

The Boards- of course this is probably the easiest part of making your chess or checker set. And of course here again there are a multitude of ways to make this most important piece of your set. This board can be used for both sets.

You will first need to start with a board that is at least 12 ½ x 12 ½ inches in diameter. Here again, this can be as simple or complicated as you wish, from a piece of plywood or pine, or you can make your board from oak or cherry. There are two ways in which I am going to suggest making your squares. First mark a grid out on your board using a pencil and a ruler, make 1 ½ inch squares. You will need make eight rows of eight squares each. Now using a light and a dark paint, paint your squares in alternating colors. I would suggest black and white here, or even leave the white squares the natural wood, then stain your entire board when finished.

You could also use a stencil method here. Make or purchase a stencil that is marked off in 1 ½ inch squares. Using a stencil painting technic, stencil your squares onto the board. Again you can stencil both the light and dark squares, or leave the light squares plain wood and stain.

If you have happened to use a thin board or plywood to make your board, this can also be placed inside a purchased picture frame. Making for a much fancier game board. If need be, purchase a large frame, measure the interior size of the frame, and make your board that size. Just center your 12 ½ x 12 ½ playing area in the center of the board. You can make fancy designs around the edges of the board along the frame.

It is best to seal your board with several coats of varnish or other sealer.

Now that you have completed your board it is time to make your playing pieces.

The Checker Set- We are going to start with the checker set. If you have a craft shop nearby that has small wooden pieces, I would suggest purchasing wooden plugs or buttons to make your checker pieces. If this is not something available in your area you can purchase a fairly large diameter dowel rod, and cut slices from it. You can make these slices anywhere from ½ inch to 1 inch thick. You will need at least 24 of these slices or the purchased wooden items. Simply paint 12 of these items one color and 12 another color. Basic checkers are generally red and black, but of course you can paint these in any color to coordinate your board or even a room in which your game will be played.

The Chess Set- These pieces are going to be a bit more complicated and you will need to be able to have access to purchased wooden pieces. If there is not a local craft shop in your area that carries these items, do check with some online craft shops. These pieces are not very expensive, particularly if purchasing in bulk. Here is what you will need for 1 chess set;



2 - 1 3/4 inch knobs

20 - 3/4 inch balls

16 - 1 inch candle cups

10 - 5/8 inch candle cups

4 - 1 inch cubes

16 - 3/4 inch cubes

4 - 5/8 inch barrels

4 - 2 inch candlesticks

20 - 2 inch doll pin stands

22- 1 1/4 inch head beads

4 - 1 3/16 x 7/8 inch spools

28 - 1 5/8 inch candle cups

12 - 2 ½ x 1 1/4 inch milk cans

8 - 3 inch milk cans with lids

Paint in what ever colors you choose, remember you will need to paint half of the completed pieces a light color, and half a dark color

Hot glue gun

Pawns- You will need to make sixteen of these. Take the 1 5/8 inch candle cups, top each with a doll pin stand, glue in place. Top each of the pin stands with a 3/4 inch cube, then a 1 1/4 inch head bead.

Rooks- You will need four. Using the 2 1/2 inch milk can, top these with a 1 inch candle cup.. Next add a 1 1/4 inch head bead, a 1 inch candle cup (upside down), another 1 inch candle cup (right side up), and a 3/4 inch ball on the top.

Castles- You will need to make four of these. Starting with a 3 inch milk can with a lid, top this with a 1 inch cube. To each of two opposite corners of the cube add a 5/8 inch candle cup. On the top of each candle cup glue a 3/4 inch ball.

Knights- To make four knights you will need to use the1 5/8 inch candle cups, on the top of this glue the 2 inch candle stick, add a 1 inch candle cup, a second 1 inch candle cup (upside down) and a 3/4 inch ball.

Queen- You will need two of these. Using a spool top this with a 1 inch candle cup, then a 1 1/4 inch head bead, then a doll pin stand, a second 1 1/4 inch bead head, a 5/8 inch candle cup and lastly a 3/4 inch ball.

King- Again you will need two. Use a spool, to this with a 1 inch candle cup, the 1 3/4 inch knob, a 5/8 inch candle cup (upside down) then a 1 1/4 inch bead head, another 5/8 inch candle cup, then last a 3/4 inch ball.

Again you will need to use some type of sealer on these game pieces. A spray sealer would probably be easiest to use here. Just follow the instructions on the spray can.

Once all of your pieces are assembled it is time to have a little fun with painting your game pieces. While you need to paint each set a specific color, they will still need to be painted similarly. With all of the interesting shapes that you have assembled, you should have a variety of ideas. Many of these game pieces will have a place to actually paint a face area. Use stripes, dots and other designs to detail your game pieces.

Have fun making and designing your own hand crafted chess and checker sets.

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