Greg’s Chess Set

Viewer Project - By Greg J from Cape Town, South Africa
Added on October 6, 2013

I have been an enthusiastic chess player all my life, and over the last eight years or so, have been trying to build up my woodworking skills (and tools!). This year I managed to put the two together and built this chess set and board as a present for my long time playing adversary’s 40th birthday!

We have played on many varied chess sets in the past, and had many discussions and arguments over what pieces are the best to play with, with regard to size, look and feel, and style in general. So armed with this knowledge, I came up with a design that I hope is original, but still falls into the Staunton style of chess piece that is readily identifiable.

There are definite sizes and ratios that should be adhered to with chess pieces, if the set is to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. So the challenge, like with furniture, is to try and keep to these and be creative at the same time!

The design of the pieces is angular with straight clean lines, with the angles of the bases, bodies and heads of the various pieces being the same. There are no curved parts, except for the queens’ crown which have curves to add a slight feminine touch. :)

The pieces were turned on a Proxxon mini lathe and the knights and crowns carved by hand. The black pieces and squares of the board are made from Purple Heart and the white from European Beech. The kings are approximately 100mm (4″) high with a 38mm (1 1/2″) diameter base. The bottoms of the pieces are lead weighted with a felt lining.

The sides of the box/board are made of curly maple. I tried to keep to the angular theme with the box as well, with the straight lines and 45 degree chamfers in the sides. A nice feature is that where the lid and the base of the box meet, both have the 45 degree chamfer inwards, which 1) defines the two parts; 2) gives your fingers a place to purchase when opening; and 3) hides any misalignment where the two parts meet. The inside is lined with felt. If I had more time before the birthday date rushed up on me, I would have made individual compartments for the pieces!

My friend likes the set a lot and my wife is cross with me that I spent so much time on it and then gave it away. But my friend has promised we will play a lot of chess using this set and I have promised my wife I will build another one to keep in the family, so hopefully everyone is a winner in the end.

Thanks for a great site, Marc. I look forward to many years as part of the Wood Whisperer community!