Turning Chess Pieces #6: Kings

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Blog entry by Chessnut posted 02-22-2008 10:47 PM 6406 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Queens Part 6 of Turning Chess Pieces series no next part

Hello again and welcome back to the chess corner! Today’s topic is turning kings for a chess set.
The height and base diameter of the king is the cornerstone for the rest of the pieces. All pieces get smaller both in height and base diameter than the king. I might do another installment on this topic and show the flow of the chess pieces in relation to one another and how to create the “feeling” this is a set and that they belong next to each other. Kings typically have a base diameter of 1.75 inches and a height of 3.75 inches. These two kings depict when I started to turn chess pieces to my latest and how it evolved to present day. King #1 on the left was turned out of a 2×4 cut in half lengthwise. The tool next to it was just a mortising chisel as I did not have hardly any tools about five years ago. I showed the lathe instructor who does retail as well and said that I’m not supposed to be able to do curves with that tool according to theory. Being my first turning ever I was encouraged to try again. My last series on chess pieces:Queens, the queen on the left was done with that same tool. The king on the right, king #2 was done with part of an old pallet laminated, I think it was rock or red maple. You can still see where the nail went through near the crown and rusted and discolored the wood. My only complaints with piece #2 is that it looks a little “Heavy” I might do another one a little trimmed down and give the base a curve somewhere to breakup the blocky look. The tool on the right was used to make king #2. Using the right tool for the job makes it faster and safer. I bought six different turning tools in a case at Busy Bee Tools for $89.00 and they work just fine. Make sure and try to buy them with “HSS” High Speed Steel, they will stay sharper longer and will produce less heat off the workpiece. Notice how the king is much better proportioned than king #1. That came from practice, patience and perseverance not to mention looking at many chess sets to see in my mind what might make the ultimate chess set for design and choice of wood. The kings crown is unique in that it does not exist like that anywhere that I have seen. It was carved three dimensional and would be my signature of identification. It’s a way to personalize your set, to put your own touch on it. So when designing your set, try to create something unique yet still identifiable. It could be your thicker rings on each piece or more of them or the stem is super thin etc. It’s one thing to copy and duplicate someone else’s work which can logistically a “knightmare” pun intended or to create your interpretation of art and beauty. When duplicating your own pieces, don’t worry if they are not exactly the same, it might even add character to the set, people can look and see that these were not done on a CNC machine or mass produced anywhere but in the home. I hope you enjoyed this and happy turning, please ask if you have any questions.To this day I have never taken a lesson on wood turning or carving so don’t worry too much about starting off, however for at least safety sake maybe get a hold of a couple of books on wood turning either from the local library or bookstore to at least give you the gist of the do’s and don’ts.

-- Mike, Airdrie Alberta

6 comments so far

View Grumpy's profile


26811 posts in 5305 days

#1 posted 02-23-2008 07:44 AM

Great looking pieces chessnut. What is left now?.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Mario's profile


907 posts in 5506 days

#2 posted 02-24-2008 11:49 PM

nice work, you are doing an exelent job and I look forward to seeing them together on a board.

-- Hope Never fails

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5615 days

#3 posted 02-25-2008 01:48 PM

the intricate work on these .. don’t think I’d have the patience or the steady hand!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View snowdog's profile


1184 posts in 5437 days

#4 posted 01-04-2009 03:37 PM

I just found these posts. Great job. NOw let me see if there is a way to add the series to my watch list :) thanks for posting these.

-- "so much to learn and so little time"..

View damaynard's profile


1 post in 4785 days

#5 posted 04-13-2009 04:27 AM

Have you looked into the mystery of single / double and triple weighting?

i can’t seem to find any consistant information on what this exactly means.

View Chessnut's profile


24 posts in 5219 days

#6 posted 12-06-2014 04:07 AM

Triple weighted used to refer to the three lead discs that Drueke used to place in the bases of some of their sets. Other sets used two discs. Over time the term got used by other piece makers/sellers to just mean heavy. You can even find “quadruple-weighted” sets now for that matter. In the end you’ll have to get a reliable weighing or actuallly heft them in person to know if they qualify as heavy or not since we can’t trust the hype. I myself if I was making an ebony chess set I would use either brass key filings or powdered tungsten to weigh the bases and to make them heavy as possible, usually a sign of quality. The problem with solid filled bases is changes in humidity will usually result in cracking along the bases and the weights have a tendency to fall out.

-- Mike, Airdrie Alberta

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