Chess Set

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Project by Chris Wright posted 01-20-2010 09:50 PM 4845 views 22 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my first attempt at a chess set that wasn’t a kit. I based the design off of the duplicator templates that are available through PSI, though I didn’t use a duplicator for these pieces. They are made from Walnut and Hard Maple. They are a little less than an inch and quarter in diameter and range from about an inch and a half tall for the pawns to three and a half inches tall for the king.

To assist in the repetition, which is always the most difficult part of making a chess set, I used a technique that I read about in the September/October 1990 issue of American Woodworker. In the article, wood turner Rude Osolnik describes how he makes custom scrapers to cut the bases and tops of the different pieces and uses a gouge or skew to finish off the shape. His pieces have a very modern style to them where I chose to go with a more traditional style on mine. Making the cutters is pretty ease, just very time consuming if you’re using high speed steal like I did. The last photo is of the cutters I made. I used an old planer knife and cut it into about 10 inch lengths. So I didn’t have to make 6 different tools, I decided to grind a different cutter on both ends of each piece and made a handle with a slot in it to hold them snuggly while I turned.

For the knights I left the top square and did a compound cut on the bandsaw using the knight pattern from PSI.

It takes some work to get the results you like, but once I figured out the optimum position for the cutter to reduce chatter, I went from about 50 minutes apiece from start to finish to about 30 minutes per piece.

This was fun, and now that I’ve got the hang of it, I’ll try making a different set of cutters for a more modern style set like Rude’s.

Here’s a link to the article if you’d like to read it yourself:

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

10 comments so far

View WistysWoodWorkingWonders's profile


12837 posts in 4277 days

#1 posted 01-20-2010 10:26 PM

very nice looking chess set… well done…

-- New Project = New Tool... it's just the way it is, don't fight it... :)

View MShort's profile


1798 posts in 4539 days

#2 posted 01-20-2010 10:36 PM

Great looking chess set. I have always wanted to try and make on but have not. Thanks for sharing how you did this. I might give it a try.

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View a1Jim's profile


118162 posts in 4698 days

#3 posted 01-20-2010 10:48 PM

View ohwoodeye's profile


2643 posts in 4274 days

#4 posted 01-20-2010 10:52 PM

These look really, really nice. I feel compelled to try this now. For some reason your pictures and designs make this look like a really fun project…..turn a few pieces at you liesure… pressure, no time constraints…....turn one a day or one a month…..just have fun turning wood and when you are done, you have a useful handmade chess set. How cool.
Thanks for posting.

-- "Fine Woodworking" is the name given to a project that takes 3 times longer than normal to finish because you used hand tools instead of power tools. ----Mike, Waukesha, WI

View Loucarb's profile


2388 posts in 4566 days

#5 posted 01-20-2010 11:42 PM

Fantastic craftsmanship. Well done & thank you for the link.

View dustbunny's profile


1149 posts in 4416 days

#6 posted 01-21-2010 12:59 AM

This is fantastic and innovative.
I’ll bet the pieces will take you even less time the more you do.
Looks like it was well worth your effort !!
AWESOME job : )


-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~

View kweenbee's profile


40 posts in 4332 days

#7 posted 01-21-2010 08:06 AM

Outstanding, simply outstanding.
To craft your own tools then use those tools to turn out a beautiful set,
truly inspiring.
Thanks for the “tutorial” and the great link.
I have been thinking of making a set in the 8 to 12 inch range.
The tools you have crafted certainly could be scaled up.
Thanks for sharing.

-- "The Artful Bodger"

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 4319 days

#8 posted 01-21-2010 01:14 PM

Stunning, great job, thanks for all the information and details.

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 4908 days

#9 posted 01-22-2010 10:19 PM

Nice job. I really like the subtle differences between pieces that lets the discerning eye know if wasn’t done on a duplicator. Great idea of making custom tools too.

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

View waters's profile


369 posts in 4466 days

#10 posted 03-15-2010 02:59 AM

Wow! Amazing work, i really like the knight! I’ve tried chess sets every year since I got my lathe, truly a task :) Hope to have something turn out 1/2 as well as this set one of these years. The cutting head idea is interesting.

-- Dale, Oregon

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