Chess pieces and board #1: Pawns and working out the kinks

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Blog entry by Luke posted 01-11-2014 04:14 AM 9600 reads 2 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Chess pieces and board series Part 2: How to turn a pawn chess piece »

I decided to make a 4.75” chess set and board. I knew it would take a while and it has taken me about 30 minutes per pawn to turn them not including 5 coats of wipe on poly with dry time between. So far I’ve turned all of the white pawns, which are curly maple. This is the first one I turned and it’s looking pretty rough, but I’ve gotten much better since I started.

It all started with these turning templates that I made. I found the design for the pieces on the web somewhere and really liked the simple turning yet complex look that they will create. I am a bit nervous about the knight but I have a plan and feel with some practice/jigs I can get them looking correct and uniform. I added the white lines to the actual photo on my computer and printed them out then glued them to 1/4” plywood for longevity. Especially the pawn template will get tossed around quite a bit and needs to last through 16 of them.

When I first started to turn the pawns I just chucked up the piece of maple and started turning it down with the base towards the tail stock. I did the entire turning, including drilling the hole in the bottom for the weights with a forstener bit, without moving the chunk of wood. This proved difficult to keep the wood from wobbling and parting off the end was also a challenge.

So I decided to make a jig that would allow me to first chuck the rough wood and drill the hole in the bottom and part it flat. Then that gets inserted over a tenon turned on the jig and screwed in from below right through and into the bottom of the piece. Then I marked the jig for alignment with the numbers on the chuck so it would come out centered and round the same every time. This jig saved on wood considerably which makes a big difference on my darks – ro$ewood. I didn’t have to account for the waste that went into the chuck.

Once turned it was on to 5 coats of wipe on semi-gloss poly per piece which takes about 4 days total. I could make a system to do this part faster off of the lathe but I hardly get time to turn anyways so I just run out to the shop every day and put on another coat while it’s still mounted on the lathe. So as it is I’m finishing at most 1 piece every 5 days or so but I’ve actually been working on them for a couple of months now.

The next step is the weights to give them that heavy quality feel. I toyed with the idea of buying washers, lead weight melts, lead shot mixed with silicone, bb’s and silicone or some other method. Everything seemed difficult and way more costly than what I ended up with. They will be hidden by felt and eight of these comes out to a really nice weight. Just an FYI, you can drill a hole in one of these and you have a washer that costs a penny. Currently at home centers the same sized washer runs about 7-10 times that amount. No wonder we have problems… This may not be legal…

Here is a pic of the dark wood I bought from Carlton McClendon down in Atlanta GA. It came covered in wax so I scraped that off. What a mess but the wood is Really nice. Also a pic of the first dark pawn I made just today. This rosewood turns like butter and it’s just about, if not more oily, than cocobolo.

Anyways, more to come.
Just a quick preview of the board I think I’m going to make. I will most likely be doing a veneered board. It needs to have 2.25” squares to fit my pieces.

-- LAS,

5 comments so far

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 2973 days

#1 posted 01-11-2014 05:19 AM

That is extremely nice. Very well done!

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View sras's profile


6520 posts in 4471 days

#2 posted 01-11-2014 01:37 PM

You’re off to a great start! I’m already looking forward to the next posting.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3827 days

#3 posted 01-11-2014 04:51 PM

That board’s going to be enormous! This looks like it’ll be fun to follow.

-- Brian Timmons -

View oldnovice's profile


7769 posts in 4710 days

#4 posted 01-11-2014 11:44 PM

Gorgeous looking classic set and a good choice of colors/wood!

-- "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -- Aldous Huxley

View Joe's profile


581 posts in 2429 days

#5 posted 06-25-2021 07:26 PM

What a great tutorial on the pawn. Your photography adds so much to showing your skill. Going to give it a try soon. Will be going over all your pieces in detail. Thanks for doing such a great job and thanks for sharing, Joe

-- CurleyJoe, "You only learn from your mistakes"

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