How to Carve Chess Pieces

Written by ehow hobbies, games & toys editor
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Carving your own chess pieces can be rewarding. After all, what can be better than playing the game you love with the pieces you've made? Most chess sets sold today use a wood turner to make the symbolic pieces. Yet, other chess sets are made up of pieces that resemble the people they represent. If you're up for the task, here's how you can carve chess pieces.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Pencil and paper
  • Chess piece designs
  • Bench knife
  • V-gouge knife
  • 32 four-and-one-fourth inch by two inch by two inch blocks of wood
  • Coarse grit sandpaper
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Hand saw (optional)
  • Wood stain (optional)

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    Plan Out Your Chess Pieces

  1. 1

    Make a list of all of the chess pieces you will need to make. In chess, each player uses one king, one queen, two bishops, two knights, two rooks and eight pawns.

  2. 2

    Write down how big each piece should be. The height of the pieces gets taller as its importance increases. So the king, is always the tallest piece, between three-and-three-fourths inches and four inches tall. The king's base is about half as long as his height. Each other piece will be smaller. The smallest piece is the pawn, which is about half the height of the king. Decide the dimensions of each piece and write it down on your list.

  3. 3

    Decide how you would like your pieces to look. You can make a themed set that resembles characters from a favorite book or TV show. Or you can choose to make pieces that look more rounded, like a set you might buy in a store today. Find plans or blueprints or make your own chess piece designs.

  4. 4

    Pick a wood you would like to use. Basswood, butternut and pine are considered to be easy woods to carve, and if you are a beginner, you might want to start with these. Woods that are in the middle to hard range include mahogany, walnut and cherry woods. Try carving small pieces out of these woods to help you decide which to use.

  5. 5

    Buy enough wood to complete your project. Here's how you can figure out how much you need. Your king is your largest piece, but if you make a mistake on your king you can always carve him down to a smaller piece, such as a pawn. So, at the most, you will need 32 pieces of wood, each a little bigger than your king, 4 inches tall with a 2 inch base.

    Carve Your Chess Pieces

  1. 1

    Take a piece of wood that is slightly bigger than four inches tall with a two inch base. If necessary, use a hand saw to cut a large piece of wood down before you begin carving.

  2. 2

    Use your v-gouge carving knife to carve away large parts of your wood block. Keep using your v-gouge until you have a piece roughly in the shape of your king.

  3. 3

    Sand with coarse grit sandpaper to wear down your wood a little more before you carve the details of your king.

  4. 4

    Utilize your bench knife and finish carving the king. With a bench knife you can add small details in your king.

  5. 5

    Smooth out the rough spots on your king once it is completely carved using a fine grit sandpaper. Keep sanding until the wood has a smooth, finished feeling.

  6. 6

    Repeat Steps 1 through 5 until you have carved all of your pieces.

Tips and warnings

  • Always begin by trying to carve your king. If you make a mistake, you can always carve down to a smaller piece.
  • Once all of your pieces are carved, consider staining one set. This way, you will have one light-colored set and one dark-colored set. That's enough for a match.

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