When it comes to creating chess pieces, manufacturers have only three material options: plastic, wood and stone. Plastic is the cheapest material in both looks and durability, while wood chess pieces last longer and are reasonably priced. Stone chess pieces are more resistant to scratches from normal use than either wood or plastic. Stone chess pieces are also more valuable due to the type of stones manufacturers use. You can circumvent the cost of purchasing a stone chess set by carving your own. You’ll be creating a unique, long-lasting heirloom when you make your own stone chess pieces.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- 16 pieces of one type of stone
- 16 pieces of a different type of stone
- Hammer and chisel
- Fine cut rasp
- Miniature rasp
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Images of chess pieces for reference
Select the types of stone you plan to use for your pieces. Softer stones are easier to mould and shape but more prone to shatter if you drop them. Marble is soft enough for chiselling and has a fairly high resistance to shattering. Onyx stones will give your pieces a unique look with their stripes. You can change the colour of alabaster stones easily due to their porous nature, but alabaster is extremely fragile.
Using the chess piece images as a model, remove larger sections of stone with the hammer and chisel to create each piece’s general shape. The king and queen are the tallest pieces, while the pawn is the shortest piece. The knight, bishop and rook are all generally the same height.
Add detail with the rasps. Use the fine cut rasp to refine the contour of each piece, and add detail with the miniature rasp. The king should have a crown on top, while the queen has ridges running along the top edge. Fashion the knight to look like a horse by carving out eyes and other musculature. The bishop has a rounded diamond shape on top with a deep groove carved into it. Mold the rook to resemble a castle turret.
Sand the pieces with fine-grit sandpaper to remove rough edges. Sanding the pieces will remove chisel and rasp marks and give the chess piece a more polished appearance. An expert suggests placing the chess piece under water while sanding to remove the sheared-off dust particles.
Tips and warnings
- Wear proper safety gear such as safety goggles, gloves and dust mask when carving stone.
- Be careful when chiselling stone to not remove too much. Once stone has been removed, there is no way to replace it.
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