How to Carve a Chess Set

Written by frank luger Google
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How to Carve a Chess Set
Carving a chess set gives you the opportunity to personalise it. (chess image by Andrii IURLOV from

Chess has been played for hundreds of years, and there are hundreds of different styles of chess sets. The Staunton chess set (see References) typifies standard design, but carving your own set gives you the opportunity to personalise it and make it unique. Chess pieces (or men) can be carved from many materials, including ebony, ivory, soapstone, boxwood, rosewood, sandalwood and bone. This inexpensive starter project uses dowel rod but may inspire you to try more expensive raw materials in the future.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Dowel rod
  • Vice
  • Saw
  • Chisels
  • Sandpaper
  • Black gloss paint
  • White gloss paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Goggles

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  1. 1

    Design pieces on paper, personalising them if you wish with initials, family crests etc. Designs should incorporate bases for stability, the same width as the dowel rod. For a traditional set, you will need six designs and the usual height order is king, queen, bishop, knight, rook (or castle) and pawn.

  2. 2

    Cut out paper designs with scissors. These will be your templates. Measure height of each.

  3. 3

    Mark off dowel rod into 32 sections equal to the height of each piece. You will need two kings, two queens, four bishops, four rooks (or castles), four knights and 16 pawns.

    How to Carve a Chess Set
    Simple designs can be effective and easier to carve. (chess image by Maciej Mamro from
  4. 4

    Saw dowel rod into 32 wooden blanks.

  5. 5

    Transfer designs onto wooden blanks using templates.

  6. 6

    Carve pieces with chisels, holding each piece in vice as you work. Remove small amounts at a time to avoid damaging pieces. Finish with sandpaper.

    How to Carve a Chess Set
    Fine sandpaper will give a finer surface. (sandpapier image by Thomas Aumann from
  7. 7

    Paint one king, one queen, two bishops, two knights, two rooks (or castles) and eight pawns with white gloss paint and the remaining pieces with black gloss paint. Allow to dry. Give pieces two coats of paint if necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • A 2400mm dowel rod should be long enough for all 32 pieces.
  • You can use different coloured paints rather than black and white.
  • Try square edge wood instead of dowel rod.
  • For a fun design, use a theme, e.g., cartoon characters.
  • Keep fingers behind the cutting edge of the saw or chisel at all times.
  • Wear goggles to protect eyes from splinters when carving.

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