How to Build Yard Chess Sets

Written by jordan gaither
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How to Build Yard Chess Sets
Yard chess is a party favourite. (playing chess image by Ivonne Wierink from

Chess played outdoors with giant pieces on a giant board, or "yard" chess, is a fun and funny take on the classical thinking-man's game. It also enables players to see the game from a completely new angle: standing on the board itself! You don't have to shell out all kinds of money for a professional yard-chess set; you can build your own from scrap materials and basic tools.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 8-foot by 8-foot square of plywood
  • Regular-sized chess board and pieces
  • Ruler
  • Black duct tape
  • Black & white spray paint
  • 32 pieces of 1-foot high styrofoam
  • Serrated knife
  • 64 6-inch bolts

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  1. 1

    Lay your square of plywood down outside (or in another well ventilated work area).

  2. 2

    Measure out 1-foot increments to divide the board into 64 separate squares, as seen on your reference chess board.

  3. 3

    Spray paint the squares alternating from white to black, starting with a white square on the bottom right-hand side of the board you're facing. See the chess board for the scheme.

  4. 4

    Cut the blocks of styrofoam to correspond to the shapes of the chess pieces they represent: 16 pawns, four bishops, four rooks, four knights, two queens and two kings. You can get styrofoam large enough en masse from electronics stores, furniture dealers, and anyone else dealing in large stock that needs to be carefully cushioned.

  5. 5

    Cut the bottom of each chess piece flat and even with the ground.

  6. 6

    Cut a 1-foot-square panel of foam about 3 inches wide for each chess piece. Drive two bolts per piece through the bottom of the foam block and up into the bottom of the chess piece, locking them in place and providing a sturdy resting surface.

  7. 7

    Spray paint one set of chessmen (eight pawns, two bishops, two rooks, two knights, one queen and one king) black, and the other set white. Allow your paint to dry thoroughly.

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