• We invite you to join UKWorkshop.
    Members can turn off viewing Ads!

Chessboard (& set)

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

GCS-Creations

Member
Joined
7 May 2018
Messages
11
Reaction score
0
Location
Bern, CH
Hello everyone,

First off as a warning - there probably will be a lot of questions from my side. And by the looks of it a slightly unstructured opening post.
__

I somehow got the idea that I need to make a chessboard and figures as a present. No fixed date, but I suppose if I'd manage to get it done decently by Christmas I wouldn't have to think about another present to give then!
Downside about that is, the longer I think about it the more complicated the design gets.
Mandatory disclaimer: I don't really have much experience at all working with wood..

I have watched a few videos of people making end grain chessboards. It looks simple enough. Take square stock, 4 pale, 4 dark, glue together alternatingly, saw to desired thickness, rotate every second bar, glue again and stick it on some plywood.
Soundseasy. I thought I'd have a go with some affordable DIY-store spruce and messed up the first glueing part, despite clamping it to a flat surface. Yay.
I'll definitely be making more spruce prototypes...

I'm currently concerned by the frame for the board.

Tools I've got:

  • Moulding plane for top edge
  • Bead for round the bottom
  • Rebate plane to create the groove to drop the playing surface into.
What I need:
  • Matching Tongue & groove planes, pretty small size, probably ~1/8" - no idea how easy this is to come by.

I'd like to insert the „floor“ into the frame as per my drawing, hoping that I can get around using any kind of splines at the corners. Thoughts?
Here's my drawing since this probably explains it better than my words below:

Chessboard techdraw.jpeg


The idea is to be able to remove the playing surface and insert a different game (if I make another, Mill might be fun), also providing a little storage spage for a score card or such.
For this I thought I'd run some felt around the rebate in the frame and „clamp“ the plywood down with four brass countersunk „screws/dowels“ with an offset head to hook to the plywood.
As I said at the start, the longer I think about things the more complicated they get.

The wood I've ordered is:
American Walnut & Maple for the chequer pattern.
Fumed Acacia & Olive for the figures.
The frame is to be decided on when I've got the other wood at home. Also my moulding plane honing skills probably will also have a word to say regarding the hardness of the wood chosen. But I think I'd prefer something reddish. Open to suggestions!

I'm unsure as to what tools I still need to get. I enjoy hand tools a lot more than power tools and my budget dictates more rudimentary ones.

Currently on my shopping list:
- Non skewed rebate plane, my skewed one is a 'bit' hard to keep straight when starting. (I hope that's not just me!), though maybe I can build a fence. Alternatively I could get hold of a router, but I'd rather not. :)
- 1/8 Tongue & groove plane

Anything else I'll need that's obvious and I haven't thought of?
Any special saws?

Probably sounds a bit over the top for a beginner. But my brain never really did „easy“.
Funnily enough I'm more concerned about getting everything square than turning the figures, though carving the knights probably will be tricky..

I'm very much looking forward to hearing thoughts, suggestions & hints.
Cheers,
Geoffrey
 

billw

The Tattooed One
UKW Supporter
Joined
26 Apr 2009
Messages
1,690
Reaction score
857
Location
Sutton Coldfield, UK
As a fellow beginner I can honestly say I'd never attempt to make a chessboard because the exacting nature of the requirement to get stuff absolutely square would haunt me. The problem with watching Youtube videos is that the people presenting them are generally well-skilled and make everything look easy because they've been doing it for 20 years ;)

American cherry might make a nice middle ground for the frame as it is relatively easy to work, when you say "reddish" I presume you mean reddish-brown rather than something more striking such as padauk (which fades to brown anyway).

I hope you keep us updated with a project thread!
 

MikeG.

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2008
Messages
10,158
Reaction score
661
Location
Essex/ Suffolk border
Right.........ready for some bluntness? :) A newcomer is NEVER going to make a decent job of making a chessboard. It takes quite a lot of skill (I mean, an awful lot of skill and experience) to do it by hand, or it takes some big bits of expensive machinery to do it by machine. Your complicated design doesn't seem to account for wood movement, either........and how are you going to mitre the corners? This is just not a beginner or even intermediate project, and your results will show that. I'll be amazed if you could even plane the mouldings nicely, because it's damned difficult.

If I were you I'd do your basics first, learn some skills, realise that this hobby isn't completely straightforward, and spend a while getting good enough to tackle this project. The 32 pieces, though, are another thing altogether. Sharpen up a pen knife and start whittling. You'll soon be good enough to make presentable chessmen. Buy a board, put the chessmen in a box, and you've got a nice xmas present for someone. In fact, make the box. That's a pretty decent test of basic woodworking skills.
 

Bm101

Lean into the Curve
Joined
19 Aug 2015
Messages
4,207
Reaction score
583
Location
Herts.
Mike sounds blunt till you try real wood work then you go. Ok, Fair point. Why did no one tell me before I wasted my time? Sorry for being negative.
 

GCS-Creations

Member
Joined
7 May 2018
Messages
11
Reaction score
0
Location
Bern, CH
Don't worry about sounding negative or not, I've been told a lot and, yes, people are (usually) right. However I'll be way less unhappy if I try and fail than if I don't try. :)
A few years ago I got it into my head that I wanted to start making kitless acrylic fountain pens on a previously badly maintained lathe with a 14cm bed with no prior knowledge of turning or even operating a lathe. Was told it'd never work, but after four or five tries I got some respectable results and I'm very happy that I wasn't put off by the comments at the start. Of course it can't always go like that, but as I said, I'm happier if I try and fail than if I don't try!

Anyway, yes accounting for wood movement had crossed my mind.. And I'm not entirely sure how to take it into account. It's one reason why I separated the board from the frame. If you could tell me how one would account for it in the frame I'd be happy to hear (or a good source to read up on it!).
 

MikeG.

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2008
Messages
10,158
Reaction score
661
Location
Essex/ Suffolk border
............Was told it'd never work, but after four or five tries I got some respectable results and I'm very happy that I wasn't put off by the comments at the start.......
Yep, that'd be about right, Geoffrey. Five tries at a chessboard before you get a passable one. If you've got the wood, have a crack. Tenon saw, hand planes, and chisels. That's you starting kit. What do you have? How good are you at sharpening them?

I'm entirely self-taught. I learnt by having a go, failing, adjusting my design or ambitions, having another go, living with second-best results. It took me 5 or 6 years before I was good enough to be confident of getting a project right first time (hand tools + router), and 10 years before I was good enough to buy expensive hardwoods. If you want to try to compress those 10 years into 4 months, be prepared for some frustration. However, I applaud the fact that you are willing to give this a go.

The other approach, now that we have the wonderful world of the internet, is to use other people's experience to cut down your learning time, and for that you have found the right place. If you're interested in using the experience of those of us who have been at this for decades, I'd suggest you start by making a simple box for the chesspieces. Flattening and preparing the boards, cutting some joints, making it square, rebating and grooving, gluing up, cleaning up, finishing.......there is some serious learning to be done. A decent box isn't easy. But you'll learn an awful lot doing it, and save yourself an almighty amount of hassle and wasted wood compared with starting with a chessboard.
 

billw

The Tattooed One
UKW Supporter
Joined
26 Apr 2009
Messages
1,690
Reaction score
857
Location
Sutton Coldfield, UK
I'll just second what Mike says - my attempts at making really basic stuff has proved how tricky even planing something flat or sawing in a straight line can be.

However, with help from the forum and a lot of patience things do get easier. My first real attempt at making something was with the help of a load of industrial-strength machinery and I still managed to get it wrong on numerous occasions (thankfully nothing that couldn't be saved by adding "features". If I'd tried that using hand tools only, well...... I dread to think.

Before even starting on projects I'd make a shooting board so you can square things off with a bit more confidence that freehand allows. I knocked one up using offcuts and scrap and it does the job, at least until I make one out of ebony and birds eye maple.
 

sunnybob

wysiwyg
Joined
11 Oct 2014
Messages
8,399
Reaction score
162
Location
cyprus
Speaking as another person who was told to find another hobby when I first came to this forum (lol), it just depends how high your expectations are.
Will your finished piece be accepted for a design award ? no. Will craftsmen come knocking asking you to teach them? no.
Can you make something that is usable? yes. Will your family and other non woodworking people like it? yes (at least they will to your face) :cool: .
But a word of warning about your plan. If you want to make a universal board that not only accepts more than one top but will store them and pieces as well, its going to be B.I.G and heavy. :oops:
I would use thin ply for the base of each board, and either veneer or the thinnest pieces of wood you can manage. That will remove the wood movement problem.
 

Phil Pascoe

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
29 Jan 2012
Messages
21,163
Reaction score
1,529
Location
Shaft City, Mid Cornish Desert
It's good to have aims - but it's very discouraging to finish something, look at it and think why on earth did I waste dozens of hours (and £££s) on that. I'd find some things a bit simpler (and far more likely to be successful) rather than attemping to start your woodworking career three quarters of the way through it.
Besides anything else, you will not have the knowledge or ability to maintain your tools (assuming you have everything you'll need) to a high enough standard to make that well.
 

Droogs

Is that chisel shar ... Ow
Joined
14 Mar 2013
Messages
4,449
Reaction score
1,400
Location
Edinburgh
Hi Geoffry, welcome to the forum. Congratulations on choosing a fantastic way to use your free time that will give you a lot and I mean a lot of frustration but also incredible joy and satifsaction. It is admirable that you want to make things in solid wood but before you do go and waste the stock you have already ordered, I would suggest that you take the time to learn a little about wood. It is a living thing even once it is dead. It moves and changes shape in wierd way,s hour by hour until it is either sealed off from the world or it stablizes (which can take years) after you have finished the project.

If you want to make a chessboard that has storage etc then I really would suggest that you use solid wood only for the frame of the board and the edging of the box you will create that houses everything. As to the materiel to use in terms of having a reliably flat and square unit and board to play on then you really want to think about using MRMDF for the main construction material, which you can get pre-veneered or plain which you can then veneer yourself (this will give you so much more freedom of choice regarding looks)

Man-made sheet goods takes an unbelievable toll on hand tools (those without a tail) and for most, the best way is to use a modern power tool to prepare it to size etc. By all mean use hand tools to work on the solid wood parts when the time is right. But it takes a lot of practice to get to know these tools and how they behave on different woods and they do behave very differently even just on dry or rainy days.

To help you understand how wood works, I would recommend that you get the following book:



It is written by one of the forum's members, who has an excellent reputation as a craftsman and tutor. You will learn information that it has taken a lifetime of woodworking to garner. Save yourself a decade of frustration and get it.

To learn about using wood to construct things, there is another excellent book written a very long time ago by a gentleman called George Ellis called Modern Practical Joinery and is available on kindle. It will take you through the how and why of how to make things using hand tools an a way that is relevant to be applied to what you want to do.

I am told it takes 10 000 hours to became a master at woodworking but you can achieve remarkable result with just a little practice. After all the learning curve is a S-curve.

hth

edit typos
 

AJB Temple

Finely figured
Joined
13 Oct 2015
Messages
3,568
Reaction score
781
Location
Tunbridge Wells
Oddly enough, my very first woodworking project was a chess board. I was 8. I made it for my dad. It was no doubt unbelievably dreadful, but he used it anyway.

If you are going to use end grain then it is generally a good idea to use light wood and dark wood with similar movement characteristics. Wood Movement

I made an end grain board a few years ago (having experience of making end grain butchers blocks, and I used hard rock maple and rosewood. It was the devils own job getting the sticks dead on accurate (all exactly the same size) and square using hand tools. I used cascamite for the glue up, but that was before cascamite became rubbish. Dead accurate sizing is your biggest challenge for good cosmetics.

You may still get movement even if the squares are cut fairly thin, but that is the nature of wood and why veneers are usually used.

Its funny stuff wood. I just restored an old butchers block, end grain and 8 inches thick. I flattened the surfaces last winter and tightened up the 5 draw bolts. I came back to it to finish in a couple of weeks ago and was amazed that cracks had appeared and all five bolts needed tightening up. We were in a heat wave with 35 degree C temperatures, and this massive thing that is over 100 years old, had moved. :rolleyes:
 

Andy Kev.

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
20 Aug 2013
Messages
1,364
Reaction score
118
Location
Germany
Here's a link to an interesting documentary about making a chessboard:


Don't worry about it being in German, the pictures tell the whole story.
 

sunnybob

wysiwyg
Joined
11 Oct 2014
Messages
8,399
Reaction score
162
Location
cyprus
My dad (who was an apprentice served cabinet maker) made a chess board in the mid 60's I'm not sure what base he used but it was a light wood, not ply. He hand cut veneer squares and fitted them one square at a time, trimming each to fit with a very sharp knife. Ihelped him (primary school child type help :rolleyes: ) I presume it was casacamite glue as he had to mix it and it stank the house out. The underside was covered with Baize. He laid three different colour veneer strips around the edges. My sister still has that board and it still looks extremely nice, over 60 years on.
 

Garno

Grumpy Old Git
Joined
21 Oct 2017
Messages
1,411
Reaction score
418
Location
Dronfield
My dream is to be able to do what you are going to do, I have seen some really good hand made chess sets and boards and silently wished I had the skill set to do one.
I will be watching this post hoping you keep us all updated along with what you find works and what does not.

I wish you the very best off luck on what can only be described as a very ambitious beginners project.
 

MusicMan

Established Member
UKW Supporter
Joined
1 Jul 2015
Messages
2,033
Reaction score
155
Location
Warwick
Anyway, yes accounting for wood movement had crossed my mind.. And I'm not entirely sure how to take it into account. It's one reason why I separated the board from the frame. If you could tell me how one would account for it in the frame I'd be happy to hear (or a good source to read up on it!).
Wood movement is fairly easy to understand. Wood hardly moves at all ALONG the grain - typically 0.1% from wet to dry, unless the wood has been cut from the edge of a log ("reaction" wood). It moves most TANGENTIALLY (around the circumference) and least RADIALLY (centre to outside. Very old wood (100+ years) moves much less.

So it you make a chessboard from standard lengths - long grain parallel to surface - it will move very little along the grain but a lot, up to 10%, across the grain. If you make it from end grain (butchers block construction) it will move in width both ways. The blocks will stay together without cracking if the amount of shrinking is compatible between blocks. So you ought to arrange your grain directions so that (say) N-S is radial and EW is tangential in both woods, and the coefficients are about the same for both woods. You can find shrinkage coefficients online in The Wood Database (google it).

You will have worked out by now that this means that the edge of the board will expand or contract sideways. The normal way to cope with this is to mount them unglued in a slot in the frame, which allows for a little expansion/contraction.

I second those who suggest that your frame is over-complex and that slotting different boards into one frame is inadvisable, at least at first.

But start up that learning curve or you'll never get there!
 

GCS-Creations

Member
Joined
7 May 2018
Messages
11
Reaction score
0
Location
Bern, CH
I must say, I'm overwhelmed by the responses! I'm used to forums that don't show much interest or turn up their noses.


I think I have to clear some misunderstandings up. (I'll put quotes I'm referring to into spoiler tags to try and keep some half decent formatting.. Helplessly overthinking again. :) )

I also believe that I might have to start a thread when I start thinking about a project, and not two weeks later when I've forgotten half my thought processes!

- The wood I've ordered will be planed to dimension (36x36mm - I felt like anything bigger would be a bit unwieldy, and the chessmen I plan on copying would work very well with that square size)
- The board won't offer any storage capacity for figures or another playing field.
If you want to make a universal board that not only accepts more than one top but will store them and pieces as well, its going to be B.I.G and heavy. :oops:
- The floating/replacable playing field stemmed from the idea that it allowed the frame to move a little, and if the playing field im- or explodes due to movement, it can be replaced.
Which is why I'm more concerned about the frame at this point.

The frame being more or less a picture frame with a back/bottom board retained in it to be able to anchor the playing field down. Typing this I realise that making the back/bottom board exactly like a picture frame would work too, in (my! - don't mind to be corrected) theory at least? No need to cut a groove to place it into. I will on the other hand need to join the corners with something.


Regarding the tools I have/are available to me, here again I realise that I didn't share all my thought processes.
I have access to a band saw and am happy to use that, though this is probably no the most accurate solution. There's also a table saw in the neighbourhood - though I very rarely get to see the owner.
I've got a bench, various planes, saws, mitre block (desperately needs replacing) and chisels. Probably the same again if I visit my other grandmother which has lots of old tools lying around, though I'm not exactly sure what. The village used to be a farming & woodworking village and a lot has been kept.
Drillpress, hand drill.
For the figures I'd be using my lathes. One which incidentally has a table saw attachment, but there's no way I'm willing to touching that!

Yep, that'd be about right, Geoffrey. Five tries at a chessboard before you get a passable one. If you've got the wood, have a crack. Tenon saw, hand planes, and chisels. That's you starting kit. What do you have? How good are you at sharpening them?

I'm entirely self-taught. I learnt by having a go, failing, adjusting my design or ambitions, having another go, living with second-best results. It took me 5 or 6 years before I was good enough to be confident of getting a project right first time (hand tools + router), and 10 years before I was good enough to buy expensive hardwoods. If you want to try to compress those 10 years into 4 months, be prepared for some frustration. However, I applaud the fact that you are willing to give this a go.

The other approach, now that we have the wonderful world of the internet, is to use other people's experience to cut down your learning time, and for that you have found the right place. If you're interested in using the experience of those of us who have been at this for decades, I'd suggest you start by making a simple box for the chesspieces. Flattening and preparing the boards, cutting some joints, making it square, rebating and grooving, gluing up, cleaning up, finishing.......there is some serious learning to be done. A decent box isn't easy. But you'll learn an awful lot doing it, and save yourself an almighty amount of hassle and wasted wood compared with starting with a chessboard.
Thank you very much Mike. From the response it does seem like I have indeed found the right place!
It's sometimes very hard to find places where people are happy to share knowledge and not feel like you're simply piggybacking off others.
I'm happy to take your advice on the box, I've got one lying around that I can copy, nothing flashy but a box is a box. :)


Congratulations on choosing a fantastic way to use your free time that will give you a lot and I mean a lot of frustration but also incredible joy and satifsaction.
Sadly I can't imagine that this will be the most frustrating thing to use up my free time with. I chose to recreate photographic autochrome plates as my final school project (where a very, very basic chessboard would have been enough, or even researching how to make on).
I'm currently stuck trying to get hold of a chemical engineer in the photographic industry to give me pointers for sensitising dyes for the green and red. I won't go rambling on, but I think you all get the point... I also had the brilliant idea to start restoring a 83 year old motorcycle. 🙈
I probably saw too much Top Gear as a kid. "How hard can it be" has been a useful motto though, because it makes you try things. I do however tend to forget "Ambitious but rubbish". :D

Don't worry about it being in German, the pictures tell the whole story.
Thank you very much for the link, very interesting! I grew up in Switzerland so the German doesn't bother me much. ;)


I will be watching this post hoping you keep us all updated along with what you find works and what does not.
I hope you keep us updated with a project thread!
I'll try to keep this updated, whichever way it goes!


Wood movement is fairly easy to understand. Wood hardly moves at all ALONG the grain - typically 0.1% from wet to dry, unless the wood has been cut from the edge of a log ("reaction" wood). It moves most TANGENTIALLY (around the circumference) and least RADIALLY (centre to outside. Very old wood (100+ years) moves much less.

So it you make a chessboard from standard lengths - long grain parallel to surface - it will move very little along the grain but a lot, up to 10%, across the grain. If you make it from end grain (butchers block construction) it will move in width both ways. The blocks will stay together without cracking if the amount of shrinking is compatible between blocks. So you ought to arrange your grain directions so that (say) N-S is radial and EW is tangential in both woods, and the coefficients are about the same for both woods. You can find shrinkage coefficients online in The Wood Database (google it).

You will have worked out by now that this means that the edge of the board will expand or contract sideways. The normal way to cope with this is to mount them unglued in a slot in the frame, which allows for a little expansion/contraction.

I second those who suggest that your frame is over-complex and that slotting different boards into one frame is inadvisable, at least at first.

But start up that learning curve or you'll never get there!
Thank you very much for that site! Very, very useful.
I'm hoping the Maple is Sycamore Maple. I'll need to check. I assume the 1% difference radially would be compatible enough with the Black Walnut?

I'd like to add that whilst I'm receiving the wood planed to the correct dimensions, I do also have the option make the board long grain up, there's enough for that.


On a side note: Is there any reason why, in all the topics I've seen (on reddit for instance) about wood movement on chessboards no one suggested stablising the wood with resin? Is it frowned upon? It seems to be the most common thing amongst pen turners.
No I'm not really interested in doing that, just curious.


Thank you very much to everyone who chipped in with suggestions, warnings, hints and general comments thus far! :)
 

MikeG.

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2008
Messages
10,158
Reaction score
661
Location
Essex/ Suffolk border
Others may have a different view, but for me there are two issues with encasing wood in resin. Firstly, it will fail in the end. Even the driest wood still contains moisture, and this moisture will react to changing temperatures. Eventually this movement will break through the resin at a point of weakness, and that will be that. Secondly.....it just looks like plastic. A yucky great thick layer of plastic. Woodworkers, understandably, tend to like wood, not plastic with a bit of a view of wood underneath. Resin isn't UV stable, so still requires finishing. You'd end up with a layer of varnish over the top, and a reasonable amount of preparation work to achieve a decent finish.

Beware that PAR timber has been through a planer, and will thus have a rippled surface. You might be fine with yours, but it might not produce the tightest of joints.

Sycamore is in the same family as maple, but maple is maple, and sycamore is sycamore. I don't think sycamore maple is a thing.

A mitred picture frame isn't straightforward. How are you going to cut the mitres?
 

MikeG.

Established Member
Joined
24 Aug 2008
Messages
10,158
Reaction score
661
Location
Essex/ Suffolk border
Bill, report to Carruthers. You might need some paracetamol for afterwards.

"Acer pseudoplatanus, known as the sycamore in the United Kingdom and the sycamore maple in the United States"

Wiki

:)
 

Sgian Dubh

Established Member
Joined
12 Oct 2004
Messages
2,414
Reaction score
267
Location
UK
Oops. Not sure what happened there. Sorry. wasted message I guess. When I work out with this new forum format how to simply delete a message posted in error, that will help to keep things tidy. Slainte.
 
Last edited:
Top