DIY Chess Board – Making a Chess Board Out of Wood

Why spend that money on a chessboard, when you can create a DIY chess board at almost no expense. Although this might require a little of hard work, I assure you that no special skill is required. Basically, it involves cutting and gluing of 64 small squares of wood. This project is easy, taking a few hours of your free time will do. You might even decide to carry out the project bit by bit, that is spreading the few hours into a couple of days. So let’s check out the tools required to start the DIY chess board.

Major tools

Bar clamps

Saw(Optional, you can use a table saw)

Wood glue

Orbital sander

Framing square

Light and dark wood (enough to make four 2 x 20-inch strips, 3/4-inch thick, in each color)

It is the best choice to use two kinds of wood of identical hardness, such as the oak and mahogany. A maple is also a good option for the lighter wood. I really discourage the idea of combining a soft wood like pine with a hard wood like mahogany. The combination of these two kinds of wood can lead to difficulties in sanding latter on.

STEP ONE: cutting of strips

The standard dimension of a chessboard square should be between 5 and 6.5 centimeters (2 to 2.5 inches), this is a standard approved by the World Chess Federation.

In this tutorial, I advise you stick with 2inches, which will result in a board about 16 inches square. The style of the border should be wisely selected, it should tally with the dimension (16 inches square).

Now let’s get to work.

Lets cut eight strips of wood, four from the dark wood, and another four from the light wood. These give us a sum total of 8strips of wood with two different colors. Since we are working with 2 inches, the strips should measure the width of 2inches by at least 20 inches. Consider using a table saw as it helps with precision and gives much better accuracy and consistency as needed. Although Circular saw can also be an alternative, this requires you set up a straight edge to run the saw against.

STEP TWO: Gluing Process

After cutting the strips, arrange them in an alternating sequence (dark-light-dark-light). Choose a preferred side to be the visible top face when the board is completed. Its best practice to number your strips, which will act as a guide when gluing in the future.

Gluing is a very important stage in chessboard making, observe carefully that the glue uniformly spreads along the entire edge of each strip. It’s extremely important to achieve accuracy or else it might jeopardize your project in the future.

Ensure to clamp firmly and it should be perfectly perpendicular to the edges of the board in other to avoid hollows. In cases where softwood is being used, pieces of scrap wood should be placed between the clamp and the board in other to avoid direct impact and for pressure to be evenly distributed, and thus, the crisp edge of the board is protected. When you clamp the wood, use a damp rag to remove excess glue that appears on the surface of the board.

While gluing and clamping, make sure that at least two sides are square to each other. And the edges should be perfectly straight and this can be achieved by putting a framing square along two edges. A hammer can be used to gently tap the strips into alignment.

Ensure the board is as flat as possible during the gluing process. The clamp may cause too much force on the board, hence, causing deformation to the board in the form of bending. It is important to ensure straight edge on the top of the board when gluing and clamping and be quick to make amendments when necessary. After this process of gluing and clamping, sanding can be carried out or can be done later.

STEP THREE: Cutting the strips again

When the glue is all dried up, use your saw and cut 2inch strips out of the board you created. The cuts should be perpendicular to the original strips. In cases where table saw is being used, you can run the squared-off edge along the fence.

You will get a minimum of nine (9) checkerboard strips. This is due to the fact that you started with 20-inch strips of the wood. Extras are available to cover up any damage that might occur to the checkerboard strips.

STEP FOUR:  Gluing again

Now every strip will contain eight squares, arrange them in a way that at the top edge, it will appear in the format black-white-black-white, till the last strip, and automatically the bottom edge will also assume this sequence, hence developing the chessboard pattern and wow our board is now looking like a chessboard. Once again, number each strips and glue them, following the same method we used when we first glued and clamped the strips.

STEP FIVE: Sanding the chessboard

Before unclamping the board, ensure that the glue has dried. When it is dry, you can sand it smooth, but know that if you have done a messy work, now is the time you pay for your sins. If your board was flat during the glue-ups, then you will not experience difficulties during sanding, but if it was not flat, you may experience much harder labor. Preferably I use the Orbital sander, starting from 80 grit up to 120. I also sand smooth the bottom of the board, in other to achieve a neat and glueless surface.

STEP SIX: Adding a border on the Chessboard

A border makes your work look more professional and beautiful. Keeping it as simple with a 3/4 x 1-inch strip of reclaimed pined around the edge. It is best to make the leg of the border thick, maybe 1-inch thick, in other for the load to rest on the border and not the board. This helps us to avoid deformity developed during the final glue-up such as bending.

STEP SEVEN:  Apply finish

You can apply any finish of your choice to your board. You can choose for the border to be raised from playing surface, and use a bar-top finish for it to have a thicker appearance.

If you have finished all the steps already congratulation, you have successfully created your own DIY chess board.

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