making a chess board

As promised i'd show you how to make a chess board. I started this tutorial, just a few days before i left for a spring break. Hence i was a bit quiet, but i hadn't forgotten so I finished it off during the past few day and took loads of pictures. The method i used is an easy way to get equal sized checkers, and that let's them match at the corners effortless, if you measure out accurate in the beginning.

For this chess board you'll need a few sheets of veneer, preferably in strong contrasting colours. In this case i'd picked a cherry and a maple for the checkers.



The chess board is made up by 8 by 8 squares, alternating in colour. First you have to decide on the final size you want the play area to be, so you can calculate the size of your squares. That will be the width of the strips of wood you need to cut. At this stage it's essential the strips are equal in size, so use a model strip to set your dimensions, if you prefer (see further down this post to read more on that).


One note of attention; as you cut the wood your knife will press into it, creating a v-shaped dent as it goes through the wood. This will result in a slight angle on the side of the strips. I exaggerate it a bit, but it will make for more precise squares if you keep cutting on one side of the wood. Imagine that if you'd do that and cut a square through slightly thicker wood, the top side of the square would be slightly smaller then the bottom side of the square. Sort of like the base of a pyramid. That is caused by the angle of the edge that the knife has made. So make sure not to flip the strips upside down as you cut them at this stage. Later you'll see the effect that paying attention to this cutting edge can have.


I've used veneer tape to lay the strips down (remember; cutting side up!) in alternating colours. The tape is paper based, with a gom side that will become sticky when moistened. The paper also stretches a bit when wet, shrinking back as it dries again. This characteristic helps to push the pieces tightly together.


Turning the batch of strips i glued more tape on the back to secure. Then flipped it back, with the cut side of the wood facing back up again. Left it for a 10 minutes, to dry out, pressed with a bit of weight.


Now you need to cut strips perpendicular to the original strips. To secure them at the side edge, and prevent tear-out of the fragile wood fibers i contained the edge strips with more tape. I made the first cut to get a straight edge at 90º.


For security reasons i taped the top too and marked one side with a sharpie. That way i could keep track of what side was up.


With everything tight i could now cut strips for the second time. Below is a picture of one way to cut them using a model strip. If you back your stack of wood (plain veneer or stacks of strips like here) against a straight edge (in this case an aluminum profile) you can lay your model strip on top of your wood. Place your wood & the model strip tight against that back profile and place your cutting edge tight against that too. Now press down firm on your cutting edge and push away the aluminum and model strip. Make sure the cutting edge hasn't moved before you make a sharp cut.


I prefer to measure them out, but no matter what method you use, use it all along the make. So if you use a model strip, use that method too, to cut the initial strips too.


As they were cut the veneer tape held the fragile strips together. Although the tape has some tack, the pieces are so small i expected they would do with tape on both sides. And i'm glad i did because the strips needed a bit of handling at this stage.


Now they could be stacked, making sure the colours would alternate. For that i had to clean one edge of the strips to be able to place it tight in a square. Because I started with a white square in the left down side corner. That meant the next strip had to start with a brown square. And then one with a white, next a brown, etc, etc.

(short explanation; because i didn't wanted to flip the strips (left to right, nor upside down!) i used 9 strips to start out with (see above) I started with white and ended with white. All i had to do now was to remove one white square. Moistening the tape softened the glue and i could pick away a white square.
For the picture below i've removed the tape from the bottom strip so you can see what i mean. Notice how the marking with the sharpie indicated to me the right side of the strips were up, and not turned and/or flipped around.)


I placed 8 strips on anther piece of veneer tape, that i'd wetted a bit to become tacky. I made sure to press them tight in the metal square, checking with another small square i kept parallel and not placed them crooked or skew.

Still, the side of the wood that was cut was facing up. That meant that on this side there would be a very tinny flimsy hairline between the squares, due to the dent the knife made while cutting the wood. This is not the side i wanted to show in the finished piece . On the contrary, this side needed to be glued to the core of the board. So i flipped the stack over, using the markings of the sharpie to check i was working on the 'good' side',  and put on another layer of tape. I left it to dry under pressure (and went on vacation :)


When everything was thoroughly dry (which it was after 3 weeks :) ) the checkers could be glued on the core. The side that was up, or cutting side, was moistened and left to soak for a minute. The tape softened and could now gently be pealed of.


I then cleaned of the edgeds and took away the excess white checkers. The tiny squares, only held together by the veneer tape were then glued in the centre of a piece of 1.2 mm multiplex. I used  excesive amount of glue to try to fill the hair lines between the individual squares.


Before i left it to dry overnight under pressure i made sure the edges were clean and free of any glue spilling out. The next day I soaked and pealed off the veneer tape that held them all together, to reveal the centre playing area of the chess board. It seemed not all hairlines were filled, as you can see, but non the less, it looked ok.


For a nice contrasting edge i took a piece of parquetry trim and cut off the black and white edge. Cleaned it up nicely and mitered the corners, and glued it around the edges.



 Old fashion pins helped to secure the trim. Then another edge, a bit wider but also mitered was added.


Tomorrow i'll finish it off, clad the back and sides, but this is the bulk of what i did to make a chess board. I'm sure this is not the smartest or easiest way to make something like this. So please, do comment if you know other techniques or tricks. I love to hear about them and learn! But as it stands, many roads lead to Rome, so i posted it in the hope it you've found it useful or interesting in any way :)))

Update; Today finished the chess board. The back side was cladded with veneer as well and then the whole piece was cut and sanded down to size. The sides got a layer of veneer too and then the whole surface was sanded down. Then the fun part, as ever! was to feed the wood. A bit of Danish oil brings out the colour as if it comes to life, and it always gives me huge satisfaction!!! I finished it of with a few layers of wax.


I've made this second chess board to be able to take pictures to show you how i'd made it. When i made the first one i cladded the back with the yellow birds eye maple. For this second one i used the cherry on the back. In total it's slightly smaller too, as you can see here below.


 It was fun to make :)



Have a great day,

34 comments:

  1. Oooooh well done! It is just fantastic. I can't wait to see it finished with a the pieces sitting on it.

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    1. I hope i've facilitated your request Catherine? Although the King has fallen... ;)

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  2. Thank you, I've been looking for a really good tutorial.

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    1. I hope it is of use to you. A lot of proceedings go into making this board, but my guess is it's the principle of cutting strips in alternating colors to create checkered patterns that is the core of it all. You could also use this technique to makea tiled floor out of vinyl, wood or paper for instance...

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  3. Beautifully done, Debora! I can't wait to see the finished board.

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    1. I finished it asap, to show it :) Thanks

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  4. Bonjour,
    Il est très beau! J'utilise la même méthode pour faire plein d'autres choses en marqueterie.Je la trouve facile à mettre en œuvre et cela fait du travail très propre...
    Dominique

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    1. Merci Dominique. Glad you like it. Yes, it's a very useful technique you can implement in many other area's. You can vary the width of the strips to suggest movement in the final pattern, so many opportunities to play around with.

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  5. Привет!
    Я восхищаюсь Вашим мастерством!
    Спасибо за урок!
    Татьяна

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    1. Thank you Tatiana. I hope the pics explain enough to have a go :)

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  6. Using gummed paper to keep the small pieces together is a really clever tip. Thanks for sharing =0)

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    1. Your're welcom :) I bought it a long time ago, together with my first sheets of veneer. It was sold in this specialized shop as an attribute you needed. Not ever worked with veneer it did make sense to me, so i bought it along. And i can tell you, it works a treat. Doesn't affect the wood or discolors it in any way. It's easily removed when wet, yet very strong when applied.

      I'm not sure if an office supplier sells paper tape that has the same characteristics but i'm sure that with trial and error you can find some that works?

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  7. Merci beaucoup pour les explications .j aime apprendre . Toutes les explications sont très claires .
    Merci pour ce partage . J ai commencé a sculpté grâce a vos conseils et vos explications . C'est un début mais je trouve cela très agréable . J'espère finir bientôt et mettre un post .
    À bientôt
    Catherine

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    1. Thank you, do take it to use. I'll be looking out for your post :)

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  8. Un gran trabajo, el resultado es precioso.
    Un abrazo.
    Yolanda.

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  9. Hello Debora,
    Fantastic. It looks beautiful and thank you for explaining how to make them so clearly.
    Big hug,
    Giac

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    1. Thanks Giac, i guess once you've sen how to do it, it's no mystery anymore :)

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  10. привет!!! Спасибо большое за урок!!!!

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  11. Muy bien explicado, unas buenas fotos y un estupendo resultado.

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    1. Thank you Isabel, i've made this second chess board because i had forgotten to take pictures the first time. But pictures explain so well what it is you're doing, or how it's done. They tell a thousand words, in every language. Even Spanish :)

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  12. Thank you for this tutorial.
    Valérie

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  13. Thank you Debora for that wonderful tutorial! You must have a very steady hand to cut the strips, one false move would have ruined it! Beautifully made! Kind regards, Brian.

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  14. Hi Brian, thanks for your kind words. I guess i do have steady hands?

    But i do make false moves though, occasionally! Trouble is it doesn't mess up the pieces, but shoots out to hit my fingers ... oeps!... And that gives such a bloody mess ;)))

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  15. WOH!!! Wat een prachtig werkje heeft u daar weer gemaakt.
    Echt mooi.
    Hartelijk dank dat u het met ons wilde delen
    Hobbygroetjes,
    Miriam

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  16. Hi Debora,
    Thanks for taking the time to make this very clear and useful tutorial!
    The completed chess board is a realbeauty and a joy to look at.
    Big hug,
    Gee

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    1. No effort Gee, it was fun to do and to show it's done

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  17. That is so clever, thanks for your tutorial Debora!

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  18. Nice blog If you want to buy wooden chess sets , please contact us

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  19. I am not sure I can pull this off but watching a master at work is a treat in itself. Thank you , Debora for sharing this precious tutorial with us.

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