Monday, December 29, 2014

Making Wooden Knight Chess Pieces

Several people have asked me how I made the Knight Chess Pieces for Steve Ramsey's Chess Set.  In case you missed it, Steve Ramsey of Woodworking for Mere Mortals made a chess board in his first series of videos in 2008.  He said his second project would be making the chess pieces, but it's been a long-running joke that he never made them.  So now, 6 years later, a group of us YouTube woodworkers conspired to make the chess pieces for him, and I was assigned to make the knights.

Click here to see the chess pieces at the end of Steve's Mere Minutes video.

Click here to see all of the chess pieces and who made them on Mike Fulton's site.


Typically, chess pieces are scaled to fit the size of the chess board.  Steve mentioned in his video that his chess board has 2" squares, so we scaled the pieces proportionately.  The base of each piece should fit within a square with a little breathing room.  The height of each piece graduates from the pawns (shortest) to the king (tallest), and the height should be proportionate to the square size.  There are charts online to help with this.  It took some coordination among us woodworkers to make sure each piece was the correct size in relation to the board and the other pieces, and we agreed to use walnut and maple for the pieces to match Steve's chess board.

 

When I was assigned to make the knights, I knew I couldn't turn them on the lathe like the other pieces.  So, I decided to use the same 3D cutting technique that I used on my Bandsaw Vase project.   I looked at lots of knights and found a basic horse shape I liked on The Chess Store.  Their chess pieces are really detailed and fancy though, so I had to draw up a much simpler two-sided pattern that would be easy to cut.  The knights ended up being approximately 1.5" square and 3.25" tall.  Click here for a PDF of this pattern.  If you are looking for a nice chess set, visit  The Chess Store.


The key to 3D cutting is attaching the template to the block so that the fold line is precisely on the corner of the block.  Cut the front view first, then tape the long curved cutoff pieces back in place with clear packing tape.  You may need to attach another copy of the side view template since some parts of it get cut away.  Cut the side profile then remove all of the cutoff pieces to reveal the knight.  Sand using a spindle sander, small files, and sand paper.  Cut out the optional shield from thin stock and glue it on.  I shaped the shield with a spindle sander to give it a raised crease in the middle.


This was a fun and challenging project and I was happy to be a part of the fine group of woodworkers who joined together to make Steve this chess piece set.  Thanks to Mike Fulton for herding us woodworking cats in the right direction.  Getting everyone to make their pieces at the right scale and ship them on time took lots of coordination.


We all were surprised to see that just before we completed the set, one of Steve's viewers sent him a chess piece set and beat us to the punch.  It is a beautiful set, so click here to see those in Steve's other Mere Minutes video.  Now Steve has TWO sets of chess pieces.  He may be off the hook for making the chess pieces, but now I think he's back on the hook for making a second chess board!!!  Ha Ha! :o)

Below is a list of everyone who participated in this project .  Please visit and follow them for more woodworking goodness!  Thanks guys for including me and thank you to Steve Ramsey for inspiring all of us!
To see the entire set of maple and walnut chess pieces, click this picture!




12 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Barrett! They were fun and turned out better than I expected.

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  2. I would go with some better wood, like Cocobolo & Lati & some good friction polish.

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    1. Good choices Jerry! We chose woods that everybody in the collab already had on hand. I sprayed these with lacquer. I'm sure the other guys who turned theirs may have used friction polish. I didn't think of trying to rub friction polish on the knights...is friction polish usually just for turned lathe projects or can you just rub it on any project?

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  3. Hi Steve. I'm having trouble downloading the actual PDF. It's giving me a TOS error. -Jorge

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    1. Hi Jorge - I emailed it to you. Thanks for letting me know.

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    2. Thanks Steve! and as always, awesome work.

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  4. WOW, that's pretty! I'd love to try it out myself, but the link to the template doesn't seem to work.

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    1. Hi - I added the pattern picture in the article. Not sure why the PDF didn't work. Thanks for letting me know.

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  5. These are awesome! You guys did a great job!

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  6. Steve - Thanks for the article and pdf on this piece. I really like it. May I ask what blade you used to cut out? Thanks.

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    1. Hi Dave! Thanks! I'm not sure, but in the pictures it looks like it was a 1/4" 6tpi 80" blade from Lowes.

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