Archive for December, 2011

Polishing and Finishing a Homemade Chess Game

There are a multitude of ways to finish out your homemade chess game board and game pieces. Some are just done because of personal preference while others are down for beauty, durability, or longevity of the finish. Here we will discuss the most popular ways so that you can decide which types of finishes you might prefer.

Most people prefer to shine their chess pieces to a high gloss with a hard wax polishing compound. This works best if you have used hardwood dowels or other hardwoods to create your chess pieces. This is because the wax itself starts out very hard and at high speeds, can actually damage softer woods. Hardwoods can take a great deal of hard wax polishing without being damaged, so this is generally preferred.

The wax is applied to a high speed spinning polishing wheel and the pieces are pushed up against it while it is on. This friction causes heat, which melts the wax a little at a time. As the wax melts, it attaches itself to the fibers in the wood grain. The wood grain cells actually absorb the wax. As it cools, the wood grains expand and harden, leaving the piece with a beautiful glossy polish.

Don’t use solvents and normal cleaners on waxed pieces or the wax can be broken down, becoming sticky or destroyed. Use a dry, soft, lint-free cloth to polish up the pieces after use. This will remove any dirt or body oils that were left lingering on the pieces. Store them inside of something so that they are not exposed to a lot of dust or humidity. You may consider adding drawers to your game board specifically for this purpose.

Some people do prefer the ease of spraying their pieces with lacquer. Most mid-grade pieces that you would buy in a store will be sprayed with lacquer. However, people making their own chess pieces generally do not prefer this method because the lacquer can cover up some of the detail that was so painstakingly created.

Lacquer, however, is the most preferred method for finishing out a handmade chess board. Lacquer can be applied in many layers and then polished with a fine polishing compound. This gives the board a very tough, high gloss finish that will last a lifetime. Very high-end boards may be finished with old fashioned methods, like French Polishing and shellac. If you’re not familiar with these types of finishing techniques, you may want to practice on some scrap materials before you attempt it on your finished pieces.

About the Author: Dave Murphy is the founder and president of Good Wood, Inc., which makes a high quality wood dowel and the best hardwood dowel on the market. They offer safe wood finishing, wood turning and can import from off-shore when necessary. Visit http://www.goodwoodinc.com for all of your wood product needs.

Sources:

http://www.milburnguitars.com/frenchpolish.html

http://www.handmadechess.co.uk/finishing_and_polishing.html

http://www.woodworking-news.com/woodworking-projects/finishing-with-shellac.shtml

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How to Build a Chess Board

Creating a chess game is an inexpensive project, but many people run into trouble when trying to build their board. Here we will give you some quick and easy tips for building your chess game board so that you don’t run into the problems that most encounter.

Start by selecting your woods with contrasting dark and light colors. Hardwoods will last longer and are good choices when looking for a durable game board that can be passed down from generation to generation. Most people will begin by cutting out sixty-four pieces of wood in identical shapes and sizes. Then, they realize that it is almost impossible to perfectly line up sixty-four little squares. Not only is it nearly impossible to cut them exactly the same size, it is also hard to glue each side of each piece together and make it to the end before the beginning has already begun to dry.

Another problem with pre-cutting your squares is that they are almost impossible to clamp. For a chess game board, there can be no spaces between each square. The center of, say, four squares, will slip around and create an imperfect connection while drying. But don’t worry. There is an easy solution that will help you to create a perfect game board in no time.

Instead of cutting individual squares, line up your long wood boards, alternating between light and dark pieces. Assuming that they are already the same height, depth and width, they should line up to look like a striped, as opposed to a checkered, game board. Go ahead and line these up, glue them together and clamp them overnight.

When the “board” is clamped and dry, use the guide on your table saw to measure exactly how wide you want each square to measure. Place the game board with the stripes going left to right, or horizontally, before you. Cut off each section and keep the board aligned on your work area. When complete, simply go through and flip over every other board. This will make the squares that you just cut alternate in color and give you the chess board appearance that you’ve been going for. Because they were all cut together, you shouldn’t have the variations in cut that you would have if you had cut out sixty-four squares.

Glue the strips together and clamp overnight again. Add trim pieces, sand and polish however you’d like. We’ll discuss different polishing and finishing techniques for your game pieces and chess board in our next article, “Polishing and Finishing a Homemade Chess Game”.

About the Author: Dave Murphy is the founder and president of Good Wood, Inc., which makes a high quality wood dowel and the best hardwood dowel on the market. They also create wooden balls, wood knobs, wooden toy parts, custom wood parts, and more. They offer safe wood finishing, wood turning and can import from off-shore when necessary. Visit http://www.goodwoodinc.com for all of your wood product needs.

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Turning Chess Pieces on a Lathe

To create pieces for a standard chess game, you will need to plan for the following:

1 King
1 Queen
2 Rooks
2 Bishops
2 Knights
8 Pawns

The size of your chess pieces, relative to your game board, can be determined by your personal taste. However, the equipment standards outlined by the US Chess Federation call for “a King that measures 3 3/8” to 4 1/2” with a base diameter or 40-50% of the height”. In general, the square formed by the bases of four pawns standing together should just about equal the size of a square on the board. Your King’s base should occupy approximately 75% of the square.

For standard measurements between grooves and a good pattern outline, visit Chessready. Adjust measurements by percentage based on the size of your board. This will ensure that your pieces have proper spacing and the beauty and detail of each piece can be fully appreciated.

Now for the fun part. Select wooden dowels in contrasting colors of wood to create your pieces. Hardwood dowels are great for heirloom style pieces. Tight wood grain that is clearly defined will help each piece to resist splitting and withstand the amount of work that you are going to put into each piece. Mahogany, maple, and ebony are popular choices.

Start with your selected wood dowel and cut pieces within .25” of desired height. Mark dimensions for spacing of grooves with a pencil. Turn each piece on a lathe. Measure the depth of each groove as you go with a caliper.

You can use blocks of wood if you prefer, and making a chess set is a great way to use scrap wood, but if you want to ensure exact dimensions and cut down on the amount of labor, start with wooden dowels. Most people making standard chess pieces start with 1.25” diameter dowels and turn them down to 1” bases.

After turning on the lathe, use small turning chisels, files, a disc sander and knives to hand carve and finish the King, Queen and Knights. The Castle battlements can be finished with hand files. The cross atop the King can be sculpted with a disc sander. The crown of the Queen can be grooved with a carving gauge.

If you like, you can weight the bottom of each piece with poured lead. Finish out the bases with the desired color of simple felt and you’re done. Weighted bottoms make pieces less likely to tip over during play and give your set a good, solid feel.

About the Author: Dave Murphy is the founder and president of Good Wood, Inc., which makes a high quality wood dowel and the best hardwood dowel on the market. They also create wooden balls, wood knobs, wooden toy parts, custom wood parts, and more. They offer safe wood finishing, wood turning and can import from off-shore when necessary. Visit http://www.goodwoodinc.com for all of your wood product needs.

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