How to Make a Wooden Chess Board

Gifting a hand-made wooden chess board is great piece of gift to chess enthusiastic. This project does not require you be a master woodworker. Choose any hardwood, just be sure that the woods you choose complement each other.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • 1 by 2 by 14 inches Walnut lumber
  • 1 by 2 by 14 inches Maple lumber
  • Wood glue
  • Rags (paper towels)
  • Bar Clamps
  • Hand screw clamps
  • Plywood
  • Radial arm saw
  • Jointer
  • Belt sander with 120-grit sandpaper and 220-grit sandpaper
  • Planer
  • Table saw
  • Polyurethane
  • Natural bristle paint brush

Step 1 - Cutting Strips for Board

Using the saw, joint (square) one edge of the walnut lumber. With the table saw, cut strips (rip) of walnut slightly larger than 1 3/4 inches wide. Joint each side of each strip to achieve exactly 1 3/4 inches wide strips. Repeat with the maple lumber for the wooden chess board.

Step 2 - Join Strips

Lay out alternating walnut and maple strips from Step 1. Initially, set the bar clamps about ½ inches wider than the width required for all strips side-by-side (this allows for easy application of glue to strips). Run a thin bead of wood glue down the length of both sides of each strip (except the end strips). Line up the strips for the wooden chess board, being sure all ends are flush. Tighten the bar clamps and allow glue to dry for 24 hours. Remove any excess glue with a damp rag. Remove bar clamps when glue is dry.

Step 3 - Smooth Surface

Using hand clamps, attach glued strips to a flat surface. With a belt sander and 120-grit sandpaper, sand each side. Plane a minimal amount from each side to leave assembled strips as thick as possible.

Step 4 - Cut Strips

Cut one end of the glued strips flush with a radial arm saw. Set the radial arm saw to exactly 1 3/4 inches. Start at the just trimmed flush end and cut 8 strips 1 3/4 inches wide. Each strip for the wooden chess board will have alternating squares of walnut and maple.

Step 5 - Assemble Chess Board

Place alternating strips side-by-side so that you have a checkerboard. Apply glue to all strips as in Step 2. Place between 3-bar clamps. To insure uniform pressure while clamped, place a 1 inch piece of lumber on each side of the assembled strips. Clamp strips and allow to dry 24 hours.

Step 6 - Plane Board

Remove bar clamps after glue is completely dry. With hand clamps, secure board to a flat surface and sand 1 side. Cut a piece of 3/4 inches plywood slightly larger than the board, to serve as protection. Continue alternating sides of the wooden chess board and plane the until board is ¾ inches thick.

Step 7 - Cut Frame for Chess Board

With a table saw, cut frame pieces from walnut board. Cut (rip) a piece of walnut that is 2 3/8 inches wide. Joint edges of walnut strip until finished size is 2 3/16 inches. With the planer, smooth the strip (alternating sides) until the strip is 3/4 inches thick. Using a miter saw, set to 45 degree, cut 4 lengths of 18 3/8 inches long. Tip: cut the pieces slightly longer, and trim to achieve a perfect fit to chessboard.

Step 8 - Frame Chess Board/Finish

With the pieces cut in Step 7, attach the frame to chessboard with glue. Clamp and allow it to dry for 24 hours. Once the glue has completely dried, lightly sand the frame by hand with 120-grit sandpaper. Apply polyurethane with a natural bristle paintbrush. Sand it with 220-grit sandpaper between coats. Apply at least 3 coats of polyurethane. Allow the wooden chess board to dry 24 hours between coats and let final coat dry at least 48 hours before using.