15 DIY Chess Board Plans You Can Build Today (With Pictures)
Chess is a game played around the world that people from many cultures who speak various languages can come together and enjoy. Some of the earliest forms of modern chess originated in India in the sixth century, long before modern technology could mass-produce chess sets and make them as accessible as they are today.
Most of the time between the invention of chess and modern-day times, people made their own chess sets, rather than buying them. If you have some solid DIY skills and access to basic tools, you can learn how to build a chess board and set of your own that will provide endless hours of mentally challenging enjoyment.
The 15 DIY Chess Board Plans
1. Elegant but Simple DIY Chess Board
Though the end product looks elegant, like something purchased for a high price from a store, this chess board is deceptively simple to build. You can alter its appearance by simply changing the types of wood you make it out of, which won’t make the project any more difficult. It’s a great project for anyone with some basic DIY skills and tools who is looking for a challenge to push their skills to the next level.
2. Easy DIY Chess Board
To build this chess board, you’ll need some 2×1’s in cedar, ash, and cherry, plus a 2×4 and a sheet of plywood. After you make the main chess board, there are also plans and instructions to create the chess pieces and a storage box to keep them in. You’ll need some power tools to complete this project, as well as intermediate-level DIY skills.
3. Classic Chess Board Plans
These detailed plans will walk you through the process of building a classic chessboard, with a top that opens up to hold all of the pieces inside of an attached storage box. It’s an elegant design, but a rather involved build that uses some advanced techniques, such as dovetailing. The finished product is attractive, but it’s definitely one of the more difficult builds on this list.
4. Basic Plans For a Chess Board
These plans are simple with all of the dimensions for your wooden pieces clearly marked. There are no instructions, however, so you’ll have to do everything just from the plans. In the end, it makes a nice chess board that’s framed in and has a slide-out drawer to hold the pieces.
5. Vertical Wall-Mounted Chess Board
Looking for something a bit more eye-catching than a standard chess board? This vertical chess board is really wall-mounted playable art. It’s a great conversation starter that can easily become a friendly game of chess whenever someone notices it. Since the pieces can stand on each square, there’s no need for extra storage compartments.
6. Chess Table Plans
If you’re dead-serious about your chess and prefer to leave the chessboard out all the time in case someone wants to play a quick game, then you need a dedicated table for your chessboard. Rather than buy a table just for chess, try building this chess table. The chessboard is built right into the table, and there’s even a drawer for holding the pieces.
7. Simple Chess and Checkers Board Plans
Not everyone is looking to build a complicated or elegant chessboard. For some, a simple chessboard with attractive wood grain will suffice. These plans will walk you through the steps of building a simple chessboard that still looks incredible. It will take only a few hours to build, not including drying time for the glue.
8. Build a Chess Set from Wood
Here’s another very simple, yet good-looking chess board that can be made with just a few hours of time. Alter the appearance by trying different finishes. The maker of this chess board also made simple wooden chess pieces out of the same wood used for the board. You can take some inspiration from these chess pieces to help make some for your DIY chess board.
9. End Grain Chess Board Plans
This epic end grain chess board is finished with mineral oil and beeswax, which made it impossible to use for chess! But they corrected on the next board and used varnish instead. We think this is one of the most attractive chess boards on this list, but you’ll have to be willing to put in some serious time and effort to construct one of your own.
10. Cheap Tape Chess Board
Not ready to put big bucks into a chessboard? Then build this cheap tape chess board plan instead! It’s one of the simplest and most affordable projects on the list. On average, it will only take 1–2 hours to complete. To get it done, get stocked on two plywood sheets, enough white tape to cover the board, and some black paint. A saw, utility knife, brush, and square tool will come in handy as well.
Measure the plywood, mark it with a pencil, and cut the wood with a saw. Next, glue the individual pieces together and go over the wood with sandpaper. Once you’re done, create an improvised chess board with tape, cut out all the excess tape with a utility knife, and spray-paint the board so that you have both black and white ranks and files.
11. Painted Board + Piece Set
Ready to build something special? Then try your hand at this painted board + piece set project. It will take time and dedication to build, but if you have some maple and walnut, we say go for it! To cut the wood, use a combination of band and table saws, along with a carving machine. You don’t have to carve out the board or the pieces, though. Simply set the machine up in CNC software, and it will do the rest.
Make sure you have the right bit size! This DIY plan involves quite a lot of milling, too; so, take your time with it. And how do you color the board blue? For that, use a combination of epoxy and pigment powder. Now, the actual board is rather thin and can be crafted from a relatively small piece of plywood. It’s the storage compartment that takes a lot of time to build, but it’s easy to put together.
12. Custom Chess Board & Box
This next project is very similar to the previous one. Only this time around, we won’t be using epoxy or carving out pieces. Instead, we’ll make the board a bit larger, and every single chess piece will have its own compartment. So, start by cutting the wood boards (hickory and walnut). To make the wood look more “expensive” and to make it last, cover the surface with mineral oil.
Overall, this custom chess board and box plan is very straightforward. It’s all about cutting the boards to the right size. Be careful when cutting the divider joins, as they need to be measured perfectly to fit in the box: this might take a bit of fine-tuning. Once you’re done, put the chess pieces inside the box, and that’s it!
13. Chess Board with Storage & Inserts
Are you an active chess player that likes to take their board with them on trips? Then this chess board with storage and inserts is what you need! As the name suggests, the box has inserts that keep the chess pieces in place firmly. The design is very elegant, too; plus, the storage boxes for the black and white chess pieces roll out from the sides.
Now, you can use any lumber you’ve got in the garage. But, for the best results, go with white oak and mahogany for the board and the pulls and poplar for the rest. For cutting, a combination of table and miter saws is the best bet. And if you cover the wood with a grain filler and lacquer, it will last for decades.
14. Marble Tile Chess Table
Why settle for a board when you can build a whole marble tile chess table? In contrast to all the other plans on the list, we won’t be cutting oak, mahogany, or walnut. Painting won’t be a part of the process, either. Instead, we’ll carve out the wood and install a pack of marble tiles (black and white, 64 in total) into the table. For that, you’ll need a router, chisel, and hand sander. Also, see that you have some adhesive and sandpaper.
Wood stain and polyurethane are also a must. They don’t cost a lot but do improve the table’s appeal and longevity. One thing to remember is that the table’s diameter should be at least 25–30 inches to accommodate the improvised board. Mark the outsides of the board with a pencil using the square tool and cut the wood out with a router and a chisel. Clean everything with a sander and glue the tiles.
15. Giant Outdoor Chess Board
We’re used to playing chess on relatively small boards, but what if you could make everything ten times bigger? With a giant outdoor chess board, the game will feel so much different! And the best thing about it is you won’t have to put much effort into turning this into a reality. All you need is a bunch of concrete pavers (64 in total, 32 white, 32 red), some chess pieces, landscape fabric, and three 50-pound bags of sand.
The fabric will keep grass from growing. As for the sand, fill every chess piece with it so that it can withstand the wind. Next, add a bit of sand to the landscape fabric before laying the concrete. And what about the tools? Put on a pair of gloves and use a measuring tape, level, and marker to guide your hand; no cutting for this plan. Find an even spot in your backyard and get to work!
Building a DIY Chess Board: The Essentials
Before you do any cutting, sanding, or painting, it’s important to get the right tools for the job. First, put on a pair of protective gloves. Secondly, don’t go for the cheapest wood stain/finish. These products do a great job of protecting the wood from weather elements; so, buy the good stuff! Sanding is another crucial step in the process. Combine different sandpaper grits but always start with the highest one available before switching to coarser abrasives.
And let’s not forget about the toolset! Now, most plans on today’s list involve using at least one type of saw. If you don’t have any, you can always rent it or ask a carpenter you know to cut the wood boards for you. Essentially, it all comes down to taking proper measurements, cutting the wood (two different types/colors), and gluing everything together. A square tool, measuring tape, and pencil will help get the cutting angles right.
How Long Is It Going to Take?
This greatly depends on the scope of the project, or, rather, how complex the DIY plan is. Sometimes, all you have to do is glue tape to a piece of plywood, paint it, and call it a day. In that case, it will only take you 2–3 hours max. However, if the project involves cutting multiple wood boards, gluing them together, sanding the surface, and staining it, that could take the entire weekend.
Your experience with tools like a miter saw, sander, router, and chisel matter as well, of course. First-timers will have to learn their way around the equipment. So, don’t rush yourself: that’s the #1 rule for all DIY projects. Also, always put safety first, and if you’re not sure you can handle a saw, router, or even hammer, let a pro do the heavy lifting.
From standard chess boards with no frills added to awesome vertical chess boards you can mount on the wall, we’ve gathered many great plans to get you started building your own chess set. This is the type of rewarding DIY project that keeps on giving, as you can continue playing on your new chess board for years to come. Of course, once your DIY and woodworking skills progress even further, you might want learn how to build a chess board to challenge and show off those hard-earned skills.
Featured Image Credit: Jani Kaasinen, Unsplash