How to Make Wooden Chess Pieces without a Lathe

If you are a craftsman, one of the major DIY projects you can undertake is making of chess pieces. Now, one thing you need to understand is that DIY is highly tied to improvisation and that is to say that if that custom or unique feel is not incorporated in your DIY project, it tends to lose the shine. That is why it is not necessary that you must build the chess pieces with light bulbs or brass to make it look nice

The idea here is to make the approach as minimalist as possible, and with consistency, you can come up with something nice without a lathe.

Now, it is good for you to note that in building chess pieces without a lathe, one of the most essential things is to make sure that the same characters are all similar, and different from the other characters.

The nights must be similar, and must be different from the bishops and others. Whether you are carving the chess by hand or with power, you will find the information in this article very useful.

 Also Read : How to Make Money Building and Selling Furniture

The Best Wood for Chess Pieces

If you want to carve chess pieces that will be white in color, you can achieve this with many types of wood like, sapwood, oak and others. Here, we are talking about when you want natural color on the chess pieces. However, if you don’t want it natural, you can use any wood and color it as you wish when you are done.

For black chess pieces, you have to look in the way of names like red cedar for the naturally dark ones.

With these, you can achieve dark but not entirely black pieces. This is one of the easiest woods to carve too. The soft nature of the wood makes it the best option for new carvers. Walnut is another amazing option for dark chess pieces.

Most of the professional wood carvers stick with walnut when they want to produce dark wood carvings. However, it is a very tough one to carve. While it has the ideal dark color for dark chess pieces, it is not recommended for newbies.

While the wood has beautiful grain and details, it needs to be handled with very sharp tools. Another good natural dark wood is ebony, and it is the most expensive in the entire world. This is meant for luxurious chess pieces.

Preliminaries of Chess Pieces Carving Without Lathe

The first thing is for you to ensure that all the necessary tools are available. While it may get to the point when you may need many other tools, the most essential is the carving knife. The others are drill press, spray gun, and circular saw, plus sandpaper.

After gathering the tools, you should move ahead to gather the wood that you will be carving. Reduce them to the appropriate size before you start cutting. You may achieve this by cutting the larger logs with saw, after which you measure to make sure each of them are the same.

While cutting, make sure you leave extra 20% on the exact size of each piece, which you will carve off when you start working on them.

Choose the theme, size and design for the chess pieces. This lends credence to what I said before that they should all look the same, but a little different based on characters.

What we are saying in essence is that while all kings must be similar, and different from all queens, you can’t pick modern queens and medieval kings. They must be of the same milieu.

When you are done, you will need to use some finishing on the final product, and this might be beeswax or any other good finishing. However, one advice is evergreen here, “start with the simpler ones as a beginner”.

Carving the Characters

Carving the Pawns


For the pawn, you need to round the head and narrow the parts with push cuts. To carve the deep lines that lie between sections, you have to employ top cuts. Before carving, you need to draw on the wood to make it easier.

Carving the Knights

The top and middle parts should be made narrow on the two opposites, and the bottom made large. Start from one of the thicker opposite sides to shape the head, and instill some headlights around the mane of the horse.

You should also make it symmetrical, ensuring that the head is straight and doesn’t tilt to either side. To outline the ears of the knights, make use of v cuts, while stop cuts will help you create different areas around the base.

Carving the Bishop

Bishops are a bit easier to carve. But you must create an idea of what the bishop will look like in your head before you start. While many may decide to just create a thinly carved stick and call it bishop, one thing that must not be missing is the cut by the right side of the head of the bishop.

This is what distinguishes a bishop in classical chess. This sets the bishops apart from the queen and the pawn.

Carving the Rook

This is very important in chess, and is worth a lot, but it is easy to carve. For the newbies, when you are able to create any carving with a very large cube on the base and a smaller one on the top, complemented by very few and thin outlines in the middle, then you have a rook.

Carving the King and Queen

Start with rounder edges, as sharp ones will soon break. So, you have to create some thinner areas to add layers, but let the layers not be too thin, to avoid breaking.

To give the queen a little crown, you need to create a circle on top of the wood, and make it spherical. It is the upper angle that shows the style of the work, so you have to design this part well before carving. Add these details with subtle pressure to avoid cutting this upper angle off.

For the king, the small crown could be added by narrowing down the wood block from both sides, complemented by stop cuts, after which you carve out the cross.

With these, you’ve made your chess pieces without lathe.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.