One of my very first projects after getting a lathe was an all metal chess set. Since childhood I had imagined making such a thing and now I had the means to do it; what a thrill !
My lathe skills were not yet well developed so I made myself the requirement that all the pieces were to be made only by turning on the lathe - this to make the project serve as skill development practice. This ruled out anything like the classic Staunton pattern for the pieces. I had to design my own. I settled on a very modern interpretation that still captures some of the iconic features of chess sets. All the pieces were made from 1" diameter steel or brass. [Yes, this was back when that much brass was still affordable.] After turning, all the pieces were finished with lacquer to ward off corrosion and a closed box was made to house the set.
Here's how they look set up on the board. The board was bought. My woodworking skills are not up to making something like that and the set deserved something better than my poor efforts.
And here is a close up of each of the unique shapes. [For the benefit of folks who don't play, they are, left to right, king, queen, bishop, knight, rook, pawn.]
Last edited by mklotz; 07-09-2017 at 10:31 AM.
One hint: Unless you have a CNC lathe, pick a relatively simple design for the pawn. Making sixteen of anything is tedious but sixteen of something complicated involving many operations would be a killer.
Given the price of brass, you might want to make both sets from steel and blue one set to distinguish it from the other.
Another subtle point to notice about this set is the fact that the heights of the pieces mirror their Reinfeld values. In this system, the pieces are assigned these relative values...
pawn = 1
knight = 3
bishop = 3
rook = 5
queen = 9
The king has infinite value since its loss signals the end of the game. Nevertheless, the king is traditionally made taller than the queen.
Obviously, you need not follow this convention in your own design. I did it to make it easier for novices learning the game to have a visual cue to the value of the pieces.
Lest anyone be misled, note that chess is not played "by these numbers"; the game is infinitely more subtle. Position is far more important than the value of the piece.
A profile of a horse head could be cut from sheet steel and brazed onto a lathe-turned base. Alternatively, a form whose cross-section looks like a stylized head could be turned and then both sides milled flat to reveal the image.
Lots of possibilities. Let your imagination soar.
I had a guy drop a brand new 6" boring head with T50 taper mount on his foot you should have heard the colorful expletives spewing from his mouth While he was still vomiting foul words I walked over and picked it up to examine it. All I said was be darn glad it landed on your foot and not the concrete then carefully laid it back in its cradle and walked off. I guess he got the point of my statement because he quit that afternoon
Never try to tell me it can't be done
When I have to paint I use http://kbs.justoldtrucks.com/
Hobbyists who lack a lathe and still want a self-made metal chess set might want to consider making all the pieces from commonly available hardware store findings...
Here's a collection of nine extremely ingenious sets, including several electric models...
9 Bizarrely Beautiful DIY Chess Sets
I particularly like the idea of the wall-hung model. You and your wife make a move each time you pass it in the living room.
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