Chess with the Granddaughter

I found out my granddaughter has started learning to play chess. So this spring I made a complete set of pieces and for her 11th birthday this month I gave her the pieces and a custom board to play on.

The pieces are the Hiphop vs Metal set found on myminifactory. I printed these on my Photon resin printer and then painted them after using Google to find some images of the king’s as they where the only pieces that identified the source of the model (Big and Ozzy). The others I just had to guess at and tossed on the paint.

As my granddaughter has said in the past “plain is boring”. So I went the custom route and built a chess board. This took me a couple weeks to complete.

Metal chess set

Picture 1 of 27

Building the board

All the wood used in this project was picked up at either Lowes or HomeDepot as they are close by. So the material quality is not the greatest. I decided to use maple wood for most of the board. I also used some quarter inch MDF and some maple plywood.

The board design has a drawer so the overall height is 4 inches. The board surface is 23 inches across and deep. All of the maple boards were 4 inch nominal and were not totally straight.

I cut the boards to length and then used the router to make a rabbit on the inside edge. I then cut the mitred corners on each board.

I planed on a 16.5 inch wide playing surface so I cut a quarter inch piece of MDF to size, taped the edges, and painted one side. This is the underside of the board. I test fit the MDF into the maple edges only to have it fall through. When I made the measurements I forgot about the rabbit so the edges were half an inch too long, a little trimming and I am good to go.

The Squares

For the squares I cut another two pieces of quarter inch MDF to 24 x 8.5 inches. I primed both boards with Zinsser’s Odorless Oil-base Stain Blocker that I picked up at Lowes. After that I spray painted one black and one white.

Once the white board was dry I fetched the foil wrappers that I have been saving from a pack of Hersey Kisses I received last Christmas. I carefully unwrapped each kiss as I ate them but no matter how careful I was most of them ripped. I ended up with about two thirds of the amount I needed to cover the board. I had the idea to use the foil after watching a youtube video where someone created a resin art piece using wrinkled aluminium foil. So I carefully superglued the wrappers to the board with some overlap in between. I used the ripped pieces to fill in the gaps, defects, and later damages.

Once both boards were ready I taped them together facing each other and cut 2 inch sections from them (so I had a 2×8 inch strip). Due to drift and haste not all strips were exactly 2 inches, some had up to an extra 16th. I set up a square on a piece of HDPE and superglued one strip of each colour together. I then glued a pair of these together so I had a 4 wide section. At this point I noticed some “white” fingerprints on the black strips so I used blue painter’s tape on the foil and repainted the black strips. This mostly worked as very little black go onto the foil but the tape did stick to the foil better than the foil did to the MDF. I ended up using my heatgun to peel of the tape as it softened the glue a bit more. I still had some damage to repair though but I did that later. The first time I cut the boards when facing each other I did not think of it and I had some “stickiness” when peeling them apart. The second time I cut the boards I put some parchment paper in between. This is where I cut a strip off the 4 wide boards making a single row. I cut all the boards and had some of them separate due to poor glue adhesion.

I test fit all the strips into the board which is where I found that width wise I had filled in the entire 16.5 inch width but only 16.25 inches in depth. I was targeting a playing surface of 16 inches with a quarter inch boarder. So I improvised and made the front and back to be an eighth of an inch. I then took them all out and proceeded to glue them in. I used a spacer to maintain the eighth inch gap. I used whatever I had handily accessible to weigh down the MDF squares. I had peanut butter, chunky soups, chilli, ketchup (I was doing this in my kitchen). I put parchment paper down so the squares did not get scratched.

As the granddaughter’s favourite colour is purple I proceeded to paint the gaps and then added three different shades of purple sparkles while the paint was still somewhat wet.

Levelling the board

That night I taped around the playing area and under the board using packing tape. I then poured about 300ml of resin on the squares. The resin was set in hot water for a bit to make it easier to pour. I made sure the board was level. No leaks on the bottom so I had enough glue to seal the MDF-Maple junctions. Clean up my tools with alcohol. Sit back and wait a bit for the bubbles. I touched the bubbles and burned a bit of the tape. There were a few gaps in the squares so some bubbles formed at those locations as the resin sought out all the gaps and voids to be filled. A few loose bits of foil floated onto the black squares and the loose sparkles rose up as well. I used a needle to move these sparkles back to where them belonged but some were stubborn and went back. I torched, popped bubbles, and checked for leaks every few minutes for the next couple hours. My heat gun had died during the tape removal earlier so I used a hair dryer to help with moving the resin around. I used ArtResin that I picked up via Amazon.

Next day I had a nice and shiney, glass like playing area on the board. I set this aside for a couple days to fully cure.

Finishing the board

I peeled of the tape and fixed what little needed to be fixed. There were some drips on the unprotected maple and a couple “overflows” where I burned the tape. These were cleaned up with a chisel. I also used a cabinet scrapper to smooth the maple and the border between the resin and the wood. I then used painter’s tape on the edges of the resin and applied a water based polyurethane on the maple. Five coats later I flip the board over and do the bottom side.

I apply a couple strips of UHMW plastic tape on the bottom to allow the drawer to slide easily and then attach the maple plywood to the bottom.

I then make the drawer which just has to have issues as I am fast approaching the due date.

I used four 6mm x 5mm magnets to secure the drawer face to the board. This is just to keep the drawer closed. It little tug and the drawer opens.

My granddaughter decided not to have a drawer pull considering this to be a “secret” compartment. Since both sides look the same she has a point. You can tell from the bottom though.

Presenting the Pieces

To keep the pieces organized and cared for I made a box for each set. These boxes were made from half inch poplar and measured 2.5 inches tall (3 inch S4S from Lowes) by 13 inches wide and 6.5 inches deep. The top and bottom used quarter inch poplar seated in a rabbit.

One box I carved a monogrammed S into the lid along with a boarder at the glue joint. I taped the entire box top then glued my paper roughly in the centre, taped over it, then used a knife to cut along the lines. I then removed the paper. I did the carving with a rotary tool using a 3 mm ball bit. I filled this with resin I colour with “pearl purple” tint from ArtResin (looks more like blue to me). This took me 3 hours.

Once the resin was dried I removed all the tape and then sanded (and sanded and sanded) to get everything flush. At this point I had a nice box top with a cloudy resin inlay. I then tried to polish the resin using some toothpaste. Thankfully I only tried a corner to test it out as it did not work for me. I ended up applying some boiled linseed oil to the box top. While that made the resin shine again it also coloured the poplar. I can accept that even though there is a marked difference between the top and the sides, we’ll just call it a design choice and leave it. As I was using water based polyurethane I had to change this up due to the oil so I picked up some shellac which took much longer to dry than the label suggested. It did work but I had many finger prints that needed to be buffed out.

The second box I had to do the same oil + shellac treatment to maintain the design. I did not carve the monogram on this box as I did not have enough time for it. So I went with my original design and used copper foil tape to cover the glue joints on the top and bottom of the box. I had to do the top of this box twice as the shellac was not setting properly (I was hasty, or so I thought).

I used antique brass hinges and eight 3mm x 10mm magnets on both boxes. The magnets need to be a bit stronger as they just barely keep closed when upside down and shaken.

The Important Part

The granddaughter liked the board and thought the pieces were neat.

So mission accomplished.

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