Chessman

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I today received a package that I've been waiting for, for six months.
I've always wanted to make my own set of Chessmen and I lacked a good model to go from.
I'm not gifted enough visually to go on my own and create my own set, and I've always admired the Staunton Standard, anyways.
Well, today's UPS delivery brought me a much delayed but very nice surprise.
I've now got a faithful plastic replica of the Staunton Chessmen that I've always most admired.
Since I now work in an environment where CNC is freely available, I'm tempted to have the guys work them up in Cocobolo (not really).
I'm posting this because I truly believe that the Staunton plastic men are a good model for making yer own Chessmen.
Which I intend to start replicating tomorrow morning.
If I have enough kero for the heater to run long enough.
Ya know, the Knights are always the problem, and these plastic Knights are detailed down to the level of their teeth.
Hot damn !
Now, if I can only remember where I put that Satinwood solid stock ...
...and the Ebony - where in Gosh's name did I put that stash of Ebony?
Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker (ret) Real Email is: tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet Website: http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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One of my summer projects will be a set myself. I've collected several pictures and bought a few books for 'inspiration' and hope to make a set that is a combination of turned and 3D compound, at lest for the knight anyway. I may even do a compound set on my scrollsaw as I've gotten some good inspiration from numerous pics. If I had any artistic skills (wood carving) I'd make a nautical themed set, however I lack those skills so I'll stick to something I *may* be able to make. I've a number of smaller pieces of Juniper and really like the reddish color with the contrasting white areas in it. Don't know what the other half will be, perhaps white pine.
Tom Watson wrote:

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Tom:
I'd be interested in a running dialog on this project of yours. I made a few chessboards a while back and am toying with trying to make a set of men..You could either scare me or encourage me...not sure which way it'll fall right now <g!>.
Rob
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wrote:

I'll be right along with you, Rob. I've no expertise in this kind of wooddorking. It does seem like an interesting project, though.
I'm most looking forward to the challenge of the Knights.
My carving experience is limited to furniture details like shells and such, which are pretty geometrical and thus easy to do.
A horses head is a whole 'nuther kettle o'fish.
Will update as progress (or frustration) is made.
Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker (ret) Real Email is: tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet Website: http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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Tom Watson wrote:

Could always carve a horse's ass. :)
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Tom Watson wrote:

I don't know which set you got, but I agree. Mine are the "Marshall" version, which is what I needed to get to size for that board I made.

I got a lathe for Christmas, and one of my plans for the thing was a set of chessmen based on these plastic ones. I don't have any suitably thick stock in any appropriate wood though. I never thought about that until I started turning. 4/4 lumber does not a good turning blank make when the base of the thing is 1 1/4" in diameter.
Anyway, I'll come up with something eventually.
Your post reminded me of one that I had been meaning to make, so I'll tack it on. What do you, wood wrecker and chess grand master extraordinaire, think about contrasting pieces with the board?
I'm going to make myself a walnut/maple chess box when the weather gets warmer. I've been debating whether to make the pieces out of walnut/maple, or choose something else, like cherry/ash or whatever I can come up with in turnable stock.
One argument says making pieces out of the same boards as the chess board would be very cool indeed (but I'd have to do a glue-up to make the blanks in that case, or else mail order some 8/4 or whatever lumber), and another one says that pieces *exactly* the same color/texture as the board might tend to be easy to overlook. Not exactly invisible, but maybe I forget about the walnut rook on the walnut square until it checkmates me. In the latter case, going for strong contrast might be a good thing, and I could pick any pair of light/dark woods that I could get in log form for my stock.
What do you think?
BTW, I have no freaking idea how I'm going to do the knights. None whatsoever. I couldn't carve my way out of a wet paper bag with a CNC carving machine.
Truth is, given what a bitch it will be to make all these pieces look right, I'm thinking about just using the damn plastic ones. They may be plastic, but they sure look good. Much nicer than any chess sets I've ever had before, and I've had wood in the past.
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On Sat, 31 Jan 2004 03:41:45 -0500, Silvan

So learn.

Heck, it wouldn't take much of your spare time, not more than two or three hundred hours. Maybe less if you used a Foredom Dremel, or HFT rotary tool for the fine details.
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Larry Jaques wrote...

A chess set was my very first turning project, so I had no experience or skill starting out, but I did keep track of how long it took to do the job.
The pawns averaged about 20 minutes each; a bishop or rook needed 30 minutes. The kings took about an hour; the queens slightly less. The walnut knights took two hours apiece; the maple ones took around two and a half to three hours.
These times included sawing the lathe blank from the lumber, turning, sanding, and applying one coat of oil, but not boring the base, pouring the lead ballast, felting the bottom, or applying the second (final) coat of finish. Oh, the times do include that lost on the half-dozen or so that I ruined with dig-ins and various other goofs.
I did not carve much detail, really, but that was a design choice. I suppose it would have taken perhaps another twenty or thirty minutes on each of the knights, and something less on the queens and rooks to bring the level of detail reasonably close to what is common for wood Staunton sets. I think it would be quite difficult to get it to what is common for the plastic sets; the material just isn't as suitable for such fine detail.
So, something in the range of 25 to 30 hours to get the basic pieces out, plus another five or six hours for weight, felt and final finish.
Jim http://www.paragoncode.com/woodworking/chess_set
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Larry Jaques wrote:

I'm not really all that interested in carving. I've tried my hand a time or two, dating all the way back to the days when I used to make myself replacement laser guns for my Star Wars action figures out of balsa. Carving has never really tickled my fancy. For that kind of thing, I'd much sooner work in clay, where I can put material back if I've removed too much.

I do have a Dremel with a flex shaft attachment, but knights look like complicated little critters. This is something I'd really rather trade for beer, really. I'm hoping to hook up with a carver at some point.
I'll work up to the turning soon though. My biggest problem at this point is with getting the pieces to look *just* like the prototype. I can get the features in there, but I haven't had great success getting an accurate reproduction of a turned salt shaker yet. I figure nail the salt shaker a few times, and then try something much, much smaller.
(Or scale them up and make some honking bigass chessmen... :)
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On Sat, 31 Jan 2004 20:58:04 -0500, Silvan

So don't learn, Grasshoppah.

Yeah, a drunken carver'd do a right proud job, woonhe?

<g>
4-footers are for sale online somewhere.
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Larry Jaques wrote:

Now we're talking.

He gets the beer after, dolt.

More like a 9" king or thereabouts. I'd have to play with it. I'd probably need 4" squares or such like. Be a honking bigass chess box too.
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Silvan wrote:
<snipped>

Speaking of large chessmen, is there a standard correlation between the size of the squares on a board and the footprint or height of the men - excluding the obvious? I'd like to make a larger board, maybe 3' across.
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Grandpa wrote...

Four pawns should just barely fit on a single square.
There are no hard and fast standard base and height relationships for the
rest of the pieces, but there are some conventions that work well.
A pawn is usually about 15% taller than its base. The king is usually about twice the height of the pawn. The other pieces are generally sized to fit "smoothly" between the king and pawn: king, queen, bishop, rook, knight, pawn.
The Staunton design and minor variations of it dominate the chess scene. A standard competition chessboard square is 2-1/4".
Here are some notes I took when making my set:
Traditional Staunton set Bases - inches (units) =================================P - 1.19" (0.53 times standard square size) R - 1.24" (1.04 times pawn base) N - 1.31" (1.10 times pawn base) B - 1.25" (1.05 times pawn base) Q - 1.50" (1.26 times pawn base) K - 1.55" (1.30 times pawn base)
Heights - inches (units) =================================P - 1.85" (1.55 times pawn base) R - 2.10" (1.14 times pawn height) N - 2.30" (1.24 times pawn height) B - 2.65" (1.43 times pawn height) Q - 3.30" (1.78 times pawn height) K - 3.70" (2.00 times pawn height)
The dimensions of the popular "Ultimate" chess pieces give some perspective:
Ultimate Staunton set Bases - inches (units) =================================P - 1.18" (0.52 times square size) R - 1.31" (1.11 times pawn base) N - 1.34" (1.14 times pawn base) B - 1.39" (1.18 times pawn base) Q - 1.45" (1.23 times pawn base) K - 1.57" (1.33 times pawn base)
Heights - inches (units) =================================P - 1.84" (1.56 times pawn base) R - 2.10" (1.14 times pawn height) N - 2.34" (1.27 times pawn height) B - 2.65" (1.44 times pawn height) Q - 3.00" (1.63 times pawn height) K - 3.53" (1.92 times pawn height)
In some of the "oversize" chess sets I've seen, the variations between the sizes of the pieces is not so pronounced. The king might be only 1.5 times the height of a pawn.
Jim
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Jim Wilson wrote...

Oops. That was supposed to be 50% taller. Sorry.
Jim
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Thanks Jim, I'll print and keep this - much appreciated.
Jim Wilson wrote:

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Grandpa <jsdebooATcomcast.net> wrote:

Yes. My memory is failing me, so let me go dig it up.
http://www.houseofstaunton.com/faq.html#001
1. How do you choose the right size squares to match your set to a board? The proper square size for a set of properly proportioned Staunton chessmen is such that the width of the base of the King should be 78% of the width of a square. So, divide the King's base diameter by 0.78 and you get the proper square size. You can increase the square size by 1/8", but the square size should not be any smaller. For example, a Staunton King with a base diameter of 1.75" would require a square size of 1.75"/0.78 = 2.25". Hence, you should use a chessboard with either 2-1/4" or 2-3/8" (+1/8").
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Jez, I was there last night and never saw the FAQ link - it was late I guess<sigh>. Thanks! Silvan wrote:

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On Sun, 01 Feb 2004 19:33:10 -0500, Silvan

What if the chessmen have a bit of middle-age spread?
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Larry Jaques wrote...

(G) These -- Tom's set is a good example -- are actually advantageous; the pieces are harder to topple accidentally.
Jim
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Silvan wrote...

Interesting reference; thanks.

This size relationship between the pieces and the boards results in a crowded board, in my opinion. It is certainly not the worst I have seen (I think those Mexican agate sets would win that prize), but it is quite a bit more crowded than standard competition sets and boards. These typically have a King base diameter between 69% and 74% of the square width.
I would also note that the fixed 1/8" buffer is probably an ok variance for regular sized boards, but that it makes better sense to use a larger variance for larger sets. I don't imagine a 1/8" larger square size would be noticeable at all in a lawn or park set.
Cheers!
Jim
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