How to make your own wooden chess set?

wooden chess

How to make your own wooden chess set?

Consistency is key when carving a wooden chess set without a lathe. The knights, rooks, and bishops must have comparable styles.

This post will help you through designing a fully functional chess set in any style. While we focus on hand-carving chess, many of the suggestions are equally useful for power carvers.

The post will focus on general carving suggestions and ideas, as well as the details of each piece. Let’s start with the basics.

Wood for Black Chess Pieces

Black chess pieces are made from less common wood than white ones. Yes, walnut stain may darken chess pieces. If you prefer to keep the wood’s natural hue, here are several options:

Red cedar

Red cedar helps beginning woodcarvers cut dark wood. Dark red isn’t black, but it clearly differentiates the two chess colours.

If you’re a novice, we suggest red cedar since it’s one of the softest woods in the world. If you’re an expert, we still recommend red cedar but also recommend walnut

Wood for Black Chess Pieces


Professional woodcarvers use walnut for dark carvings. It’s difficult to carve, therefore novices shouldn’t try. Walnut is the darkest hue for black furniture.

It’s worth carving if you’re up to the job since it’s the perfect wood for black chess pieces.

If you’ve never carved walnut before, choose a simpler, less complex design to ensure consistent chess pieces.


Ebony is a valuable wood. If you want a premium chess set, get ebony wood.

  1. Carving a Wooden Pawn
  • Use push cuts to make the head of the pawn round and to narrow parts of the pawn that lead to a stop new section.
  • Cut deep lines between sections with stop cuts.
  • Make marks on the wood to help you carve.

Since pawns are small, carving off small pieces will make it look like there are more details.

Carving a Wooden Pawn

After carving the pawn, you must sand it and give it a finish of your choice. You don’t have to make the carving perfectly smooth if you don’t want to, but leaving visible knife cuts makes it look too simple. If you don’t mind how simple it looks, it’s easy to finish the job.

  1. Carving a Wooden Knight for wooden chess set
  • Make the middle and top narrow on two opposite sides and the bottom wide.
  • To shape the head, you start with one of the thicker sides.
  • Make the horse’s mane stand out in some way.
  • Make sure the knight is symmetrical and that the head doesn’t lean to one side.
  • Most of the knights you make will be different, but to make the set look better, try to make as many of them as possible look the same.
  • Use a v-cut to make the shape of the knight’s ears.
  • Mark the different parts of the base with stop cuts.

To be clear, you shouldn’t copy the knight’s design in any way. You can, but you don’t have to. You can make your own pattern. For example, you could give it very pointy ears or a round base to show your creativity in your own wooden chess set

  1. Making a Bishop

Once you know what you’re doing, it’s not hard to carve a bishop. The idea, on the other hand, is the hard part. This is great news if you know exactly what you want your bishop to look like, but it’s more likely that you don’t know what to do with a bishop in your carved chess set.

You don’t want the bishop’s complexity to make the queen look bad, but you need something simpler than a thinly carved stick. If you are carving your chess set in a certain style, it may be even harder to come up with ideas for the bishop.

In traditional carved chess, there is one thing that many people don’t notice. The bishop is different from the pawn and the queen because of the cut on the right side of its head.

Make sure to use it in your design, as it is a very nice detail that fits well but not many people have noticed. Just use a V cut and go as deep as you think looks good for your own wooden chess set.

If you really like the little ball on top of the bishop’s head but find it hard to carve, carve it out separately and use glue to stick it on!

For the most part, carving a bishop is the same as carving a pawn. Use push cuts to make a round head, and use stop cuts to mark different parts of the bishops as you work your way down.

  1. Carving a Wooden Rook

The rook is very valuable, and you should show that. One way is to make the rook from a slightly bigger piece of wood than the bishops and knights. The other is to draw more attention to its body.

As you can see on the right, the rook can have up to 5 different depths. Stop cuts are used to make these, and the depth of the wood changes between each stop cut. When you carve a rook, you should keep in mind that giving it more depth will make it a little more assertive.

Carving a Wooden Rook

  1. Carving Wooden King&Queen

Your chess set’s king and queen must be unique in your wooden chess set. A chess set is useless if the queen looks like a bishop and the king is shorter than the rook. They are the most valuable pieces on the board, and that should be clear.

First, decide which one should be the taller one. There are reasons for and against the queen being taller, but most people like this idea. But it’s up to you whether you want your king to be taller or not.

The king and queen are both made in a similar way. What’s on top of their heads is the biggest difference.

Another thing to remember is that you should give your king and queen a lot of depth. With the rook, you could make up to 5 stop cuts, which would give you 4 different layers. With the king and queen, though, you should go one step further and make each layer wavy instead of flat, going from one stop cut to the next.

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