Chessboard

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Months ago, we were visiting with friends and their teenage son asked if I could make a chessboard. His timing couldn’t have been better. I’d just received a vacuum press and was looking for a good practice project.

The functional part of a chessboard isn’t difficult; it’s just a matter of cutting contrasting strips and taping them together. Once you have enough strips taped together for the width of the board you cut them again to make the squares and re-tape. I used a shop-made straight edge and a hobby knife for this portion.

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For the border I used some dyed veneer that I made to use for practicing leaves in marquetry. I attached the border before I glued the top to the substrate. Were I to do another one, I would wait and do the border after the top was glued down. Then again, this was my first attempt at making a chessboard so the way I did it may be the easiest way to go. I don’t really know. Yet.

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I did the same thing for the backside, but instead of using contrasting veneers I used the same species (walnut) and alternated the grain. This was only a conscious decision after I realized I didn’t have any veneer on hand large enough to cover the back.

I wanted to practice using my scroll saw, specifically double bevel marquetry and thought it would be a fun challenge to put a script letter in the middle of the back. At the time I was pretty proud of myself for actually getting the letter made and inserted into the back veneer. After it was glued up I thought it sucked. Unless the board is oriented correctly it is difficult to tell that the letter is supposed to be a “C”.

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The other task I wanted to try was using Easy Inlay; a crushed mother-of-pearl that you put into a channel and fill with epoxy. I grabbed a router and freehand routed a groove around the “C” on the back. I was so eager to get the pearl in that I didn’t clean up my shaky router edges. Of course, I thought about it after the glue was in. I’m just thankful that it will be facing a table most of the time.  Now I know and won’t make the same mistake in the future.

For the edges I used solid material and reinforced the mitered corners with splines. Once that was complete I chamfered the edges so that the player’s arms wouldn’t be landing on a sharp edge. I still had finish left over from the saw handle that I used to complete the board.

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And for the next project? Have you been following Jim’s IG feed? Those planes are tempting me. But my wife has plans of her own…

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