While there are several ways to make a chess board, with varying levels of difficulty, I find this build to be the most basic way. You can make this project as simple or as complex as you choose (and I encourage you to not be afraid of challenging yourself in the workshop!) Total build time for this project is only a few hours, minus waiting for the glue to dry. See the below instructions on how to build a wooden chess board with me. Good luck and happy woodworking!
Wooden chess board build instructions
Tools needed for building a wooden chess board
- Tape measure or calipers
- Glue clamps
- Table saw or hand saw
- Palm sander or table sander
- Miter saw or miter box
Materials needed for your wooden chess board
- Forest 2 Home Chess Board Kit
- Wood glue (Titebond III was used for this project and can be found on Amazon)
- Sandpaper (80 grit, 100 grit, 200 grit)
- Finish of your choice (Minwax High Gloss Polyurethane was used for this project and can be found on Amazon)
Step 1: Glue up your wood pieces
Glue the 8 pieces of 1”x2”x18” boards together, making sure your alternate each species.
For example, if your kit has Walnut wood and Ash wood, like The Grand Master, simply alternate your boards so when they are glued together where you have one Walnut wood board followed by an Ash wood board followed by another Walnut wood board and so on.
It is important to get your boards as flat as possible during the glue up. The flatter the better. This will ensure the finished thickness of your chess board is as thick as possible. Also try to keep at least one edge of the panel flush. Meaning, make sure the ends of your boards are all flush. This will give you a square surface to place against your fence on the table saw.
Let the boards/glue dry overnight.
Step 2: Prepare your chess board after the glue up
Remove the boards from the glue clamps. Scrape off any excess glue. Run the panel through your planer just enough to clean up the surface on both sides. Try to remove as little material as possible. If you do not have a planer, simply hand sand the panel as best as you can to flatten one side. This will help keep the strips your going to rip nice and square.
Step 3: Rip your chess board pieces
You will need your table saw for this next step. Rip the panel into 2” strips. Make sure you check your measurements here. Square your fence to the saw. Open your fence up as wide as you need to so that you can clean up one edge of the panel. This edge will be put against your fence so that you can make nice and square strips.
Rip each piece to 2.00”. Make sure you rip to 2.00” or as close as you can. If your finished width is less than 2” that is OK. Just do your best to keep it close.
Step 4: Laying out the chess board pattern
Now you should have 8 wood strips that alternate by species. The next step is very simple. All you need to do is turn every other piece from end to end. Wow! Look how cool that Chess board looks!
Step 5: Repeat glue up by alternating boards
Get your glue clamps out again. Glue all the pieces together. Keep the surface and edges as flat and flush as possible. This will help make sure all the squares are the same size. Just make sure you line the squares up as straight as possible.
Wipe off all excess glue and let dry overnight.
Step 6: Plane your DIY chess board
Remove the chess board from the glue clamps. Remove any excess glue. Run the chess board through your planer again. Plane it down until you have one smooth surface on each side. Should be ¾” or a little thicker. All depends on how much you removed the first time you planed the panel.
Step 7: Square chess board edges
Square your edges on your rip saw. If you took your time gluing your edges your chess board should be pretty flush. All you want to do is remove just enough of the edge to make the edges flush so when you glue on the edge trim you don’t have any glue lines or gaps.
Note: When you true up your edges your outer squares might end up being a little smaller than the rest of the squares. This is OK. You will not be able to notice with the human eye. Also, your adding a edge band to the piece.
Step 8: Sand your chess board
Now the board is all glued up and surfaced. At this stage I would recommend sanding the chess board panel to a finish that suits your needs. In my build I sanded both sides with 80 grit then 100 and then I finished with 200 grit. The way to know if your finished is by closing your eyes and rubbing your hand over the board. Can you feel the glue lines?
Step 9: Add edge banding to your custom chess board
We are almost there! The last step is to add the edge banding. There are lots of ways to do this. Take your time here. Make sure you measure several times before you cut your miters.
Cut your miters and glue the edge band to your chess board. Make sure the bottom is flush. You should have a natural relief on top. Meaning your edge band should stick up and your board should be slightly recessed. This will help keep the pieces on the board better and give a 3D depth to your build.
Make sure you spend a bunch of time wiping off all the excess glue. This will save you time sanding it off.
Step 10: Give your DIY chess board a final sanding
Give your board one final sanding. Take your time. I like round edges, so I hand sanded the outer banding (border).
Step 11: Apply a wood finish to your new chess board
Add your finish. I used polyurethane for this build. I added poly and sanded about 4 times. This helps to fill in the gaps around the boarder and gives depth to the finish. Keep adding poly and sanding until you like the finish. If you choose a more natural finish like bees wax or mineral oil, make sure you wipe off the excess and allow it so soak in. For more on wood finishes types and techniques, click here to read our Woodworking 101 deep dive on finish.
Step 12: Enjoy your brand new DIY wooden chess board
There are many way to build this chess board. This was a really fun project. Make it your own. It is a great project for the family. Get those kids away from their devices and teach them woodworking. Not only will there be valuable skills learned in the workshop, but over a game of chess as well! The experience will last forever!
Are you ready to create your own woodworking DIY chess board? Shop Forest 2 Home chess boards, The Grand Master and The Queen's Gambit, now!
We can't wait to see your custom made chess boards and #BuiltWithF2H woodworking projects! Share your project photos and plans with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or using hashtag #BuiltWithF2H wherever you share project photos on social media (you can also tag us with @shopf2h on Instagram!). Happy Woodworking!