The One With The Game of Thrones: DIY Chess Set

My daughter was recently introduced to chess, which I would like to encourage as a way to teach strategy, forward-thinking, sportsmanship, etc. So of course I went out and bought a $10 basic chess set from Target, right? Not in my house. We immediately sat down to design our very own DIY chess set.

The first part of our DIY chess set is the board. This is my first try at making something like this, and I’m sure there is a much better way to do this but I had fun figuring it out. I started with 1 1/2″ strips of oak 1/4″ thick that I cut into sixty-four 1 1/2″ squares, making sure each piece was perfectly square. I then used to leftover stain I had from a previous project on half the pieces to give me the dark squares.

DIY Chess Set

For the base, I used a piece of 3/4″ scrap plywood, attaching oak 1×2’s cut at 45 degree miter angles for the corners. Of course I used my Kreg Jig. In this case, I drilled pocket holes on the top of the base and screwed into the border pieces. This way, once I add the square tiles, it will hide the screws so there will be no visible screws.

DIY Chess Set

I added the tiles, using some wood glue. Once everything was in place, I placed a flat board on top with several weights until the glue had fully dried. I then finished the board with a clear spray finish.

If I did this again, I would definitely use two different kinds of wood for the tiles, one light, one dark instead of staining half. That way, after I installed the tiles, I would be able to sand the board perfectly smooth before applying the finish.

DIY Chess Set

I wasn’t sure what to use for the pieces, but one night I literally had a dream about using hardware, nuts and bolts and washers, in different configurations to make the pieces. I woke up around 6am that Saturday morning and couldn’t stop thinking about all the possibilities so I grabbed my phone and Googled it.

As it turns out, a DIY chess set out of hardware is a thing. There were tons of hardware chess sets out there. The question is, which one do I use. As it turns out, none of them. My daughter and I went to the store and parked ourselves in the nuts and bolts aisle and designed the pieces ourselves. There are so many cool options that it wasn’t difficult.

Will this cost more than a basic mass produced set? Of course. However the value of having the quality time with my daughter and building our own, unique set is more than worth the extra cost.

DIY Chess Set

You may notice the rest of these pictures are a little nicer than my normal iPhone shots, thanks to my very own professional photographer…and wife, Jessica of One Tree Photography.

Here is what we came up with for our pawn, rook, knight, bishop, queen, and king. I used locking nuts (wax centers that prevent the nut from turning once installed) to prevent the pieces from coming loose as much as possible.

DIY Chess Set

Once we had two full sets, we found some cool gold metallic spray paint that we used on one set to differentiate it from the other.

DIY Chess Set


Time to teach my daughter a few lessons.

DIY Chess Set


Here are some of the tools and supplies I used in this project. If you are interested in one, click to take a look. You get a fun product, I get a fun commission. Thanks!


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