Unfinished Chess Sets
Is anyone out there looking for unfinished wood chess sets?
Since our beginning we’ve always received a lot of calls from people asking if we carry unfinished chess sets so they could finish the sets themselves. Up until now, the answer has always been no… but maybe some day. It’s taken a while, but after 13 years we finally have unfinished chess sets, so let the orders come in!
We’re starting small to see just how much interest there is now that we actually have them. We’re starting with our most popular and best selling chess set of all time – the good old German Knight Staunton, and in the same 3 sizes we offer our finished chess sets.
The best wood for staining or painting is boxwood because it has a light, consistent color and a nice tight grain. Boxwood is the wood that we use for the white pieces on all of our wood chess sets. The downside to boxwood is that it’s more expensive than a wood such as golden rosewood. But to get the right look and consistent texture, we believe using all boxwood pieces is important.
One thing you’ll notice right off is that unfinished chess sets aren’t a whole lot less expensive than the finished ones. The reason being that nearly all of the work and cost of making the chess set is already done, even though the pieces aren’t finished (weighted and polished). When you think about it, thirty-two pieces of wood had to be cut to the right size from a big log, the wood pieces were then individually chucked up on a lathe and carefully turned to rather precise specifications, and then sanded nice and smooth. Plus, the 4 knights were hand carved one at a time. The pieces were then packaged, crated, and shipped. All in all, making an unfinished chess set is still a heck of a lot of hard, time consuming work.
But the main reason people are looking for an unfinished chess set isn’t to save money anyway. The real reason is that they want to finish the chess set in their own unique and creative way and have fun doing it. There’s definitely satisfaction in taking a plain unfinished chess set and making a beautiful piece of art out of it.
For the purpose of providing some samples to share with people of what can be done we bought a few cans of metallic spray paint at the local hardware store and went to town on some pieces. We found it amazingly easy and fun to create some pretty darn cool looking chess sets. It’s hard to tell the painted wood pieces from real copper, silver, gold, brass, and nickel. We also stained a few sets several bright colors and created some pretty nifty looking chess sets where you can see the grain of the wood. We finished these sets with semi-gloss polyurethane and they turned out amazingly beautiful.
Jerri Koos, our director of marketing who is also a pretty talented craft lady, just for fun took some paints and a brush and created a truly elegant and colorful chess set. In fact, here in the next day or two we’ll get some pictures taken of all of the other ones and get them posted to this blog and Pinterest. The colors, patterns, designs that you can create are endless.
If you decide to stain, here’s something you’ll want to keep in mind. Because boxwood is so hard and has such a tight grain it does not accept some stains very well. We recommend water based dye such as J.E. Moser’s Aniline Dye. These dyes are cheap, easy to mix, and come in just about any color you might want. This dye easily penetrates the wood and with the different grain direction you find on the pieces, the dye creates some unique looking patterns and different intensity of colors.
A couple of more things worth mentioning, these chess sets are not weighted but can be weighted with a little extra work. For the handyman, all you need is a drill press and some lead or steel plugs you can use as weight. It’s a little bit of work but if weight is important, it can be done. The last item is the pads on the bottom. It’s as simple as running down to your local fabric store for some felt. Then it’s just a matter of cutting out some round pieces and gluing them on. FYI, we’ll soon have full sets of cutout felt pads with PSA on one side. Just peel and stick.
We hope that both chess players and crafts people alike will find these unfinished chess sets a lot of fun and a rewarding project. We would love to have you send us pictures of your chess set if you buy one and finish it and we hope to make a page on our web site for posting everyone’s work of art. Paint away!