Last Modified on Jan 6, 2023

How To Make Wooden Chess Pieces With & Without A Lathe

how to make wooden chess pieces

Making specific and detailed wooden Chess pieces are difficult but not impossible. But without a lathe, your hand and knife are two best friends for completing this job. So below is the step-by-step guide about how to make wooden chess pieces without a lathe.

Chess pieces are mostly made with wood and have been playing this game for more than 1000 years which start in India. And making wooden chess pieces and boards with lathe or woodcutting machines is more efficient than without lathe.

Because a lathe saves your time by cutting, shaping, and smoothing the woodblock in less time, without a lathe, making wooden chess pieces are also easy if you know the right process and you are skilled enough.

So without wasting time, directly jump into our how to make wooden chess pieces without a lathe guide.

Step By Step Guide To Make Wooden Chess Pieces

To be honest, without a lathe or woodcutting machine the job of making the wooden chess pieces goes very difficult and time-consuming. Moreover, you need to have experienced and skill to cut, shape and smoothen the woodblocks for perfection.

But still, if you are a beginner or intermediate in the woodcutting sector, don’t worry. Because you ask and we are here to answer all of your questions with proper details.

Make Wooden Chess Pieces Without A Lathe

Did you know that the most expensive handmade chess cost between $1.3 million dollars? But most people don't want to play these types of expensive chess. So wooden chess is more than enough to play this brain-boosting game.

For that, you need to buy or need to make wooden chess with the help of a lathe. A wood lathe or woodcutting machine is a powerful tool that helps your wooden block, cut shape, and design easily.

Wooden chess price depends on its design, quality, durability, and wood type. The more design and quality wood you take the price will go high. But on average most wooden chess costs between $10 to $100.

So below is the guide about how to make a wooden chess piece with a lathe.

  • First, take some large wood blocks and cut the bark of these blocks, which is the moisturized part of the wood.
  • If you use a large wood block, then first cut them into small pieces (keep your block size in square 2.25' or 5.72cm) to easily access the next step. And this size of the block helps you to reach the standard size (3.7inch long and 1.75 inches wide) of each chess piece.
  • Then take a block, secure it in the lathe and start the machine to rotate. In this time, take a metal blade to cut the rough surface, short, thin, and shape the blocks. And try to start with side by side, this will help you to design the piece's letter. Nothing, but it takes 5-7 minutes to make each piece.
  • Okay, now comes the vital part: to design the pieces to make, king, queen, knight, soldiers, etc. Here you need your expertise, skill, and art to make such unique pieces. So you can take the help of metal blades and carefully cut or design the body of each piece.
  • After making the faces of wood pieces, now comes to stand it with its feet. For that, again, you go to your lathe machine and flat the lower surface to stand easily.
  • Then make a hole under each Pisces and glue the part with a small weight. It gives your chess pieces stability and heaviness.
  • Remember, chess pieces need to move easily and smoothly across the board. So you can also add a small soft pad under the chess pieces to finish the job.
  • Last but not least comes quick cleaning and smoothing of each piece to make it more colorful and interesting.

These are the handmade processes to make Wooden Chess Pieces Without A Lathe. But again lathe or woodcutting machines will definitely boost your work efficiency. So now if you feel to go for using a lathe then below are the pro tips.

Make A Wooden Chess Piece With A Lathe

  • First, take some boxwood blocks as per no of pieces, I mean, if you want to make 16 pieces, then bring 16 pieces of blocks. Although you can use any block of wood to make chess pieces but ensure the durability of your work.
  • Then take a knife or sore to cut those blocks one by one.
  • Now here need some professionalism, which means the more skilled you have the more specific the design would be for chess pieces. Although, the details, style, and sizes of each piece depend on your choice. But try to make them short about 16 x 16 inches which is an ideal size for playing chess.
  • Then take a chess piece and start to smoothen the surface with sandpaper which is great for removing carves from woods. And try to buy 150 to 200 grit sandpaper which works more to smoothen the surface.
  • Additionally, you can also make wooden chess pieces by gluing two blocks together. For that, just follow the previous discussion (arrange, cut, and smoothen) and then make three parts of each block ( head, body, and leg).
  • Then simply glue the sides and attach the head, body, and legs with it. For more details use a knife to draw the woodblocks.

These are the handmade processes to make Wooden Chess Pieces Without A Lathe. But again lathe or woodcutting machines will definitely boost your work efficiency. So now if you feel to go for using a lathe then below are the pro tips.

Important Note

Rosewood is also referred to as the toughest wood in the world that is much durable and strong after dying under the sun. But Red Sandalwood, Boxwood, Sheesham, and Ebony are some of the best woods to use for making chess boards.

Boxwood is also very good for making chess pieces but remembers, whatever wood you take first, keep them dry to get the best result. For designing, you can use a small rotating metal bar to make the process more convenient.

If you are unable to make hand-carved chess piece patterns, then search google for chess patterns or chess pieces lathe template, collect the images to follow simple chess piece designs. This will boost your homemade chess pieces ideas.

For making the chessboard first, you need to make a total of 64 same-size squares (wasters type chess) and then simply gluing the squares together. And also, make sure the square is perfectly sized, smooth, and flat to make the gluing convenient. The 16 to 20 inches size of the chessboard defines the ideal shape of playing chess.

Keep in mind there are no magical machines that can create such unique designs and patterns of each chess piece like knight, soldier, king-queen, etc.


So this is all about how to make wooden chess pieces without a lathe. Remember, lathe or woodcutting machine, no-doubt will help you make chess pieces less time and less effort. If you have a lathe in your garage, then definitely start cutting the woodblock in the machine.

But if not, then just go and start the handmade process by following our recommended process. Keep in mind without a lathe or wood cutting machine, you hand and metal knife are only two option to make chess pieces, shape, cut and design them.

And all that process is very time-consuming and hard to complete. Although, most people are stuck when it comes to designing chess pieces. To better understand the design, you can collect some simple chess pieces, design images from google, and just follow the structure to apply on your own block.

So now you have enough knowledge about the topic, so go and start making the chess pieces.