Demand for chess sets is soaring, so why not make your own?
By Anna Goldfarb
Thanks to the success of the Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit,” chess sets are flying off the shelves. If you can’t find one, or just want another pandemic crafting project, why not make your own at home?
You don’t need a lot of equipment to get started. And unlike with a chess set you’d purchase, if you lose a piece or damage the board, you can simply construct a new piece.
As you weigh your options, Joann Jamieson-Larkin, a designer for Crafter’s Companion, an arts and crafts store, recommends asking yourself how enduring you need your chess set to be. Is it intended to be a lifelong keepsake or simply something fun to do in an afternoon? Knowing the answer ahead of time will guide your next steps, she said.
Paper can be a surprisingly sturdy medium. “I have projects that I have created out of paper that I still have four to five years after they were created,” Ms. Jamieson-Larkin said. In fact, she designed her own 3-D chess set using card stock paper.
Not all of us have access to card stock at the moment, but don’t fret. Here are your options.
How to make a paper chess set
This is the easiest and fastest option. Sites like AllFreePrintable.com and Supercoloring.com offer free chess set templates. All you need is a functioning printer, some paper and a pair of scissors, and you can be playing chess in minutes.
However, the quality of these sets leaves a lot to be desired. The chess pieces are flimsy and hard to move around the (woefully small) chess board. A stiff wind, rowdy pet or grumpy child could make a mess of things in short order. Most adults would find these chess sets lacking, especially if you’ve played on more robust sets before and are used to being able to pick up a piece and knock an opponent off the board.
A free 3-D printable paper chess set template from PrintChess.com designed by Gary French is the best option for most people. The board is a little larger, as it weaves together two sheets of paper, and the pieces are easy to assemble. Feel free to customize the pieces with colors or paint. But honestly, this chess board is pretty perfect as is.
You will need:
4 sheets of paper
Step 1. Download the zip file.
Step 2. Print out the chess set.
Step 3. Cut out the shaded tabs on each sheet of the chess board. Interlock the two pieces of the chess board so they fit together seamlessly.
Step 4. Next, cut out the individual chess pieces.
Step 5. Snip the notches on the top and bottom of each chess piece.
Step 6. Gently fold each chess piece at the two gray lines to construct a flat base. Interlace the notches at the top. Arrange the pieces on the chessboard.
Step 7. Play chess!
How to make a cardboard chess set
If you’re looking for something sturdier and have a little more time to invest in the project, there are free templates for a cardboard chess set available from Instructables.com. A set designed by one user, MakerKeith, requires a bit more elbow grease as you’re cutting shapes out of cardboard and affixing them to a base using toothpicks.
If you’re planning on using a template for 3-D pieces like the one Ms. Jamieson-Larkin created, she recommended using a quick drying tacky glue for the adhesive. “Get your glue to the edges,” she said. “A little goes a long way. If you use too much glue, the moisture will tend to warp the paper.”
Take your time to make sure the edges match and are lined up properly. “There’s no point in doing something and it ends up messy,” she said. “That won’t be appreciated by anyone.”
You will need:
One piece of 8-by-4-inch cardboard for the pawns
One piece of 9-by-7-inch cardboard for the rest of the chess pieces
One piece of 18-by-18-inch cardboard for the board
Extra bits of cardboard for the chess piece bases
Nine sheets of paper
A sharp knife
Double-sided sticky tape or glue
How to make an origami chess set
For those who are comfortable practicing origami, you can assemble a chess set through origami techniques. Joseph Wu has provided free instructions for creating bird-themed chess pieces. Tutorial videos on YouTube created by other origami enthusiasts can walk you through the process of creating each piece.
“Origami Chess: Cats vs. Dogs” by Roman Diaz explains how to construct an origami chess set themed to cats and dogs. Tutorial videos posted on YouTube walk you through each step as well.
These sets are durable and, frankly, adorable. However, the process of constructing each piece is labor intensive. You also need to make sure you have the right kind of paper to use.
You can buy origami paper from online craft stores like the Origami Paper Shop and Michaels. Amazon also has a robust selection of origami paper. Just know that the origami sets don’t have instructions for constructing a chess board, but this YouTube video by a user named An Average Origamist shows you how to construct one if you’re feeling ambitious.
You will need:
32 sheets of 6-by-6-inch origami paper (16 sheets in one color or pattern and 16 sheets in another color or pattern).
4 sheets of 18.5-by-18.5 inch double-sided tissue foil origami paper for the chess board.
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