My son loves to play chess and I have no idea how to play. So I decided to build a chess set!

I originally thought of turning these on the lathe but quickly gave up on that plan, as I lack the skills to do so. But I am a huge fan of modern art and minimalist objects. And started to do some research and eventually came across a set created by Lanier Graham in 1966 and fell in love with its simplicity and really enjoyed how all of the pieces fit in a tiny little box.

This build is Part 1 of 2 and may likely contain an optional Part 3 which would be a box to hold the chess pieces.

What I really like about this set is that the dimensions are not terribly specific.

In my case, I chose to go with chess pieces that were 20mm by 20mm, so a Pawn would end up being 20mm cubed.

I will give the dimensions of each piece in terms of blocks, allowing you to adjust the piece size if you wish.

I entered this build in the Instructables First Time Author contest and won second place!

Sizing and Dimensions

Because I started with the chess pieces I wasn’t concerned too much about the size of the pieces, but make sure to check and confirm the official rules of Chess. I think your pieces are supposed to be about 25% smaller than the squares they go on. 1” square would be a ¾” piece.

Pawn – 1×1 block
Rook – 1×2 block
Knight – 1×2 block
Bishop – 1×2 block
Queen & King – 1×6 block, plus the kerf of your bandsaw or hand saw blade

Now we will need to do some layout


The Pawns are simple, create a cube, the Rook is also super simple, create a block 1×2

For the Knight, I made a mark in the middle and divided the width essentially creating a lap joint.

The Bishop is a 45-degree angle starting at one end and should end in the middle of the piece.

The King and Queen are a bit different, find the middle and draw a 45-degree line on both sides of the half so that you have a V.

Final Steps

Once everything has been cut out and obviously for each colour of wood ( I chose maple and walnut, but you could use any contrasting woods ) it was time for a lot of sanding. Because this chess set is “Modern” we want to maintain the sharp edges so break the edges but do not round them.

I applied a few coats of Tung oil, it was rather daunting applying then cleaning off the excess oil but it turned out amazing!

Keep an eye out for Part 2 where I build the Chess board!


My name is Adam Patterson and I am located in Canada. By day, I am a full-time web developer, but in my spare time, I love to make stuff. In my videos, you will find a variety of woodworking projects that I have created out of recycled and found materials. As a father and mountain biker, I enjoy spending time outdoors and capturing my adventures through photography.

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