How Can My Dad Checkmate This Woodworking Problem?
April 16, 2021 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Dad Swan is an accomplished woodworker who also has a fairly severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. He'd like to make his own chess pieces to go with the chess boards he makes, but the process is too fiddly for him to manage. He read in a 2004 book by Mike Darlow that there are chess piece tops on the market that a woodworker can buy and attach to their own turned bases, but I can't seem to find anything like that on the net. Woodworkers of MeFi, do you know of such a product?
posted by orange swan to Shopping (8 answers total)
These aren't exactly what you're asking for, but something like this may be a start-to-finish chess piece set that he would be able to make:

Minimalist wood pieces

Minimalist turned wood pieces

Resin mold pieces
posted by defreckled at 6:19 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]

If these exist they're not something sold by the by the usual suspects, places like Woodcraft and Rockler.

It might be something you could find on Etsy, maybe contact someone who does their own chess pieces and they could make you some without bases, or he could just get some nice wooden pieces and cut the bases off. Either of these options might not be in the spirit of what he wants to achieve though.

You could try contacting Mike Darlow.

I wish your dad well. I'd like to make a chess set myself but the thought of undertaking it is way too scary.
posted by bondcliff at 7:19 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]

A few questions down, Bionic Raven is asking what they should make with their awesome 3D printer. Seems to me that a Raven helping a Swan on ask.metafilter is meant to be.
posted by jennstra at 8:13 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]

he could just get some nice wooden pieces and cut the bases off.

Rather than cut the bases off I'd turn the bases down to a round tenon; might be easier to attach the new base blank.

If you can find anyone on Etsy etc. that is actually hand making thier chess molds rather than reselling commercial product you might be able to work with them to make a mold that has the tenon instead of the base.

Silocone molds can also be used to cast plaster which might feel a bit better than resin.
posted by Mitheral at 5:42 AM on April 17

This sounds like something a 3D printer with wood fibre filament could help with, if you or he are so inclined, or if there is a maker space near you/him.
posted by corvine at 7:23 AM on April 17

Could he do something with these?
posted by sardonyx at 11:00 AM on April 17

Not an answer, but has he considered something like a small rotary tool to finish off the tops? If he's turning the bulk of the piece on a lathe and then say hand carving or filing in the details on the tops, a small rotary tool with a little 3mm round cutting bit on the end might let him easily sculpt the top of the piece without requiring delicate knife/chisel and force.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:33 PM on April 17

I'm kind of loving the alternate idea of seeing if he's interested in getting into 3D printing.

The printers aren't terribly expensive, especially compared to good woodworking tools, and coming up with viable printing designs/ strategy is a great workout for the mind and having a machine/ robot doing most of the physical stuff bypasses some of the difficulty posed by RA.
posted by porpoise at 12:43 PM on April 17

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