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How to Carve Chess Pieces: The Detailed Guide on How to Whittle Chess Set



Chess is one of the most ancient and greatest board games. It is an incredibly beneficial pastime that helps develop logic, tactics, creativity, critical and analytical thinking, strategy, and more.

Carving chess set is a fascinating experience that will bring a sense of accomplishment and joy (especially for those who love woodcraft and hand-made board games). Chess carving captivates with its originality and different design solutions. Moreover, a beautifully crafted chess set will make a unique and personalized gift.

Whether you're an experienced wood carver or just making your first steps in this craft, this guide on how to carve chess pieces out of wood will walk you through the process and provide you with the necessary tools and techniques to create your hand made chess set.

What Tools Do You Need for Wood Carving?

Before you dive into the intricacies of how to whittle chess pieces, it is crucial to prepare the right tools and materials. The most common tools you will use are:

  • wood carving knives;
  • flat chisels;
  • gouges (V-shaped and U-shaped).
Ensure all your tools are well-maintained and razor-sharp for safe operations and high efficiency.


Wood for Chess Pieces

Choosing the wood to carve chess set, you should consider many aspects, especially your skill level. Some of the most popular choices are:

  • basswood;
  • maple;
  • birch;
  • butternut.

Remember to select a straight-grained wood free of knots. For a beginner, it is better to use soft wood types such as basswood or butternut, as they have a smooth texture, making them easy to carve.

Black Chess Pieces

Carving black chess pieces requires a tricky approach. Of course, you can use special finishes and stains to give your chess pieces a dark color. Still, if you want them to have natural wood color, you can use:

  • walnut, which has a nice dark brown hue;
  • red cedar, distinguished by pinkish brown;
  • mahogany, more luxurious and expensive, with a reddish-brown hue that will darken over time.


White Chess Pieces

The secret to carving beautiful white chess pieces is the right type of wood. When whittling chess pieces of white color, ensure that you select woods that have off-white to cream color with a subtle pinkish tint and a fine, even texture. It may be:

  • basswood;
  • maple;
  • birch;
  • aspen.

How to Carve a Pawn?

The pawn is the simplest piece to carve (and a good place to start). Start by cutting a cylinder shape, then carefully carve the details into the top to create the head of the pawn. Use a push-cut technique to make the round head and stop cuts to carve out the lines between sections.

How to Carve a Rook?

While the rook is the second most powerful piece, it's still pretty easy to carve. When carving a chess rook, start by cutting a cylinder shape and then adding tower-like details on the top.

How to Carve a Bishop?

If you are a beginner carver, the bishop will require a bit more skill to carve. Start by carving a cylinder base, then carefully add the details like a cut on the right side of the head using a V-cut.

How to Carve a Knight?


It's worth noting that the knight is the most intricate piece you will carve. It should have a thick base and symmetrical sides. Cutting a chess knight, start by carving off wood from the middle and top parts, then shape the head. Pay attention to the details, and highlight the horse's mane. The video is coming soon.

How to Carve a Queen?

The queen is one of the two most valuable pieces in chess. Though it is similar to the bishop, it has a more elaborate design. Start by carving a tall cylindrical base, then carefully round off your piece of wood and cut a crown shape on top.

How to Carve a King?

While the king and the queen are made pretty similar, they have a large difference: the king is the tallest piece in your army and always has a cross on the top of its crown. To create this piece, start by carving a cylinder shape, then narrow down the workpiece from two sides with stop cuts. Pay attention to the intricate design, add specific details of the king's crown, and carve out the cross.

Whittling a Wooden Board

The final step in creating your hand-carved chess set is carving a chess board. Choose a wood that is sturdy, resistant to splitting, and durable. You can create a simple design or add more intricate details to match your hand made chess pieces.

Begin by drawing a grid pattern on the wood. Remember to give extra space to the letters and numbers on the sides when cutting it before carving. You can also add details like a border and corner pieces.

Now that you know how to carve chess pieces by hand and have all the elements carved, set up the board and start a game!

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