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How to Make a Rustic Chessboard

Updated: Feb 17, 2018

Rustic Chess Board with Reclaimed American Chestnut, Pine and Cedar


This weekend I finished of a pair of chessboards, a little more rustic in design than my previous boards. The playing field is aromatic cedar and pine with a birdseye grain marking. I wrapped the boards with American Chestnut, reclaimed from some barn beams that I salvaged several years ago. I've used this method on several boards, and it's my preferred method.


Step 1: Build the Playing Fields

I built the playing fields first. Cutting strips and gluing up panels. Then cross-cut the panels and flip every other strip to build the field. Then I laminate the whole board onto a 3/16" plywood panel.


I haven't had a problem with wood movement, as the solid wood playing field is very thing, and once laminated and finished the plywood provides stability.


Step 2: Milling the Frame

With the playing field finished, set to work milling the frame. I had the beams sawn into 5/4" thick planks several years ago on a pallet mill. The first step was planing them smooth and finished just above an inch thick. Then cut a rabbet to accept the the playing field. I don't use a dado set for these cuts, so I can keep the section removed for other projects, usually a 1/4" square piece perfect for coasters.



Step 3: Assembly and Sanding

I use a modified half-lap joint at the corners, it makes glue ups easier and no risk of gaps with a mitered corner. Once assembled, everything is sanded to 220 grit, and finished with Danish Oil and paste wax. It's a nice low-sheen rustic feeling finish that ages well with time.







The Finished Product

Sanded, oiled and waxed - ready for a nice set of chess pieces or checkers!






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