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Chess Table II

7852 Views 42 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  TwoSkies57
Welp, finally got her finished up. As some may recall about a year ago I made a chess table for a good friend. When I delievered the table, another friend came over to check it out. Right away he asked, quite convincingly I might add, that I build him a table. After a few conversations going back and forth over what he wanted, we came to an agreement and this is the end result.
The chess board is comprised of African Blood wood and American Holly. the table top is figured cherry, the body is comprised of 6 layers of white oak and a veneer of figured cherry. Line work is American Holly. Pedestal and legs are cherry.
The chess table is made up of 3/16" thick squares, 2 1/8". Once glued up, I took and had it vacuum pressed onto a 1/2" sheet of baltic birch. I could have pressed it myself but thought to give having it vac. pressed to see if there was much of a difference. Honestly at this point, can't really see any at all. Only time will tell I suppose. Surrounding the playing board is figured cherry. I chose two distinct figures to highlight the varying figures cherry can have. Since the new owner is a huge fan of cherry furniture I thought he'd enjoy seeing a bit of a difference between sides. At 1" thick, just a hair over 24"s diameter and splinned at the corners, I think it came together very nicely.
In an attempt to minimize wood movement, I cut out the center of the table, routed out where the playing board would go then fit the board into position with a few screws and glue. At their widest, the side of the top are no more than 7"s.
The body of the table was constructed using 4 layers of 1/16" thick straight grained white oak that I milled. I made a heat bending rig. I made a jig to clamp the layers to while glueup was curing.The rig for the sides was a half moon. I let sit for a couple days and when removed from the jig, springback was LESS than 1/8 of an inch. Parts sat around for a couple weeks while I worked on other things. When I got back to the table, I placed the sides back on the jig and they fit as if they were just taken off. Most cool I thought. This was my first attempt at a 'round' body. Alot of homework, a little experimenting and ALOT of holding my breath, I'm pleased with the results. Now I had two halfs to work with. each one would be a side and 1 drawer. My math was off by just a tad, and not even noticeable in the end. But lessons learned as they say. Next time around, she should be dead on.
Drawers are made to look like half-blind but are actually thru dovetailed. Let me tell ya, on a curved front, dovetailing is labor intensive when you go about it for the first time or 10. But I finally got it and the end result was most pleasing. Drawer sides and back are maple, bottom is baltic birch. Sides and back are too wide, plain and simple.. not happy with how they look, but for whatever reason, Never noticed until the drawer was glued up and I was fitting the slide. Drawer sides I went with a stopped dado and for the guides, I made the guides so that there was/is some adjustment available. Really not necessary, but this was something I thought about at the time and just went for it. Adjustment is simply a couple oblong screw holes. Worked out nicely, but again, probably overkill to most.
String inlay work on the drawer front is American Holly. For this, I used tools gotten from Lie Nielsen. Straight line cutter and a radius cutter. Was really too terribly difficult, just nerve wracking. One "uh-oh" and its back to square one with the sides. Hardware is just something I like the look of and thought it fit the piece very nicely.
Pedestal is solid cherry as are the legs/feet. Pedestal was miller on a Craftsman router crafter. A pretty slick piece of equipment. I made up a couple different pieces and went with this one only cuz it was thicker. At just over 3"s. it provides enough mass to make the table sturdy/stable. The legs/feet are pretty straight forward again, nothing fancy since I didn't want to take away from the top. Originally ball and claw feet were requested, but I just ain't there yet with carving. Besides, I didn't think that 3 feet was cool.... but that just me I suppose. I explained things to my friend, and he was cool with it...
So there ya go, a brief look at what went into it.. As always, I'd appreciate your feedback, critiques, comments and suggestions. Thanks for looking'


please excuse the residual wax in someplace, a little touch up is need before delivery tomorrow.


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Kind of you to say James, thank you!

What can I say.....nothing nasty, that is for sure....

Beautiful, Bill.
Thank you very much Oliver....

That is a stunningly beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

Thank you for the very kind compliments...

Bill that is absolutely gorgeous well-done kudos

Thank you!!!

Beautiful job Bill.

Very kind words indeed.. Thank you very much...

I'm certainly no photographer by any stretch, one of these days I'm going to go and try doing a prop setup to enhance the photo's. The description was kinda rough shod to say the least. After 4 attempts to get one posted it finally took. Each time I screwed something up. *L*...I actually need to make some corrections..

Words can't describe the outstanding craftsmanship of that chess table. Thanks for sharing the great photos and description of the project.
I completely omitted the finish schedule. SO here ya go.

Since the table was cherry to start with, blotching was a serious concern, then adding figure into the mix I wanted to insure that I kept problems to minimum. Third since a mirror finish on top was requested it had to be dead flat. Or as close to it as I could make it. I figured the better job I could do up front, the easier things would be down the road. A little more effort up front in exchange for a little less grief later kinda thing.

After millwork and assembly I sanded down to 220. I used half sheets of paper wrapped around a 3" x 11" piece of MDF. The reasoning behind such a large sanding block was to created a consistently flat surface across the face of the project. Light to moderate pressure was used when sanding with the hopes of preventing any kind of ridging or grooving of the piece. I don't know this to be a 'proven' method to achieve the end results but it worked for me.
After initial sanding I wiped the work down with tack cloth, then blew it off with compressed air. A generous coat of Charles Neil sealer was applied and let to dry overnight. Once dry, I went over the piece with light sanding with 320. Then went over everything with 0000 steel wool. Wiped to piece down thoroughly then hit again with compressed air. Here is where the things got interesting on this project. Apparently at some point (I'm guessing when I hit the thing with compressed air) Alot of the residual steel wood got stirred up and landed on my application brush which I was completely unaware of. After having applied a 2nd coat of sealer I left it to dry overnight again. When I came back down the next day, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH MANNNNNNNNNN!!! The steel wool mixed in the sealer and already started to rust. Leaving behind a black spotting on the wood. It took 2 days to sand it out. What could I say, "crap happens".
Once I got past that, I continued on with one more coat of sealer, a light sanding and steel wool. This time I made certain things were clean! Three coats of rattle can lacquer applied. Allowing to dry between coats. AFter the 3rd coat, I let sit for almost a week. Then went over with 320 and the large sanding block. Once the scratch pattern was consistant, it was wiped down and the 3 coats of lacquer process was repeated. This was done 4 time, each time, using progressively finer sand paper. Ending with a 2000 grit. After the final 2000 sanding, a light coat of lacquer was applied and everything left to dry thoroughly for a week.
AFter the week had passed, I began polishing. Using Mequiers polishes, 1,2,3 and 4. I hand rubbed it out. You need to be cautious during any of the sanding not to rub too hard, to long in any one spot or you'll leave behind a rut. Even with the more coarser grits of polish its possible to rut out your work. Rubbing thru is always a concern and I did in fact rub thru one spot along the edge of the top. A spot about 2 inches long and maybe a 1/4" wide. For this, I taped off the area giving about a 1/2" area of grace around the rub through. I applied 3 coats of brush on lacquer and repeated the sanding/polishing process. Once finished, you would never be able to tell. In my opinion this is the huge advantage over a poly finish. Poly tends to ghost. For those who do not know, when consecutive coats of lacquer is applied. one coat basically blends in with the coat under it creating one single layer whereas when a poly is applied individual layers are created. When you sand down you can get ghosting. A white ring from the layer under a layer you may have sanded thru. Kinda of a poor explanation but you get the idea. Its well worth looking into. Two outstanding books on finishing are "Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing by Jewitt" and "Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner". Both are excellent reference and technique books. anyways....
After final polishing, I went over the top with "Griots Garage Best of Show" wax. This is an outstanding product. It leaves behind a beautiful coat of wax. The down side is that it is a very thin coat of wax. What I do is, apply several coats. On this tabletop I used 3. Griots also makes a polishing system comprised of 4 grades of polish. 1-4 again. The great thing about this product is that as you use it, it actually breaks down into smaller and smaller grits. I found a detailing shop that deals in the product locally. I can't speak to just how well it works personally YET. :) Next project I'll know more.
Wiping down and rubbing/buffing was all done with 100% cotton rags and microfibre towels...I think that about covers it... this process is a little labor intensive but man it produces a great finish. The only regret that I have is that the African bloodwood was way more porous than I thought. I really should have used a "filler" as part of the process. Its amazing to me that even the smallest of divots can be the reason for so much addtional work.
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Thanks for the kind words Thomas..:)
"flawless"?.............ohh I do wish.. but if you look at the bloodwood squares closely you'll notice a kind of dimpling. Not really that noticable unless the light hits the top just right (I tried to catch it so you'd see). I failed to use a "filler"..I didn't think I needed to...just goes to show ya learn as ya go...

She is a beauty.. Excellent work....Just love it and the finish is flawless.
My apologies for all of the deleted posts everyone.. I tried to merge with my gallery and duplicated a bunch of stuff...
Thank you Bill,,, appreciate it..

Beautiful table. Extraordinary job.
Richard.. thank you for the kind word. design is mine, wood was natures and the craftsmanship was a measure of skill and luck :).. glad you like it..

VERY, VERY NICE! In a word beautiful design, wood, and craftmanship.
Doug.. I am indeed fortunate to have good friends. Very much appreciate the kind words. glad you liked the table


All I can say is you have some VERY, VERY, VERY lucky friends ...

Absolutely breathtaking craftsmanship ... Thanks for sharing

Doug (Green Oak, MI USA)
Thank ya Steve.. This was one of those projects that I actually put alot of time and effort into selecting the materials that I thought would work out well together to achieve the look I wanted
. Technique wise, its actually pretty straight forward with the exception of the pedestal and line work, the finish was/is an ongoing learning process. I've really become a big fan of shellac's and lacquers.

Bill, that is absolutely amazing and beautiful. I am amazed by the materials, the technique and the finishing. That is work to aspire to.
Thank you Larry.... :)
Hey Al... Yes, I must admit, I am a bit proud of this one. She turned out just as I had hoped she would.

Very nice. I'm sure u r proud as will be your friend.
Malcolm,, thank you for most kind words :) If as you look at the pics and have a question, please don't hesitate to ask. I did a short write up on the finish a few posts back. again, if ya got any questions,,, drop me a note..


Bill, that is a fantastic piece of art work. I am so glad that you went into detail telling how you made it. I am going to have to study all of the information presented to see if this old boy can learn something. I see absolution nothing that I would change. You didn't mention anything about the type of finish that you used. Could you tell us about that? Thank you so much for sharing your talent with us. Malcolm / Kentucky USA
Jim, Most glad you like the table. Please help yourself to anything that may have caught your eye. I have another table on here in my gallery if you'd care to take a look. Definitely have a go at making your son a table. I can not think of a more befitting gift for someone must enjoy the game as much as he must. That would be one of those things that he'd have for a lifetime. As I mentioned to Malcolm earlier, if you have any questions or need some help, don't hesitate to drop me a note.
Again thank you for the kind words.

Bill....this is a beautiful table. My dream is to build a really nice chess table to give my son when he graduates from Med School 2 years from now. He is a former state champion, and what you've done certainly befits a player of his caliber. If you don't mind, I'd like to incorporate your ideas in the one I build for him. Thanks for sharing. Jim
Thank you Dan... glad you like it.. I took a few more pics I'll download tomorrow. Took em outside and hope they turn out well..

WOW !!! All I have is an old marble chess set and this is so SPECTACULOR I like your choice of woods and the mirror like finish. Keep up the good work.
Thank you good sir!!


WOW - Speechless
Some days are just better than others :)

Yesterday a good friend came over to the house. We wrapped up the chess table in moving blankets and loaded her up. We set off on the hour and a half drive to deliever it to its new home.
Once we arrived at our destination, I decided to leave the table wrapped in the blankets and wait to unvail inside of the house. We got her in and once we pulled the blankets off, bout all I can say is that the table was/is a huge hit:) You couldn't wipe the grin of his face with 40 grit sandpaper. He loved it. The great part was where he had planned on placing the table. It was to go in front of a southern facing window. When we placed the table there, the sun was out and hit the bloodwood. The bloodwood lit up like there were neon lights under it. It was truely amazing. Even my friend who drove down with me, and who's observed the entire build was taken aback. It was just too damn cool!
We all went and had a great lunch, great conversation and good friendship. You can't put a price on these things! This is one of the primary reasons I go about things the way I do.
I"d just like to say thank you all for the kind words and compliments. I don't care who ya are, its always a good thing when your peers offer up their approval and recognize your efforts. It does not matter if your building a box or a bombai chest, novice or Master craftsman, loving what your doing and being inspired to do more is what its all about.

Here's a couple more pics before we loaded the table up..

Now off to the next project, a Maloof inspired sculptured rocking chair. :):):)


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