A Homemade Nuts and Bolts Chess Set

If there's a chess player on your Christmas shopping list, you can save money, have some creative fun, and produce a present that pleases by fabricating and giving a homemade nuts and bolts chess set.

| November/December 1985

Need a low-cost Christmas gift? This homemade nuts and bolts chess set makes for a unique gift for chess lovers. (See the nuts and bolts chess set photos in the image gallery.)


Last year at this time I found myself in the frustrating position of needing (very badly) to come up with a Christmas gift that was both charming and cheap. At first, those two goals seemed mutually exclusive . . . but then I recalled an attractive and modernistic chess set that an inventive friend had once put together. That memory inspired me to get down to dealing with the nuts and bolts of my gift-giving problem, and after investing only three hours (including the time I spent shopping for the necessary ingredients) and $10, I'd fashioned an attractive and durable chess set similar to the one pictured here.

If you can thread a nut onto a bolt, squeeze a drop of glue from a tube, and point the nozzle of a can of spray paint in the right direction, you have all the skills necessary to duplicate my chess pieces—or to come up with an original set of your own design. (You don't even need to know how to play the game in order to manufacture one!)

What's more, that $10 cost I mentioned assumes that you'll run out—as I did—and buy everything you need at your local retail hardware store. But by shopping around for the best prices, raiding your toolbox or workshop for any usable materials you might already have on hand (or by redesigning the chess pieces to accommodate the materials you have), you should be able to complete this unique little craft project for a fraction of what I spent on mine.

The chess pieces pictured here were assembled from common 1/4 inch-diameter nuts, bolts, and washers (available at all hardware stores, most discount department stores, and some supermarkets). Other than the hardware, all you'll need is a tube of fast-drying, Super-type glue and two cans of spray paint in contrasting colors.

The actual assembly of the chess set requires only about an hour, but you'll have to allow time for the glue to cure thoroughly before applying the paint. Therefore, if you're not in too much of a hurry to come up with a gift, it's a good idea to assemble the pieces one day, allow them to rest overnight, and apply the paint the following morning.

11/27/2007 9:33:25 AM

I made one of these chess set's 1985 from the article in your magazine. It was awesome. I am going to make another set shortly

11/27/2007 9:33:05 AM

I made one of these chess set's 1985 from the article in your magazine. It was awesome. I am going to make another set shortly

6/26/2007 9:34:45 AM

Thanks so much for posting chess set. I passed on my collection of old MEN's and an old chess tutor is passing through. I so wanted to do some of this for (should have kept - think I did but where?) thanks

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