Heavy Metal Chess

Chess is a slow game of careful decision-making, looking several moves ahead of the current state of the board. So is machining, and combining the two is an excellent way to level up your machine shop chops. And so we have the current project from [John Creasey] who is machining a chess set out of stainless steel.

This isn’t that new-fangled computer numerical control at work, it’s the time-tested art of manual machining. Like chess, you need to plan several steps ahead to ensure you have a way to mount the part for each progressive machining process. In this first video of the series [John] is milling the knights — four of them, with two which will eventually get a black oxide treatment.

Milling the horse head is fun to watch, but you’ll be delighted when the work gets to the base. [John] is using a pipe fitting as a fixture to hold the already-milled horse-head-end while working the base on his lathe. The process begins by getting rid of the inner threads, then working the pipe fitting very carefully to the diameter of the chess piece for a perfect press fit. Neat!

At the end, [John] mentions it took “quite a few months of weekends to get to this point” of having four pieces made. They look great and we can’t wait to see the next piece in the set come to life. You’ll find the video embedded below, but if you can’t sink this kind of time into your own chess set, you may try three-dimensional laser cut acrylic pieces.

[via /r/metalworking]

31 thoughts on “Heavy Metal Chess

    1. @Internet
      Yeah, you see, the key there is in the title of the videos you link to, namely the first word: CNC. I presume you didn’t bother reading all the way to the first word.
      So anyway, this guy is machining pieces on conventional machines. Any plonker can shove a lump of metal on a 5 axes CNC machine and get it to machine some complex stuff. But on a conventional machine, it’s another story: skills are involved.

      1. wohhh there, even on a CNC machine skills are required. The machine only does what you tell it to do, so you still need to program it correctly. Sure that only needs to be done once (if done correctly) and from then on every piece that comes out of it will be identical (that is if your machine is properly operated, cleaned, calibrated etc.) So please do not discard CNC related projects as simple or easy and that they don’t require any skill. They do, but on a totally different level. These machines sure made things much easier.

        But don’t get me wrong, I do know what you mean and I really get the point, because what the man of this pages project is doing requires skills dedication patience or in short workmanship. For which I have the highest respect. And please do not forget that while he is doing this project it is also being filmed, so let’s not forget that difficulty factor or handicap. In other words, great project and thanks for the video, we’ll be watching the following episodes with joy.

      2. I never said I wasn’t impressed with the work the original person did. I just have seen it ramped up to the extreme with CNC machines over the years and I thought that was relevant and neat to see how else this has been done as it felt on topic and interesting to see. It’s quite similar to mass production vs hand crafted. Both have their place though mass CNC production is likely to cost less per unit volume if you are able to amortize the costs. Hand crafted will tend to be ore innovative and custom. Both have their merits.

      1. The separate base means that you can hollow out the pieces and use them to transport small things that you don’t want others to discover, like microfilm and .. substances.

      1. The original design didn’t have a base. Stuff went wrong when I cut the profile back curve so I needed to find another 10mm or so to make sure the knight was taller than the pawns. The base was my solution to that problem. I was originally going to push it on further so there was just a V groove but the wider gap looked nice so I kept it.

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