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Make a tool chess set

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.


Making your own chess set can be as easy as digging around in your dad’s spare parts drawer.

Wing nuts, anchor caps, bolts, washers and a few other odd pieces of specialty hardware are all you need to make your own version of the “tool chess” set.


Total cost: An hour’s time and less than $10. And if you ever lose a piece, you can make another for next to nothing!

Remember: You need a total of 16 pawns, four rooks (also called castles), four knights, four bishops, two kings and two all-powerful queens. And you’ll need to paint one set a different color.

Follow the instructions below, or spend some time browsing at the hardware store for pieces to customize your set.

You’ll also need to get some white glue, spray paint, pliers and a screwdriver.


For each pawn (16):

  • 5/16 by 3/4-inch hexagonal (six-sided or regular) cap bolts
  • 5/16-inch hexagonal nuts

Thread nut onto bolt until 1/4 inch of bolt rises above the nut. Glue in place.


For each rook (4):

  • 5/16 by 1 1/2-inch hexagonal nut sleeve anchors

Use sleeve anchor as is.


For each knight (4):

  • 1/4 by 2-inch eye bolts with nuts

Thread nut onto eye bolt until edge of bolt is even with nut. Glue in place by applying glue to the threads of the bolt, twisting on the nut, then wiping off the excess.


For each bishop (4):

  • 5/16 by 1 1/2-inch hexagonal cap bolts
  • 5/16-inch wing nuts
  • 5/16-inch locking nuts with nylon inserts

Thread wing nut onto bolt. Thread insert lock onto bolt, and tighten. Secure wing nut against insert lock.


For each king (2):

  • 3/16-inch hollow wall anchors (long)
  • No. 14 finishing washers
  • 1/4-inch flat washers
  • 1/4-inch wing nuts
  • 1/4-inch anchor caps

Grip end of hollow wall anchor with pliers, tighten screw with screwdriver until metal strips flair out. Remove center screw, add finish washer, replace screw into wall anchor. Add flat washer. Thread wing nut onto screw end, then tighten anchor cap to end of screw.


For each queen (2):

  • 3/16-inch hollow wall anchors (short)
  • No. 14 finish washers
  • 1/4-inch wing nuts
  • 5/16-inch external toothed washers
  • 1/4-inch nylon insert locks

Tighten screw of hollow wall anchor as for kings. Remove center screw, add finish washer, replace screw into wall anchor. Thread wing nut onto screw end upside down. Then add toothed washed and tighten locking nut to end of screw.


Spray paint one team. While it dries, practice saying “Checkmate!” and you’re ready to play.


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25 Comments on Make a tool chess set

  1. You can use Lee-Enfield .303 Cartridge cases for pawns (if you’re working to a big scale) – all sorts of metal odds and ends can be turned into a
    unique chess-set.

  2. make it like a boss

  3. 1,000 STAR RATING

  4. Put washers flat on the bottom of all pieces for greater stability.

  5. I cant tell the difference between the rook and the pawn either

  6. i love chess


  8. Sounds like a good father’s day gift…

  9. I love the idea and just got all my hardware! Only downside is that it costed $30, and that was with improvision. Am very happy with the product though!!! Great idea!

  10. nice recycling!

  11. I love chess!

  12. OK, don’t get me wrong. This is a really cool project. I love it, but for one problem. My dad and I didn’t have any of the correct pieces, so we stopped by at the local hardware store. All I will say about that is that almost a decade after this article was written, this will actually take around $25 and 3 hours total. Really cool idea, though

    • Go to a flea market on the weekend that sells old tools and hardware and you will find interesting bits and pieces to design your own. Have fun!!

  13. We had tour Webelos make these for the craftsman pin. Great idea!

  14. I think they’re awesome. 5 stars!!!

  15. Awsome

  16. arcanine09 // July 31, 2012 at 10:49 pm // Reply

    Pffft. Walmart. They think they can just scurry about selling 20 dollar chess sets. I come from a long line of carpenter rice, so this is almost free!

  17. My old chess set is missing pieces. So this can really come in handy!

  18. cute crafty idea!


  20. I might make it for Christmas!

  21. Makin it 4 my dad 4 christmas.

  22. COOL chess set ! have you thought of carving a chess set?

  23. Cool i love to play chess

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