BL Workshop

Make a tool chess set

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!” You’re ready to play.

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Comments about “Make a tool chess set”

  1. Cmoney says:

    make it like a boss

  2. Andrew says:

    1,000 STAR RATING

  3. JacksDad says:

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

  4. cub man says:

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

  5. prem says:

    i love chess

  6. LEGOscout says:


  7. tigerma says:

    Sounds like a good father’s day gift…

  8. Remster17 says:

    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!

  9. jockes says:

    nice recycling!

  10. Sam says:

    I love chess!

  11. noodle328 says:

    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

    • JacksDad says:

      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!!

  12. Den10 says:

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

  13. Noweeno says:

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

  14. funguy44 says:


  15. arcanine09 says:

    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!

  16. Trunks says:

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

  17. audrokins says:

    cute crafty idea!

  18. Bruce says:


  19. Tenderfoot says:

    I might make it for Christmas!

  20. ac147 says:

    Makin it 4 my dad 4 christmas.

  21. Jerem says:

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

  22. Nat says:

    Cool i love to play chess

  23. lightscout says:

    Needs to tell you how you should make a board.

    • scout mom says:

      Try black and white duct tape. Then your set counts for two pieces of craftsman. If you have them sew a cloth bag to store it in that makes 3. : )

  24. Jlove2000 says:

    Really… This is SO COOL!!!

  25. greg says:

    I can’t keep track of my stuff since my brothers always find. I will need an extra.

  26. Eagle555 says:

    I love chess and I am definetly going to make this. How do you store it?

  27. coolman360 says:

    It tells people how to make robots vs aliens chess NEAT.

  28. gramsbear says:

    now i have a plan and know what to look out for. i just made a mosaic tile coffee table checker board and was looking for a chess set plan. i will go to a habitat for humanity and rummage in their hardware. i will know now to make sure the pieces have a good base and to match threading. i will be sure to follow up and comment again.

  29. The Man with the Banjo says:

    This is cool but I can’t tell the difference between the pawns and rooks. :/

  30. Dude says:

    Totally awesome!

  31. Qdog says:

    I am so glad i found this!! Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. Foxworthy 2.0 says:

    I want to make this and a custom chess board.

  33. scoutmom says:

    must have missed this in Boys Life (for the one who’d never heard of this mag, it’s the official Boy Scout magazine) – must have been in between boys – was also in Mother Earth News and I’d tried to keep it but you know how that is but now we have the CD just haven’t thought about it since, though so thanks!

  34. Susan52 says:

    Well, now isn’t that clever! I like it!

  35. The Dominator says:


  36. SPENCE says:


  37. Chessman says:

    This is a very smart project but it is hard to remember the identity of each piece!

  38. Achie says:

    Too bad the article has parts that will not work together. Since when does a 1/4″ nut thread onto a 3/16″ bolt(hollow wall anchor)? Never in my book. Now I have a bunch of parts laying around that I don’t need and I have to take another trip to the store with $26 in parts already.

  39. queenie says:

    Our Webelos den made this. We made two sets because once one teacher found out we were making one for one class she wanted one too. Just the nuts and bolts cost sixty dollars at Lowes for the two sets. We bought acrylic paint but spray paint probably would’ve worked better. The pieces were clever but using exactly the specificed parts – some of them, notably the king,, queen and knight frequently fall over. We were very excited to start this and I think disappointed in the outcome, mainly because the pieces didn’t stand up. So, I would adjust the bases on some of the pieces.

  40. febreze says:

    it should tell you how make a board

  41. alabama says:

    I wish I had the time to make this.

  42. Anonymous says:


  43. eagle scout #34921 says:

    this is a reativly good idea. Would someone please post a printable list of all the parts so i don’t have to figure out how many i need myself? Just to make things eaisier (and maybe mor enjoi able). Thanks!

  44. SpiketheWerecat says:

    Cool! Maybe I should ask my Dad to do this….

  45. pokemaster says:

    that is cool! cool! cool!

  46. revrev763 says:

    I love chess

  47. revrev763 says:

    I take a chess after school club at my school so i could bring this in)!!

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