Dan Woods, Associate Publisher of MAKE tipped me off to Julia Suits’ chess pieces made from nuts and bolts. She writes:
Headed toward the light-bulb aisle in my local hardware store a few years ago,I stopped to admire the bins of nuts,bolts and the like. This is not unusual for me who likens this kind of scene to a candy store. I love metal,and have cast and welded all types as a sculpture major in graduate school. When I saw the little bin containing two different types of castle nuts,I immediately thought of rooks. At the time my three sons and I hosted a weekly chess club,so chess was on my mind a lot. With my boys in tow,I returned with graph paper and we computed what sorts of bits we might want (we didn’t know for sure) for each type of piece and how many in total. An hour later, after poring over numerous bins and waiting for the clerk to saw the threaded rod into measured lengths (for kings, rooks,and bishops), we went home with about fifteen pounds of loot, including spray paint for the black pieces. We created a set not far different from what is pictured here. Since then we’ve added washers to some and added a flanged hex nut to each of the bases to make the set uniform and even more stable. The hardware chessmen were a huge hit and the other boys built their own sets.
Make sure you add felt or cork to the bases if you plan on using a board whose finish you wish to protect. If you do this, you will need to glue the flanged hex nut base to the shaft before you glue your padding as the nut and shaft tend to screw up or down with use. Otherwise, note: none of the pieces are glued!! This is so they jingle (yes,they jingle, like cowboy spurs!) and so you can take them apart and rearrange them.