The tradition of improvising a chess set from whatever’s on hand is probably as venerable as chess itself. Chess culture is chock-full of sets put together from odds and ends of every description, but here I’m only focusing on sets built from mechanical and electrical bits–mostly nuts, bolts, and washers of various flavors. If you’ve got a good one I missed, please do link it in the comments.

If you’re interested in making your own and want some guidance, Mother Earth News has a nice tutorial.

High octane chess set.


Recycled auto parts chess set


BNC Chess


DIY steampunk hardware chess set

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Chess set made with nuts and bolts


Spanish metal screw/bolt chess set


Hardware store chessmen

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Claude Reith’s DIY Chess Set Figures

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

  • מרדכי

    I’ve designed a hardware set myself, with the intention of not painting them; yellow-zinc and brass against the white zinc pieces.

    There’s a photo album with all the pieces, and all the parts needed to build it. I plan to make an instructable soon, with the order numbers for all the parts from an online retailer.

    see it here:

  • LucasHaley

    Hey! That’s my set at the top!