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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.

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Recycled auto parts chess set

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BNC Chess

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DIY steampunk hardware chess set

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Chess set made with nuts and bolts

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Spanish metal screw/bolt chess set

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Hardware store chessmen

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Claude Reith’s DIY Chess Set Figures

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Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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