Fun & Games


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.

53 thoughts on “Hardware store chessmen

  1. However, the knight is all wrong. The butterfly nut should be towards the top and upside down. That way it would look like the head of a horse looking down. And it would be better if the bishop was a little shorter.

  2. ‘phlanged’ would be more commonly spelled ‘flanged’, and descriptive of the metal ‘flange’ that extends from the nut.

    NEAT chess set!

  3. I always wanted to build one of these. A hardware chess set like this one was featured in a crafting book from the ’70s or early ’80s that I had as a child. I don’t remember the name of the book, but it was a large hardcover that also featured macramé, decoupage, and embossing projects.

  4. Beautiful chess set. You might even add magnets under the chess board (or the pieces) for a travel version for on the road use. Well done.

  5. I’m going to make sets with each of my kids… SUPER COOL! :-)

    I thought of an idea for the bottoms…

    To keep all the pieces unglued, simply glue felt to flat rubber magnet material and simply magnet the felt to the bottoms!


  6. Love it, I always pause by the hardware section to look at all the cool connectors and fittings. I’ll have to try this.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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