Playing Chess on a Beautiful, Magnetized Globe

Art & Sculpture Craft & Design Woodworking Workshop
Playing Chess on a Beautiful, Magnetized Globe

“I think I can do it better.” Having this thought is a moment that every maker knows and loves. It is exactly what came to mind when Ben Meyers saw a picture of a spherical chess set online. The version he had come across used jacket snaps to connect the pieces to the board. He immediately thought this looked inconvenient and challenging to play with. So he set out to make his own.

Photography and media by Ben Meyers

The board took about five weeks to complete from start to finish. Making the set out of wood was an obvious choice for Meyers who grew up around his father’s woodworking. He remembers learning to use a lathe and making a small wooden pot when he was only seven years old.

It is obvious when looking at the beautiful final product that each piece was artfully crafted with exceptional attention to detail. Meyers began by working on the sphere itself. He reports that it turned out to be the most challenging part of the process. He says “it took a lot of math to figure out each angle of each piece to all fit together.” Once he had the math worked out, he cut square pieces out of Soft Maple for the lighter squares and Walnut for the darker squares. He made small holes in the back of the pieces and inserted magnets. The pieces were then glued into two octagonal halves. Then came the most nerve-racking part of the process: using the lathe to smooth out the edges while being very careful not to break through to the holes that were holding the magnets.

From here, the base was turned on the lathe and a router was used to make the curved arm. They were assembled and the globe was attached by using a metal rod as an axel and a spring loaded mechanism to keep it from spinning freely.

Finally, the spacer and knob used to turn the board were made on the lathe. They were both modeled after the most powerful chess piece: the queen.

Meyers has had some difficulty getting people to play with him as the spherical chessboard can be a little bit intimidating. However, he has played about seven games on the board to date. He has yet to lose to anyone, including his father who taught him how to play chess when he was a boy.

Meyers says he was surprised by how some aspects of gameplay changed on the spherical board. “While making it, I was thinking that the rooks would be more powerful because a spherical board lacked vertical edges. I was proven wrong very quickly. Without the side edges of the board, the bishops became very deadly. They have the capability to spiral around the board both directions, which can be difficult to see.”

The board is certainly going to be well loved, and Meyers is looking forward to many games in the future. His suggestion to anyone with a similar project in mind is that they should just go for it! “Just as I was inspired by someone else to make this globe chess board, I hope I can also inspire someone to create something of their own.”

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Sarah is a freelance writer for the Make: blog. She delights in the intersection of technology, art, and human interaction. Her background includes experience in human computer interaction, DNA sequencing technology, 3D printing, sewing, and large art installations.

View more articles by Sarah Vitak