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How to Make a Hardware Chess Set

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

Making your own chess set can be as easy as digging around in your dad’s spare parts drawer.

Wing nuts, anchor caps, bolts, washers and a few other odd pieces of specialty hardware are all you need to make your own version of this “hardware chess” set.


Total cost: An hour’s time and less than $25. And if you ever lose a piece, you can make another for next to nothing!

Remember: You need a total of 16 pawns, four rooks (also called castles), four knights, four bishops, two kings and two all-powerful queens.

Follow the instructions below, or spend some time browsing at the hardware store for pieces to customize your set.

You’ll also need the following:

  • White glue
  • 1 cup of vinegar
  • Small plastic container
  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver

Submerge half of the nuts and bolts in the vinegar overnight. This will create one light set and one dark set of pieces. It’s best to do this before assembling the pieces.

You could also choose to spray paint half of the pieces instead. If you go with this option, it’s best to paint the pieces after they’re assembled.


For each pawn (16):

  • 5/16 by 3/4-inch hexagonal (six-sided or regular) cap bolts
  • 5/16-inch hexagonal nuts

Thread nut onto bolt until 1/4 inch of bolt rises above the nut. Glue in place.


For each rook (4):

  • 5/16 by 1 1/2-inch hexagonal nut sleeve anchors

Use sleeve anchor as is.


For each knight (4):

  • 1/4 by 2-inch eye bolts with nuts

Thread nut onto eye bolt until edge of bolt is even with nut. Glue in place by applying glue to the threads of the bolt, twisting on the nut, then wiping off the excess.


For each bishop (4):

  • 5/16 by 1 1/2-inch hexagonal cap bolts
  • 5/16-inch wing nuts
  • 5/16-inch locking nuts with nylon inserts

Thread wing nut onto bolt. Thread insert lock onto bolt, and tighten. Secure wing nut against insert lock.


For each king (2):

  • 1/4-inch hollow wall anchors (long)
  • No. 14 finishing washers
  • 1/4-inch flat washers
  • 1/4-inch wing nuts
  • 1/4-inch anchor caps

Grip end of hollow wall anchor with pliers, tighten screw with screwdriver until metal strips flair out. Remove center screw, add finish washer, replace screw into wall anchor. Add flat washer. Thread wing nut onto screw end, then tighten anchor cap to end of screw.


For each queen (2):

  • 1/4-inch hollow wall anchors (short)
  • No. 14 finish washers
  • 1/4-inch wing nuts
  • 5/16-inch external toothed washers
  • 1/4-inch nylon insert locks

Tighten screw of hollow wall anchor as for kings. Remove center screw, add finish washer, replace screw into wall anchor. Thread wing nut onto screw end upside down. Then add toothed washed and tighten locking nut to end of screw.


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61 Comments on How to Make a Hardware Chess Set

  1. Any ideas on how to build a chess board to go with these?

  2. I like chess.

  3. You can use Lee-Enfield .303 Cartridge cases for pawns (if you’re working to a big scale) – all sorts of metal odds and ends can be turned into a
    unique chess-set.

  4. make it like a boss

  5. 1,000 STAR RATING

  6. Put washers flat on the bottom of all pieces for greater stability.

  7. I cant tell the difference between the rook and the pawn either

  8. i love chess


  10. Sounds like a good father’s day gift…

  11. I love the idea and just got all my hardware! Only downside is that it costed $30, and that was with improvision. Am very happy with the product though!!! Great idea!

  12. nice recycling!

  13. I love chess!

  14. OK, don’t get me wrong. This is a really cool project. I love it, but for one problem. My dad and I didn’t have any of the correct pieces, so we stopped by at the local hardware store. All I will say about that is that almost a decade after this article was written, this will actually take around $25 and 3 hours total. Really cool idea, though

    • Go to a flea market on the weekend that sells old tools and hardware and you will find interesting bits and pieces to design your own. Have fun!!

  15. We had tour Webelos make these for the craftsman pin. Great idea!

  16. I think they’re awesome. 5 stars!!!

  17. Awsome

  18. arcanine09 // July 31, 2012 at 10:49 pm // Reply

    Pffft. Walmart. They think they can just scurry about selling 20 dollar chess sets. I come from a long line of carpenter rice, so this is almost free!

  19. My old chess set is missing pieces. So this can really come in handy!

  20. cute crafty idea!


  22. I might make it for Christmas!

  23. Makin it 4 my dad 4 christmas.

  24. COOL chess set ! have you thought of carving a chess set?

  25. Cool i love to play chess

  26. lightscout // April 7, 2011 at 3:12 pm // Reply

    Needs to tell you how you should make a board.

    • Try black and white duct tape. Then your set counts for two pieces of craftsman. If you have them sew a cloth bag to store it in that makes 3. : )

  27. Really… This is SO COOL!!!

  28. I can’t keep track of my stuff since my brothers always find. I will need an extra.

  29. I love chess and I am definetly going to make this. How do you store it?

  30. It tells people how to make robots vs aliens chess NEAT.

  31. now i have a plan and know what to look out for. i just made a mosaic tile coffee table checker board and was looking for a chess set plan. i will go to a habitat for humanity and rummage in their hardware. i will know now to make sure the pieces have a good base and to match threading. i will be sure to follow up and comment again.

  32. The Man with the Banjo // June 29, 2010 at 4:12 pm // Reply

    This is cool but I can’t tell the difference between the pawns and rooks. :/

  33. Totally awesome!

  34. I am so glad i found this!! Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  35. Foxworthy 2.0 // October 20, 2009 at 3:21 pm // Reply

    I want to make this and a custom chess board.

  36. must have missed this in Boys Life (for the one who’d never heard of this mag, it’s the official Boy Scout magazine) – must have been in between boys – was also in Mother Earth News and I’d tried to keep it but you know how that is but now we have the CD just haven’t thought about it since, though so thanks!

  37. Well, now isn’t that clever! I like it!

  38. The Dominator // July 10, 2009 at 8:29 am // Reply


  39. WAY COOL

  40. This is a very smart project but it is hard to remember the identity of each piece!

  41. Too bad the article has parts that will not work together. Since when does a 1/4″ nut thread onto a 3/16″ bolt(hollow wall anchor)? Never in my book. Now I have a bunch of parts laying around that I don’t need and I have to take another trip to the store with $26 in parts already.

  42. Our Webelos den made this. We made two sets because once one teacher found out we were making one for one class she wanted one too. Just the nuts and bolts cost sixty dollars at Lowes for the two sets. We bought acrylic paint but spray paint probably would’ve worked better. The pieces were clever but using exactly the specificed parts – some of them, notably the king,, queen and knight frequently fall over. We were very excited to start this and I think disappointed in the outcome, mainly because the pieces didn’t stand up. So, I would adjust the bases on some of the pieces.

  43. it should tell you how make a board

  44. I wish I had the time to make this.


  46. eagle scout #34921 // December 1, 2008 at 2:36 pm // Reply

    this is a reativly good idea. Would someone please post a printable list of all the parts so i don’t have to figure out how many i need myself? Just to make things eaisier (and maybe mor enjoi able). Thanks!

  47. SpiketheWerecat // November 25, 2008 at 9:44 pm // Reply

    Cool! Maybe I should ask my Dad to do this….

  48. that is cool! cool! cool!

  49. I love chess

  50. I take a chess after school club at my school so i could bring this in)!!

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