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Giant Chess Set

My wife and I created a giant chess set as a decoration for our wedding. Each piece is made out of two hardboard cutouts slotted together in the middle. The board is painted concrete.

My wife and I met each other in college at the chess club, and we decided we wanted to make a wedding decoration in memory of how we met. What better way to do this than a life sized chess set!

When looking for 2-D chess piece designs I was disappointed that I couldn't find outlines of chess pieces that I liked, so I came up with the following method for adapting my favorite physical chess pieces to just silhouettes.

This guide will cover how you can make your own chess piece silhouette style based on your favorite chess set and then enlarge it to life size. It will then show you how to construct your own gigantic chess pieces.

Gather Tools and Materials

The tools you'll need include:

A jigsaw, a printer, at least one paint roller, a pencil, scissors, and a tape measure.

The paint rollers will be used on the chess pieces themselves, but also on the concrete. It helps to have some broom handles for the paint rollers when painting the concrete. It also helps to have one with a smaller width for the edges of the board.

The materials you will need include black and white paint, hardboard, nails, and some string.

You'll need to figure out how large you want to make your giant chess set in order to determine the quantity of the materials you will need.

I made sure to get hardboard that was smooth on both sides so they would look consistent from all angles.

Capture Your Favorite Set

Take pictures of your favorite chess set with a background you can crop out so that you can enlarge the outlines to print later. Make sure to get the knight from both the front and the side.

Manipulate Images to Outlines Only

Try to manipulate the images so you get a clean outline of each piece. You can use your favorite editor of choice, whether it be an expensive one like Photoshop or a free one like GIMP or Inkscape. The giant pieces will have flat bottoms so make sure to cut your piece off flat if the bottom appeared rounded in the photos.

The printer can only print sections at a time, so just line the printouts together when you're done.

You can save on paper and time if you just print half of each outline and use your scissors to cut it out. Once you get to the next step you'll be able to flip the cutout over and use it as if you had printed out the whole thing.

You'll have to print out extra for the horse, since it is asymmetrical.

Cut Pieces

Trace the outlines you've created onto the hardboard and then cut them with the jigsaw.

Each shape you cut out will be half of a piece. One half needs a slot cut in the top half, from the center of the top down to the middle. The other half needs a slot cut in the bottom half, from the center of the bottom up to the center of the middle. The two halves can hen be fitted together to make a whole piece that stands up on its own.

I didn't have a jigsaw of my own so I made a visit to Hackerspace Charlotte to use theirs.

Tip: Once you've cut half of a piece using the outline from the previous step you can use that first cutout as the template for the rest.

If you have a good clamping system to hold the boards in place well as you cut you may find that you can cut through two or more sheets at a time. This can drastically reduce the overall time you spend on this step.

In total you'll cut out 32 pawn shapes and 8 of each of the king, queen, bishop and rook, as well as 4 symmetrical knights from the front and 4 asymmetrical knights from the side.


You need to paint half of the chess pieces black and the other half white.

Before painting the board, measure out the length of your board, hammer the nails into the concrete and use the string between them to mark out the first edge of the board.

Pull out another string from the first edge and make sure it is square when measuring the second edge. Continue using nails and string to mark out the entire board. Marking out the entire board with string first is a great way to ensure it looks right before putting any paint on the ground.

Next roll on the paint for each white square, making sure to use white for the bottom right square in the orientation you prefer. Use a smaller roller for a white border around the outside of the board.

Assemble Pieces

The two halves of each chess piece should slot together and stay roughly perpendicular on their own. If the slot is cut a little too wide you may have trouble getting the two halves to stay perpendicular. I ran into this issue myself on several of the chess pieces, since it's hard to get the slots cut to exactly the right width. The remedy I found was to use black or white duct tape for the black or white pieces, respectively.


When we played at my wedding we ended up disassembling the black king and setting it aside so I could take its place, and disassembling the white queen so my new wife could take its place. We had several wedding guests join in, each standing next to a piece on the board so we could remember who represented which piece.

Our game ended in white winning, with the white queen mating the black king.


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