My experimental chessboard

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    As I get ready to build my workbench I thought I’d share a project I made using my trusty Black and Decker workmate. I spent many a happy hour chasing it across the garage floor as I attempted to plane the end grain of the chessboard top!

    The top consists of a solid chessboard top made up from Walnut and Maple. The edge band is Maple and the board is surrounded by a Walnut mitred frame.

    The mid section is basically a dovetailed box with two opposite sections cut out to make the drawer fronts.

    The bottom is a frame and panel construction – again with mitred corners because I just couldn’t seem to cut decent looking mortices in such thin stock – with a couple of extra cross pieces with stub tenons which form the runners for the drawers.

    The chess board top was made out of nice wood but the rest of it is just B&Q pine. The main reason it’s experimental is that the top really makes no allowance for wood movement. I let the pieces acclimatise for weeks indoors but I am concerned that if the checkerboard section decides to shrink or expand it will break the mitred corners of the frame. I guess we’ll see but I couldn’t really think of another way to do it.

    During this project I was really able to practice planing endgrain and, as long as your plane is sharp, it’s really not that bad!

    I also got to practice a lot of edge jointing. I made the checkerboard section but first gluing 8 alternate maple and walnut strips to make a stripy board, then cut this cross ways into strips; jointing the endgrain edges; flipping alternate ones end for end and gluing it all back together. Not sure if this is the best way to do this with handtools but, the beauty of not knowing the right way to do something, is that you’re not afraid to give it try.

    The finish is shellac and a little wax.

    When I started this project I thought I’d figure out the best way to do it and then make a “proper” one. Truth is that this one already has great memories of playing chess with the kids and this is now the proper one – faults and all.





    Matt McGrane

    Bill, that’s a fantastic chess board. in your description, you said “Not sure if this is the best way to do this with handtools”. I think that’s the best way. And it turned out great. No wonder this one has become the “proper” one.

    Matt, Northern California - Started a blog in 2016:


    Thanks Matt – I certainly learned a lot doing it.

    Richard Senior

    Beautiful! And a real challenge on a Workmate. When I plane on mine I end up with “Workmate Knee” – a soreness round the back of the left knee from trying to hold it from spinning round.


    Very nice! I hope it doesn’t split, would be a shame.

    Especially considering you’ve done this on a workmate

    I’ve spent the first 2 years of my woodworking amateurism on a dork mate. In the end I ‘ve put a heavy stone block to give it more stability.

    My back still aches when I think back to those days.

    Go off and build that bench, you’ll never go back to your workmate.



    @sanhozay, @alien8 – thanks for the comments. I guess the workmate experience is pretty common – especially in the beginning.

    If it wasn’t for the workmate I wouldn’t have made anything but it is definitely time to move on and build the bench. Ironically I bought an old record vice a couple of years ago for when I build my bench and I’ve been using that on the footplate of the workmate to give it more weight!



    David Gill

    Great job Bill it looks great no point remaking it would be difficult to improve.
    Make your bench your next job you will find a bench with that vice attached a much better option than a work mate with a vice weight.

    Wigan, Lancs. England :


    Thanks David – I’m sure you’re right. I have 26 2 x 4’s arriving in a week or so and then, let the build begin!

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