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Had an order come in for an oversized chessboard - each square is about 3 inches. So it's big. The person wanted a maple frame around it, which at first I thought "OK, no big deal", but then I realized that on half of it I'd be gluing end grain to side grain, and with the humidity fluctuations here in the northwest.. that's a recipe for disaster.

Isn't it?

This is the part I can't figure out. Looking at chess/checkerboards online, there doesn't seem to be a single one with that issue - there is grain going every which way with no apparent concern, even on the silly expensive ones. I would have assumed that the miters would break apart in short order given that you've got expansion forces trying to move and the ends are glued in tight.

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Like, you're not supposed to do that on tables and cutting boards - what makes chessboards different? At the end of the day, can I safely glue up a chessboard framed like the guy wanted, or is it going to break?

  • "there is grain going every which way with no apparent concern, even on the silly expensive ones" Good observation. I would bet however that even the stupid expensive ones can and do fail sometimes, same as high-end butcher blocks do. "Like, you're not supposed to do that on tables and cutting boards " the grain on these is running in the one direction, so all movement is expected in width. "what makes chessboards different" often (traditionally) the grain alternates from light to dark squares, so movement is sort of constrained consistently and equally within the field [contd] – Graphus May 27 at 16:00
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    However allow for the fact that many such chessboards aren't made in the solid, they're veneered pieces (essentially parquetry) and as such the stable veneer substrate takes care of the issue, making framing the thing (even if sizeable) a non-issue. – Graphus May 27 at 16:01
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    I was going to mention that anything you see on the internet might be new, and not show what these pieces look like after a year or two at the cottage somewhere in SW Ontario. – jdv May 27 at 19:34
  • @jdv, yes absolutely this. Same issue with some of the shoddy amateur stuff assembled using pocket screws (when they're used incorrectly). We see the just-after-completion shots and 99.9% of the time never see a photo, or any written account, of how things have held up after a few seasons of movement have taken their toll. – Graphus May 28 at 9:53
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I've made solid chessboards like you are talking about, though smaller, (2" squares) and I put a boarder around them, walnut and maple, with an Oak boarder. One thing I did do for the board was tongue and groove, around the edge, I put a groove all around the board and the edges I gave a tongue. If you have larger stuff it might be easier to use a spline, making a groove on both the board and the edge.

The boards are still holding up just fine after 10+ years.

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How about making it in a frame-and-panel style? So that the chess board has room to move in the frame's grooves? You do not want to reduce the playing surface any, so you could cut the tongue on the frame and the groove in the board, kinda backwards to tradition, but should work.

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