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Staunton Chess Sets – The Selection

Choosing the right Staunton Chess Pieces

Of all of the types of chess pieces, the most popular is the most famous – Staunton Chess Sets. Another post goes in to detail about the origin of that design. This entry is more about some of the different types of staunton chess piece designs you can find, and what makes them different and unique.

We have over 150 different styles of Staunton Chess Sets

Features of Staunton Chess Pieces

There are three main considerations when picking out a staunton chess set. Size, Wood type, and Design. This post is going to talk about the first two – chess piece size and wood types. Part II will go in to many of the different chess set designs and how there can be so many versions of a ‘standard’ design.

Common size of Staunton Chess Sets

Staunton Chessmen can be found as small as 2 1/2″ and as large as 8″ (or larger – if you consider the outdoor chessmen!) However, the two main size categories are going to be tournament size or executive size.

Tournament Sized chess sets will have kings that are 3 3/4″ – 4 1/4″ tall. These sets are used for either a 2″ or 2 1/4″ square board. They look very impressive and are often quite heavy – but the board is usually 20″ or so, meaning that a set of this size is going to dominate a room as opposed to accent it.

Executive Sized chess sets have kings that are 3″ – 3 1/2″ tall. These smaller pieces are used for chess boards with a 1 1/2″ or 1 3/4″ square size, which are a bit smaller and are a good option for a room accent: a board on a coffee table or end table. Unfortunately, they’re not going to be as heavy as they are smaller sets.

You can find more about chess piece and chessboard sizing here:

See more on our Staunton Chess Set Sizing Guidelines.

Staunton Chess Set Wood Types

The second differentiating feature in Staunton Chess Sets is the wood type. While it is possible to find wooden chess sets in all manner of exotic and common woods, there are five main options for the nice hand-carved staunton chessmen.

As an industry standard, the white chess pieces are almost always carved from Boxwood. It has a nice natural tone that is very consistent, and is paired with any of the other wood options I will be discussing.

Ebony is the classic black exotic hardwood that many of us think of when we think about a really nice old-world style chess set. It is a very dense wood and if you were to cut it in half, it would be black all the way through. It comes in a variety of qualities from ‘striped’ variations to jet black ebony with almost no grain at all. Unfortunately, due to the relative rarity it is a very expensive wood.

Rosewood is the most common medium brown option of wood. Traditional rosewood (which we call “cardinal rosewood” for the sake of ease) has a strong grain and a medium price point, so you’ll find a lost of wooden chess piece sets with this design. The dark color gives a strong contrast, and the strong grain gives the set character.

There are some other types of woods often classified as rosewood:

Honey Rosewood is also called Sheesham. This is a light brown wood with light grain. It is a soft wood that is easy to work with, but sometimes does not afford enough of a contrast for some collectors. It is best suited for walnuts and teaks.

Crimson Rosewood is also called Red Chidar, Blood Rosewood, Bud Rosewood, and several other names. In the past few decades, it has become a more popular option for the high end market. It ranges from a bright red, almost pink color to a deep red wine color. It has a lot of character and grain, but is also the most inconsistent color. You’ll usually see this in very high end chess sets now, as they move away from Ebonywood. Unfortunately, it is also quite rare and is just as expensive as ebony.

Finally, Ebonized Wood is really not a wood type, but it is also the most common and most affordable. It is also the reason that Ebony has fallen out of favor in the high end market. Basically, Ebonized chess pieces are boxwood chessmen that have been stained black, making them look exactly like ebony. The great aspect of these pieces is they have a really strong contrast, look like a million bucks, and are the most affordable of the big five in wood types for hand-carved staunton chess pieces.

To see more about chess piece woods, see our link below:

See more on our Staunton Chess Set Wood Options (with pictures!).

Chess Piece Design is where you see the most variety. Most designs come in both the tournament and executive size, as well as in each of the wood designs.

There is a lot to consider with the design – some are more fragile than others, with tiny crosses or knobs on the top of a bishop – while some are quite rugged and work well as an every day chess set. We carry over 20 different designs (each in the different sizes and woods!), so the process of picking out the right one can be really complicated.

Now that I’ve gone over the basics, my next post will actually start to get to the good stuff – exploring the different Staunton designs directly. There are a lot to go through, so it’ll be a doozy!

If you’d rather not wait, you can actually get started looking at our chess pieces on our website right now. We separate them both by wood type and by size, and I will be discussing many of the styles shown there soon!

See our Staunton Chess Sets with Ebonized Boxwood.

See our Staunton Chess Sets with Honey Rosewood.

See our Staunton Chess Sets with Rosewood.

See our Staunton Chess Sets with Crimson Rosewood.

See our Staunton Chess Sets with Ebonywood.

Quentin Turner

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