Wooden Chess Sets
When it comes down to it, most of the time when we think of really nice chess pieces we are thinking of a wooden chess set. It makes sense – this has been the gold standard for high quality chessmen for over a hundred years. Not only are wooden chess pieces hand carved, they are often well weighted by metal in their bases. The chessboard options are usually high quality veneers or inlays, and together they make a set that looks fantastic.
These are not just for chess players. These sets look absolutely fantastic as home decor, so this is where you see the line between chessmen as a part of a game or as sculpture and art start to merge. Many owners are tired of another painting on the wall, and the classic old world style of some wooden chessmen is just what they are looking for.
While the reasons to purchase a set like this may be pretty straightforward, the process of actually getting one – or getting the right one, can be quite daunting. Not only are there tons and tons of options, for the nicest sets you often will have to choose pieces and boards separately to make the right combination. There is far too much for one post to discuss everything involved, so i’ll do my best to get you started.
Wooden Chess Sets
As I mentioned above, the traditional way to build a chess set involves picking the chessboard and chessmen out separately. I’ll discuss that a little more below, but first I wanted to focus on the actual “wood chess sets” that are already combined. If you’d like to follow along with some actual products, here is a link to the “Chess Pieces with Chess Board” section of our website where you will find all of our combined wooden chess sets.
There are very few sets that are actually prepackaged together. What you see as options are almost always sets that have been combined after the fact. This is because the pieces and boards are usually manufactured by different companies and imported from different places. We (and countless others) have found that combining some nice pieces, or popular combinations, really help the layman looking at purchasing a chess piece set for the first time.
Buying anything on the internet can be frustrating and not necessarily easy, and even folks who come down to our retail store have difficulty picking out pieces and a board when there are so many options. Some just want a few good choices they can just pick from so they are not so overwhelmed. Others just want the ground rules so they know that the decisions they make are the ‘right’ ones. (of course, picking a wooden chess set has few actual rules – it almost always comes down to personal preference!).
The sets you see online are just a small fraction of the options, but they are sometimes the best options for someone looking to find a gift. You will notice there are a few at all the various price levels – from the more basic sets under a hundred dollars, to mid-range high quality sets, to a few of the most exclusive sets available. These options really help make the process a bit easier for those easily overwhelmed! They also show each of the main size combinations, so you can get a better grasp of what size chess board goes with what size chess pieces and what those combinations look like.
Wood Chess Pieces
When you’re ready to make your own wood chess piece set, you have to wade through literally hundreds of styles of hand carved chessmen. The main differences are the size, carving, and wood types.
Because this article is about the sets and not the pieces, i’ll leave these differences for another post.
However, there are a couple quick tips I can offer. It is always worth looking closely at each design. Although at first glance many look quite similar there are usually differences primarily in the knights, and sometimes the other pieces as well.
The chess pieces you choose will usually do a lot more to dictate what chessboard you choose for the set. The two main sizes of chessmen (measured by king height) are around 3″ tall and 4″ tall. The 4″ tall chess pieces are closer to tournament size, but require a very large chessboard (sometimes 20″ or more!). The 3″ height pieces are what we call “executive” size, and will often fit a 16″ or 18″ chess board.
While everyone loves big pieces, keep this in mind – while a 17″ board can accent a room or be proudly displayed on a coffee or end table, a 21″ chess board is usually going to be the focal point of the room. You may want the biggest, but it might not be the best choice for where you want to be able to display your set.
Wood Chess Boards
The other part of the wooden chess set is the chessboard. When I first started working here, I was surprised at how expensive chess boards could sometimes get. The way I often describe it now is a similar experience to the first time you go to a Williams Sonoma and see the prices for high end cutting boards. The material cost of chess boards can be many times higher than the cost of the pieces. Further, inlaid and solid wood boards have additional considerations – high levels of sealant and lacquer to try to protect them from cracking.
I have posted previously about the chess boards we import from Poland and Spain – that’s a good place to start to find out the details of the different options available.
Other Wood Options
Of course, this is all assuming you’re looking for a flat wooden chess set. There are other variations – such as folding sets, which are also often made from wood. There are also wooden chess tables!
Wood is a great material for chess in general – not only does it look great, but it is durable and stands the test of time with a classic style. I hope you found this post informative.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email or put a comment down below.