Making a Custom Chess Set with Snapmaker 2.0
The Snapmaker All-in-One Digital Fabricator is a versatile machine that can 3D print, laser engrave, and CNC mill - check out John from Mellowpine's process for making a custom chess board.
Making a Chess Set with Snapmaker 2.0
I recently got my hands on the Snapmaker 2.0 3-in-1 machine, and I was wondering what I can make with it.
I like playing chess, and a cool-looking chess set always catches my eye. So I thought why not make a whole chess set using the Snapmaker?
I wanted it to have a mix of retro and modern looks, and the best way to make anything look retro is to make it out of wood. I had a hardwood (teak) board lying around, and I decided to laser engrave the chessboard pattern onto it. Once that was done, all I needed were some chess pieces. I could have made it out of wood if I had the rotary module, but sadly I don’t.
I decided I’ll 3D print them using the 3D print module. With that, I had everything figured out for a chess set, but there was still one aspect of the machine that I hadn’t used, the CNC module.
I thought having some wood carving on the side would be awesome. I tweaked the design to make the sides engraved using CNC.
I will explain each step in detail to show you how I made it.
The design files are linked at the end of this article - jump to them here.
We play around with lasers and CNC at Mellowpine.
Check out the quick video on the project above and visit Mellowpine's laser cutter and engraver YouTube channel here.
Laser Engraving the Board
The first step is to clean the board and sand it. After you do the engraving, you cannot sand it.
You also need to cut the board to the correct size. The Snapmaker has a work area of 320 x 350 mm, so I decided to make a board of 320 x 320 mm, which is a good size for a chess board.
Once I fixed the dimension of the chess board, I cut it out of the wooden board and set out to make the design. I used Illustrator to make the design.
Instead of going with a regular black fill for the black squares, I used a square design. The partially filled design will cause less charring than a regular black square.
Once the design file was ready, I exported it as an SVG file and opened it up on LightBurn.
I engraved a single square on a piece of teak wood to test the power and speed, and the engraving looked good at 3000 mm/min and 90% power. It took around 4 hours to engrave the whole board.
CNC Cutting the Side Panels
I suggest you do the CNC cutting part before 3D printing. This will save you a lot of time.
I used padauk wood for the side panels because it is red, which gives good contrast, and also because teak and padauk are two of my favorite woods.
I had two ideas for the side panels, one was to do a 3D carving design, and the other was to cut out a design at some depth and fill it with epoxy resin. I went with the latter.
For making the design, I used Illustrator.
While choosing the design, you must be careful to select one the machine can cut.
I didn’t want to use a V-bit and wanted to use a flat endmill to make things go fast. So I ended up selecting a design that could be cut using a ⅛” bit and ensured all parts of the design allowed the bit to pass through.
Once the SVG file was ready, I opened it up in Easel. You can also use Snapmaker Luban for this.
For the cut settings, I went with a target depth of 1.5 mm, with 8mm per pass at a 350 mm/min feed rate and 12,000 RPM.
For work holding, I nailed the padauk piece onto a larger piece of wood and then used clamps to hold the larger piece in place.
It took about half an hour to cut each piece, and I made four of those.
Once the carving was complete, I sanded it to give it a smooth finish. After the carving on the side panels was ready, I prepared the epoxy and added blue pigment to it.
I applied hot glue on the boundary of the piece to hold the epoxy in place like a mold.
The wood might absorb the epoxy into it, so if you fill it just till the top, it might go down, and you will have a hard time giving it a glossy finish. You should make sure there is sufficient epoxy on the top.
After you pour the epoxy, it is a good idea to blow some hot air over it if you have a hot air gun. Doing this will remove air bubbles and will prevent air bubbles from getting trapped inside the epoxy.
I left the epoxy for around 3 days to cure, and once it was done, I sanded off the excess and polished it using sandpapers with grits upto 2,000. After that, I used some polishing compound and microfiber cloth to give it a good finish. You can polish it more to give it a mirror finish.
3D Printing the Pieces
I started working on 3D printing the chess pieces after leaving the side panels for curing.
You can find a lot of free chess piece designs on thingiverse. I chose a free to use design with a spiral shape to go with the retro-modern look.
I used the white PLA filament I had and painted it to look like wood. You can also use wood PLA if you don’t want to paint.
I downloaded the 3D models and printed them in batches. I used the normal quality preset on the Snapmaker Luban software.
The normal quality preset prints at 0.16 mm layer resolution, which is quite good.
You should also make sure to keep the auto-generate support feature turned off. It took around 44 hours to print all the pieces and also some extra pieces to try on different colors.
I used a knife and sandpaper to remove the rough edges on the pieces. I used acrylic color to paint on PLA.
I used light wood color and dark wood color for the white and black pieces.
For the light color pieces, I mixed some light peach, golden yellow, and vandyke brown colors to get the right shade.
While mixing the colors, ensure you mix enough quantity to cover all your pieces. If you mix in batches, you might not get the exact shade each time.
With the color ready, I painted each piece with a brush. For the dark chess pieces, I used vandyke brown.
While applying acrylic paint, make sure to give it a thin coat, or it will peel off when it dries.
Putting it All Together
I put together the side panels and chess board using wood glue and then applied two coats of clear poly to give it a glossy finish. With that done, the chess set was ready.
Laser Engraving SVG File- https://mellowpinelaser.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Chess+Set+Design+Files/Chessboard+Design.svg
CNC SVG file-
3D printing STL file-
Lasers YT Channel for more-https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBierjXSPkNlwciw_1laqyw
About John from Mellowpine
Hey I'm John. I talk about CNCs and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNCs and writing about CNCs for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNCs. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Mellowpine.com.