For the last three summers our grandson and I have collaborated on a project while he spends two weeks with us. The projects are always made of wood. The first one was a helicopter. Last year it was a robot. Both were non-motorized. This year the project was a chess set. He has just turned 8 and chess is his latest interest. He knew it would be a big project so, to reduce the effort and improve the “sales pitch”, he said the design should be plain. It should not be fancy or elaborate. The eyes would be painted on and the hands would not have fingers. His contribution, in addition to design suggestions, would be painting. I would just do the carving. I figured I needed to carve four pieces each day to fit around our other plans for the two weeks. Oh, and another little detail, his plans included a board with room for storage in a drawer. I have no idea when the board and drawer will appear.
I began by using graph paper with quarter inch squares to develop patterns for his approval. The rooks came first and were just in a traditional castle format. His idea for the knights was a toy soldier in a uniform similar to the Queen’s guard (England). The kings and queens were stiff figures with mitten hands. The pawns were to be dogs on one team and cats on the other. I found a dog pattern from Harold Enlow’s chess set and copied it. Reminding my grandson of the specification for plain and simple, I convinced him that 8 copies of the same dog and same cat would work. I’ll have to admit I also used my influence to convince him of my design for the bishops. A compromise was struck and there would be two male and two female bishops. He thought his mother, a minister, would like that. I think she liked the concept but not the unflattering rendering of the women. The pictures that follow show the progress of the project.