DIY Chess Set With Leather Sleeve

DIY, gift, laser, leather, project, travel, wood -

DIY Chess Set With Leather Sleeve

Looking for a cool summer project?

Story time! I grew up playing games with my family. Monopoly, Risk, the usual lot of friendly board games. But one game was king. I thought of chess as the ultimate battle of wits, and my dad was always up for a match. I’m in my thirties now, and I don’t think I’ve ever beat him.

When my brothers and I were younger, we found an old chess set in the closet. It had belonged to my grandfather on my dad’s side, and had been passed down for a few generations. Somewhere along the line, that chess set was broken. Blame having three little boys. I always felt awful about it.

So I wanted to make my own set for my dad, with a bit of a modern spin. If you are like me, you like to travel. And a portable chess set is the perfect companion for a backpacking trip, or a summer vacation, or even to the cottage.


In this article, you are going to learn how to make your very own chess board with an optional leather carrying case.

Or, if you prefer, you can buy one made to order from the mshop.


What you’ll need:

For the chess set:

  • Access to a laser! Check out your local makerspace, library or University.  We use the open source software, RDWORKS.
  • About 8”x8” worth of 1/8” thick plywood or something similar you have lying around
  • Woodworking glue
  • Paint
  • A piece of thin cardstock to act as a barrier between the wood pieces
  • Cord/String to tie it all up
  • This file for the board, and this file for the pieces

For the leather carrying case:

  • Thick vegetan or chrome-tanned leather. Vegetan is great for cutting via laser and takes dyes beautifully, but is a bit pricey. Chrome-tanned cuts are more affordable. 
  • You’ll want to find something that feels right to the touch. Too thin, and your chess set will feel flimsy. Too thick, and you won’t be able to stash the pieces easily.
  • You’ll need cut leather pieces measuring: 
    • 11”x9”, 9”x4.5”, 9”x4.5”
  • Access to simple leatherworking tools: a rotary blade for straight cuts, and a self healing mat. 
  • Leatherworking cement or glue.


You can find the .RLD files for the laser cutter here — the board, and the pieces. This file for the board, and this file for the pieces. We use the open source software, RDWORKS.

After laser cutting the chess pieces, carefully paint one set in a dark brown or black.


The chess board is completed in two passes: first, it is etched on to the wood, and then it is cut. After completing, carefully glue the board to the back of each set of pieces, creating a finished half set. Allow the glue to set and dry.

The sleeve can be laser or hand cut. Using either the laser cutter or rotary blade, cut your leather in to two 9”x4.5” pockets, and one 11”x9” sleeve. Using the leather cement, carefully apply a thin coat around the edge of each pocket. Very slowly and precisely, line up the edge of the sleeve to the leather pockets, and press together firmly. Use a paper towel to wipe away any excess cement along the edge.

After sitting for around 24 hours, your finished set is good to go! Over time and many trips, your leather case will wear and start to look even cooler. The pockets inside will stretch and accommodate the wood chess set like a glove.

And maybe you’ll one day be able to beat your dad. Keep on practicing.