Chess Board with Copper Inlay

Chess Board with Copper Inlay

Hi everybody! I’m Mike McCrory and this is
Wood U Make It. You may have seen the video
where I made a chessboard and if you haven’t seen it I’ll put a link here. In that video I took a shortcut by cutting the pieces to be perfectly square on the first pass. The problem with that is that if you cut them perfectly square and then glue them together after that I’m going to have to sand them on the top and bottom and that’s going to make them not square anymore because I’m going to reduce the height. One of the nice things about that video that I released is I received several orders from viewers asking me to make them custom chess boards. they’re not exactly the same as the one that was in that video. This one is going to have 2 1/2″ squares and I’m gonna use these two pieces of wood. I’ve already planed and sanded them down a little bit. This one was 3″ and this one was 3″ inches but the ash was badly cupped and the walnut was just a little bit more than three inches and that’s too thick for my for my table
saw to cut so I had to reduce it down a little bit. So… let’s get started! I’m starting by ripping the pieces that are going to form the squares but in this case I’m cutting them to be rectangular in shape. Next, I’m orienting the grain so that
they’re all pointing in the same direction. and I’m marking them with an
arrow so that I can keep track of the pieces. I’m also going to mark two of the edges
to run through the jointer so that they end up being perpendicular to one
another and then I’ll mill the other two edges by running them through the planer. Okay, I have the pieces planed to size. So, all of the interior pieces are 2 1/2″ wide but they’re a little bit taller — they’re about 2 5/8″ — and if I flip this over you can see that it’s a little bit lower than the side pieces but the pieces on the end are actually square — 2 5/8″ by 2 5/8″. So, if I rotate this, you can see it’s the same height. And that’s so that after I glue it up I can trim the end pieces so that they are perfect squares. Now I’ll do the first glue up, clamp it up, and let it sit overnight. I like to put a board across the middle
and clamp it so that it applies vertical pressure to keep this flat. And now I’m going to sand this down to
the desired 2 1/2″ thickness. Normally I would use my crosscut sled to
get a straight edge along the end of this board but, because these squares are
so thick, my crosscut sled added to this thickness is too thick for my table saw
blade to go through so I’m gonna use my track saw. The issue with the track saw
is that it’s not able to cut that thick as well, so I’m gonna cut it part of the way through and then I’ll flip it over and cut it again. This doesn’t have to be a perfect cut because, once I get it straight enough, I can run it through the table saw and clean it up. So, now I’m cleaning up the edge and then I will cut it to the desired thickness. This chess board is going to end up being 1 1/4″ thick so I’m cutting these pieces to be 1 3/8″
so that I have an eighth of an inch that I could sand down once it’s
glued up. Now it’s ready for the second
glue-up. Again, I put a horizontal board across
the top and I’ll clamp it up and let it sit overnight. Now I’m gonna sand this down to the 1 1/4″ thickness. Now the final chessboard is thin enough that I can use my crosscut sled to trim the edges. Now I’m sanding down the walnut for the frame to be also 1 1/4″ thick. It was really cold that day — only about 6 degrees Fahrenheit — so I had the garage door open only long enough to get this board through the sander. The frame on this board is going to be 2 1/2″ wide so I’m cutting this to be 3 inches because it’s going to be inserted into the board with a tongue and groove joint. I’m numbering the pieces 1 through 4 so that I can keep track of them and attempt to have a continuous grain
running around the board. I’m also adding an arrow to indicate which edge is going to be touching the chess board. The client asked that I put banding around
the outer edge of the frame so I’m using my dado set to cut a groove and then I
will insert a strip of tiger maple into each of the pieces. I’m running the pieces of tiger maple through the drum sander and I will sneak up with a fit to
make it as tight as possible without being too tight. Now that it’s glued up, I will trim off the excess and create a whole bunch of expensive paint stir sticks. I’ve added a fresh piece of wood to my miter gauge and I’ve got my miter gauge set at a 45
degree angle and now I’m running the blade through the piece of wood and I’m
going to use that kerf mark to line up all of my cuts for the miters. Next, I’m going to cut the groove in the
chessboard using the dado set and I’ll cut a matching tongue that’s
going to go into the edge of the frame. Now I’m just fine-tuning the miter
joints to make sure that I have a really good fit. The thing that’s going to be unique about this chessboard is that I’m going to inlay the client’s initials in the corner of the frame and I’m going to do that using copper. I have this 21-gauge copper that I’m
going to use for the inlay and when I read some of the reviews on Amazon
before I bought it some of the people said that it was too hard to bend easily
and they were absolutely correct. It seems pliable but when I’m trying to go
around a tight radius of a letter then it really is too hard. I have this 24-gauge copper that really is easy to bend but it’s a little bit too thin, in my
opinion, for the visual appeal. So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to anneal the copper. What that means is I’m just going to heat it up to be red-hot,
let it cool and that will soften it so that I can bend it easily. It only takes a few minutes for the
copper to cool but while it’s cooling I’m gonna trace out the letters onto
the frame using carbon paper. I’m worried that some of these tight
corners might break away when I’m inserting the copper or even carving out
the grooves for the copper so I’m gonna try and stabilize the wood using
CA glue. I’m not sure if it’s gonna work but I think it’s better than doing nothing. The copper is about 0.85 to 0.9 mm thick and I have this router bit that’s 0.75 mm thick so it’s a very thin router bit and just a little bit thinner than the copper that’s going to be inserted to give it a nice tight fit. Since the router bit has a 1/8 inch
shank and my router doesn’t have a collet that’s that small,
I’m gonna use my Dremel tool and I’m going to attach it to a router base for
a Dremel. I have the Dremel tool set on a medium speed and I’m going to just proceed very carefully. The video right now is going about 2.5x the normal speed. And now the video is going about 5x the regular speed. It really wasn’t that difficult to do this. I just had to be careful and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t proceed too fast otherwise
I would risk snapping off the tip of the router bit. I’ve done my best the shape the pieces
of copper into the form of the letters and now I’m going to just hammer it in. I’m hammering this in with multiple
light taps. This next groove was a little bit too tight so I tried to open it up a little bit with my chisel. But, as I feared, I broke out a piece of the wood. I set that piece aside so that I could
glue it back in but, as luck would have it, I misplaced it so I’ll have to make
another piece. After breaking off that first corner, I
didn’t want it to happen again, so I decided to insert a piece of copper
into the slot while I was hammering in the other piece. That way it would provide some support for the wood to prevent it from breaking. I used a file to miter the corners where the pieces were joining to try to get a
better fit. Now that all the copper is inserted,
I will apply some CA glue around all of the edges to make sure that it’s going
to be locked in place. Now it’s the next day and I’m just sanding the copper down to be flush with the surface of the frame. I’m sanding it
with a 220-grit sandpaper and then I will come back and polish it at the end. I’m gonna cut that missing piece just by
eyeballing it. It’s a little bit of a triangular piece that I’m going to cut. It was pretty easy to fit in and I’m
just going to use some epoxy to hold it in place. And now I’ll apply some epoxy across the
entire copper area to make sure that any gaps are filled. Because I have the tiger maple banding
around the outside edge of the frame, I’m not going to use corner splines, so I’m
gonna use biscuit joints instead. I know that biscuits themselves don’t add a lot of strength but they do increase the surface area of the glue and that will add enough strength, I think, to hold everything together. Having the biscuits in place definitely
made it harder to put the frame together but they definitely helped to make sure
that everything was properly aligned. Now I’m going to cut finger slots
into two of the edges. To minimize tear-out, I like to run the router into each of the ends of the finger slot and then I’ll go back and cut the entire
slot. One of the last things I do before
finishing is I rub the board down with water to raise the grain. I’ll let that
dry and then I’ll sand it again. I have a rotary sanding tool that attaches
to the end of my Dremel tool and I’m using 2000-grit sandpaper to polish the copper. Now I’m wiping the board with denatured alcohol to remove any dust particles. The first coat of finish will be a de-waxed shellac. This helps to seal the grain and it penetrates deeply into the wood fibers. I’m going to use a polyurethane finish
for this board because of its durability. I really like working with lacquer but
it’s just not durable. If someone were to set a glass with a wet bottom on top of
this chessboard you would end up with a white ring. So, I’m going to apply five coats of polyurethane with a gloss finish because of its clarity and then I will follow that up with a final coat of a satin finish. I use this spray shelter because I’m finishing indoors and that keeps the finish from landing on all of
my tools. I’ve added this inline filter to the end of my spray hose to help prevent moisture from being introduced into my finish. I sanded in between each coat of polyurethane with 320-grit sandpaper and now that all of the coats have been applied I’m rubbing the board down with pumice stone mixed with paraffin oil. Then I will rub on a coat of paste
wax using 0000 steel wool and this just adds a protective finish. So, I gotta ask… Would YOU make it?


  1. This is my board that Mike made for me – and I couldn't ask for anything better. Absolutely gorgeous craftsmanship, and amazing to be able to see how it was done. Thanks again Mike!

  2. 5:25 u glued the last/first row wrong – but looks like you recognized and did it again some seconds later 🙂 Like the result. Like the inlet – but dislike the font used for it .. it looks like a childs drawing (but that may be intentional, so I don't judge about it)

  3. When making wooden rings, it is easier to cut the inlay groove and then add metal filings with CA Glue. Design is not limited by turns or corners

  4. Inlay work is some tedious shit. The only thing I've done that requires more patience is hand engraving. I won't bother saying what's already been said, I'm sure your next one will be twice as good.

  5. Very nice job on a very nice board.

    I'm no good at free hand, so I would have to use some sort of font template to guide the router, and fill the grooves with gold or copper colored paint, or metal flakes in glue. What can I say, not much of an artist here, but then not much artistry involved in electronics repair.

    If I still played chess and needed a board, I would not hesitate to ask you to build me one! Again, very nice job.

  6. From an old knifemaker, who has pounded a million rivets and pins, the way to anneal (soften) brass and copper and make it more malleable, heat it "red hot" (cherry red in normal indoor light,about 1400 degrees F) and quench it in water (room temp okay). WoodU, thank The Big Guy we still have people like you who can DO things, not just sit and play with EYE PHONES and computers.

  7. 0:25
    Did you mean to say they wouldn’t be a perfect cube after sanding? I was trying to figure out how sanding them and making them shorter would cause them to no longer be square. Then I realized you must’ve meant cube. Am I correct?

  8. Got to admit I agree with the others, You just don't need the cheesie music it distracts from what your saying.

  9. I'm sure your client was very pleased with your work. It's a beautiful chess board I know my husband would love to have one that was as nice as this one. Personalizing it made it that much more special.

  10. Mike you did great job on that board I am trying to start a woodworking shop here in Maine for myself and other Veterans, If I can get it going I will come back to this video and see if I can make a Chess board as good

  11. Would I make this? MAYBE. I definitely would NOT do that copper inlay. Much respect for doing it but if I got that result I wouldn't be happy with it. I'd opt for just finding someone with a CNC to route out the initials maybe 1/8" deep and black or white epoxy to fill it.

  12. That finish looks nice, I want to touch it! Beautiful board! First view, and I've subscribed, will you subscribe back?

  13. The board is beautiful and very well made. Nice job! I’m just not sure that this inlay matches the quality you built in to it.
    Cheers from Ontario! Happy Canada Day!

  14. BEAUTIFUL! What does he use for the chess pieces – did you turn them for him? I made 4 chess sets, actually boxes which hold the pieces, and turned all the pieces and weighted the bottoms. Your workmanship is spectacular! Well done

  15. Awesome job on the board. It shows that you have a true passion for woodwork. As for the inlay, you are stepping out of your comfort zone and that takes balls. I think it came out ok for your early stages of learning. Trial and error are the best teachers. I am sure there are better methods but I am sure you will learn and get better as you perfect this skill and learn others. Congrats on a beautiful chess board.

  16. It would probably have been easier to use copper powder with the CA glue. That way you don't have to mess around with hammering in copper wire… and it always fits 😁

  17. Liked, subscribed, and despite the comments about the inlay, I look forward to seeing what you learn about copper inlays and how you apply it in a future project. 🙂

  18. Hi Mike. Very nice build. Some comments about the copper inlay were a bit negative but the finish looked really good to me. I built a chess board years ago and may attempt another one. Great video thanks.

  19. Then took the board in the bath with me. I feel this step is important. I use Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo on it. It makes me feel and look like a total idiot but The board smells great.
    Then unfortunatly I dropped the board onto its corner and deforming it. In a strange bounce Its trajectory took it towards the concrete steps where I manage to ding the other 3 corners.But I didnt show that part.

  20. много мелких косяков , с таким то оборудованием и материалом , в целом нормально на 4

  21. Nice work. One thing: maybe you should have a look at Ted Sokolowski's method for copper inlays – I've done it myself on peppermills and it would likely have saved you a lot of time and headaches.

  22. You could have filled the routed initials with a 2 part filler and sanded it flat … Think it may have been a better and easier outcome, nevertheless an extremely nice piece !

  23. DuDE!! Your Jr.High School Shop Class Teacher didn't scare you enough about using a table saw. Ya DON'T use your hand to push the wood beyond the spinning blades!!

  24. Well Sam, only two things left to do.
    Get some nice chess pieces and learn how to play the game.
    Nice craftmanship mike, hats off to you!

  25. Personally I like that the inlay was hand done, better than something milled through a machine, isn’t that the point of having someone make this board, giving it a soul or energy.

  26. Why do you fill the gaps with epoxy? Why not with wood glue? Sanding over it would fill the gaps with dust of the same color

  27. To anneal you Cooper, get it
    red hot, then dip it in cold
    water. This is from an eighty
    five year old plumber.

  28. To anneal copper, heat to bright red and immediately quench in cold water. Copper 'work hardens' and so it may be necessary to anneal more than once. This chess board you have made is a beautiful work of craftsmanship…thanks for this.

  29. When you do inlay u MUST file ends so that they seem as in one piece.
    Another advice never use a steel hammer but instead a nylon hammer. You have better control with that.

  30. Another thing. When you glue wood you must full glue. Meaning glue everywhere on both surfaces. And when u clamp it must bleed along the 2 components. Excess glue can be removed with rubbing alcohol. If you don't full glue pieces will shift over time and edges will appear between pieces.
    I have 3 years and 6 months education in inlay and cabinet making. I'm a Journeyman.

  31. Last thing. Always make a test model before finish. So you can correct errors such as the copper inlay method.
    Just my 10 cent.

  32. the idea of this copper inlay is neat, but imo you might want to change the method you do it, cause end results look… poorly as hell.
    I so wish I had tools you have :/

  33. are you going to make the chess pieces too? that would be awesome… wood i make it? i would… if i had the tools, and a workshop and the materials…

  34. Don't think the copper goes that well with that VERY lovely board!!! It's very hard when you have to do two identical letters right next to each other! I would have have engraved the letters with a proper cnc-machine and filled it with Gold color i think or left it hollowed. Very nice work!!!

  35. You’re clearly 100000x more knowledgeable than me but some of those cuts on the table saw made me go eeeeek! Those freehand dado cuts and your fingers getting soooo close to the dado blade. Stay safe!!!

  36. To annealing, you don't need it to be red hot. and see, all you need to do is heat it until you see the shadow chase across the surface. Then let cool and you'll see its soft.

  37. Hi Mike,

    thank you for this great video! Inspired by you I am planning to create my own board following your instructions 🙂 Luckily we have an "open workshop" in our town where I can use all tools needed for a low flatrate-price.

    I was able to take all the measurements for each part of the chessboard from your video except one: How long was the board you used for the frame and how long were the four frame boards before you cut the 45 degree angles? It should be something around 25 inch per side correct? I would be very happy about a feedback 🙂
    Keep up and all the best from Germany!

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