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      Micro-Mark Discount code for IGMA   01/29/2017

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18th Century Chess Set 1:12 Scale
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There is a story in my head about a man named Jeromy Pettigru. I've made up a whole environment for him that I will make in miniature. Of course I must start in the middle with this project. He lives in England in the year 1795 and owns a saddlery shop where he specializes in items for the fox hunter. Anyway, he is a chess player and so needs a chess set. After researching, I decided on an 18th century set (originally made in bone) that is described as the "tulip" design.

I have never turned anything before or used a lathe, but have been practicing with my husband's metal lathe. I tried turning aluminum but could not get the shapes I wanted. Then tried acrylic rod. That went pretty well. Then went to wood dowels which I liked the best since I could use small files instead of gouges to produce shapes. After the basic shape was made an Xacto knife was used to carve details.

A two part silicon putty mold material was used to make molds of the wood turnings. Mixed up a bone color from polymer clay - translucent, white and a little yellow. The pieces shown on the chess table are the finished castings. Still some carving to do.

The intention is to get the pieces to a silicon mold where I can cast a whole set in resin. However, I DO like the look the polymer clay gives.

 

ChessPieces1sm.jpg

ChessMoldssm.jpg

ChessTablesm.jpg

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Collie Feathers...

I really, really want to turn a chess set, I bought tagua nuts as one possibility to turn the white pieces... and I bought old piano keys to turn the black pieces, but also have some ebony that I found online... now my million dollar question, is how do I create the horse's head, the knight.  My friend Roni found a chess set recently at the museum attic sale and I have been looking for one since.  I do have an antique miniature chess set in ivory, it is very similar to the one that is listed in the KC miniature museum's photos online... so I have something to model with.  I think I see your knight on the 'floor' in front of your table.

Very cool!!!

 

 

 

 

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On 6/29/2017 at 5:37 PM, WeekendMiniaturist said:

now my million dollar question, is how do I create the horse's head, the knight. 

 

 

 

 

I turned the base of the knight on the lathe and then took it off the lathe and hand carved the head part. Using a Dremel and Xacto knife. Your post gave me an idea and I also bought real ebony and ivory antique piano keys. I once made some earrings from Tagua nut, but over time they became very dark in color. I did not seal or finish them with anything though. Not sure if that would have helped.

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Here's a question about scaling down an object. Here is the full size turning profile of the actual chess piece - the pawn. And below the actual size drawing is the 1:12 scale drawing. Even with a magnifying glass, a lot of the detail is lost. My philosophy on this is to just leave out the detail that is lost and try to do the detail that can be seen while also keeping the "feel" of what the original looks like on a chess board. My finished pawn is in the first photo on this thread. What does everyone else do if a detail will be lost when scaling down?

pawn.jpg

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CollieFeathers, I haven't tried to do chess pieces yet, but to get as much detail as possible I bought some jewelry gravers.  I purchased my first batch in 2015, and then I purchased more last year at Christmas, and I'm just beginning to apply the finish to my freely turned handles for the new batch of jewelers gravers.  With your experience you are probably been exposed to jewelers gravers.  My first encounter was in Jack Blackham's class in 2006, when we used a graver to clean up dovetails - but it took the next encounter with Bill Robertson's needlework stand class in 2015 for it to sink in for me.  I went to Bill's class, very green as a student, and was amazed at the detail an inexperienced person could obtain with a lathe in 48 hours of classroom time.  

You can see Bill Robertson's class notes in the forum so you can see the kind of detail we were able to achieve.  I am working on the do-over for my needlework stand: I'm still working to improve my stand.  

Taking a cue from Peter Acquisto's Theme Luncheon at the NAME Convention, Indianapolis, IN 2015 I reduce the copy to as close as 1/12th scale (after I scan the drawing) and print it in 1/12th or about 8%...  Or you can reduce it on a copier if the machine allows 8%... mine reduces only to 25%, so I usually scan and reduce when I print.  

I just try to keep as much detail as possible.  For me, I will expect multiple attempts on the turning... but ultimately, it is your eye that is the judge.  Seeing another turned set may be the key for you to judge if you are happy with your turning results or not.  

I find jewelers gravers will enable that detail... while I am pleased with my micro turning tools, gravers just bring your results to a new level.  

Which metal lathe are you using?

Thanks for the discussion about the knights...it is so small, but hopefully it will be a possibility.  Thanks for sharing your approach, I may try to turn swiss pear or birch for my white pieces... 

So much to turn.... 

 

 

 

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On pieces so small you sometimes just have to leave some of the details out. Turning a chess set is on my list too. What I tend to do with such small pieces is to look for the simplest full scale version and scale that down.

I do this with my petitpoint too, find antique examples that will scale down well to 1/12, the more detail a piece has the more difficult it becomes to scale it down exactly.

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Everyone here is such a great help. Even a small tip can mean a big improvement. Will definitely look into the jewelry gravers. And have been reading and studying turning a bit so ready to try again with the pawn. It's really fun to do turning.

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This is the set so far. Have finished most of the black pieces. Have learned SO much about polymer clay and baking it. It's not worth it to try to recondition a really old square. My black was over 10 years old. If you over bake the clay it seems to become VERY brittle. Could be only the black though. Cleaning off the flashing after molding them  was NOT as easy as I thought it would be. They are so thin near the base, they kept popping off their bases when I tried to clean the flashing The white pieces did not do this.

SO. This was kind of successful but I'm not satisfied. Decided to try to turn a set made of bone and then dye them.

chessSetsm.jpg

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But, what kind of bone? I got some shed deer antler pieces and some gravers WeekendMiniaturist mentioned. Cut the antler on a bandsaw to make turning blanks (surprisingly easy to do), and this is as far as I've gotten before I had to put it down for the evening.

I'll get to practice more turning techniques, particularly repeating a shape (any tips would be welcome). The antler material is really easy to work.

chucksm.jpg

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This is the lathe.

lathe.jpg

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Success today with this. The gravers did very well. What a difference! Crisp details and no seams. Pawn on the left is .125 inches wide at the base.

pawns.jpg

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The bone experiment looks great!  You can also bake polymer clay and then turn it.  The Pen turning world has discovered polymer clays too.  They are selling polymer clay canes for turning.  (I've never tried it, as I'm quite content turning bubinga and pink ivory right now...)  But the detail you can obtain using rosewood is incredible, i really am enjoying all three of these species right now.

In order to make identical parts you either have to measure and be very precise or use a duplicator, or make lots of them and pick out the ones that look the most similar.

Option 1.

Bill Robertson teaches this technique in some of his classes at Guild School and Miniatures in Tune.  I think Bill's Robertson's photos are being held hostage, too - photobucket upgrade issue, so if you go back to the Video that he posted of his recent talk, there is a slide in the presentation where he has a series of decimals for the three sizes for the most exquisite 17th Century Ladies French Miniature Spinning Wheel, and if I remember the slide shows two sets of measurements in black, and one measurement in red... those are his measurements so he could duplicate the parts... in various scales.  I've watched him demonstate this technique live and in person, and it is pretty inspiring that he can visualize what that measurement is, use a cross slide and is so damned accurate that my head wanted to spin too.  Two years later, I can finally visualize a width of .600 but visualizing a diameter of .430... well I'm not as good at that one.  

So, buy a pair of calipers and measure your knight that you just turned.. the distance between sections and the components ---> you have to know what the measurements are, in order to duplicate it.

Meezer Mama, did this really cool tool to measure the left / right distance (width of the turning diameter or the Z axis) that she put on her taig lathe.  These kinds of tools are wonderful additions to the lathe and help you turn to a very specific width on your turning.  I hope this is of some help.

Go to the forum topic of micro lathe accessories, under tools and see the post with the dial indicator and photo.

Option 2.

If you consider a duplicator, it does need to purchased for your specific lathe.   I am guessing, but I think duplicators for life size equipment are generally made for wood lathes and not metal lathes.  I know there is always an exception and the Anker Duplicator was fitted for a Sherline, and the Boorums (www.smallerthanlife.com) also sell the micro lathe (Taig & Sherline) and can set up a duplicator for you.  I have hung out in the woodworking world with pro cabinetmaker husband, so this world is home for me, and the metal world is new, so I'm definitely not the expert in the metals lathe world and duplicators for them.

Here is a link for Penn State Industries instuctions for making life size chess pieces.  

https://www.pennstateind.com/library/CHESSTMP_ins.pdf

If I had a laser, I would cut out the template for a duplicator... the last time I tried this to make hat stands for my miniature club with a duplicator, I did not find this to be much fun, a lot of work, and then that dremel lathe, was more then challenging due to its limitations in holding the work piece.  Someday I'm going to figure out how to used that dremel lathe at my mini club... my taig and jet are a little heavy to carry around town (or I need to spend more time working out with weights.)  

Option 3.  

Conversely,  retired miniature artisan David Krupkick told me at a show, a long, long time ago, that to make 4 bed posts of similar shape, you turn a lot of them and pick the 4 that match best.

Of the three options I proposed, option 1 is the most challenging and best opportunity for me to learn to be precise. Option 1 requires me to have a lot of patience... more patience then my norm and I have to concentrate.   Option 2 requires a lot of set up time from me, and since I don't sell, my heart isn't in this option, and Option 3 is the most fun... free hand; free spirited turning is most fun, and after about 200 hours on working wood on a lathe; I suspect 4 of 10 that I will produce (that are not broke) will be close enough to make me happy.    I mention broke, because I recently tried and failed at making beautiful bed posts, oh well it is all under the heading of practice and paying my dues.  I have kept most of my failures... they are good reminders of my progress.  

These three options exist for all of us... ultra perfection down to a thousandth of an inch, a duplicator, or 'pick 4' methods all work... each of us just need to decide what we strive for in our own work.

The 4th option I can think of ... is to purchase a CNC with a 4th axis and program the parts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi WeekendMiniaturist,

Thank you SO much for the reply. Got myself a caliper for precise measuring. I had thought of making polymer clay blanks to turn, but now it seems more fun to turn the set using what is close to the original material. I suspect the deer antler also will have a longer life than polymer clay.

Like you, I have the most fun trying out different materials depending on the project. Different kinds of wood or metal (can't wait to try making hardware).

I watched and read the entire posting of the spinning wheel(s). Jaw-dropping-amazing.

However, I'm going with Option 3 - make a lot of the pieces and pick the ones that match. As you stated, it's good practice time and works to get a matched set.

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Boxwood is an excellent option for tiny turnings with lots of fine detail. It may not be as light as you want for chess pieces though. The deer antler sounds like a fun thing to try. After taking the scrimshaw pie crimper class at guild school for which we used walrus ivory, I found some online and ordered it. Pricey, and I got the last lot of slabs, so not sure where else you could find some. They have lots of cross cut pieces, but I don't think they would work well for turning. You might also get a beef bone at the pet store (it's already cleaned, unlike the butcher) and try that. I'm guessing it would hold detail pretty well. 

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I like the deer antler; it looks as I imagine alabaster will look...  this has a wonderful translucent quality.

Missy, walrus ivory gives us another option; I also found animal teeth - I'm drawing the line with teeth; I'm not turning any antique critters teeth for the purposes of a miniature chess set.    I'm keeping my dust mask on my bench... I thought the very fine dust I was creating with 1200 grit sandpaper was bad enough in variations of cherry, rosewood, pink ivory and bubinga that I have turned this past month... but ... inhaling bone dust?  

Seriously, the guys in my unimat group all gave me the warning of wood toxicities... so please everyone reading in the forum do wear a mask to protect your lungs and eye protection!  I have a fan behind me when I'm turning on my jet mini lathe, as I attempt to have the dust fly away from me. 

Weather is going to be great this weekend, so hope to spend more time with the lathe.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yes! I wear a dust mask and eye protection when doing anything that could fly or produce dust. The antler is wonderful, cuts and turns as easily as plastic but makes dust instead of the plastic ribbons that become wrapped around the turning tool. Some of the antler looks like miniature quartz stone with the fissures, translucent spots and even colors running through it. I'm sure a larger piece of it could be a marble table top or even a fireplace mantle.

Not so much for me, but anyone buying from me might like the idea that the antlers are shed and not from killed deer (or elk).

Photo of yesterday's progress.

 

chessset5sm.jpg

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I've been so wowed by the chess pieces, I forgot to ask did you make the table too?  You have to be smiling about your mini bishops...

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Hi WeekendMiniaturist,

Yes! I made the table, too. It's based on a pattern from The Scale Cabinetmaker and is the second piece of furniture I've made. It needs to have it's finish though. I'll post a progress thread with photos for it soon.

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Here are the pawns so far. Still need to redo three or four of them. And the reject pile. Pawns that are broken or not the right shape. The rejects will have dying practiced on them. And put finish on the table yesterday evening.

chessset5sm.jpg

rejectssm.jpg

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I was looking at the Penn State Industries link that I posted over the weekend, and realized that you were making pawns, and not bishops... So what is your next pieces that you will work on?

I was curious about dyeing the antler ...If this link works,  here is some discussion for the medium that I thought was useful.  I have used aniline dyes for a wood trunk Christmas tree that I wanted to look like a bark, and it worked very nicely for waterbased dye...

http://www.thecarvingpath.net/forum/index.php?/topic/1815-staining-techniques-with-deer-antler/

 

 

 

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Hi WeekendMiniaturist,

Thanks for the info on the dyes. Sounds like they are having success with the method. Worked on the rook yesterday. Almost right. The stem needs to be a bit narrower and I'd like to have more turrets on the top. Cutting those turrets was difficult. I'm going to have to cut points on the crowns of the king and queen, too and not sure how to do that. I'm leaving the rook in the lathe to hold it and making the cuts with a dremel and dental cutting bits. I have a pretty steady hand but slip sometimes and ruin the piece.

rooks.jpg

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CF,

If you can get an indexing tool for your metal lathe that will help.  It will allow you to put a stop on the turning (keep it from turning) and then you mill with your cross slide attachment if you have one.  

In reference to your rooks, aw gee, I want to join the chess pieces challenge if I were not knee deep in past unfinished projects. it is taking an incredible amount of discipline for me to not start turning chess pieces tonite!  I am really looking forward to this project having watched your beautiful results.  

I'm inclined to try what I have on hand first, which includes a can of Ebony Stain, and Rit dye... and when all else fails, enamel thinned paint (from testors) or a sharpie marker!  I'm not an acrylic paint fan, but I loved the old polyfil enamel air brush paint.

 

 

 

 

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CF, the calipers are a great tool. In Elga's Queen Anne Writing Chair class this year at Guild School, we used calipers to keep consistent in not only turning, but when using the milling machine/drill press and when hand sanding. I gained a great deal of confidence in actually making pieces that looked the same.  If you are still comfortable with Tamara's Option 3, the calipers can help you choose the pieces that are most closely matched.  

This has been an interesting thread and your work is beautiful!

Martha in Louisiana

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