Manufacture Guide for a 3D -Chess-Set

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To ensure that you won't get too confused by reading this Manufacture Guide, you should read the Preface first.

The Measurements

Often people don't realize that the height of the king is in direct correspondence to the size of the chessboard. That's true for "normal", "two-dimensional" chess and extremely important for 3D-chess. The side length of a square is about 50 to 65% of the height of the king.

For that reason this Guide will use multiples of height of the king (abbreviated "h") for all measurements. This way the Manufacture Guide works for tournament size sets (h = 95mm, board size approx. TxWxD : 64cm x 38cm x 64cm) as well as for travel chess sets (h = 15mm, board size approx. TxWxD: 12cm x 10cm x 16cm).

Nevertheless for convenience I will also give an example for a midsize 3D-Chess-Set (height of the king = 58mm).

I'd like to point out that my own travel chess set is the prototyp for this Guide, by that it means it differs a bit from the final solution. One reason is I compensated a calculation error by a modification of the design. Another reason is the basis for this set was the travel chess by company RCR TERRY Berlin: height of the king and length of a square are idendical in that set (1.5cm) - a variation, which I copied in this instance.

Hint: Before you start, read the complete Manufacture Guide carefully, because the measurements are in relation to one another.





height of the king


5,8 cm

side length of a square

l = ca. 0,6 h

3,5 cm

thickness of the board

s ( 3 - 5 mm )

0,3 cm

thickness of the support

r = 2 s

0,6 cm

height of strut

t = 5 s

1,5 cm

height of an attack board

a > h

6,0 cm

height of a pin

p = 1/6 h

1,0 cm

height of a nut


0,3 cm

border of main board

f ( ca. 2 cm ) > r

2,0 cm

lowness of slots

n = 1/2 t

0,75 cm


distance between struts

2a + 2s + p

13,5 cm

height of support

g = 4a + 4s + 4t + 2p

33 cm

length of support

7 l + 3,5 f

31 cm

length of main board

4 l + 2 f

18 cm

length of strut

4 l + 4 f

22 cm


The Support

The basis for a 3D-chessboard is the support, it provides the basic three-dimensional characteristic to the game. For the first STAR TREK series this support was probably made from metal and built by modifying a globe support.

Of course easier to work with is wood. Concentrating on that material I designed a more stable support.

The support has two side plates and five struts (for very small chess sets three struts are enough). If you work accurate to size and the parts fit, you can simply snap the parts, gluing won't be necessary. Snaping components becomes handy when you have to transport your chess set, because the support can be easily disassembled.

The thickness of the wood should be r = 6 to 10mm (that's about twice the thickness of the main boards). The shape of the support parts is visualized by the drawings of this guide. The black rectangles are slots: width of a slot = thickness of the support "r" (i.e. 6mm) ; lowness of a slot = 1/2 height of a strut (i.e. 0.75cm).

To get most out of your wood plate, you should place your parts as demonstated in the drawing next to this text. In this case you need only a plate of approx. size: 40cm x 47.5cm.

After all parts have been sawn out, the side plates have to be connected by using the five struts (how to do it should be self-explanitory).

Treating the wood or decorating it is left to everyone's own preference.

The Main Boards

For the three main boards as well as for the four attack boards you should use a clear material, which most people call "Plexiglass". I intentionally don't use that name, because there are quite some materials with similar properties: plexiglass, acrylic, hobby glass (this should be available and inexpensive in a building center) ... and there are a lot more. The hobby glass should be 3 to 5mm thick.

A main board is composed of a 4x4 grid of equal squares, you have to add a border for the support, and should add a border for the notation too. This explains why the border has to be at least as big as the thickness of the support "r". For the example I chose a border of "f" = 2 cm. This results in a calculated area for main boards equal to 18x18 cm² = ( 4 l + 2 f )² .

Hobby glass can be "cut" by scatching it with a knife and breaking it over a sharpe edge.

BUT BE CAREFUL: This sounds easier than it is!
The edges of the board should be finished with fine sandpaper.

The next step is to color the "dark" squares. There are two major possibilities to do this. Regardless which method you choose, you should color the bottom side of the hobby glass (this makes it easier to remove dust in the future).

The method I prefer is to use self-adhesive transparent colored foil. Such transparencies can be bought in office stores or hobby shops. In the past such transparencies were used to color overhead foils, with the development of computer technology this changed, the last time I bought such foils they were marketed as "transparencies for windows" (and I am not talking about the computer system). Unfortuntely those "transparencies for windows" are less transparent than their elder bothers for overhead projectors.

The transparencies are to be cut into squares l x l (i.e. 3.5x3.5 cm²) and placed on the hobby glass - see corresponding drawing. (Of course you have to remove the protective film from the hobby glass first, at least on this side.)

Now drill a hole (i.e. 4mm) in each corner of the game board - this is for the bolt which will be used as pin.
WARNING: Hobby glass will break under stress - drill smoothly.

As a last step, notation (letter and number columns) should be added. You can use rub letters, self-adhesive letters or even letters from video labels. To protect the notation you can put a clear film over it.

The other method is to leave the protective film on both sides of the hobby glass and cut the squares (i.e. 3.5x3.5 cm²) with a hobby or carpet knife on one side out of the film. You remove the film from each square which is going o be "dark". Don't remove the film from the border. Now you can spray any color you like on those squares - "Classic" / "TOS" would be red, "TNG" would be white, but you can use any color you prefer. The best are those colors which are transparent and used for painting on glass. Don't forget: Coloring should be applied to the bottom side, so pieces stand on the unsprayed side.

After this you continue as described in the other method, drilling holes and positioning notation (which is recommended).

The Attack Boards

The four attack boards are made of two major parts: a pole and "the board".

The board has 2x2 squares and is therefore half the size of a main board, or even only a quarter if you name the square size (i.e. 9x9cm²).
Coloring the attack boards should be done in same manner as coloring the main boards.
For the game it's important to differ between "white" and "black" attack boards. A marking can be placed on the pole or on the edges of the attack boards - it is also possible to use different colors for the attack boards. When you take a look at 3D-Chess-Set of The Original Star Trek Series, you will see that the main boards are red, but the attack boards are white.

Differnt from the main boards, you drill a hole in the middle of the boards and NOT on their edges! And also notation doesn't make sense!

The pole MUST be a bit taller than the king. (For the example I chose 6 cm.) For a pole you need a tube, which can be put over the pins. Aluminum tubes are easy to work with and have good appearance. For small up to midsize chess-sets the outside diameter of the tube should be 6mm, the inside diameter should be 4mm. For tournament size chess a bigger tube should be used.

By using the hole in the middle of the attack boards, screw the pole onto the boards (i.e. 4mm countersunk head screw).

Finally, the main boards need a pin in each corner, over which you can put the attack boards. The length of a pin should be approximately one sixth of the length of an attack board pole.
The easiest way is to put bolts from the bottom side through the holes and fix them with nuts (i.e. M4). For the length of the bolts take also into account the thickness of the boards and the height of the nuts (i.e. 1.6 cm).

If the length of the pin is approximately equal to the thickness of the board, you can attach the pin to the pole, and keep the holes in the main board. This method has been used, for example, in the "Franklin Mint - chess - sets".

Travel 3D-Chess Set

If you build your 3D-Chess as Travel Chess, of course you have to drill a hole in the middle of each square.

Final Assembly

Put all things together - DONE - have fun!

If you have any question don't hesitate to contact me.
Ideas and suggestions concerning the Manufactor Guide are always welcome.

Jens Meder
Weichselweg 9
85241 Hebertshausen

Material Requirements

for a midsize 3D-Chess-Set: approx. 39 cm tall x 23 cm wide x 39 cm deep



price: Aug. 2000
DM approx.


remnant / plywood

40cm x 47,5cm x 0,6cm





4 x hobby glass

18 cm x 18cm x 0,3cm


transparencies for windows



aluminum tube

outsideØ 6mm ; insideØ 4mm


4 countersunk head screws

4 x 40 mm


12 cheesehead bolts and nuts

M4 x 16mm


self-adhesive letters




total costs



A set of game pieces - height of the king: 58mm - costed 20 to 40 DM.

1.00 DM = 0.511292 Euro ; 1.00 Euro = 1.95583 DM

back to 3D-Chess overview

Last Revision 8.JUN.2014

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