Chess is ten times the fun with this family.

SHOP OWNER: George Dart
Havertown, PA

    On Thanksgiving Day of 2010, I gave all of my kids the chess sets I had been making for each of them over many previous months. This day was a long time in coming. In fact, the first two sets were actually given as Christmas presents in 1997 to #1 son and #1 sister-in-law. Since at the time both wives were pregnant, I also made them the little cherry baby cradles shown. Little did I know that these first two chess sets would be re-gifted, and with eight others be presented together as a unique and personal bestowal from me to them. I made a few more cradles, too, but that is another story.

    The requests from the other eight kids came in fits and spurts. Monkey see, monkey do. All of a sudden I had five sets underway, each with differing sizes of boards, and shapes of chessmen. Number 7 son, Jim, wanted a chess table in cherry. As I tried to accommodate everybody's desires, I thought it would be best to expand the project and just make one set for each. So, I started on three more sets.

    I was successful in that every kid received their own personal set, and each received the style and shape of chess pieces that appealed to them. To create differences in the shapes of the chessmen, some were scrolled while others were turned, and on some I combined both tools during their fabrication.

    I used Diana Thompson's book, Wooden Chess Sets You Can Make, as a reference. Her scroll saw patterns determined the profiles, whether I turned the pieces or went with her scroll-sawn examples. This enabled me to develop my own designs, which I incorporated into subsequent sets. Each piece is loaded with bird shot for weight. Most sets are of poplar, some use cherry.

    I decided, since we'd all be together on Thanksgiving, to make the presentations of these sets to all my kids at once. While half of them were upstairs preparing dinner the rest of us carried the chess sets downstairs to the wet bar/rec room area.

    I wanted them all arrayed together before going home with their new owners. There are ten sets displayed: six on the bar, and four in front of the TV where my #1 grandson, Joey, is completing a setup.

    We all gathered in front of the bar to celebrate the completion of the project. It was an ambitious undertaking, and it used up nearly every piece of scrap maple, mahogany, sapele, and cherry I had in the shop!
. . . George Dart


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