Wooden Chess Sets

All About Choosing and Buying Wooden Chess Sets.
Including Reviews of the Best and Most Recommended Wooden Chess Sets of 2016!

The History of the Wooden Chess Set (and Some of Our Favorites), We Help You Choose and Buy Wooden Chess Sets, Gorgeous Wooden Chess Pieces, and Breathtaking Wooden Chess Boards;

There is perhaps nothing more enjoyable than having a quiet chat over a peaceful chess game. This game of strategy has been played for centuries in countries all over the globe. From its origins in ancient India (where it was called Chaturanga) to its expansion to the rest of the world, chess has changed quite a bit as it moved through time and geographical space. As the game changed, so did the appearance of the sets used to play it. Today, we have a huge variety of chess sets available, made of all sorts of materials and in various themes. From stone to metal and wood and Star Wars to Lord of the Rings and Biblical themes, there is a chess set for every style and interest.

Even if you aren't looking for a themed chess set, the question of materials remains. Which is best? Why would one choose a wooden set, for instance, over metal or stone? Let's briefly discuss the different kinds of materials used to make chess pieces and then examine wooden chess sets in more detail. We'll then take you through some of our favorite wooden sets in the vast chess universe.

Materials Used to Make Chess Pieces

It's worth noting that none of the chess pieces originally used to play the ancient game of Chaturanga have survived into modern times. Still, others have, discovered over the years in the rubble of ancient dwellings. These pieces provide an interesting snapshot of the game itself and the people who used to play it. Some of the earliest chess pieces that have been discovered were made of ivory. Since this precious material wasn't easy to come by, those who could afford to possess such objects were very wealthy, if not royalty. In fact, one of the earliest chess pieces was found in the remains of an ancient Byzantine palace.

As time went on, people began making chess pieces out of other materials. They used bone to carve out their chess sets. Wood was also popular. Glass, as well as porcelain, was used to craft very delicate chess pieces. More substantial (and expensive) pieces were created from pewter, bronze, silver, and even gold.

These materials all varied in their pros and cons. While beautiful, glass and porcelain sets were obviously very fragile. Stone was more durable, but it could still be subject to chipping and breaking, especially if dropped on a hard surface. Metal was unbreakable and would last a lifetime, but it was expensive and very heavy if the owner of the chess set wanted to tote it around. Wood provided a happy medium, as it was beautiful, durable, more portable, and not easily breakable.

The Modern, Wooden Chess Set

As we moved into modern times, wood became the material of choice for the majority of chess sets. Wood was much more affordable than materials such as ivory, silver, or gold. It was lighter than stone, allowing their owners to pack them up and transport them. Wooden chess pieces are much less likely to break than their more fragile counterparts.

Wood also provides an infinite array of options for colors and textures. Maple is a common choice for light chess pieces, giving them an almost creamy hue. Rosewood is another popular choice, as it is available in both light and dark colors. Wooden chess pieces can be carved from ebony, mahogany, and all sorts of exotic woods. You'll find them in solid colors and colors that feature prominent woodgrain detail. Some wooden chess pieces even take on a marbled look, giving them the appearance of stone.

In 1849, the Staunton design of chess pieces was invented. Before this, various chess sets looked different from one another and it was difficult to tell a rook from a knight from a pawn in one set to the next. Nathaniel Cook decided to resolve this problem and designed a set in which the king had a cross on top, the queen a frilly crown, the rook resembled a small castle, and so forth. This standard Staunton pattern has endured, and today it's the one used for chess tournaments. Today, wooden Staunton-style chess pieces are the norm for a traditional chess set.

Wooden Chess Boards

Not just the material of choice for chess pieces, wood also became the most popular material out of which to craft chess boards. All of the same high-quality woods that chess set craftsmen use for chess pieces are used to make the boards on which those pieces do battle. Rosewood and maple are two extremely popular and durable hardwoods that are used for chess boards. Some makers opt for beautiful simplicity, while others create amazing patterns using intricate wood inlays.

How to Choose?

When you're hoping to buy a wooden chess set, quality is key. Based on appearances alone, it can be difficult to choose the best wooden chess set, as there are so many choices available. It can be a frustrating experience to order what looks like a beautiful chess set, only to receive it and discover that the pieces feel cheap and light. They might not be balanced properly; they may fall over easily. The board may be made of inferior materials and could even warp over time.

One of the best ways to ensure that you're receiving quality is to always purchase from reputable chess dealers and manufacturers. By doing so, you'll ensure that you receive wooden chess pieces that are carved with the best-possible craftsmanship and the highest attention to detail. Each piece will be carefully weighted, so they'll feel beautiful as you hold them and balance well as you play. They'll sit evenly on your chessboard. The chessboard itself will be crafted with the same level of care, put together in a way that it will look gorgeous and last forever.

Because it can be so difficult to sort out the various wooden chess sets that are available online, we decided to review some of our favorites to help guide you in your quest to buy a wooden chess set. Here are some of the wooden chess sets we love, as well as some of the best wooden chess pieces and wooden chess boards.

The Best Wooden Chess Sets of 2016:
#1: Camaratta Signature Series Cooke Luxury Wooden Chess Set and Board:

One of the most well-known chess craftsman, House of Staunton is known for its amazing quality and eye for detail. They put a lot of thought into the design of this gorgeous wooden chess set, making it just as beautiful to play with as it is to look at. Linger over each piece as you play or simply set the board up and leave it out for all to see. Either way, this set is one you'll fall in love with.

The pieces in the Camaratta Signature Series Set are designed in the original Staunton pattern, with the knight carved in the Craftsman style. You'll note the pronounced, hard-chiseled equine facial features and the separated, almost blocky chunks of the mane (as opposed to other knight designs that have their manes long and flowing). Bocote wood is a beautiful choice for the darker pieces in the set, as it gives them a rich color and a gorgeous, dark woodgrain that flows throughout. The lighter pieces are elegantly carved from boxwood. Rather than being pale white, they take on a creamy, off-white color. The king size in this set is 3.625 inches high, with a 1.75-inch base diameter. The Camaratta Signature Series Cooke Luxury Chess Set comes with 34 pieces (including two additional queens).

The artists who made this set put just as much care into the wooden chess board as they did the pieces. The board itself is made of African Palisander (for the dark squares) and Bird's Eye Maple (for the light ones) and it's situated so that the edges of the playing field are raised off of the frame of the board, giving you a delightful view of the light/dark checkered pattern all around the sides. The frame is made of African Palisander inlayed with gorgeous patterns in Spalted Maple.

No wooden chess set is complete without a beautiful box in which to store it. This set comes with a Premium Box that features inlaid colored accents on the exterior. The box opens and closes on reinforced brass quadrant hinges, making them beautiful and durable. The soft, green baize lining inside the box will protect your chess set during storage or travel. To keep your chess set 100% safe and secure, the box locks with a red-tasseled key. Identifying your chess set as one of the world's best, the House of Staunton logo is laser-engraved on the lid. More Details: Camaratta Signature Series Cooke Chess Set at HouseOfStaunton.com

#2: The Savano Series Luxury Wooden Chess Set, Box, and Board Combination:

House of Staunton labels this chess set as a masterpiece, and we aren't inclined to argue with them. Attractive and very heavily-weighted, the pieces in this set are made to stand up to everyday use and still look amazing while doing so. While all of the pieces are individually beautiful, the knights are particularly striking. Posed in a way that suggests motion, their eyes and mouths are open and their manes are blowing back as they charge forward on the field of battle. The quality of each piece is evident and they're a joy to play with. Most of the pieces in the Savano set have beautiful billiard cloth base pads, while the kings feature luxurious English leather to set them apart.

Unlike with many other chess sets, the Savano series allows you to choose which woods you'd like for the pieces. For a more traditional black-and-white chess set, the genuine ebony and natural boxwood will look absolutely beautiful. The creamy-colored boxwood does a nice job of setting off any darker woods and looks beautiful when played across a chess board. The ebony is rich, dark, and gorgeous. For a more unique look, you can upgrade the pieces in your set with darker pieces made of blood rosewood. While regular rosewood is a lighter red color, blood rosewood is dark, brilliant, and stunning when used for chess pieces.

No matter which wooden chess pieces you choose, they'll look amazing when set up on the beautiful Savano Series chess board. Crafted in Spain from hardwoods, this board is gorgeous in its simple elegance. The crafters of this board used Elm Burl for the dark squares and Bird's Eye Maple for the light ones. Framed in Elm Burl (which takes on beautiful autumn tones) with a moulded edge, this board has a satin finish and is half an inch thick.

The Savano Series Luxury Chess Set comes with a lovely House of Staunton Fitted Coffer, should you wish to store this board and beautiful pieces away for a bit. This box is unique in that it allows you to store and protect each piece individually, rather than placing them in one area on top of one another. With two removable trays, there is ample and easy storage for the pieces and board. The box is lockable and comes with a tasseled key. Choose between a box made of Bird's Eye Maple, Mahogany, or Red Burl. More Details: The Savano Series Luxury Wooden Chess Set at HouseOfStaunton.com

#3: Fierce Knight Staunton Chess Set in African Paduak:

Many wooden chess sets use Boxwood for their lighter-toned pieces and board squares. It's put to gorgeous use in half of the pieces of this chess set. To set off the lighter pieces, crafters chose exotic African Paduak. The flaming reddish-orange tones of this darker hardwood truly make the pieces pop. The set is a standard Staunton design with knights that are uniquely beautiful. As the name implies, the knights are truly fierce, with flaring nostrils, bold eyes, bared teeth, and strongly-chiseled jawline show that these knights are ready for war.

The rest of the pieces are simple and incredibly attractive. The king's crown is topped with a small, traditional formee cross. Each piece is set upon lush green baize padding to help protect the piece, as well as the chess board. The pieces are all individually hand-polished to a gorgeous shine. The king height for this set is 4 inches and the base diameter is 1.75 inches. This chess set comes with two extra queens to be used for pawn promotion during play.

Made of African Paduak and Maple, the solid wood chess board is an object of beauty in and of itself. It's a joy to play on and a gorgeous platform on which to show off this wondrous wooden chess set. The edges of the playing field are raised from the board frame, allowing you to see the dark colors of the African Paduak squares, as well as the light tones of the Maple. The frame is made of African Paduak with beautiful Maple inlay set into it.

This set is one that's sure to look and feel as beautiful decades from now as it does today. Enjoy playing with this heirloom-quality chess set or simply put it on display for all to admire. The craftsmanship of this chess set is simply amazing. More Details: Fierce Knight Staunton Chess Set in African Paduak at TheChessStore.com

Our Favorite Wooden Chess Pieces and Boards of 2016:

Sometimes you don't need to purchase an entire chess set. If you already have a beautiful chess board at home or are looking to purchase one a la carte, you can truly customize the colors and kinds of wood that make up your entire set.

Just like doing careful research to buy a wooden chess set, you'll want to take similar care when looking for wooden chess pieces and boards. There are a lot of options available, and you want to make sure that you're purchasing items that are of the highest-possible quality. Since we know quality chess gear, here are some of our favorite wooden chess piece sets, as well as some of the best wooden chess boards for your money. We think you'll love gazing at these, as well as playing with them, for many years to come.

The Best Wooden Chess Pieces of 2016:

Heavy, nicely-weighted pieces indicate that they were made by a true craftsman who knows the game. Pieces that are intricately carved out of high-quality woods are also a sign of a manufacturer that creates chess pieces that will hold up over years of play. Here are some chess piece sets that you'll truly enjoy.

#1: Alexander's Stallion Staunton Chess Set:

Staunton-designed chess sets follow a grand tradition. They're elegant and regal, with each piece having identifiable similarities. It seems that in many traditional Staunton chess sets, the knight is where the designer truly creates something out of the ordinary. That's the case with this set. In it, the knight takes on the role of Alexander's Stallion - the fierce war horse ridden by Alexander the Great as he conquered nations. This knight is truly the warrior among all the other pieces, with its bulging eyes, flared nostrils, taut muscles and mane that blows in the wind as it charges towards the opposing army.

While the knight is striking, the other pieces are no less beautiful to see and touch. Made of Red Sandalwood (for the dark pieces) and Boxwood (for the light pieces), they are breathtakingly carved and hand-polished to a glowing shine. Each piece is padded with beautiful green baize cloth to help them glide across the battlefield. The king is 4.4 inches in height. This set has 34 pieces (including 2 extra queens for pawn promotion). Manufacturers recommend that this set be used with a board that has squares that measure 2.375 to 2.5 inches. More Details: Alexander's Stallion Staunton Chess Set at TheChessStore.com

#2: Wellington Staunton Chess Set in Ebony and African Padauk:

It's rare to come across chess pieces that are so incredibly detailed in their architectural elements that they leave you in awe, but the Wellington Staunton Chess Set is one that will leave you speechless.

Take a look at these wooden chess pieces, catch your breath, and then look some more. The detail in each and every piece of this set is simply exquisite. Each piece is carved with such attention to detail that you could spend a lifetime simply gazing upon them. The artisans behind this set are highly skilled in lathework, resulting in compound collars at the tops and bottoms of many pieces that are almost too intricate to believe. Rather than a standard cross, the king is crowned with a finial that is unlike any you'll see on any other chess piece. The knight is simply divine, with a flowing mane, gazing eyes, and mouth that's so detailed that you can see its bared teeth. The pawns were designed to be larger than most, so they're easy to handle and move during play.

The dark pieces in this set are carved from luxurious, solid-black ebony. The lighter pieces are made of African Paduak, giving them an almost magical, reddish-orange glow. Each piece is carefully weighted, making them a joy to handle as you play. They are all padded with green baize for ultimate comfort during chess games. More Details: Wellington Staunton Chess Set at TheChessStore.com

The Best Wooden Chess Boards of 2016:

Whether you're in the market for a beautiful set of wooden chess pieces or you already have a favorite set of well-worn, oft-used pieces, a wonderful, wooden chess board on which to display and play them is an absolute must. With so many choices available, it can be an overwhelming task to sort out well-made boards from the marginal ones. It's important to find a solid, carefully-constructed board created by a good manufacturer. You'll want a wooden chess board that's beautiful to look at, but that will also hold up to heavy play without scratching, scuffing, or warping. Here are two of the ones we love best.

#1: Signature Contemporary Chess Board:

The House of Staunton is one of the best-known, most reputable of chess manufacturers, so when you purchase one of their chess boards, you know you're getting something that will last a lifetime and beyond. This heirloom-quality Signature Contemporary Chess Board is thoughtfully constructed from Red Amboyna Burl- a wood that we haven't frequently seen used in other boards we've reviewed - for the dark squares. This gives them a beautiful red/orange/gold coloration that's warm and simply gorgeous. The lighter squares are made from Bird's Eye Maple. The grain in both woods takes on a marbled look that almost mimics stone. You'll note that the checkered part of the board is positioned on top of the frame so that you can see the sides of the squares, allowing you to fully enjoy the beauty of the Red Amboyna Burl and the Bird's Eye Maple. It's finished with a lovely semi-gloss that gives it the perfect amount of shine.

The frame for this board is jet-black, crafted from genuine Ebony. It's accented with Spalted Maple inlays that have a rich woodgrain running through them, providing a rustic touch to the frame. The board is 1 9/16 inches high and its footprint measures 25 by 25 inches. This Signature Contemporary Chess board is hand-crafted in the United States. Because each board is custom made, you must allow six weeks from the date of order until receipt. More Details: Signature Contemporary Chess Board at HouseOfStaunton.com

#2: Signature Contemporary II Chess Board:

Also manufactured by the House of Staunton, the Signature Contemporary II Chess Board is one of the most unique boards we've reviewed thus far. The dark squares in this board are inlayed with the glowing colors and rich woodgrain of Cocobolo wood, a beautiful reddish-brown tropical hardwood found in Central America. These are contrasted with the shimmery grain of Curly Maple. The glow of the Cocobolo and shimmer of the Curly Maple make it hard to pull your eyes away from this amazing chess board. The playing surface is set up above the frame so you can see the outer edges of each beautiful square. It's finished in a semi-gloss that only adds to the overall look of the beautiful woods that were chosen to craft this board.

Although this board features the stacked framework and inlays we've seen in other boards, the lines of the framing are very simple and clean, giving it a look that is indeed contemporary. There are multiple elements of beauty and detail that make the frame for this board a true work of art. It has a genuine Ebony delimiter. The Curly Maple inlay provides a subtle accent to the light squares on the board. The frame itself is made from Cocobolo, echoing the dark squares on the playing field.

The board is 1 9/16 inches high and its footprint is 25 by 25 inches. It's made in the United States. Like the last board in our reviews, this board is custom-made and takes six weeks to complete after it's ordered. More Details: Signature Contemporary II Chess Board at HouseOfStaunton.com

Made to Last a Lifetime

No matter which wooden chess set, pieces, or board you choose, we hope we've helped guide you to ones that you'll truly enjoy. These sets are not only beautiful; they're ones that you will treasure for your entire life - and pass down to future generations.

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