The Wood Shoppe - #3 Categories of Hardwood Chessboards

Jan 7, 2011, 12:01 PM |

Hardwood chess pieces can be a considerable investment, it follows that purchasing an appropriate chessboard, the platform that will showcase your chess pieces, is an equally important investment. There are actually a considerable number of factors that should be taken into account when purchasing a chessboard.  In some cases, the decision will be mostly economical, in other cases heirloom quality will be a determining factor, but whatever the case, a cursory understanding of materials, product design, and processes involved will help you make an informed decision.

In essence, there are three categories of hardwood chessboards. The veneer grade category, the mid-grade solid hardwood category, and the premium grade solid hardwood category. 

 The Veneer Category - A wood veneer is simply a very thin section of hardwood that is bonded to a substraight material, the substraight is generally a 'fiberboard', a composite material made of wood chips and resins.  Wood veneers have become very popular over the past fifty years; they offer the advantage of beautiful and real hardwoods at a budget price.  They also offer a high degree of dimensional stability as direct result of the manufacturing process (we will look more deeply into the complex nature of hardwoods and other issues in future blogs).  Since veneers use comparatively little surface hardwood as opposed to the other categories, they are cheaper to manufacture and offer a higher yield.  A highly attractive product can be made by augmenting the veneered surfaces with solid wood frames and adding complementary colors in some cases. On the negative side, since the veneers are quite thin, designs are restricted to those covering the veneer's edge so as not to expose their true form. They are generally simple designs sometimes involving materials other than hardwoods and composite fiberboards such as plastics and metals, generally catering to a budget conscious clientele.



Some argue that veneer is a better 'green' solution that not only makes economical use of hardwoods but also efficiently uses wood chips (waste) within the composite substraight.  The opposing point of view is that fiberboard waste (resins) present a serious environmental impact, that wood chips should naturally decay providing nutrition to the earth and offering a far better 'green' solution than binding resins. They would further argue that responsible forest management is the key to our future. 

 Photo of a nicely finished veneer type chessboard

Mid-Grade Solid Hardwood Category - The mid-range solid hardwood category is marked by the presence of beautiful solid hardwoods used in both frame and playing surface elements.  While the novice might not understand the complexities of creating high quality chessboards in solid hardwood, the challenges are significant.  The appearance is characterized by the depth of the peripheral edges of the hardwood playing surface that add a considerable level of detail.  Drueke boards, manufactured by the Carrom Company of Ludington, Michigan are easily the most recognizable name in this category.  


Drueke boards have been manufactured in America for nearly a century and offer excellent quality and value in solid hardwood chess technology.



Photo of a Drueke 26" Classic Walnut Chessboard


Premium Grade Solid Hardwood Category -  The premium grade solid hardwood category takes us to a still higher level.  Some builders will offer boards in exotic woods, some in high quality domestics, but the determining factors for this category are generally, heavier sections of hardwood, artistic portrayal of the playing surface and supporting frame, and an increased level of structural detail.  These boards look expensive and are expensive. Typically incorporating solid hardwood inlays, they represent a major investment and should be carefully evaluated before a final decision is made to purchase.   

The subsequent series of blogs will present objects for consideration before purchasing a premium grade solid hardwood chessboard.


Summerville-New England 2.25AWLEE Walnut Chessboard        


     Made in America





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