Weighted chess pieces

Aug 10, 2008, 2:15 AM |

Having recently been curious about how chess manufacturers weight chess pieces I recently asked someone who has been involved in chess piece production for many years.

The traditional method of weighting chess pieces was to drill holes in the base to create hollow channels then carefully pour molten lead inside. Because lead is so heavy this was a highly effective way to make the chess pieces really heavy.

After the lead had hardened a leather or felt base would be placed over the end of the piece to cover up the unsightly lead in the hole appearance.

More recently however the price of lead has rocketed, no church roof is safe it seems from the lead thieves! There is also the issue of toxicity. The US and UK governments have also become very anti lead imports in consumer products. Especially products related to the games market.

The combination of these two facors has resulted in a different method being used to weight the chess pieces. Instead of molten lead, rods of solid steel are used. Holes are drilled in the base of the piece, then the steel rods inserted and glued in place to prevent rattling.

This still results in nice weighty chess pieces although not quite as weighty as the traditional lead filled sets. It does mean more steel needs to be inserted to make the pieces really heavy for the triple weighted sets.

This combined with the decline in woods such as bud rosewood and ebony mean that the future is uncertain for the collectible chess pieces. It could mean that values of fine wooden sets weighted with the old lead method are set to increase as production ceases due to regulations and stocks of the woods become less and less.