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Do you prefer hand made, or automated machine made boards and pieces?

Bryan-HallWS
harthacnut wrote:

But there is also a floor to the level of quality I'm prepared to accept. In reality, high-quality handmade products will almost always be more expensive than products of similar quality made by automated means, and that can't be ignored in the real world.

I definitely agree with you here. There's nothing elegant to me about a poorly made set, even if it's handmade. TBH when I play I'm really not picky about what I'm using. I can play on a wide range of sets without much stress. I just really appreciate the nice ones!

jjupiter6

I bet the complaints about how slow manufacturers were to fill orders would increase tenfold (as well as the cost) if they all started making peices completely by hand.

danielaKay
jjupiter6 wrote:

I bet the complaints about how slow manufacturers were to fill orders would increase tenfold (as well as the cost) if they all started making peices completely by hand.

Also, so many people are complaining about the slightest lean, and basically compare pieces under the microscope to find one that isn't *quite* identical to the others. 

Let's just say that this level of uniformity simply is not possible without using any of those mass-production tools...

Jone4s

Interesting debate.  

I prefer hand turned pieces but I embrace the new technology of cnc machines, simply because it adds to the story.  Whether its the age of a set, the country of origin, the wood species, we all take these factors into consideration when deciding the next set to add to the collection. CNC is another variable in the chess manufacturing world that makes our personal collection that much more unique.

We can all agree on the importance of quality, symmetry, and uniformity but at the same time, some of my favorite chess sets are garage sale finds, clearly made by an amateur. Tool marks showing, some wonky shapes and proportions  but bursting with character.  I like to try and imagine the person who created the set and what tools and techniques they used.

Seeing the videos of the Indian manufactures turning chess pieces is fascinating.  Thinking about the skill and precision it takes to create the "template" chisels makes up for the fact that its not one man with a skew chisel turning perfect beads.  

On the flip side, the working conditions bother me.  No eye protection, no masks, the  general lack of any safety precautions all plays a role in how I feel about the finished product.  

I enjoyed reading everyones take on the subject. No right or wrong answers, just interesting ones.

jacmater

I only bought 2 chess sets in my life, I am not a collector but the second one I bought, about three years ago, I looked at it a lot and I assumed that the pieces would be practically identical, I would have very disappointed that they had not been. this is only achieved with machines or tools with templates. Now, that I make the pieces myself, without shaped tools, my goal and obsession is for them to be identical but I never get it, however, looking at the sets in their entirety, not piece by piece, they look really good and, for me, acceptable. What I don’t know is if for other people it will be. One point in favor of the handmade process is that you will get four unique knights!.

RichardHG
danielaKay wrote:
jjupiter6 wrote:

I bet the complaints about how slow manufacturers were to fill orders would increase tenfold (as well as the cost) if they all started making peices completely by hand.

Also, so many people are complaining about the slightest lean, and basically compare pieces under the microscope to find one that isn't *quite* identical to the others. 

Let's just say that this level of uniformity simply is not possible without using any of those mass-production tools...

I recently posted a review of a Staunton Castle set that I love. As a nod to those who put pieces under a microscope, I noted a few minor variations that did not bother me and, for me, were well within the acceptable range for handmade pieces. Mandeep of SC saw the review and wrote that he was sending replacement pieces. I wrote back and told him not to. The exchange made me think that by even mentioning the small variations (again, as I viewed them), I put too much emphasis on something that is normal - even though I was clear that the variations were minor. I thought about editing the review but decided to leave it alone.

magictwanger

Totally agree!I can't see being too picky-eui about every parameter,as long as the pieces appeal to the eye...but...I understand why some folks require that.

jjupiter6

The old adage "Quick, cheap or good. Choose two." has never been more apt.

sound67

No, it's not. And it's terribly arrogant, superficial, and wrong, to see it that way.

Bryan-HallWS
Jone4s wrote:

On the flip side, the working conditions bother me.  No eye protection, no masks, the  general lack of any safety precautions all plays a role in how I feel about the finished product.  

Valid point for sure. I wonder what the accident rates are like? 

lighthouse
Bryan-HallWS wrote:
Jone4s wrote:

On the flip side, the working conditions bother me.  No eye protection, no masks, the  general lack of any safety precautions all plays a role in how I feel about the finished product.  

Valid point for sure. I wonder what the accident rates are like? 

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-56822950  Not forgetting whats good for the environment ,

Bryan-HallWS

Didn't watch. What's the jist of it? Chess pieces are mentioned?

RichardHG
Jone4s wrote:

 

Seeing the videos of the Indian manufactures turning chess pieces is fascinating.  Thinking about the skill and precision it takes to create the "template" chisels makes up for the fact that its not one man with a skew chisel turning perfect beads.  

On the flip side, the working conditions bother me.  No eye protection, no masks, the  general lack of any safety precautions all plays a role in how I feel about the finished product.  

I watched videos posted by Staunton Castle and The Chess Empire. Each made me cringe when I saw how close their fingers got to the power saw blades.

jwhendy

Super interesting discussion. I've been making things a long time, usually for myself or as gifts. Every now and then I think of something that might have promise to sell, but I find it nearly impossible because the number of people who would really pay someone what it's worth are so few. Admittedly I'm often trying new things and thus learning as I make, so there's a lot of inefficiency overhead. Still, I've figured that on the few commissions I've done I made maybe $2/hr?

I'd been wanting to make chess pieces on my cnc router and to my surprised didn't see many examples of doing this on a router with two sided flipping. That always makes me want to do something even more, so I started trying it out.

@FunkOfFortyThousandYears  hit it on the head. The time required to learn how to use a lathe and e.g. make those profiled tools is analogous to the immense time taking to make jigs, figure out how to 2-sided flip and maintain alignment, optimize tool paths again and again on test pieces to avoid chipping out fine features, etc. Plus, the sanding and applying the finish is all by hand as well, as is cutting the felts, etc.

Anyway, here was my attempt at a 1950 Dubrovnik reproduction for a friend's Christmas commission. I can say 100% that "I made these" even though, indeed, the majority of the material removal occurred in an automated way happy.png

I wonder if the preference toward hand made is about feeling a connection to a specific person vs. specifically having it made manually. As in, we feel something is cheapened when done by person removed from what they're making. We imagine someone showing up, loading a piece of wood, completely oblivious to what the result will be or who it's for, pressing a button, and mindlessly taking out the result to hand off to the next person when it's done. Put a piece of wood in the machine, press a button. Who cares.

On the flip side, I think it's the creativity, persistence, dedication, and accumulation of skill to make some idea come to life, regardless of the tools, that makes us like the idea of "a craftsman." Just a thought.

MCH818
jwhendy wrote:

 

Anyway, here was my attempt at a 1950 Dubrovnik reproduction for a friend's Christmas commission. I can say 100% that "I made these" even though, indeed, the majority of the material removal occurred in an automated way

I really like your Dubrovnik set. Your interpretation of the knights as it stands is very interesting. It is very different than others. As it stands, the set is beautiful especially the knights. Personally I think the eyes could use a little more detail but I am just being picky.

jwhendy

@MCH818: Thanks for the kind words. I can't take credit for the knight. It was modeled by Mirko Tadic and used with his permission via GrabCad (with a few misc tweaks by me to adjust the look and make it more machinable). The eyes as-machined were so faint I ended up sanding them off as I think they did more harm than good so you really just end up with the shape of face/brow.

I actually have someone modeling another knight based on the various original reference pics I could find. He's almost done. When I was choosing what set to make, I just looked around at historic sets and just fell in love with the look so I went for it.

I also don't mean for this to detract from the main topic... mainly I wanted to give a concrete example of (a) machine made and (b) still quite a labor of love from a craftsman happy.png

MCH818
jwhendy wrote:

@MCH818: Thanks for the kind words. I can't take credit for the knight. It was modeled by Mirko Tadic and used with his permission via GrabCad (with a few misc tweaks by me to adjust the look and make it more machinable). The eyes as-machined were so faint I ended up sanding them off as I think they did more harm than good so you really just end up with the shape of face/brow.

I actually have someone modeling another knight based on the various original reference pics I could find. He's almost done. When I was choosing what set to make, I just looked around at historic sets and just fell in love with the look so I went for it.

I also don't mean for this to detract from the main topic... mainly I wanted to give a concrete example of (a) machine made and (b) still quite a labor of love from a craftsman

Welcome! And well deserved. When you said "machined" does that mean the set was made with a CNC machine?

magictwanger

Friggin' talent,beyond playing well,on this forum.😊

FunkOfFortyThousandYears

@jwhendy

Wow really great project, thanks for posting the build progress! Upon first seeing the set I assumed that they were all turned and it was only the knights which were done by CNC, as the detailing (lines of jaw and mane) have that distinctive CNC carved look (it's the same type of line as shown on the board signature/year). 

 

I was really impressed when I looked through the build photos and saw that all the "turned" pieces were flipped and CNC'd from both sides. The end result is great. How much trouble was it getting the sides to match up, both on the X/Y axes (so the halves are aligned), and on the Z axis (so that the parts meet to give a true circle profile rather than a circle stretched/squashed in the middle), and angle alignment?

 

I love the 5 crenulations on the rooks. It's something that's more difficult to do by conventional means (even numbers are easier to produce as they can be cut in opposite pairs, eg running them across a table saw), but the CNC makes it just as easy to have an odd number and have them correctly spaced.

 

FunkOfFortyThousandYears
jwhendy wrote:

I actually have someone modeling another knight based on the various original reference pics I could find. He's almost done. When I was choosing what set to make, I just looked around at historic sets and just fell in love with the look so I went for it.

I hope you don't mind the suggestion, but have you considered using a V-groove bit for the detailing on the knights rather than (what looks to me like) a straight cut bit?

 

If using a V-groove bit the detailing lines on the knights (most notably the top end of the jawline)  would be able to be tapered off as the machine raises the bit at the end of the line meaning the carved line would taper off gently rather than come to a sudden end. It's a subtle difference but it adds a real elegance to the line, the end result is like the difference between a pen and a calligrapher's brush.

 

I just mention it as I've been through the same process myself (on a different project, not chess), and it was a change that made a world of difference – it made things suddenly look so much more natural. Your set is beautifully produced, and those lines are the one thing that stood out to me.

 

(I know these are modelled on originals so my suggestion might be redundant but I just wanted to mention it anyway in case it was helpful)