Turned Chessmen
For collectors, players and woodworkers

by Mike Darlow

Softcover
215 x 280mm
168pp

Published by The Melaleuca Press, Lot 17 Wilsons Lane, Exeter

R.R.P.$20.00

ISBN 0-9752392-0-1

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As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 119
by guest reviewer, Desmond Kennard

Mike Darlow’s Turned Chessmen covers three principle areas connected with chess — history, design and the making of chessmen.

It would be rare for a book on chess that sets out to cover so many aspects to be both informative and yet entertaining in every chapter, but Mike has indeed excelled, and for this I consider it the best in his Woodturning Series. Mike has a way of expressing himself precisely in a down-to-earth style, supported by solid facts, photographs and drawings.

While he points out in Chapter One that the precise origins of chess are unknown, he takes the reader through a fascinating history of chess from India as early as 550AD to its spread through Arab countries in the Near East, moving on to Medieval Europe with Catholic influences in the design of chessmen. He even includes sections on the 20th and 21st centuries.

Written descriptions are well supported by a wide range of superb illustrations, the highlight being one of resin replicas of a king, queen and knight of the Lewis chessmen with unusually engaging faces. Mike tells us the originals were from the 12th Century and unearthed on the Isle of Lewis, UK.

No book by Mike Darlow would be complete without some references to design, but in this case he introduces us to the topic in Chapter Four by providing a flow chart for the design process, followed by a thorough analysis of the features and significance of the various chessmen. He then embarks in Chapter Five on drawings of his Lopez design and eight antique chess sets.

The woodworker is now well prepared for the next chapter that covers the making of the chessmen in a variety of materials, including the better known ones of wood, ivory and bone, often involving a combination of turning and carving. Woodturners will find much useful information and photographs on the precise methods necessary to make the various chessmen.

Turned Chessmen has been an ambitious project that should appeal to the woodworker, collector and chess player.

(Desmond Kennard is the Principal Consultant of Museums in the Making, a NSW museum/heritage consultancy. He has been playing chess since his early secondary school days with varying degrees of success. Although he is also a NSW Southern Highlands woodturner, he has not made any chessmen.)

Photos: Colour

Contents

HISTORY OF CHESS
Indian Origins
Persia
Islam Arab Conquest
Medieval Europe
Renaissance Europe
Europe, 1650-1800
The Nineteenth Century
North America
The Twentieth Century
The Twenty-First Century
Endnotes

GALLERY
Steven Addams
Michael Brolly
Len Clarke
Mike Darlow
Ernie Newman
Reg Hawthorne

PIECE SYMBOLS
King Piece Symbols
Queen Piece Symbols
Bishop Piece Symbols
Knight Piece Symbols
Rook Piece Symbols
Pawn Piece Symbols
Endnotes

DESIGNING CHESS SETS
Inception
Feasibility
Intentions
Restraints
Preliminary Design
Initial Design Proposal
Detailed Design
Summary
Endnotes

DRAWINGS FOR CHESS SETS
Lopez
Caxton
English, eighteenth-century
Barleycorn, eighteenth-century
Biedermeier
St. George
English, early nineteenth-century
French, eighteenth-century
Northern Russian, ca. 1800
Improved Russian

MAKING CHESSMEN
Materials
Woodturning and Carving Equipment
Methods for Turning Chessmen
Preparing Blanks for Turning
Roughing Blanks
Finish-Turning
Carving and Special Details
Ornamenting and Texturing
Sanding
Decorating and Finishing
Parting-Off
Leading
Baizing
Endnotes

WHERE NEXT?

Bibliography

Index