An Engineer Fulfils His Childhood Dream After 50 Years by Having Chess Pieces Machined

Here is a testimony of a private customer who had a steel chess set made by CNC machining via Xometry's network.
CNC machined chess set in steel

Even as a private customer, it’s entirely possible to get parts machined or printed with Xometry. Eric Cunha talks about his experience with Xometry following his decision to order the missing pieces of a chess set he started making five decades ago. An experience he describes as impeccable, both in terms of communication and follow-up, as well as the final result. Here’s a look back at a childhood dream that came true.

Xometry: Eric, can you tell our readers how this chess project came about?

Eric: It goes back more than 50 years now…When I was studying at a technical school, we were taught how to use milling machines and lathes in a workshop.

At that time, I was a boarder and we often played chess. One day we had the idea of creating our own steel chess set. So every Thursday afternoon, we machined pieces in the workshop.

After two years, we had made enough pieces for the equivalent of 10 chess sets: rooks, bishops, king and queen bodies and king heads.

The Queen and King pieces of the final chess set
The Queen and King pieces of the final chess set

However, then we got our diplomas and it was time to leave school. With the support of a general supervisor, we were able to buy back the pieces, which were the property of the school, and we divided them among ourselves.

X: What happened to the unfinished chess sets?

E: Life went by, I worked in the nuclear industry as an engineer all my career, and the pieces stayed wrapped in paper all that time. But I always had it in my head that I would finish this chess set one day.

X: So why now?

E: First of all, I had a lot of free time at home during the pandemic. So I got out a drawing board with the idea of making the plans for the missing pieces: the pawns, the queen’s heads and the knights, which are the most delicate pieces.

And then my grandchildren were at our house regularly during this period. Because they were curious, I resumed this project that I had stopped some 50 years before. I thought it would be interesting for them to see how we get from the conception (the drawing) to the realisation (the production) of the pieces.

Hand-drawn, “Old-fashioned” Designs

X: How did you create the designs for the pieces?

E: As I didn’t have the original drawings with me and I already had a number of parts, I took the dimensions of the existing parts and redrew the missing ones by hand, taking into account the requirements of the CNC machines you use. A line by hand is not enough, whereas two points of an ellipse for which the points of focus are known are data that can be entered into the CNC machines.

2D drawing for the queen's head
2D drawing for the queen’s head
2D drawing for the knight
2D drawing for the knight

It also had an educational purpose: to see that we could do things differently than with a computer.

X: Back to the basics! And then, which software did you use for the design?

E: My grandson suggested that I use GeoGebra, the software they use at school. The advantage is that it allows you to make side plans, which then allows you to assign the production of the parts to a company. This software allowed me to check that the dimensions I gave corresponded to what I wanted to do.

Get an Online Quote With 2D or 3D Drawings

X: Did Xometry give you useful tips for the 3D designs?

E: Absolutely. I was told which free software I could use to see the parts in 3D, and I was able to confirm the designs very quickly. For someone like me, who has always worked with a lot of rigour, this whole sequence is logical, precise and each stage is completed quickly.

I waited 50 years to take up this project, so once it was up and running again, it was nice to see that it was progressing well with direct and regular exchanges with Xometry.

2D drawing of the knight to get an idea of the final rendering
2D drawing of the knight to get an idea of the final rendering

X: I assume you used our CNC machining capabilities, which was the same process you used for the original parts… 

E: Yes indeed! Browsing your site, I immediately realised that Xometry had the CNC machining capabilities (turning and milling) to make my parts, even for the more complex parts such as the riders.

The Ability to Have Parts Machined by the Most Suitable Company

X: Did you find the right steel on our website? 

E: Yes, I chose it from the selection of materials offered on the site. I was looking for a steel that could be easily machined and then heat treated. A chess set has to be black and white!

X: You already knew of a manufacturing company near you, so why did you go through Xometry?

E: The company near me was interested in my project, but from the start I was told that it would be too expensive. This is where Xometry’s strength lies: the network and the ability to have the parts machined by the most suitable company lets you offer attractive prices. 

And then I saw that you were doing work for the nuclear industry. As I know the nuclear industry myself and the requirements in terms of quality, materials and precision, I knew that there wouldn’t be any problems in terms of skills and product quality.

A Good Follow-up and an Excellent Result

X: In the end, are you happy with the result?

E: Yes, it’s great! Everyone I show my chess set to is so impressed. The kings and queens are 13.5 cm high! The end result is really perfect.

X: So would you recommend Xometry even for private customers? 

E: Of course. The quality, the adherence to deadlines, the reasonable costs, the impeccable results… Frankly, I was amazed. And the website is also well-designed, which gives customers confidence when dealing with Xometry. The project is followed through from A to Z, even for private customers.

X: Any other projects to come?

E: For the moment, no. I’m ready to put this chess set on the board, play with my grandchildren and share with them the realisation of a childhood dream!

Complete chess set: "white" and "black" pieces (treated by phosphating) 
Complete chess set: “white” and “black” pieces (treated by phosphating) 

About Xometry

Xometry is the world’s leading on-demand manufacturing platform. We offer massive network capacity, instant online quotes, and attractive pricing. Our European network of over 2,000 manufacturing facilities enables us to consistently maintain fast lead times while offering a wide range of capabilities, including CNC Machining, 3D Printing, Sheet Metal Fabrication, and Injection Molding. Xometry works with a diverse customer base, ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies such as BMW and Bosch.

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