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The Most Beautiful Wooden Chess Sets You Can Buy

By April 26, 2021July 9th, 2021No Comments
The Most Beautiful Wooden Chess Sets You Can Buy

Chess, colloquially known as the ‘The Game of Kings,’ dates back to perhaps as early as 465 AD. In 2002 a piece of carved Ivory that closely resembles a chess piece was discovered in the city of Butrint, in southern Albania. This piece put into question the original date of the game and perhaps even its founding location. Originally thought to have started in India around the 7th century from a game originally called “chaturaṅga,” many of the pieces in today’s modern chess game resemble the original look and names of the earliest Indian chess pieces. The game quickly spread to Persia and was widely popularized from there, eventually making its way to southern Europe in the early 11th century.

Here’s a quick table that compares the original names of the Indian, Persian, and modern chess piece names. 

IndianPersian
Shah (King)Shah (King)
Wazir (Counselor)Farzin (Counselor)
Fil (Bishop)Pil (Bishop)
Asp (Knight)Asp (Knight)
Rukh (Rook)Rukh (Rook)
Piyade (Pawn)Piyada (Pawn)

While today’s beautiful wooden chess sets are often modeled on the vaunted Staunton design that architect Nathan Cook created in 1849, there was no “standard” look and feel for a chess set before this. That’s not to say that European designers and the royalty that commissioned them didn’t attempt to popularize their own styles. There was, of course, the vaunted St. George Chessmen who remained popular till around 1850, the English-designed Barleycorn Chess Set, which was traditionally made from bone with red-stained pieces opposing white pieces. 

Of course, there is an entire history of the formation of chess pieces, the earliest suspected chess pieces found around the world, and their modern evolution. Understanding how the game of chess evolved from crude, often ivory or bone pieces to the wondrous works of art that are often represented in wooden chess sets today will enhance your appreciation for the game. 

Whether you’re an expert chess player or a recent convert to this game, often enjoyed as a pastime of European and Asian royalty in the preceding centuries, it’s hard to deny the beauty of the chess set design. And some of the most beautiful chess boards and chess pieces ever made have been carved out of wood. You see, chess isn’t just a game for those that enjoy engaging that strategic part of their brain. It’s a game for those that appreciate the detail, craftsmanship, and frankly, artistic skill that goes into carving some of the best wooden chess sets in the world. Most are handmade from start to finish and exude a level of care and attention to detail that is not often found in other board games. Some of the most beautiful and luxurious chess sets in the world are made from wood. These sets are usually meant as statement pieces as much as they are designed to be played amidst those lucky enough to afford them. However, not every wooden chess set has to break the bank. There are plenty of attractive options within a reasonable budget. 

My personal history with chess runs deep. When I was a young boy of about five, my father taught me how to play chess. Playing on a thick fold-up wooden chessboard, I still recall the smells and sounds of the thrill of learning this game. Visions of battles between the medieval armies of the Knights, Rooks, Pawns, and Bishops as they fought for supremacy across the wooden board danced in my head. I still have that chessboard that I brought from Soviet-era communist Poland, and it remains one of my most cherished possessions. 

But you probably landed on this page because you’re curious to see and maybe buy a wooden chess set for yourself. And while this buying guide is designed more to spotlight some of the nicest wooden chess sets available to purchase, rather than tell you which of these beautiful chess sets is the “best,” there are still some criteria you should consider when picking one. 

We’ve written up an entire guide on picking a wooden chess set that you can read by scrolling to the bottom of this page past all of the listed products. 

OUR CHESS SET RECOMMENDATIONS

BEST WOODEN CHESS SET FOR PLAYING

If you plan on using a wooden chess set for regular play, we recommend the Handmade European Wooden Chess Set. With a clearly defined set of pieces in a classic European design, this set has the right combination of features and price to make for an excellent everyday-play chess set. 

BEST WOODEN CHESS SET FOR DISPLAY

There are more expensive sets, suitable for display, than the PawnKingdom Personalized Wooden Chess Board – but the combination of incredible detail, internal storage, and choice of woods make this our top recommendation for this category.

BEST WOODEN CHESS SET FOR TOURNAMENT PLAY

If you’re used to playing on chessboards that are tournament regulation size, we recommend the House of Chess – Rio Staunton Biggie Knight set. The bevy of tournament-like features such as standard algebraic notation engraved on all four borders, a square size of 2.25″ along with a triple weighting feature on the pieces, make this our top recommendation for the best wooden chess set for tournament play.

THE LUXURY CHOICE

If money is no object, and you’re a serious collector of chess sets that wants to add something truly special to your collection, we recommend the Palomo Staunton Chess Set Padauk

1. Wegiel Handmade European Ambassador Chess Set

Strikingly, one of the more recognizable wooden chess sets remains one of the most beautiful. This chess set from Wegiel features a classic look and provides good detail for each piece. Each piece features a thin layer of felt and is bottom weighted to provide the right feel in your hand and improve the overall stability of the pieces.

The 21-inch board is made from a combination of Beech and Birch, while the handcrafted pieces are carved out of hornbeam and sycamore wood. This classic board folds up neatly and provides storage on the interior for all the pieces. Clean, classic, and affordable, this chess set makes for a great playing set for beginners and experienced players alike.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Beech, Birch
  • Chess pieces wood: Hornbeam, Sycamore
  • Handcrafted in Poland

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 21.65″ x 21.65″ x 1.2″
  • King height: 4.5″
  • Queen height: 3.66″
  • Pawn height: 2.28″

2. Chess House 19" Wood Chess & Checkers Set

Sometimes some of the best wooden chess sets with storage also feature enough space in their drawers for some checkers pieces, and that’s just fine by me. That’s the case with this gorgeous wooden chess set from Chess House, whose tagline is “Chess in every home”. At 18.5″, this chess set features something that I’m always a proponent of, extra queens! The felted storage drawer keeps your pieces nicely organized, and the 2″ sized squares are ideal for those used to tournament or club-sized boards. If you’re new to showing off your chess sets, this is a good starter set.

Key Features

  • Real wooden veneer surface
  • Includes two extra queens
  • Includes 24 wood checkers
  • Internal storage for all pieces

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 18.5″ x 18.5″
  • Square size: 2″
  • King height: 3.63″

3. Amerous Magnetic Wooden Folding Chess Set

This very affordable wooden chess set combines many features you may want in a chess set that are not often found together. First, yes, it’s made of wood, but it’s also got strong magnets embedded within each chess piece. And did I mention that it also folds up? Yes, it’s a wooden, travel-friendly magnetic chess set. That’s rather rare. Yes, it’s a bit smaller than regulation size, but given its purpose to serve as something you can travel with, I’ll forgive its 15″ size. Yes, the pieces are slightly on the simple side, but it is still a very finely crafted wooden set.

Key Features

  • Real wood construction
  • Magnetic bottoms
  • Travel-friendly
  • Fold-up
  • Velvet chess piece bottoms
  • Comes with a travel bag
  • Fixed storage slots for pieces
  • Two extra queens

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 15″ x 15″ x 1″
  • King height: 3″
  • Weight: 3.39 lbs

4. Marengo Staunton Chess Set in Ebony & Boxwood

Before you click-through to find out what the price of this spectacular wooden chess set is, consider the fact that it’s definitely one of the more high-end wooden chess sets you can buy. Yes, it’s pricey, but you won’t regret having this as a showpiece somewhere in your home or office. It’s a true work of art and thus will only serve to enhance your already classy decor. Inspired by Napolean Bonaparte’s famous Arabian stallion, this chess set takes the traditional Staunton design up a notch or two. Each piece is highly ornate without being too obnoxious, and the skill required to carve some of these pieces, especially the Knights, is difficult to fathom.

And the chessboard itself is no slouch either. Made from Elm Burl and Erable, the Italian-made board features an incredible level of craftsmanship. The warm brown and orange colours make for a perfect contrast against the ebony and boxwood chess pieces. If you’ve got a chess maniac in your home, this is a gift they will treasure forever.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Elm Burl, Erable, and Maple
  • Chess pieces wood: Padauk, Boxwood
  • Two spare queens included
  • Green Billiard cloth pads at the bottom of pieces
  • Made in Italy

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 23.5″ x 23.5″ x 0.75″
  • Square size: 2.375″
  • King height: 4.25″
  • King weight: 4.2 oz.

5. Man Ray Chess Set

This wooden chess set owes its incredible popularity to its completely unique abstract geometric forms that scream Bauhaus design. Originally designed in 1920 by American Visual Artist Man Ray (yes, that’s his real name, well, kind of, his real name was Emmanual Radnitzky), this unique wooden chess set is often out of stock. And while you might think that these are simple geometric forms used to represent each type of chess piece, there is plenty of thought that went into their design. Here’s a quote from the manufacturer:

“The pyramid is the Egyptian symbol of kingship and the cone a medieval queen’s headgear. The flagon represented the bishops’ tradition of creating exotic liqueurs and spirits. The knight is fashioned after the head scroll of a violin, and the pawns are as tall as the rooks and almost as volumetrically robust as many of the other pieces that are higher ranked to show the increased importance of pawns in modern chess play.”

The beautifully designed chess board is made of veneered beech wood and is a perfect complement to the surrealist shapes of the chess pieces.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Veneered beech wood
  • Chess pieces wood: Solid Beech

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 17″ x 17″ x 0.75″
  • Square size: 2.125″
  • King height: 3.25″
  • Queen height: 3.25″
  • Bishop height: 2.75″
  • Knight height: 2″
  • Rook and Pawn heights: 1.4″

6. Chess Armory 15" Wooden Chess Set

This highly affordable chess set from Chess Armory is the very definition of a set that’s mean to be played. Using a handsome walnut inlay for the chessboard, this folding set incorporates interior straps for holding the pieces in place when you’re not using the set. All in all, this is a very practical, functional, and more than affordable wooden set that you don’t have to be afraid about banging around a bit.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Walnut
  • Chess pieces wood: Unknown
  • Staunton style chess pieces
  • Felt bottoms

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 15″ x 15″ x 1″
  • Square size: 1.65″
  • King height: 3″

7. Uncommon Goods - Wall Chess

This set from Uncommon Goods definitely hits the ball out of the park as far as a truly unique concept for a wooden chess set. As the simple name explains, it’s chess, except on a wall! Perfect both as an amazing decorative set in your living room, hallway, or office space, this chess set is available in two sizes: Small and Large. Designed to hang vertically, the chess pieces stay put as they are embedded inside the board. This chess set is a perfect way to make playing chess with an opponent a daily routine, one clever and thoughtful move at a time.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Birch, Oak
  • Chess pieces wood: Birch, Oak
  • Square chess pieces
  • Felt bottoms

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: S: 12″ x 12″ x 1.5″, L: 18″ x 18″ x 1.5″

8. Queen's Gambit Chess Set

Based on the board seen in the TV series the Queen’s Gambit, this wooden Staunton chess set is a near replica of the set used by Beth in the show. Simple, beautiful, and uncomplicated, the pieces are made from Ebonized and natural Boxwood with a finely polished lacquer finish. But with this set, you won’t just get the finely crafted chessboard and pieces. You’ll also get the accompanying box that is covered in a walnut veneer and uses a thick green baize, the same material used on the pads of the pieces to keep all your Rooks, Knights, Pawns, and Bishops safe and snug. The box will instantly remind you of the type of classy chess piece boxes of yesteryear that are rather uncommon these days.

The chessboard is made by hand in Spain and is a gorgeous combination of Mahogany and Maple and sealed with a semi-gloss polyurethane finish. The squares are 2,” and the triple inlay delimiter that serves as the chessboard border makes the playing area feel all the more elevated and important.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Mahogany, Maple
  • Chess pieces wood: Ebonized, Natural Boxwood
  • Two extra queens for pawn promotion
  • Green baize pads on the bottom of chess pieces
  • High-quality hinges and locks on the box
  • Box comes with two keys

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 19.5″ x 19.5″ x 0.625″
  • King height: 3.75″
  • King weight: 2.5 oz.
  • Chess set weight: 2.5 lbs
  • Square size: 2″

9. Handmade European Wooden Chess Set

This board isn’t going to win any prizes for creative naming, but I suppose that’s the game we play when we give all our power to the balding man of some gigantic online retailer who shall not be named. And yet, this handmade set deserves to be highlighted. The classic European aesthetic is immediately recognizable, and the price is quite attractive also. It makes for a great gift for the player that’s not quite a beginner but wants to continue to hone their skills.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Birch
  • Chess pieces wood: Hornbeam, Sycamore
  • Folding chessboard

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 21.65″ x 21.65″ x 1.18″
  • King height: 4.5″
  • Queen height: 3.66″
  • Pawn height: 2.28″
  • Square size: 2.24″

10. Bauhaus Chess Set

Moving away from the traditional design and styling of chess sets you’re accustomed to. Here we have yet another simplified, Bauhaus-style wooden chess set. Designed by Josef Hartwig in 1923, this wooden chess set is all about style. Cubes, cylinders, and balls are the forms used to represent each chess piece. It might seem a bit confusing at first, but you’ll get the handle of what each shape represents quite quickly. Suffice to say; this beautiful, handcrafted wooden chess set is more for display than play. Then again, if you’re Mr. or Mrs. money bags, why not buy a couple of these and use one for play, while the other one can adorn some chic space.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Maple
  • Chess pieces wood: Maple
  • Comes with a box for the pieces

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 14″ x 14″
  • King height: 2″
  • Square size: 1.75″

11. Palomo Staunton Chess Set Padauk

I’m not sure if this is the most stunning wooden chess set you can get your hands on, but it must come pretty close. The black pieces of this set are made from a rare wood called African Padauk. I neglected to mention this wood in my listing of woods used in chess pieces as it is uncommonly used enough to make this chess set quite expensive. Nevertheless, African Padauk is grown in central and tropical west Africa and is often characterized by a deep brownish-red. This wood is generally considered to be dense, heavy, stiff, and exceptionally strong. It sounds like an ideal wood to make beautiful chess pieces out of.

The white pieces in this wooden chess set are made from Boxwood, while the American made chess board is made from South American Walnut and Maple. This is indeed a very special chess set, perhaps ideal for the serious chess collector that wants to add a piece-de-resistance to their collection.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: South American Walnut, Maple
  • Chess pieces wood: African Padauk, Boxwood
  • Two spare queens for pawn promotion
  • Green baize cloth pads for the bottom of chess pieces
  • Special finish to protect and seal the wood on chessboard
  • Laminated frame to prevent any warping
  • Decorative maple inlay surrounds the frame
  • Felt pads on the bottom of the chessboard to protect the surface you sit it on

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 23.875″ x 23.875″ x 1.375″
  • King height: 4.4″
  • King weight: 4.2 oz.
  • Square size: 2.5″
  • Weight: 12 lbs.

12. Chess Set | Wooden Chess Board

This particular wooden chess board doesn’t come with the most imaginative or expressive of names, but you’re not here for the name of it, are you? This soulful and perhaps almost medieval-looking wooden chess set is a testament to what a skilled woodworker can do given enough time and effort. Ideal as a gift, if you’re looking for a chess set that not everyone will have, this is a fantastic choice. Sold by a small maker on Etsy makes it that much rarer and potentially more valuable in the future.

But where I think the true value of this chess set will come in is in the extensive detail in both the pieces and the absolutely incredible chessboard. Made from beechwood, you can even personalize this set by having it engraved at the time of purchase.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Beechwood
  • Chess pieces wood: Beechwood
  • 25-year warranty
  • Folding chess set
  • Ornate brass hinges with the year of manufacture engraved

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 15.8″ x 15.8″
  • Weight: 3.3 lbs.

13. House of Chess - Rio Staunton Biggie Knight Chess Set

This chess set is nothing short of remarkable. Hand-carved with a set of features so distinctive that I don’t even know where to begin. First is the signature design of the Knight pieces with their oversized manes, large eyes, and muscular bodies. Next are the contrasting svelte shapes of all the other pieces. There’s no question that this wooden chess board has plenty of character. Made from a combination of some of the highest quality woods, this tournament-sized, folding chess set brings plenty of sheen and polish. This is a wooden chess set you’ll not only want to play with but display proudly in your home.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Golden Beechwood, Maple
  • Chess pieces wood: Acacia Wood, Boxwood
  • Folding chess set
  • Individually hand-polished pieces
  • It comes with two extra queens for pawn promotion
  • It comes with a velvet case to prevent scratches
  • Foam inserts keep pieces in place
  • Billiard cloth green pads on the bottoms of the chess pieces

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 21″ x 21″
  • Square size: 2.25″
  • King height: 4″
  • Weight: 10 lbs.

14. CanarianCanary - Chess Set Classic

Once again, we are met with a wooden chess set that is sure to attract plenty of gift buyers and chessboard collectors of all kinds. Made from Beechwood, this handcrafted board is nearly as beautiful as the chess pieces, which are made from a combination of Walnut and Beech. With classically pointed heads on the Kings, Queens, and Bishops, the highly polished set earns its place amongst these other sets by displaying the sort of craftsmanship we often see in much pricier sets.

 

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Beechwood
  • Chess pieces wood: Walnut, Beech
  • Folding chess set
  • Bronze hinges and locks
  • Velvet fabric on the bottom of the chess pieces

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 19.69″ x 19.69″ x 1.18″
  • Weight: 8.82 lbs.

15. Dubrovnik Staunton Chess Set

Popularized by chess legend Bobby Fischer, this improbable chess set is an exact replica of the one used in the 1970s Dubrovnik Chess Olympiad held in West Germany. No matter where you fall on the chess-loving spectrum, this unique set with contrasting colour tips on the Bishops makes for an ideal collecting or high-end play set. Hand-carved to near perfection, this wooden chess set contains individually hand-polished pieces.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Walnut, Maple
  • Chess pieces wood: Anjan Wood, Boxwood
  • Two spare queens included for pawn promotion
  • Green Billiard cloth pads serve as feet for the chess pieces
  • Comes with a Certificate of Authenticity
  • Felt pads on the bottom of the chessboard
  • Chessboard is made in Spain

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 21.5″ x 21.5″ x 0.5″
  • King height: 3.9″
  • King weight: 2.3 oz
  • Square size: 2.125″

16. The Jarilo Unique Wooden Chess Set

I’m not sure that I would classify this chess set as exotic, but the company that made it and sells it sure tells a good story about it. Named after the mythological deity Jarilo the War God, this handcrafted wooden chess set belongs to the company’s Carpathian Collection. Made of Hornbeam and Sycamore, trees found in Europe, the pieces feature a classic style with solid craftsmanship and attention to detail. Combined with a handsome folding chessboard made from beech and birch wood, this large wooden chess set is the type of set you’ll use to play regularly but won’t be embarrassed to leave out as a decorative piece also.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Beech, Birch
  • Chess pieces wood: Hornbeam, Sycamore
  • Felt pads on bottoms of chess pieces
  • Decorated borders
  • Interior storage compartment lined with green felt
  • Brass hinges and locks

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 21″ x 21″
  • King height: 4.33″
  • Weight: 5.07 lbs

17. CanarianCanary - Luxurious Chess Table

I’ll readily admit that I cheated a bit on this pick. But I just couldn’t help myself. This is more of an entire chess table that features a built-in chessboard on top. Made from one piece of beech wood, this intricate and finely engraved chess table takes the art of playing and displaying your favourite pastime to a completely new level. But don’t fret; this chess table won’t leave you high and dry when it comes to putting your pieces away. It’s also got two built-in drawers on opposite sides of the table. Varnished and finished with cast bronze details, this may be one of the most beautiful chess sets you can purchase.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Beech
  • Chess pieces wood: Unknown
  • Varnished

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 23.62″ x 23.62″
  • King height: 4.33″
  • Weight: 44 lbs

18. Umbra - Wobble Chess Set

Umbra is a well-known home decor brand. They make everything from picture frames to, well, it would appear, chess sets. This utterly unique chess set features both a chessboard whose squares are concave and chess pieces that are outfitted with a rounded and chrome-plated bottom. The result is that any board movement results in pieces that both wiggle and stay in place. If you’re looking for a wooden chess set that will stand out from the crowd and is a winner of multiple design awards, you’ve found your ideal item.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Walnut
  • Chess pieces wood: Maple
  • Concave squares
  • Weighted chess pieces with bottoms made of chrome
  • Five-year warranty

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 16″ x 16″
  • Weight: 8.4 lbs.

19. WoodenStuffCrafts - Handmade Wooden Chess Set

Intricate is too limp of a word to help describe the beauty and detail of this chess set, particularly when you look at the work that has gone into the crafting of the chessboard. But it’s not just a chessboard. The underside of the board can be used as a Backgammon board. The board is made from a gorgeous walnut, while the pieces are made from Sycamore. Handcrafted in Ukraine, this wooden set is an absolute dream come true for any serious chess set collector.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Walnut
  • Chess pieces wood: Sycamore
  • Staunton piece design
  • Backgammon board on the underside of the board
  • Folding chess set

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 19.7″ x 19.7″ x 1.9″
  • King height: 4.3″
  • Pawn height: 2.3″

20. PawnKingdom - Personalized Wooden Chess Set

I have left perhaps what is my favourite set for last. This stunning wooden work of art is as exquisite as it gets. The pieces and board and made by hand and are respectively made from Beech and chestnut wood. This is the kind of set that will not only stand the test of time but can become a family heirloom if well taken care of. Unlike many other sets featured on this list of best wooden chess sets, this one has some serious height. And while it’s not quite a table, it offers two drawers for piece storage with gorgeous brass handles. Everything about this set screams of the highest quality wood carving.

Key Features

  • Chessboard wood: Chestnut
  • Chess pieces wood: Beech
  • Chess pieces are felted at the bottom
  • 25-year warranty

Specifications

  • Chessboard dimensions: 19.7″ x 19.7″

How to Pick A Wooden Chess Set

 

What is the chess set’s primary purpose?

Before picking a wooden chess set, the very first question you have to ask yourself is: Is this chess set for play, display, or both? A wooden chess set that is designed primarily for play will typically cost less than one that has been made for the purpose of being a showcase piece in your library, office, or den. Of course, those of you lucky enough to have the budget to buy a set that is both exquisite in its design and perfectly suited as a decorative piece can also choose to play with it regularly. The downside, of course, is the potential for small knicks, scuffs, and scratches. 

How Discernible are the pieces?

Not every wooden chess set comes with pieces that are easy to discern. An excellent example is some of the sets that have more abstract chess pieces, often using geometric shapes and Bauhaus design elements.

If you plan to play with the set you purchase, I suggest buying a set with clearly discernible pieces. 

Durability

Some wooden chess sets are more durable than others. That should be fairly obvious. Much of this depends on the type of wood used in the construction of the board and pieces. But that’s not the only factor. The type of finish and sealing also matter. Look for pieces and boards that are sealed and polished; these will last longer. 

Type of Wood Used

  • Sheesham – Often used in making high-end wood furniture, Sheesham wood has a darker appearance and is very durable. This wood’s highlight is that it often shows beautiful grain patterns within both the chessboard and chess pieces. 
  • Boxwood – Due to its light colour, Boxwood pieces are often used for white chess pieces and are made from a widespread type of small brush or tree called Buxus. This type of wood is preferable for chess pieces due to its ease of carving and high density, thus providing a nice weight to each piece. Highly resistant to chipping or cracking, Boxwood is a favourite of chess set makers. 
  • Ebonized Boxwood – Simply Boxwood that has been stained to serve as the black pieces, often used to emulate the look of Ivory at a lower cost. 
  • Walnut – Often imbued with yellow, purple, and red tones, Walnut isn’t used quite as often for chess pieces but rather for the board itself. This medium-dense wood exhibits high natural durability with straight and wavy grains while allowing for superior polishing. The best chess boards made from walnuts are often finished with UV-blocking chemicals to prevent any bleaching from occurring. 
  • Elm Root – Typically harvested from the roots of the tree, hence the name, this type of wood is usually a dark brown and features a dynamic graining, making it a rather luxurious wood. While there are different species of the Elm tree, elm wood is naturally rather hard and finishes well, and stains with ease. 
  • Beech – This lightly coloured wood is known for its versatility and clean and distinct grain lines. It’s light enough that it can be stained nearly any colour or covered in a clear finish to serve as the white pieces. Beech is considered a dense wood and is ideal for adding some heft to either a set of chess pieces or even the board. By all accounts, Beech is considered a hardwood and is relatively easy to carve.
  • Wenge – This oddly coloured wood, while rather dark, also features a slightly purple hue to it. Used almost entirely to make chess boards. It’s often used as the closest wood colour to pure ebony. Sourced from trees in various parts of Africa, this wood is always relatively low in supply, and thus it makes it one of the more exotic and expensive materials to make wooden chessboards out of. It’s also not the easiest wood to work with, and thus if you spot a board made from Wenge, often symbolized by straight grain and a coarse texture, you know the maker of the board has some master woodworkers on hand. 
  • Mahogany – Ah yes, the favourite wood of that infamous fictional news anchor, Ron Burgundy. Mahogany is a deep red hardwood that has been often used in the making of luxurious furniture pieces. Not often used to make chess pieces, it is sometimes used to craft chess boards. While there are several different types of Mahogany, the most commonly found in chess boards is the African variety. It’s easy to work with and rated as moderately durable. 
  • Rosewood – Often found as a component of high-end guitars, namely the fingerboards, Rosewood is a dark red wood that is often used to produce luxury chess pieces. Its even higher-end cousin, the Bud Rosewood, is found in some of the most expensive chess pieces made. Many Rosewood varieties are considered to be on various international endangered tree species lists. 
  • Briar – Found in the Mediterranean region of Europe, Briar trees often grow to a height between 8 to 13 feet. Briar’s grain and texture are often curly and complex, making for a unique wood look. This, along with its moderately red/yellow colour makes it an ideal choice for intricate and usually high-end chess pieces. 
  • Erable – Hailing from the Maple family of trees, Erable is relatively light in colour but features a quilted grain that is ideal for bright colour staining. But if you’re looking for a wood colour that most closely resembles a natural honey colour, Erable is your prime choice. 
  • Palisander – Another beautifully dark wood, Palisander is actually a type of Rosewood. Difficult to carve and work with by hand, Palisander is not often used in chess pieces. Its ideal use is for semi-luxurious chess boards. Some people consider Palisander the most beautiful dark wood in the world. 
  • Redwood – With perhaps the exception of Red Sandalwood, Redwood is one of the reddest woods and is known for its incredible durability. Derived from trees, many of whose species go back millions of years, Redwood is also known as Sequoia and is the world’s tallest tree species. Nearly exclusive to the Pacific coast of the Northwestern United States, Redwood is soft and lightweight and is most often used to make chess pieces. 
  • Maple – Finally, we come to a wood that is so light-coloured it could almost be mistaken for white. Often used to make the white squares of a chessboard, Maple is available in abundance and thus can keep the costs of a chessboard down. 

Type of Board 

Not all chess boards are made equal. You’ll have to decide exactly what type of board you want. Here are the primary factors to consider:

  • Folding vs. non-folding
  • Internal board storage vs. no storage vs. external box storage
  • Overall size of the board

Portability

Most wooden chess sets don’t lend themselves overly well to portability. The most portable chess sets on the market tend to be far smaller and made of materials like plastic, resin, aluminum, and other alloys. That said, it’s not impossible to find relatively portable wooden chess sets. Some of them even have magnets built into them to increase the portability. 

Weight

The weight of most wooden chess sets is heavily influenced by the type of wood being used and the overall size of the chessboard and pieces. That’s fairly self-explanatory. But it would be best if you also recognized that many chess set makers intentionally put an additional weight inside chess pieces and even extra weight into the chessboards to increase overall stability. So is a heavier chess set usually a sign of higher quality? Not necessarily. Remember that the balance of how a chess piece feels in your hand as you handle it is more important than how heavy it is. 

Reputation for Craftsmanship

While the market of manufacturers that produce high-quality wooden chess sets is quite heavily splintered, there are definitely some brands you can rely on. The following companies have built a reputation for craftsmanship and quality that’s hard to deny:

  • Chess House
  • Wegiel
  • The Chess Store
  • Chess Armory
  • House of Chess
  • CanarianCanary

Budget

Of course, not all wooden chess sets are made equal, and thus their price can vary widely. The general rule of thumb is that the more a set is designed to be decorative, the more expensive it will be. Be comfortable in setting a maximum budget. There’s plenty of affordable wooden chess sets that are still beautiful, functional, and surely will catch the eye of any visitor to your home or office. 

COMPARE WOODEN CHESS SETS

Use this handy table to sort and compare all of the beautiful wooden chess sets featured on this list.

Chess SetChessboard WoodChess Pieces WoodKing HeightChessboard DimensionsSquare Size
Wegiel Handmade European Ambassador Chess SetBeech, BirchHornbeam, Sycamore4.5"21.65" x 21.65" x 1.2"Unknown
Chess House 19" Wood Chess & Checkers SetWooden veneerUnknown3.63"18.5" x 18.5"2"
Amerous Magnetic Wooden Folding Chess SetUnknownUnknown3"15" x 15" x 1"Unknown
Marengo Staunton Chess Set in Padauk & BoxwoodElm Burl, Erable, MapleEbony, Boxwood4.25"23.5" x 23.5" x 0.75"2.375"
Man Ray Chess SetVeneered beech woodSolid Beech3.25"17" x 17" x 0.75"2.125"
Chess Armory 15" Wooden Chess SetWalnutUnknown3"15" x 15" x 1"1.65"
Uncommon Goods - Wall ChessBirch, OakBirch, OakUnknown18" x 18" x 1.5"Unknown
Queen's Gambit Chess SetWalnut, MapleEbonized, Natural Boxwood3.75"19.5" x 19.5" x 0.625"2"
Handmade European Wooden Chess SetBirchHornbean, Sycamore4.5"21.65" x 21.65" x 1.18"2.24"
Bauhaus Chess SetMapleMaple2"14" x 14"1.75"
Palomo Staunton Chess Set PadaukSouth American Walnut, MapleAfrican Padauk, Boxwood4.4"23.875" x 23.875" x 1.375"2.5"
Chess Set | Wooden Chess BoardBeechwoodBeechwoodUnknown15.8" x 15.8"Unknown
House of Chess - Rio Staunton Biggie Knight Chess SetGolden Beechwood, MapleAcacia Wood, Boxwood4"21" x 21"2.25"
CanarianCanary - Chess Set ClassicBeechwoodWalnut, BeechUnknown19.69" x 19.69" x 1.18"Unknown
Dubrovnik Staunton Chess SetWalnut, MapleEbonized Boxwood, Natural Boxwood3.9"21.5" x 21.5" x 0.5"2.125"
The Jarilo Unique Wooden Chess SetBeech, BirchHornbeam, Sycamore4.33"21" x 21"Unknown
CanarianCanary - Luxurious Chess TableBeechUnknown4.33"23.62" x 23.62"Unknown
Umbra - Wobble Chess SetWalnutMapleUnknown16" x 16"Unknown
WoodenStuffCrafts - Handmade Wooden Chess SetWalnutSycamore4.3"19.7" x 19.7" x 1.9"Unknown
PawnKingdom - Personalized Wooden Chess SetChestnutBeechUnknown19.7" x 19.7"Unknown

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Sebastian Arciszewski

Sebastian Arciszewski

An enthusiast of all things minimalist. I love simple design and always look for an aesthetic that complements how an item works. Because after all, a design is how a thing works. You can find me on twitter: @sebastian_a