Cub Scout Project Idea: DIY Chess Board

chess board  webelos craftsmanWhen my older son was a Webelos, our  den made a chess set from nuts and bolts as part of an old requirement.  It is still a fun activity for the boys!

I wanted a chess board to go with the pieces.  Finding an inexpensive way to make the boards was important.  I turned to Pinterest and other online sources and wandered around Lowe’s, but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t wood.

I remembered that I had some glass etching cream left over from the leader appreciation gifts that I made.  So, the next step was to find something glass to etch!

Picture frames came to mind, but we had three challenges.  First, the frames would need to be square.  Second, they would need to be small because our pieces are small.  Third, they couldn’t cost very much.  While shopping at Michael’s, I found these 8″ x 8″ picture frames!

chess board frame


These frames are very simple:  thin black plastic.  They met all of our criteria for what we needed.  They were perfect!  When I got mine, they were $4.99 each.  You can order them from the Michael’s website.


Economical frames for chess boardI also found these from Target.  These 8″ x 8″ frames are much more economical–only $16.90 for a set of 6 or less than $3 each.  They can’t be purchased in stores, only online.

While I haven’t seen them in person, the frames look like they will work perfectly.  The nice thing is that if you order them and they aren’t what you want, you can return them to a Target store.


diy chess board


The first step in etching the frame is to tape off the frame in squares.  I used 3/4″ wide stencil tape to make a checkerboard pattern.  Use a craft knife to cut out the squares where there are two layers of tape.

The easiest way for me was to use a ruler and cut all the way across the tape (even the pieces that I was not going to remove) then pull up the double layered squares.

After you have removed all the pieces, press around the edges of the tape that is left to ensure that it has adhered to the glass well.  Use a paper towel to wipe the exposed glass to remove any fingerprints.

chess board with etching cream

For the next step, the boys moved to the garage where I had set up a table.  We explained how the etching cream would work and that we needed to be very careful using it.  It’s relatively safe, but it is an acid.

We put the taped off glass on a paper towel.  Don’t forget to have the boys write their names on one of the blue squares.

The boys then applied the etching cream to the glass with a paint brush.  Use a fairly thick coat of cream.  In this picture, the Webelos probably should have used a bit more.

The etching cream takes several minutes to process.  Be sure you have an activity for them to do during the wait time. After it finishes processing, rinse the cream off.  It’s probably better for an adult to do this.

After the glass was rinsed, they took all the tape off.  They were so surprised to see what the glass looked like.  I told them they could pick out any color paper they wanted (from my scrapbook stash) to put behind the glass, but most of them just wanted to use the black backing that came with the frame. We put the etched part of the glass facing inward on the frame so the side facing out was smooth.

Here are two of our final chess boards!

chess board red

chess board black backgroundWhich is your favorite–red or black?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Yours in Scouting,

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  1. Malissa September 15, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    You are a genius!!! I CANNOT wait to do this- and there is the CHESS beltloop and pin we can tie in!!

    EXCELLENT job and AMAZING creativity!!

    THANK YOU!!!!!

    1. Sherry September 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Thanks so much, Malissa! Hope you have as much fun with this as we did!

  2. Cheryl September 26, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Great project. I had the toughest time finding a cool, do-able chess board to go with our nuts ‘n’ bolts chess sets. And the boys will use these to learn chess as part of their Scholar Badge. Thanks for sharing the idea.

    1. Sherry September 26, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      So glad you like it!

  3. Pingback: Webelos Craftsman Project: Nuts & Bolts Chess Set | Cub Scout Ideas

  4. les sullivan February 28, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Awesome idea the red one is great.

    1. Sherry March 3, 2014 at 11:22 am

      Thanks! So glad you like them.

  5. jeremy April 18, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Nice project. For the etching cream, about how long did you leave it on the glass? The bottle doesn’t indicate any timing.

    1. Sherry April 21, 2014 at 8:13 am

      So glad you liked it! I left mine on for about 15 minutes.

      1. jeremy May 19, 2014 at 11:32 am

        Thanks for all the tips. The etching cream didn’t seem to make the white as “pronounced” in your photographs. I thought I used a generous amount, but its much more sedated from what you pictured. I guess the notion “Results” may vary applies here 🙂

  6. Amy Hawkins July 18, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    I would like to do this project at our day camp this year. I am expecting about 85 boys. How much etching cream did you use for the small group of boys that you had? I have no idea how much to buy!

    1. Sherry July 18, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      So fun! I did a very rough estimate, and each boy needs about 3/4 of an ounce. Knowing boys, I would probably round up to an ounce each.

      Let me know how that works for you. Thanks for reading!

    2. Michael Dyer November 17, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      I’m curious if you did this at day camp this year. Did it turn out as you hoped? Did the kids like it? Was there a lot of broken glass?

  7. Deanna September 30, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I think this is an awesome idea. I went tonight for the boys to decide what they want to do and this item made the list of items they wanted to make. Thanks for the great idea.

    1. Sherry October 22, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      So glad you like it! We really had fun making them.

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