Carve a Creepy Cast of Wood Chess Characters for Halloween

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Carve a not so ordinary chess set.

Carvers and Halloween enthusiasts who play chess or know someone who does should enjoy creating author and caricature carver Dwayne Gosnell’s chess pieces – not your ordinary King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Pawn or Rook.

In this 56-page softcover book from Fox Chapel Publishing,  you will find patterns and instructions for carving and painting this delightful set of 32 caricature chess pieces (enough for two players) – 16 mummies (pawns), 4 coffins (rooks), 4 werewolves (knights), 4 Frankensteins (bishops), 2 Draculas (kings), and 2 witches (queens).

Dwayne begins with a short list of basic instructions that will make carving these basswood caricatures easier, safer and more successful: use only sharp tools, carve as much as you can every day, do not carve while tired, and wear protective gear.

“Remember that everyone makes mistakes – it’s only a block of wood! Don’t expect to create a perfect carving right away; the fun is the journey,” Dwayne wrote.

Preparation and Practice

“Getting Started” covers wood and tools for cutting the 32 blanks needed for the Halloween chess crew, plus tips for using a carving knife. Detailed instructions and photos in “Cutting Out the Blanks,” illustrate how to trace a pattern and cut it from a piece of wood.

Dwayne provides four lists of what you will need for this chess carving endeavor: Material, Tools, Paint, and Paint Brushes, plus directions for using a V-tool for layering.

Before getting started on the first chess piece, Dwayne devotes a page to practicing carving eyes and five pages to carving noses.

How to carve eyes.

“Carving the eyes is easily the most stressful challenge to a carver of any skill level. After all, the eyes are the first thing that everyone sees when looking at a carving,” Dwayne wrote. “However, with this easy approach, I hope to show you that carving eyes is nothing to be afraid of.”

Carving noses.

“The nose of any piece can set the tone for how the entire face will look,” Dwayne explained. “Will the nose be too small, too big, too thin, too flat?”

In 18 illustrated steps over five pages Dwayne describes how to carve a nose.

From Mummy to Witch – A One-Of-A-Kind Chess Set

Ready for battle.

Inspired by his desire to relive the magical Halloween adventures of his youth, Dwayne envisioned a chess set “where a few of my favorite monsters take to the streets to battle for the best candy.”

In four- and five-page sections, Dwayne guides the reader in how to carve and paint the six different chess pieces (characters).

Getting started.

Dwayne begins each section with an explanation of his selection process for the Halloween characters that portray the six traditional chess pieces.

In the case of the pawn, he wrote: “The pawns in a chess set are the most numerous, and they usually do most of the work. When I was planning which piece would be the pawn. I thought in terms of ‘most.’ Then it hit me: the sands of Egypt hold the secrets of many mummies, with new ones being discovered. The mummy pawn was dreamed into reality.”

My favorite is Dewayne’s reason for choosing the bishop character: “In my mind, the bishop in chess is the wise recordkeeper. I found humor in making Frankenstein my recordkeeper. With a borrowed mind and loosely sewn arms, how could anything go wrong?”

Finishing and painting.

Each section includes the featured character’s Paint Key. On a separate page in the book, Dwayne lists the paint brands and colors he used, but notes that the reader may substitute other brands and colors if they choose to.

The reader may notice that Dwayne painted one 16-piece set with orange bases and the other with brown bases – Halloween colors that replace the black and white of a traditional chess sets.

Dwayne includes patterns for both the front and side views of each of the six caricatures.

About the Author

Dwayne enjoyed the process of creating something from nothing while helping his father with woodworking projects as a young boy. After serving in the US Marine Corps, he became interested in carving faces on walking sticks. Struggling to learn carving on his own, he began attending meetings of the Catawba Valley Woodcarvers. There he met Mitch Cartledge, who inspired and taught him caricature carving.

Dwayne lives in Hickory, North Carolina, with his wife Melissa and two children, Payton and Mason. He is employed in law enforcement and has found that carving is the perfect way to unwind after a long day’s work.

Learn more about Dwayne on his website and Facebook page

Dwayne Gosnell

A Carving Challenge

Carvers who choose to tackle this 32-piece set of chess “characters” for two players have their work cut out for them. Dwayne has provided lots of information, how-to instruction, photos and illustrations, but caricature carving that many pieces will likely take a while and require constant attention to detail and keeping tools sharp.

But the end result should be worth it. Can you imagine playing chess with this cast of Halloween characters – or giving them as a gift? How could you keep from laughing with every move?

(With the exception of the two double-page spreads, all the photos in this blog were provided by Fox Chapel Publishing.)


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