This ornamental chess table project is SO Victorian. They like to decorate just about any surface and the more unique it was, the better. Here was their way of making a special chess table for their family or loved ones. Why not make your own that says something special about you or your family?
Note: These are the original directions from the mid-1800’s. You will need to substitute items that are no longer available in today’s market.
A very pretty chess table can be made by arranging on any kind of white wood alternate squares of small oil-prints, or the prints may be alternated with squares of white paper. They must be cut and fitted with extreme precision, and very thoroughly fixed at all the corners, by means of strong glue. A border should be placed round; a light-brown scroll work would look best, and a pattern by no means massive.
Place a clean sheet of paper over the table, and an equal and moderately heavy weight, for about four-and-twenty hours, till the paper is thoroughly dry. Books are useful as weights. Then the table must be varnished.
Or the table may be covered with a white or coloured varnish, and, before this is quite dry, the prints arranged on it dexterously with the fingers, so as to stick, taking great care not to touch the varnish between them. When that is hard, apply one or more coats of transparent varnish on the whole.
The oil-prints should be of one kind and of one tone of colour, either light or dark. Landscapes may be chosen to decorate the table, or figures, or even heads. Oblongs may be used, if wide enough for the pieces to stand upon, but squares are better.
Décalcomanie may also be made a means for decorating such a table. Cover the surface with white paper or white varnish, and when thoroughly dry and set, embellish alternate squares with small transfers. Afterwards varnish it. (See figure above.)