Tiki Chess Set, Beginner’s Carving Project

Whittle Tiki Chess Set

Tiki Chess Set by Lora IrishThe free online wood carving project is perfect for the new beginner carve to learn the basic cuts, tools, and techniques used in wood carving. This project includes a free download wood carving pattern package featuring 18 patterns for this chess set.

This is an in-depth project, I will be sharing each and every step that you will need to complete your Tiki face chess piece.

Before you download this package, Please Note Below!

Several readers have commented that the chess pieces are not dramatically different in height.  When you work your chess set you can easily make adjustments by using longer basswood blanks for any piece.

As an example: Work the King and Queen on a 5″ high blank, the bishop, rook, and knight on a 4″ high blank, and the pawns using a 3″ blank.  The extra space below the face can be left plain or worked with small geometric patterns using the v-gouge.

Also, all Tiki carvings are Gods and many have headdresses, which are not necessarily a King’s crown. Have fun mix and matching the different head gear, mouth styles, teeth placements, and eyes to create your own unique pieces.

Click here to download your free L. S. Irish wood carving
pattern package for this Irish Whittle Tikies.

Quote – “Tiki refers to large wood and stone carvings of humanoid forms in Central Eastern Polynesian cultures of the Pacific Ocean. The term is also used in Maori mythology where Tiki is the first man, created by either Tumatauenga or Tane. He found the first woman, Marikoriko, in a pond – she seduced him and he became the father of Hine-kau-ataata. In the Maori language, the word “tiki” was the name given to large wooden carvings in roughly human shape, although this is a somewhat archaic usage. The carvings often serve to mark the boundaries of sacred or significant sites.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiki

Tiki Chess Set by Lora IrishIt seems that just about every culture has its own version of our favorite carving subject, the Wood Spirit. In the Polynesian islands this delightful carved face uses leaves, geometric patterns, and expressive eyelids and mouth lines to give the tiki it emotional impact.

Since each specific feature of the tiki face is a simple shape – a rounded half circle for the eyelids, a tear drop shade for the nose – it makes a wonderful project for the new carver as you learn about your wood, your tools, and your cutting strokes. For the advanced carver it is a great subject to try new ideas, techniques, and cutting styles.

If you Google Tikis in their image search option you will discover they can be very simple, smooth sided carvings or extremely intricate with chip carving details or wood burned patterns.

So whether this is your first carving or one hundredth I think you will have fun creating this tiki chess set.

To make this a ‘guaranteed success’ project for the beginning carver I have chosen to make each chess piece unique. This has let me play with the expressions and detailing on each piece while avoiding the repetition of making 16 identical pawns. Since each is meant to be different every tiki that I carve can become part of this set.

1 1/4″ square x 3″ tall basswood blocks for the rooks, bishops, knights, and pawns
1 1/4″ square x 4″ tall basswood blocks for the kings and queens
Beginner’s tool kit, including a large round gouge, small round gouge, v-gouge,
straight chisel, and skew chisel
bench knife or large chip carving knife
detail knife
rifflers – small metal files
stiff brush for dusting

irish_tiki_0005Step 1: I begin working a square basswood block by marking both the top and bottom of the block with diagonal lines to find the center point. Next, using a compass, I mark a circle off that center point that touches the outer edges of the block.

TIP – If I were going to make this tiki face into a cane topper at this point I would use these guidelines to drill a 3/8″ hole into the bottom of the block. After the carving stage is completed I can use a hardwood dowel and wood glue or epoxy in this hole to secure the tiki to a bamboo stick.

TIP – To allow for extra room for a leather or cord wrap on my cane topper I would use a 4″ block for the pawns and 5″ block for the king, with the face carving in the upper portion of the block’s length.

irish_tiki_0006Step 2: Begin this carving by rounding over the four sharp edges of your block with a bench knife or large chip carving knife. Work the sides until your bring the edges down slightly proud (larger) than your compass circle on three sides. On the face side allow extra wood. My face side is on the left in the photo.




irish_tiki_termsTIP – I use several safety methods when doing any 3-D carving which can include a thumb guard, a carving glove, or holding the carving inside of a thick terry cloth towel. As you work through this project you will see that I have literally worn out my thumb guard beyond repair.


Dragon circles, ovals, and corner patterns by Lora S IrishDragon Medallions at ArtDesignsStudio.com
Nine finely detailed dragon patterns are offered as medallion designs, worked within either a circle or oval, adaptable to relief wood carving or scroll saw cut-out work.

1 thought on “Tiki Chess Set, Beginner’s Carving Project”

  1. Pingback: Wood Carving Techniques | LSIrish.com

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: