Building Your Own Star Trek Tridimensional Chess Board
27 November 1988
by David E. Rutan
Here are instructions on how to build a Star Trek Tridimensional
Chess Set. Or more clearly: This is how I built mine.
I consider myself qualified to write this file because I've
constructed a total of three Tri-D sets. The first one was cardboard
and wood (missing, presumed destroyed,) the second was as described
below (but as I was living at home, my mom, the whirling dervish,
knocked it over), and the third, also as below, sits proudly with my
other chess boards on display.
If you find a better/easier way, do it, maybe my instructions
will help you avoid a few mistakes.
This is what a Tridemensional chess board BASICALLY looks like
from the side:
--- Attack Board
----- Black's Board
/ ----- Neutral
! / --- Attack Board
Stand ** / !
**/ ----- White's Board
This is how it would look from the top view.
! ! ! ! ! !
! X X ! X X !
! ! ! ! !
! ! ! ! ! BLACK'S BOARD
! ! ! ! !
! ! ! ! !
---+--+--+--- NEUTRAL BOARD
! ! ! ! !
! ! ! ! ! WHITE'S BOARD
! X X ! X X !
! ! ! ! ! !
X shows where boards overlap as you look down from the top.
O shows where an attack board pin can be seen. Attack board pins are
located on the corners of all three main boards.
I built my board from plexiglass, copper pipe, bic pens, a few
small bolts, and a brass lamp fixture.
Construction of the Boards
Things you will need:
- Four BIC pens, the clear kind - six sided
that are straight until the pen end where they taper (mine had a blue
or red cap in the other end.)
- Twelve bolts 1/2 inch long (the bolts should fit snugly into the
small end of the pens. You may have to carefully ream out the pen
- Cut three pieces out of the plexiglass measuring 6 X 6 inches and
four of the small ones 3 X 3 inches. (Note: it is also possible to
take a one-piece (non folding) masonite chessboard and cut all of your
boards from that. It won't be as nice but it works.)
- Remove the cap from the pens and push the pens out of the
barrels. Cut the barrels down carefully at 3 inches from the tapered
end. (I used a hacksaw but wished I had had a mitre box.) Take the
rough edges off the cut end with a piece of sandpaper.
CAREFULLY drill a hole just a touch larger than the bolts in each
corner of the 6 X 6 pieces of plastic. (If you know of a better way,
be my guest, I broke one of my boards at this step and had to cut
another.) It is important that the holes be as clean and straight as
Now you're going to paint the boards. I chose blue for my set but
you can follow your preferences. I masked off 1-1/2 inch squares on my
boards and painted every other one. After painting them and letting
them dry well, (I used model paint applied with a brush,) I brushed on
clear nailpolish. The nailpolish puckered my paint thus giving it a
finish, (I cannot guarantee all paints will pucker, but I will
guarantee that gold or silver will simply run. If you use either of
these, try using spray-on shelack or laquer (sparingly on first
Glue the pen barrels to the attack boards on the middle of the
underside. Glue the flat end to the board, not the tapered end. (I
used a hot-melt glue gun.)
Put the bolts through the main boards from the underside and glue
them in place (with household cement.)
Construction of the Stand
For the stand, you will need:
- 1 threaded coupling, 1/2in.
- 2 "T" elbows 1/2 inch.
- 4 45 degree elbows 1/2 inch.
- 7 pieces of 1/2 inch ridgid copper pipe: 1in., 2in., 3in., 5in.,
5-1/2in., 6-1/2in., 7-1/2in.
- 3 pieces of 1/2 inch dowel about two inches long.
- Base (I used part of a lamp stand.)
(As before, if you can make your base
easier/better/differently... hey, it's your set! A good alternative
might be to use flexable tubing. Also, you could trace a stand out of
wood and just cut it out with a scroll saw.)
Fit the pieces together while they lay flat on a board to form
the stand (you'll have to use your imagination) the arms that hold the
boards will have to be cut at 45 degree angles. (If you have pictures
or drawings from the show to go by, you'll see what I mean better.)
When you get the angles and lengths worked out, (still lying on
the table) solder the joints together (this keeps it straight.)
After soldering, I glued wooden dowels inside the arms to give
something solid for the boards to rest on. Use the threaded coupling
to fasten the stand to the lamp base. You'll probably have to weight
the base. (you can turn it upside down and fill it with lead pellets.
Then cover that with glue to hold it in place.
Now you can paint the stand. I just sprayed mine silver and
coated it with clear shelac. Then I put felt on the bottom of the
- Now you glue the boards onto the stand. I used clear household
cement. I fastened the middle board first and lined up the upper and
lower boards to it. You can use a small level to level your boards. I
had to use small weights to hold it while the glue dried. After the
cement dries, use the hot melt gun to reinforce it. Make sure that the
lighter-color square is to the right (OOPS: I just noticed that mine
isn't, and had to fix it.)
Well, now you only lack chessmen. If you're the artistic type
maybe you can fashion your own like the ones on the show, otherwise
you'll have to do like me, I bought a cheap chess set with the right
size pieces (2-5/8 king is a good size). I filled my pieces with wax
and glued felts to the bottoms (again with household cement.) That
way, the pieces don't slide around as much.
I hope these instructions make sense to you and you succeed in
constructing one of the most interesting chess variations I know of.
If you haven't already, check out my file on the rules of Star Trek
Any comments, suggestions or corrections are always welcome.
David Rutan, (email removed contact us for address) dspring.com.
Written by David E. Rutan. HTML editing and Notes by
WWW page created: June 23, 1997. Last modified: September 9, 1999.
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