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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
                 ***    /
                   (///)        Base

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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 possible.
  4. 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 coat.))
  5. 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.)
  6. 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:

(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.)

  1. 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.)
  2. When you get the angles and lengths worked out, (still lying on the table) solder the joints together (this keeps it straight.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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 base.
  5. 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.)

The Pieces

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 Tri-D Chess.

Any comments, suggestions or corrections are always welcome.

David Rutan, (email removed contact us for address)


Written by David E. Rutan. HTML editing and Notes by David Howe (email).
WWW page created: June 23, 1997. Last modified: September 9, 1999.