Start from the BOTTOM
Construction on the chess board starts with the base, as you see above. The base is made from walnut with a plywood bottom. A series of tongue and dadoes lock the base together.
SIDES. As you look at the drawing above, you’ll see that the sides are by far the most complicated piece for the base. A wide rabbet creates a ledge on the inside for the drawer, and another rabbet creates a ledge on top to make the playing surface “float.” A series of stopped grooves and dadoes holds the sub top and back to the sides.
Cutting the stopped grooves is up first. That’s best done while the sides are still square, with no rabbets. Do this at the router table. My setup can be seen in Figure 1 and 2 on the next page. Mark the bit’s location on the fence, and lower the left side onto the spinning bit. Then, rout the dado. Do the same with the right side, but simply push the workpiece until the dado is finished and shut the router off before removing the workpiece.
This setup works nicely for the long, stopped groove as well. Lower the workpiece over the bit and rout until the bit enters the stopped dado you just made. Leave this setup at your router table for now — you’ll use the same setting for the back shortly.
WIDE RABBETS. With the joinery done, let’s tackle the rabbets that form the ledges. This is best done at the table saw. Start, by defining the edge of the ledge with a dado blade. Then, bury the dado blade in an auxiliary fence, and stand the workpiece on edge to cut away the remainder of the waste. See Figure 4 on the next page for this setup. Now you can leave the sides alone while we make the back.
SIMPLE BACK. The back has a through groove that matches up with the stopped grooves in the sides. As before, cut this at the router table. Then, form the tongue to fit in the stopped dadoes in the sides. You can see my setup in Figure 5. Use a dado blade to set the tongue thickness, testing the fit in the dado. Then, trim off the
tongue to fit in the dado (detail ‘5b’). Personally, I trimmed the tongues a little shorter than the dado, so I didn’t have to square up the dado or round the tongue.
SUBTOP. The final part of the case is the plywood subtop. This is rabbeted to fit in the grooves around the inside of the case. After cutting the rabbets at the table saw, drill the mounting holes that will hold the playing surface (you’ll make that in a bit).
RABBET & ASSEMBLE. After gluing up the case, cut some edging to fit and add it to the exposed plywood edge. Now, we’ll cut the rabbet around the entire top of the case. This will “lift” the playing surface off the base. This can be done at the table saw with a dado blade. Figure 6 and ‘6a’ below gives all the details that you need to finish this final step on the base.