Project: Lewis chessmen as statues and a chess set.

For a long time I’m a fan of the Lewis chessmen. I’m not a chess fan but since seeing the figures the first time in Edinburgh they somehow got to me. Also seen the large collection in London and went back to Edinburgh to see them again there. So whenever in the neighborhood I took the opportunity to view them.

Since then I also bought some memorabilia in the museum shops like a key chain. The Lewis chessmen are always around somewhere. What particularly got to me is the funny expression the faces have and the cool poses that exist (especially the figure biting his shield!).

I won’t go into detail on their origin since books are written around the subject. Suffice to say they are chess pieces from the 12th/13th century carved from (whale)bone and have Scandinavian roots.

Now and then I was looking at a replica chess set of the Lewis chessmen, but somehow they are just overpriced and not that cool looking. This until … I found there are moulds for the Lewis chessmen! Cast your own, paint your own and go crazy! How cool is that! It fits nicely in the range of casting Hirst Arts bricks and build your own scenery.

Received the moulds and started casting away. It’s a bit different from casting bricks but not that different. The “miniatures” look great! They are a nice size and have good texture and detail.

The first set of casts are test pieces for me to see how to paint them. Originally the pieces are carved from bone or have an ivory look. Painting bone on a small scale is no prob, so on this scale it should pose no problems. Only difficulty here is the fact that you want a “black” and “white” set. The white is taken care of with the ivory/bone look. It seems that originally one side was painted with some red dye in the 12th century. I might do a test with first painting a piece ivory and then go over it with red. What also may be cool is to have a full white and red set with gloss varnish on them.

Final ideas are of course painting the pieces looking like grey stone. Should be not too difficult with the experience painting all the buildings :).

Aside from making a great chess set the pieces are awesome for statues in our scenery! The streets need some livening up with cool statues in stone, brass and other materials. They can act as cool gatekeepers for a temple like building and they are awesome as carved statues in a rock formation. Ideas enough for these new moulds!

My stash of plaster is depleting rapidly with casting these larger moulds so order a new 23 kg bag of the stuff. I should be good for a while. I got some interest in the chess pieces as well, so who knows, I might even build a small webshop for selling the buggers.


  1. They're absolutely gorgeous!
    Perhaps you could build a chessboard out of the Hirst Arts tiles?

  2. I really like the Lewis set too. I carfted myself a chess set as well but I went for the mandarin one. I might do one of those too.