So you have bought a lovely new chess set, maybe something a bit special or expensive, or just functional. Either way you are going to want it to last a long time. In fact there is no reason why a good quality set shouldn’t last for years and decades if it’s looked after properly.
Lets start by looking at the chess pieces. The chessmen have one arch enemy, and I don’t mean their opposing colour, that enemy is dust. A high quality chess set is the perfect ornament, the finest showpiece. But leaving it out means dust will gather on the pieces. Of course one way to stop this happening is to play chess with it every day, which we highly reccomend!
Another factor that will affect chess pieces is ultra violet light and heat. The light will darken the boxwood over the years, in some cases quite drastically. Extremes of temperature can also affect the chessmen and in some cases cause cracking. So essentially try to avoid exposing the pieces to either of these things.
Cleaning the chess pieces needs to be done carefully. Firstly it’s important to know how a chess piece if finished. The wood is polished with a very hard wax that softens when heated, this wax becomes impregnated in the surface fibers of the wood and with extensive polishing gives off the impression that the wood itself is actually shiny. It’s important to maintain this wax surface on the chess piece so do not use any solvent based cleaners or wax stripping substances. In fact the safest way to clean them is simply with a very soft cloth, just to remove finger marks, anything more than this and you risk damaging the finish.
The best method for storage of the chessmen is inside a wooden box, or if you want to display them for all to see, a glass cabinet.
Next week we will post about how to care for the various types of chess board. Watch this space!