Care for your chess board is very much different from chess pieces. There are a few different types of chess boards out there. Below I will list the various types and explain how best to clean and generally look after each one. Remember that a good quality chess board should last a lifetime, or longer!
Satin or matte veneer boards
If your chess board is made from veneers of wood and finished in a light sealing coat of satin varnish then it important that you don’t use any abrasive polishes or thick waxes on the finish. Essentially any cleaning can be done with a clean damp cloth, but not a wringing wet one. Bear in mind that any exposure to water can result in the veneers coming away from the inner core of the board so the board must essentially stay totally dry at all times. If the board becomes scratched there is not much that will remedy it, there is no thick lacquer to polish marks out of so it’s important to look after the finish on these boards, they don’t take repairs well!
Gloss lacquered chess boards
If your board has been lacquered to a high gloss it will have a fairly thick coat of lacquer applied to it. You can be sure of this because when lacquering wood the grain needs to be filled with the first few coats, and further coats built on top of this to allow polishing back to a glass like finish.
Lacquer does look great when it’s done right but it’s easily scratched or chipped. If your board suffers minor scratches or begins to loose it’s shine you can easily remedy this by re polishing the surface using a product called Scratch X. This product is primarily sold for car paint finishes, however it is extremely gentle and has a progressive action. It will remove light scratches and marks and leave a rich gloss once it’s polished off. Avoid cheaper products that contain ammonia and other chemical abrasives. Do a web search for scratch X, a tube of this will last for ages if all you use it for is your board.
Freshly polished boards can then be further shined and protected using a wax based polish, either a furniture polish or car wax if you want to. Remember that the lacquer on your board is not so different from the lacquer applied to car finishes. Therefore there is no problem in using very high quality car products on your board if needs be.
Natural wax polished chess boards
Some hand made boards are sanded to a very smooth finish then polished with a natural wax. This leaves the most natural finish and looks fantastic. It’s vitally important that during cleaning of these boards you do not strip the wax from the wood. If you do the board will become dull and lose it’s sheen and also become at risk from the elements. The best option here is to ask the manufacturer exactly which wax was used to finish the board, then use a compatible or similar wax cleaner / polish to maintain the board. Avoid any solvents or thin wax cleaners that may strip the original wax.