There is nothing traditional — or predictable — about the chess and checker sets that Eric Jensen makes in his West Toledo home.
The pieces are made from shot glasses, radio vacuum tubes, BBs, shotgun shells, and replicas of ammunition — clearly items and materials that are intended for other uses.
Mr. Jensen, 67, is a former physics and chemistry teacher who retired from St. John’s Jesuit High School in 2005. Since then, he has busied himself making chess and checker boards and pieces and cribbage boards.
Mr. Jensen once played cribbage and chess in college, and for a few years in the early 1990s he was a chess club adviser at St. John’s. But he said his projects are more centered on his desire to have a worthy retirement pastime. He pondered woodworking and considered making the games, but knew what he produced had to be different from what’s available.
"I was just looking for something I could do," he said. Making chess and checkers pieces and boards allows him to pursue the pastime "with a minimum amount of expense and a maximum amount of general working enjoyment."
Remember TV and radio vacuum tubes? Mr. Jensen used some to make chess pieces. Smaller tubes can serve as checkers. The retro look is paired with a black-and-white board trimmed in red. Mr. Jensen dedicated the set to his father-in-law, John R. Schemmer, a founding member of the old radio club in Sandusky, Mr. Jensen’s hometown.
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Shot glasses as chess pieces? Certainly in Mr. Jensen’s world. Copper and zinc BBs, some darker as a result of gun bluing, are used on the board. Mr. Jensen made chess pieces using replicas of ammunition for one player, and shotgun cases for the other. The galvanized steel board was brushed, sanded, and painted.
Another chess board with square dowels features a fall theme, with leaf prints on the rods and board.
A different chess set has round dowel rods with drawer pulls. A cross distinguishes the bishops. Another board holds colorful glass tiles and a large blue and purple version holds marbles of various sizes in another chess/checkers set. Crystal rhinestones are arranged to represent the Big Dipper on one side of the board with the Southern Cross on the other side.
The cribbage board at Mr. Jensen’s home has a story. The wood is teak from the deck of the USS Calfiornia. One side of the board, which is about 16 inches by 4 inches, is painted white and trimmed in blue.
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