Readymake: 3D print your very own version of Duchamp’s one-of-a-kind chess set

Who would have thought the chess world would take to additive manufacturing so eagerly? After the Orthogonal/ Diagonal exhibition of eight lovingly designed and printed chess variations in New Zealand, comes the launch of an open source 3D printable version of one of the world’s most rare and famous chess sets.

Duchamps 3D printed chess set

Back in 1918, Marcel Duchamp, French-American painter, sculptor, writer and chess nut, hand-crafted a beautiful wooden set for a private collector in Buenos Aires. Designed and carved at the height of the Dadaist movement, each piece defied traditional characterisation while remaining instantly identifiable.

Marcel Duchamps chess 3D printing

Since its initial creation and purchase, Duchamp’s set has not been seen by the public. As the current owner of the set is unknown, it has long been assumed it was a unique, lost creation.

3D print artists Scott Kildall and Bryan Cera, however, had different ideas.

Using old photographs of Duchamp’s pieces, Cera rendered a detailed Computer Aided Design. In order to make it accurate, he ran a series of geometry-extrapolating algorithms on the image. The most challenging piece of all was the knight, whose intricate curls and arched design made getting an accurate scan difficult.

3D printed chess piece

Knight 3D printed

3D printed chess Marcel Duchamps

Kildall then used an Objet 3D printer to fire off a prototype set. The next step was to launch their re-creation, free-of-charge on Thingiverse. As Cera explains on his blog:

The idea was not only to rebuild the lost object, but to release open-source digital files to be 3D printed by anyone interested in resurrecting the objects for themselves. In homage to the original set’s owner, we decided to call this kind of re-animated, re-configuraed and re-claimed object a ‘Readymake’.

3D printed chess Ducham

The term Readymake refers to Duchamp’s own concept of the Readymade – an ordinary object, which had been previously manufactured, that the artist then modified and exhibited. This fits perfectly with the philosophies and ambitions of the 3D print community, where designs are shared, re-framed and re-appropriated from maker to maker.

The results of this philosophy can be seen below, in Thingiverse user brackett27’s re-interpretation of  Cera and Kildall’s file. After printing the set in ABS, brackett27 then  vapour-treated the prints in an acetone fuming chamber.

Acetone 3D printed chess set

As Kildall puts it:

Duchamp said in the 1960s, about his readymade creations, ‘I’m not at all sure that the concept of the readymade isn’t the most important single idea to come out of my work.’ Today, in an age of digital fabrication and open source design, the boundaries between concept and object continue to blur. We invite other thinkers and makers to join our exploration of conceptual-material formations – to discover and create with our Readymakes, and contribute their own.

Share This Post On