Elia Tan started GiantChess.com in 2001 because there were no giant wooden chess sets available over the Internet, only plastic ones.
“Furniture products, antique or modern, have most often been crafted in wood. This is because people everywhere cherish both the warm feel and polished look of processed wood. The lighter alternative, which is not nearly as impressive as wood, either in appearance or feel, is plastic,” says Tan.
The manufacturing business is located in Surabaya, Indonesia. Tan says clients are typically hotel and resort owners, as well as private individuals who want the sets for entertainment and decoration. The pieces are made entirely of teak, primarily for its strength and resistance to wear in all seasons. Each piece is finished with a polyurethane stain or paint.
“Teak wood contains oil of teak, a substance which greatly contributes to its water resistance. This element alone allows teak to avoid the decaying and infesting by insects to which many other woods are subject to. The solid teak makes the individual pieces very heavy. If a customer wants, wheels can be added to the bottom of every piece.”
The company offers orders for single items as well as full-set packages that can be easily stored or carried. The pieces are suitable for both indoor and outdoor play. A standard set, for example, is the wooden garden set featuring a stone chessboard, which includes 36” tall wooden chess pieces and a series of 2’ x 2’ slate and limestone squares that create a 20’ x 20’ board once assembled.
Custom work is offered in addition to classic chess designs. Novel designs such as World War II soldiers and baseball players are only a few examples of what can be viewed on the company’s website at www.giantchess.com.
“If our customers need a custom model, we will produce it as long as we’re given enough time to complete it. Our staff members all start with a whole teak log and create each individual piece from that by hand. The knight pieces are the most difficult to create because of all of the carving that’s required.”
A set of 24” pieces sells for about $1,499. Pieces that are 16” tall and shorter are mainly shipped by air; larger pieces are shipped by ground and sea freight.
Tan expects to have a new dealer in New York, where the public can visit and touch the products, in the next several months.
This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue.