Whitireia lecturer using 3D technology to recreate ANZAC chess set

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Whitireia design​ lecturer Alice Moore is hoping to finally complete the chess set carved by her great-grandfather during World War One by using 3D printing technology to recreate the piece he lost after he was wounded in battle.

Alice Moore

             Alice Moore

ANZAC soldier Harry Bourke carved the set while in the trenches of Passchendaele in 1917. The normal duration of this duty was two weeks, but for some reason he and his fellow soldiers were not relieved for a month. The German attacks came mostly during the night, so the soldiers often faced long days looking for something to keep them occupied.

Alice Moore's great-grandfather, Harry Bourke, and the chess set he carved in the trenches during WW1

"It turned out that we could all play chess," wrote Harry in his recollections of the war. "There was no hope of getting a chess set, so I had a go at carving one, with the help of a sharp pocket knife, and some willow wood growing nearby. We made a board out of a square of oil sheet and a bottle of ink, and we used to play in our spare time."

Harry and the chess set were separated when he was seriously wounded, however, they were reunited long after the war was over. His kit-bag was full of shrapnel holes and soaked in his own blood, but the chess set he kept inside the bag was intact, with the exception of one missing pawn.

The set has since been handed down through Harry's family, and now belongs to Alice's generation.

"As children, we played with a fill-in piece from another set," says Alice. "Recently I looked at the set and realised I could utilise my creative skills to make it whole once more."

Alice Moore original chess pieces

Harry Bourke's original chess pieces

In 2012, she used 3D modelling programmes Maya and ZBrush to digitally recreate the basic shape and texture of the chess piece, before using a 3D printer at Victoria University to print it off. Last year, she returned to the piece with a desire to create a more accurate model, and recreated it using 3D scanners and a full colour CMYK ceramic 3D printer at Ink Digital in Wellington.

"The technologies that went into making the pieces in 1917 and the technologies that go into re-making them today could not be further apart. Where Harry created the pieces in trying conditions and out of limited resources – a stick of willow, a pocket knife and boot polish – I am utilising cutting edge technologies while sitting in the comfort of my living room."

Alice notes that the results have not been 100 percent accurate and is working on refining the piece before presenting the project at next year’s The Myriad Faces of War: 1917 and its Legacy symposium in Wellington.

Chess pieces being scanned

Chess pieces being scanned