Recycled Art: Giant steel chess pieces created in rural York County
Tim Myers has been passionate about chess all his life. Paradise Township’s retired mechanic has created giant chess pieces from scrap metal.
Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record
Tim Myers has had a passion for chess since he was in school.
A retired mechanic, he built massive scrap chess pieces that could weigh 800 pounds, approach 12 feet in height, and be displayed, weather permitting, in the open farmlands of Paradise Township.
Myers, who first learned the game from his father, graduated from Spring Grove Area High School in 1971. He said he had a chess set with pegs at the bottom of the pieces for hold in place while playing on the school bus.
He studied chess books during this time. “The more you play, the better you get… (The game) is complicated and fun,” he gave as the reason he kept playing and got better.
“I lost all my chess players when I graduated, people I played chess against,” Myers said. “So I joined the United States Chess Federation and that helped me…to play mostly in Baltimore.” Locally, the chess player was named champion of the York Chess Club in 1985.
Myers displays a bold-faced sign in front of the giant screen that reads “I SUPPORT US CHESS”, in reference to York’s 1985 victory.
“I always wanted to build a great king (chess piece),” he said. After building the king, he thought, “hey, that looks pretty good, so I started building the rest of the pieces.”
Blending a passion for chess, a career as a mechanic, and the scrap metal available around the farm, Myers created his massive steel statues.
Starting with an ordinary piece of chess board, he used a caliper to take all the different measurements, then multiplied them by 30. He cut scrap steel from tire rims, drums, tanks water heaters and various other tanks. He welded the steel pieces and then painted them. The steel parts were welded together and then painted.
“That’s what you can do when you don’t have a computer or a cellphone; you’re not spending all day on a computer and a cellphone,” Myers joked, standing in front of the store’s open garage door.
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The rolling, open farmland of western York County stretches all around it. The repair shop, originally run by his father, still has most of the original “Case” sign mounted on the peak of the roof. Over the decades, a lighthouse atop the hill at the end of a dirt road has welcomed visitors seeking repairs to their tractors.
The chess pieces are not for sale, although people stop to see them along the road when placed for a holiday. “I don’t really need the money, and if I sold it, I wouldn’t have it here to display…I’ll give it away someday when I die, I guess.” said Myers.
Myers has turned the entire chess set into a Valentine’s Day display, and a few pieces will be released for an Easter display. He’s worried about the March winds knocking over the coins, so most of them are in the shop at the moment. “We have quite oppressive wind in the thunderstorms.” he added, saying they probably won’t come out during the summer until the corn is cut. He is planning a Halloween exhibit.
Eric Trimmer, of North Codorus Township and organizer of the York Chess Club, stopped to take a picture of his son Max in front of the display on his way to a club meeting to show off their height. Trimmer said the visibility of the chess pieces had brought “at least two new players to the club”.
“He builds all kinds of crazy things,” Trimmer said, referring to a TikTok video that shows a lawn tractor roller coaster built by Myers, delight the children during a picnic at the church.
“I want people to see what you can do with metal.” said Myers. I think they’re beautiful, and it gives people something to see here in the middle of nowhere.”
More information about York Chess Club and a list of upcoming events can be found at Yorkchess.org
I’ve been capturing life through the lens since 1983 and am currently a visual reporter with the USAToday Network. You can reach me at [email protected]