At David Ferrer’s factory, workers are busy cutting, trimming and stitching together fine sheets of wood to make chessboards to meet a surge in orders in the wake of the runaway success of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. Rechapados Ferrer, a small family-run business, is struggling to keep up with demand since its boards appeared in the award-winning miniseries about an orphaned chess prodigy.
“We have never experienced such a strong boom in demand for chessboards,” said David Ferrer, 30, who runs Rechapados Ferrer in La Garriga, the industrial belt that surrounds Barcelona.
The company usually makes about 20,000 chessboards annually, but has already received orders for more than 40,000 so far this year, thanks to the Netflix series and renewed interest in board games during COVID-19.
“And there are still many months left until the end of the year,” he added.
Rechapados Ferrer, which has just 14 employees, was founded in the 1950s to supply veneer — or slender pieces of wood — for furniture, but a decade later it also expanded into making chessboards.
“If my parents could only see this,” said Joan Ferrer, David’s father and the son of the firm’s founder.
Although retired, he often visits the factory and can still remember how his parents made the first chessboards in “a small room, stitching and trimming the strips of wood.”
They initially only worked with a nearby maker of chess pieces, but eventually expanded to sell their products across Spain and then the world. Today, 98 percent of their chessboards are exported, some of which are used in tournaments, so they were not surprised when they learned their products had been used in The Queen’s Gambit.
Miquel Berbel, who heads the company’s chessboard division, spotted one of their sets in the final episode of the show. In the nail-biting finale, chess prodigy Beth Harmon goes to Moscow to take on Russian world champion Vasily Borgov in a match played on an elegant black-framed board with a decorative red-and-yellow border.
“There are very particular boards that only we make, and that board was 100 percent one of ours,” Berbel said.
The board was custom-made for the company’s first international customer, a board games distributor in Berlin where the series was partially filmed.
When Ferrer heard about it, he was excited, but it was not the first time that their boards had featured in films or TV series.
“I was excited ... but I didn’t expect this sort of response at all,” he said. “Demand is crazy. We’re getting a huge amount of e-mails and we can’t answer them all.”
Orders began to increase early last year when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit and lockdowns began, but they really took off after The Queen’s Gambit premiered in October, prompting the firm to hire three new workers.
“To meet demand, we ought to be doubling or tripling the workforce, and we don’t want to go down that route because we don’t know how long it’s going to last,” Ferrer said.
Making chessboards is a slow process. A worker first selects high-quality wood that is trimmed into long thin sheets of light and dark colors.
With the help of a machine, another craftsman sews the sheets tightly together with a sticky thread, checking constantly to make sure there is not the slightest gap between them.
The board is then varnished before being packaged.
“We check the finishings a lot, we try to seek perfection,” said Oscar Martinez, a 40-year-old craftsman.
Even if he wanted to, Ferrer said that it would be hard to find more workers to help given the shortage of skilled craftsmen, whose training lasts “four or five years.”
“We want to grow naturally. It is very skilled work and everything takes time,” he said. “It’s real craftsmanship.”
SUPPLY HICCUPS: Poor manufacturing yields at Apple’s overseas suppliers have caused at least one maker of its new MiniLED displays to pause production, sources said The next-generation display destined to be a highlight of Apple Inc’s upcoming top-tier iPad Pro is facing production issues that could lead to short initial supplies of the new device, people familiar with the matter said. The Cupertino, California-based tech giant plans to showcase a new MiniLED display technology in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro set to be announced as early as the second half of this month. However, the firm’s overseas suppliers are dealing with poor manufacturing yields, the people who asked not to be named discussing sensitive matters said. At least one of the MiniLED makers has had to pause production as
END OF AN ERA: The Boeing 747-400 jumbo jets have served the airline well, but new-generation aircraft are more fuel-efficient, CAL chairman Hsieh Shih-chien said China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 華航) yesterday bid farewell to its last four Boeing 747-400 planes, ending the era of the “Queen of the Skies” at the airline. CAL has since 1975 operated a total of 29 747 series aircraft manufactured by Boeing Co. In 1990, it started receiving delivery of 19 747-400 jumbo jets, with the last one, the B-18215, delivered in 2005, it said. The B-18215 was the last of the passenger model produced by Boeing, making the 16-year-old aircraft the world’s youngest 747-400, CAL chairman Hsieh Shih-chien (謝世謙) told an event to bid farewell to the planes at Taiwan Taoyuan
Several hundred people have already booked their tickets and begun training for a spectacular voyage: a few minutes, or perhaps days, in the weightlessness of space. The mainly wealthy first-time space travelers are preparing to take part in one of several private missions which are preparing to launch. The era of space tourism is on the horizon 60 years after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space. Two companies, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin LLC, are building spacecraft capable of sending private clients on suborbital flights to the edge of space lasting several minutes. Glenn King is the director of
DIVERSE SUPPLY: TSMC chairman Mark Liu said the firm’s US$12 billion investment in Arizona would succeed with continued bipartisan support from the US Congress Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, on Monday took part in a virtual White House summit about a global semiconductor shortage and Washington’s plans to strengthen US supply chains. The Hsinchu-based company was among 19 firms, including fellow chipmakers Samsung Electronics Co, GlobalFoundries Inc and Intel Corp, that attended the summit hosted by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, US National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. US President Joe Biden told executives in the meeting that there is bipartisan support in the US Congress for efforts to strengthen the US