OK, an unfinished set isn’t going to save you much money, but what you can do when you finish it yourself is make the finish any way you want it. The Chess Store offers their unfinished 3.75” German Knight Staunton set in white boxwood which is ideal for painting or staining for about $45. You can combine this with building your own chessboard using basic tools as shown in the 7-part Youtube video. Or you can also check out this link for a step-by-step guide for making a board, checkers and a simple chess set. I really didn’t care for the piece design, but if you’re really handy, it looks easy enough to modify the shape. ChessUSA has a nice explanation of different types of wood that can be used for boards HERE.
I’d love to try this except I can’t get the wife to park her car outside so I can put about a million dollars worth of woodworking equipment in her half of the garage.