Introduction: Hand Sculpted 3D Settlers of Catan Tiles & Hand Crafted Box

Picture of Hand Sculpted 3D Settlers of Catan Tiles & Hand Crafted Box

In this instructable I will explain how I created custom designed, hand sculpted 3D Settlers of Catan game pieces, and an elegant storage box to go with it. This entire project cost me less than $40 with the majority of the expense being the silicone mold mix. I was able to recondition old air drying clay I had from over 5 years ago, and the box was constructed entirely out of wood scraps from when we renovated our kitchen, so there was no additional cost for those. I was beyond thrilled with how the overall project came out, and was so proud with the final results. This was the first time I had ever worked with concrete, the first time I ever tried moldmaking, and my first time I had ever worked on a fine woodworking project like this. I learned so much about all of these skills and want to explore them further in future projects. For my first time working with these skills, the final outcome looks so elegant and professional in my opinion.

Materials Needed:
Air Drying Clay
Sculpting Tools
Molding Silicone (I used Moldstar 20)
Fast Setting Concrete Mix
Black Concrete Dye
⅛ inch Veneer Plywood
Gold Spray Paint

Step 1: Reconditioning the Clay

Picture of Reconditioning the Clay

To sculpt the game tiles I used an air-drying sculpting clay. The clay I used was at least 6-7 years old, so naturally it was a bit dry. To my surprise, the clay had actually retained an incredibly amount of moisture, and the plastic bag it was wrapped in actually kept most of the moisture in! Unfortunately, the clay was still to dry and brittle to be sculpted. To recondition the clay and increase its plasticity, I broke up the clay into pieces no bigger than a golf ball, then put those in a bucket and filled the bucket with water. It is important to let the clay sit, and to not stir it, because stirring may cause the clay to not properly soak/slake. I let it sit for a day or two in the bucket, to make sure that it was sufficiently saturated, then poured out the water and dumped the clay onto a porous surface so it could dry. I simply used cardboard, however professional clay workshops use concrete or plaster slabs. I let the clay sit outside in the sun to dry, and within a few hours, my clay was dried enough, and yet still plastic and malleable. I was using air-dry clay, so mine dried much quicker than normal, so just make sure to monitor yours carefully while it’s drying. After the clay was ready, I mixed it thoroughly to make sure that the moisture was even throughout, and then wedged to clay to remove any air bubbles. After all that, I had reconditioned about 10 pounds of clay so I could sculpt my game tiles.

Step 2: Sculpting Preparations & Jig

Picture of Sculpting Preparations & Jig

Before I began sculpting I created a jig so that all of the hexagon tile pieces have the exact same dimensions. I found measurements of a perfectly equilateral and equiangular hexagon online, scaled it to the correct size for the game pieces, and printed that out. I then traced that hexagon onto a piece of balsa wood approximately 3/16th inches thick, and cut out the hexagon with an Xacto. I would pack clay inside the hexagon, level it off, and then proceed adding clay and sculpting from there. This gave me a standard, uniform size for all of the pieces, and in the end, the final pieces all fit together exceptionally well.

Step 3: Sculpting the Custom Tiles

Picture of Sculpting the Custom Tiles

I hand sculpted all of the pieces based on custom designs I created, and some influenced from the Settlers of Catan collector’s edition. I wanted my pieces to be unique, and most tiles took multiple attempts to get right, but in the end they all turned out great. I spent hours and hours on each game piece making sure it was exactly how I wanted it, and focused on all the minor details which really pulled it all together in the finished product. I made sure that there was continuity between each piece, because I didn’t want one to seem hyperrealistic, and another to be super cartoony, so I made sure to include a similar style and similar elements to each game piece. On most of the pieces, I included pine trees and/or rocks, which definitely helped with the continuity, and allowed it to blend together quite seamlessly. The process of designing and sculpting took me nearly a week to complete, but there are no other like it, and the small details captured in the final pieces is fantastic! This was the first time I had ever sculpted anything at all, and the first time I had worked with clay since around 6 years ago when I first got the clay. I couldn’t have been more happy with the outcome, and the incredible detail that got captured in the mold and the concrete casts amazes me every time I see them.

Step 4: Mold Making Using Moldstar20

Picture of Mold Making Using Moldstar20

This was the first time I had ever worked with any mold making products, so I was definitely nervous, however, after each of the three casts, I learned something new. I used Smooth-On’s MoldStar20T Silicone Mold Making Rubber, and was absolutely amazed with how much detail it captured. The product was mixed 1:1 by volume, so that was easy enough for me as a beginner, however it had a 6 minute pot life, and a 30 minute cure time. This was a little difficult for me because it was the first time I had ever done anything like this, so I wasn’t one hundred percent confident with what I was doing, which is why having such a quick pot life (the time you have to work with the silicone before it starts to solidify) made me nervous. However, the quick curing time was very nice, because that allowed me to make all of the molds in the same day. Since this was my first time experimenting with mold making, I was very meticulous with the setup, and the actual making of the molds, so it ended up taking me all day to create molds for the 8 custom master game pieces.

Step 5: Casting Tiles in Concrete

Picture of Casting Tiles in Concrete

This was also the first time I had ever done any project with concrete, so I was incredibly surprised how well it turned out. I used Quikrete fast setting concrete mix, which was perfect for this applications, because it allowed for the pieces to be cast, then demolded in roughly 40 minutes. This is way better than the alternative of waiting hours and hours if not a whole day for one pieces to fully cure. After quite a bit of trial and error, I ended up being able to cast every single piece I needed for the set in roughly 10 hours, but that takes a lot of effort because every 30 minutes I needed to start mixing up a batch of concrete. I quickened up the process of mixing the concrete by measuring out exactly how much of each component I needed to make a suitable cast. I measured this out on clear solo cups, and discovered I needed water roughly filled to just above the 5 ounce mark, I needed the concrete mix filled roughly to the top (~15 ounces), and finally I needed a bottle cap full of the concrete coloring stain. I used Quikrete’s Charcoal Liquid Cement Color, and that gave the concrete a much darker gray color. A tip I learned is that it is much easier to mix the color stain in with the water before you mix the water and aggregate together, so that the color is already mixed throughout, and there is no extra hassle trying to evenly distribute the dye. I also should explain that I sifted out all of the large aggregate (large rocks) in the concrete mix, so that it allowed for a smoother, thinner casting.
The mix was able to capture remarkable detail, and I was incredibly impressed how fine the details were that the castings picked up. It was a fine balance between creating a thin mix which would capture incredible detail but was very weak, and creating a viscous mix that was very strong, however was unable to capture all of the fine details. It was also necesarry to vibrate the molds before they started curing to allow any air bubbles to rise out of the mix, and not mar the the surface of the castings. This took quite a bit of testing, but after many, many, many failed castings, I discovered if I put the molds in a cookie pan and shook the cookie pan, that would release most of the big bubbles, and after that I used a orbital sander with no sand paper to further vibrate the mixture and release all remaining bubbles. Again, this worked exceptionally well, and in the future I plan to also cast these in urethane resin or plaster.

Important concrete safety tip: It is important to wear latex gloves, eye protection, and a respirator/fine particulate mask, because concrete is actually so basic (pH levels), that you can get burned from it in the same way you could get burned from a highly concentrated acid. Naturally, you also don’t want to inhale fine concrete dust, or let the fine dust get into your eyes. It is incredibly important to take as many precautions as possible, to insure no injuries occur while working with concrete.

Step 6: Constructing the Box

Picture of Constructing the Box

I created the base of the box using all scraps from our recently renovated kitchen. I used 1/8 inch veneered plywood as the main box base, and glued all sides of the box together so that it created a completely sealed box. I then took it over to my tablesaw and set the fence about an inch and a half away from the blade, and cut all 4 sides of the box like that. This allowed me to have a box of perfect dimensions, which fit together perfectly. I then sanded a poly coat off of the plywood, and prepared the base of the box for the trim.

Step 7: Adding Moulding

Picture of Adding Moulding

The trim I used for the box was also all scraps from our kitchen renovation, and there were some gorgeous pieces of maple trim which I thought would be perfect for this box. The trim was all cut by hand, and all the miter joints were also all cut by hand using a miter box and miter saw. I used a thinner trim on top, and the larger trim on bottom. I knew I wanted to put a logo on the front of the box, so I purposefully left a space without trim, so that I could make the logo as large as I wanted. I was so thrilled with the way the box came out at this point, and couldn’t wait to see it finished

Step 8: Applying Stain

Picture of Applying Stain

I stained the entire box with Varathane Early American wood stain, and it turned out magnificently! I love how the maple trim is stained a lighter color compared to the veneered plywood, and I think it looks so incredibly nice.

Step 9: Custom Golden Logo

Picture of Custom Golden Logo

The last thing I wanted to do was create a custom Settlers of Catan decal for the box, so I used my Cricut to create a stencil. This is not how the cricut is traditionally meant to be used, however I was thinking how I might be able to create a custom stencil, and came up with this great idea. If you don’t have a Cricut or any sort of vinyl cutting-type machine, no worries there are many alternatives.
I made this custom stencil by finding the Settlers of Catan logo online, and then replicating it as closely as possible using the Cricut. I font-matched to the best I could using the cricut, then formatted it by adjusting the sizes of the text and adding customly scaled shapes. It was incredibly complicated to make, however, it is nearly an exact replica to the logo, and I was super proud of the outcome. I think the time spent creating a custom logo really adds a professional feel to the project, and it give the entire box and incredibly professional and elegant feel.
After creating the logo, I then layed down some overlapping pieces of masking tape on the cutting sheet, set the pressure to high, and had it cut out my custom stencil. I created this process while working on modifying my first Nerf blaster, and I have used this on countless other projects. Again, if you don’t have this particular machine, there are hundreds of other options (freehand painting, Xacto stencil, waterslide decal paper, print out custom stickers, etc.).
After I applied the stencil, I made sure to press down the edges inside of each letter multiple times so that no paint would leak through, and then taped and covered the rest of the box with shopping bags. I used a top of the line painters tape, and it payed off in the end because there was zero spray over or seeping of paint under the decal. I used a metallic gold spray paint and took many, many light passed over the stencil, making sure to be careful, and not mess anything up. After I peeled off the stencil and unwrapped the box, I was genuinely speechless, and just stood and stared at it in amazement. I was so impressed by what I had created, and I was shocked by how professional and elegant it looks! In person, the logo truly looks like it is made from gold leaf.

Step 10: Final Thoughts

Picture of Final Thoughts

From start to finish, this project took me over four weeks to complete, however, I am still in awe regarding how well the finished product came out. The immense detail in the concrete pieces, the perfect fit between the game tiles, the gorgeous box I created to house the tiles, the elegant gold logo on the front, and the overall elegant and profession feel still blow me away. This is by far the most outstanding thing I have created to date, and am still quite speechless with how phenomenally it came out!
Thank you!
Brandon (16)


KagedCreations (author)2017-01-13

That's Cool!

offseid (author)2016-10-21

Well done! Great game. Have you considered painting the tiles?

Absolutely! I am going to cast some out of urethane resin, and then paint those.

gex2113 (author)2016-10-02

Would you mind sharing the hex stencil, so others may print it out? Thanks;)

Here is where I got my stencil from. Make sure you choose the hex tiles which are perfectly regular (both equilateral and equiangular).

jeffatwork1 (author)2016-09-21

Can we see a pic of how the tiles are stored in the box? How are you protecting them, and how sturdy are they (regarding chipping and cracking). Where will the numbers go?

Also something like this:

Modern Rustic Workshop made it! (author)jeffatwork12016-09-30

I have not finished building the organizer for inside of the box, but I am still deciding between an organizer like this to hold them vertically (, or a stacked design like the picture include. As for the durability, I am incredibly careful with the concrete pieces, so they haven't chipped or cracked (knock on wood), but I will soon be casting the pieces out of Urethane resin once I order some. And lastly, I wanted to preserve the aesthetics of these pieces, so I decided not to make a designated space to leave the numbers. The numbers sit right on top anyway, so it really isn't an issue at all.

The first image is from Etsy

And the second image is my own design.

Dawsie (author)2016-09-24

hi loved the instructable very well written and easy to follow and can be adapted for other model games like Lord of the Rings.

I have just spent the better part of a year building and rendering a retaining wall and the one thing I did learn to help with concrete render is the use of PVA glue and garden lime in my mix it help with the render to be smother and sticking better to the wall but the end results was that the surface of the render was perfectly smooth.

I think that if you used a rendering mix which has no large agragrit but is made up of sand with the lime and PVA glue added you should have better results and still have the strength needed for the pieces.

Good tip on the clay I have some that I was going to throw out but will give your trick a go and see if slaveagable :-) it's been packed away for the past 7 years and then some :-) waiting for my workshop to be finished being built :-)

Loved your instructable so I voted for you hope you win.

Thank you very much for the kind comments and the vote! I will definitely try the rendering mix and the PVA glue tip. Just for a little more detail about reconditioning clay, if the clay you have is air-dry clay, it dries really quite fast if you put in in the sun (~1 hour), and by putting the clay on a cardboard sheet, the cardboard absorbed much of the moisture and it dries much faster. The nice part about using cardboard if you only have a little bit of clay to recondition, is that when you're done, you can simply recycle the cardboard and there is really no clean up.

lol thank you for the tip ? Not a bad idea with cardboard as all mine goes into the composting lol or into the fire pit to make my own potash for the garden I love recycling at its best ?

I thought you might like the idea as I read your instructable it was the first thing that came to mind, told a couple of my friends about as they are very big in the tile gaming more than I am and they are already getting started on designing and moulding theirs I did tell them to checkout you instructable lol

Haha. Thanks!

7Bgamers (author)2016-09-22

If I remember correctly: while playing, you need to lay chips with numbers on the tiles. Where do you place them in your (awesome!) 3D version?

First, thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed this project. For this project I decided to go with fashion over function. I knew I would be spending tens of hours on it, so I wanted a final project that looked really great. When I play I am able to just lay the number chips on top of the pieces, and it works just fine. The robber also is able to lay right on the hex-tile without any issues. In the future I will be creating a custom robber, roads, and cities as well, so that will even further make this a non issue.

Elec_BM (author)2016-09-22

I'm into gaming, and know some people that do custom add-ons (all I've done is paint my Tzolk'n board). But as others have said, where do you place the numbers? What do you do with the robber? If you had kept a dedicated circle on each tile(especially the mountain tile) then that would make it workable.

For this project I decided to go with fashion over function. I knew I would be spending tens of hours on it, so I wanted a final project that looked really great. When I play I am able to just lay the number chips on top of the pieces, and it works just fine. The robber also is able to lay right on the hex-tile without any issues. In the future I will be creating a custom robber, roads, and cities as well, so that will even further make this a non issue. And I didn't want to make an open circle to put the numbers, because I felt that would really ruin the aesthetic of the tiles.

ToaH (author)2016-09-22

My one question: How do you place the robber on the mountain tile?

For this project I decided to go with fashion over function. I knew I would be spending tens of hours on it, so I wanted a final project that looked really great. When I play I am able to just lay the number chips on top of the pieces, and it works just fine. The robber also is able to lay right on the hex-tile without any issues. In the future I will be creating a custom robber, roads, and cities as well, so that will even further make this a non issue.

CG2002 (author)2016-09-22

That is awesome! Great job! ?

Thank you!

skathari (author)2016-09-24


Thank you!

buckmeisterq (author)2016-09-22

Beautiful project! One thing I would recommend for the Cricut stencil for anyone else looking to build their own or
for the author in the future - you can actually get a digital image (even a photograph) of the logo
you're looking to replicate, and in an image editing tool (gimp is a
well-known free tool) you can readily modify it (strip down to a single
color, flatten/smooth edges, etc) to be used as a simple stencil. It
helps with even more stylized text and sounds like it would save time
and complexity while even more faithfully replicating a logo.

How would I turn the image into an actual stencil? What I created was cut out and I made it so that it had an adhesive backed side....

You can import the digital image (modified in gimp) into the cricut application, and print/cut it out as a stencil with the cricut machine on the tape the way you did with your text stencil. I've done it a few times before, creating stencils from images. I didn't use tape the way you did (which is actually a great and inexpensive idea, thanks btw!) - at the time I used the cricut adhesive vinyl. The image option works great to make stencils for hard-to-reproduce fonts, or even things like a cameo or other simple line drawing.

You can do that in Cricut Craftroom? I had no idea. And I would really recommend using 3M ScotchBlue Painter's Tape for the stencil. It worked much better than using just masking tape.

Rexanvil76 (author)2016-09-21

is it a game ? how do you play it ?

Yes it's an awesome board game, and thank you for explaining. I always play it at my friends beach house, and I wanted to make one myself. I thought about 3D printing one from Thingiverse, but I have been waiting months for my 3D printer to arrive, so I decided to hand sculpt a set. Even after buying cards from their online store, my version was cheaper.... factoring out my 2-3 weeks of time which added up to around 50+ hours. The upside to it all is I now have a mold which I can use for urethane resin, plaster, clay, etc., which I could possibly sell, or make additional copies for friends.

Hi Rexanvil76, Yes it is a game a really cool one at that. There is an online version you can play if you want to learn.. But get the board game it's tons of fun and is different everytime you play.

WyckedStudios (author)2016-09-22

I make minis and modular dungeon tiles in a similar way as this. I've used Quikrete before, and haven't been all that happy with the results. Rocktite Expansion Cement seems much better for replicating the fine detail...and is more shatter-resistant, when dropped. Give it a try sometime, you might just prefer the results!

Thank you! I will definitely buy some and try again! Do you have any instructables on the DnD boards?

Fathomlis (author)2016-09-21

awesome Brandon! well done. Looks great!

Than you very much!

WyckedStudios (author)2016-09-22

Right before you pour the cement in your molds, try dipping them in a bowl of soapy water (just plain old dish soap), then shake the excess off. The soapy residue will reduce the surface tension, and make it easier to tap all the bubbles out of the nooks and crannies of the casting.

That is brilliant! Thank you so much. I will definitely make sure to try it!

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2016-09-20

These are amazing! Thanks for sharing them :D

Thank you!

jberrones1 (author)2016-09-20

This is a phenomenal project. It turned out very well and the entire look is completely professional. Kudos

Thank you! I really appreciate it!

lhuizinga (author)2016-09-20

This looks amazing, you're very talented!

Thank you so much! It means a lot!

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a 17 year old high school student who loves making! I hope to eventually turn my passion into my career by innovating new ... More »
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