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Picture of Invention Dice
Even the most creative people get stuck for ideas once in a while - here's a way of generating brand new ideas - Invention Dice - a method for making the Muse less fickle.

It's a set of six dice - each one has a theme; the themes are:
Materials
Motive Power
Scale
Device
Consumer
Action

Rolling the dice generates one of 46,656 different unique combinations - which the inventor can then use as inspiration for a brainstorming session. 
Some of the combinations are nonsensical, but this itself can be provocative - and the ideas that flow from your imagination in  this process don't necessarily have to fit all or any of the original criteria - it's just meant to spark the imagination.
 
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Step 1: Making The Dice

Picture of Making The Dice
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I made my Invention Dice from a piece of scrap hardwood - in this case, False Acacia, which is a nice heavy, hard wood that can be sanded to a smooth finish.  Beech, maple cherry, apple or other fine-grained hardwoods would also work.

I planed the piece until it was square (about 2cm) in section (as the piece was originally a thick dowel, there was a slight rounded chamfer on each edge, but this didn't matter, as I would be sanding chamfers on all edges of the dice anyway).

I clamped a stop to my mitre jig and cut six cubes (tip: cut a slice off the end first to make sure it's cut square - then lay this slice down and use it to accurately position the clamped stop - that way, you'll cut perfect cubes)

I sanded each face of each cube, then sanded a small chamfer on each edge - this makes the dice more comfortable to use - and helps them to roll a little more.  It's a lot of sanding - 36 faces, 72 edges and 48 corners, but it's worth taking the time to do it properly.

If you can't find suitable timber, or can't be bothered with all that cutting and sanding, it's possible to buy blank dice or wooden cubes from craft stores.
these are awesome! I just made them and they really work. I just labeled them and immediately was inspired by just two of them. these things rock!
cefn2 years ago
These are fantastic, and I don't mean to undermine the excellence of your instructable.

However, I've been wracking my brain to try and remember some kind of flash card system for 'invention' or 'innovation' in which the suggestions were transformations of existing ideas which challenged people working on problems and made them think, such as "make it huge", "sell it to one person only", "send it into space" or whatever. I can't remember the list of possible transformations and can't find the project, but really hoping someone out there has an idea what I'm talking about as I've exhausted the latent charge in my neurons, or rather your amazing instructable has overwhelmed them.
Atomic Shrimp (author)  cefn2 years ago
Thanks - I've not seen that before, but it sounds pretty good. I did find that with dice, I had to discard a whole lot of possible options in whittling each category list down to 6. I guess a card system doesn't have that limitation (although are there still themes that way - or could you end up drawing cards that completely contradict one another?)
I finally tracked it down and it's Design with Intent... http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Main_Page
...with the main thing (for me) being the downloadable 'lens' PDFs... http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Download_the_cards
claramecium2 years ago
I love random games! :P
wouldnt it be easier to get the cubes and sanding it down?????

im not trying to be mean
Atomic Shrimp (author)  white dragon2 years ago
Yes - that's mentioned in the first step - but I like to make things from scratch. Also, it's kinda what this whole intructables place is all about.
ooooopss sorry i missed tht good instructable
bajablue2 years ago
I can't imagine a single Maker who wouldn't love a set of these Invention Dice!

When I voted, only the pocket-sized challenge was available. Are you entering these in the Gift Challenge, too? I hope so!!!
Atomic Shrimp (author)  bajablue2 years ago
Didn't think of that... done! Thank you.
Glad to see you made it in! Best of luck!!!
You're welcome... I'll be watching for it... and good luck!
An idea for Manual Random Pocket Wood Personal Game could be what you just made.
um... that may not be a coincidence.
well i think he set that one up just to see how many would awnser...maybe...just maybe
Atomic Shrimp (author)  the potato2 years ago
The idea of making the set so that it could describe itself came to me quite early on - before some of the other lists of items were finalised - it was of course a posed photo - the chance of rolling the combination is 1 in 46,656 (the other two were proper random rolls)
true dat
Troll? Lol
the potato2 years ago
is there any substitute for thw wood blocks?
Atomic Shrimp (author)  the potato2 years ago
You can buy ready-made blank dice that have a little recess in each face - so you can apply printed stickers.
Alternatively, maybe some sort of polymer clay - especially if it's of a type that can be sanded once set.
the potato2 years ago
for Giant Random Industrial Metal Clockwork Robot maybe giant random robot art that moves?
Claydiz2 years ago
I'm not good with wood but i do have a 3d printer. I will be making these on that.
vennev2 years ago
Absolutely love it! Great idea
ehudwill2 years ago
Neat idea. Thanks for sharing. These look fun.
swilus2 years ago
Very cool and creative!
Mr. Boo2 years ago
I'm going to try to 3D print a set; emboss the images and text, then fill those with a contrasting color.
Atomic Shrimp (author)  Mr. Boo2 years ago
Let me know if you want the original SVG source for the face images...
Yes, I would appreciate that very much,
Thanks
I really quite like this, sometimes you want an idea to flow and you can have all the technology in the world and something lovely and simple like this makes chance seem so much more random like its supposed to be, unlike if you had the same thing on a computer! You could even have some for the idea of buying and selling things, like you say the possibilities are endless. Good work :) I think one think that is critical is the accuracy of cube/chamfer, as if it was weight one way it might not always end up as random.

Cool stuff though :)
Atomic Shrimp (author)  bugsy_malone 6662 years ago
I did actually make an online version of these on my website - http://www.atomicshrimp.com/st/content/invention_dice_2 - but you're right, it's not the same as the tactile experience of playing with the wooden ones - the physical experience of it is somehow more stimulating to the imagination.
Atomic Shrimp (author)  bugsy_malone 6662 years ago
You're right - making a fair die is actually quite tricky - and wood maybe isn't the best material if proper randomness is the goal - these are probably not quite as random as they could be, but good enough as a proof of concept.
Mr. Boo2 years ago
Great idea for overcoming preconceived ideas! I teach an industrial design class and students often choose the first idea that pops in their their minds. This can be a fun way to have students brainstorm alternatives. Thanks!
Johnkaye2 years ago
It's great to see instructions for crafting something out of wood using hand tools. Sort of becoming a lost art here on Instructables. Most now start off with "laser cut the wood", usually to cut something that could be done by hand. Great instructable!
neffk2 years ago
Very clever.
dwrenne2 years ago
I got these for my Daughter , Christmas 2011 . http://www.storycubes.com/products/rorys-story-cubes/ Great fun . Same concept and great for getting their imaginations going.
Atomic Shrimp (author)  dwrenne2 years ago
I just bought myself a set of those yesterday - they're great - a lot more random/open-ended, as the individual dice don't have themes - but this also makes it harder work - All of my Rory's Stories tend to be about a fish that lived in a castle and developed magic powers.
rimar20002 years ago
This is a VERY GOOD IDEA! Thanks for sharing it.
randofo2 years ago
I like it. This looks like a fun exercise in inventing. Perhaps I will make a set.