Introduction: Invention Dice

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:
Motive Power

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.

Step 1: Making the Dice

Picture of Making the Dice

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.

Step 2: Decorate the Faces

Picture of Decorate the Faces

Using Inkscape (an open source vector graphics program) I designed a set of icons for the faces of the dice - my original plan was to print these in mirror image on T Shirt transfer material, then iron them onto the faces of the dice - but that didn't work (they didn't adhere well to the smooth wood - and there was a tendency to scorch the timber)

So I drew them by hand onto each face - using a CD marker pen - then painted them (where appropriate) with acrylic paints, touched up the outline again, then wrote the labels underneath with a fine graphic pen.  It's worth testing all of these media on a scrap piece of wood, as some inks will tend to bleed into the grain - and some woods are more absorbent than others.

The icons comprise:
Materials: Metal, Wood, Plastic, Edible, Paper, Organic
Motive Power: Manual, Electric, Clockwork, Solar, Wind, Water
Scale: Giant, Mini, Pocket, Portable, Wearable, Inhabitable
Device: Robot, Vehicle, Computer, Game, Tool, Art
Consumer: Family, Personal, Office, Home, Industrial, Public
Action: Flying, Random, Self-Build, Underwater, Stealth, Disposable

A high-quality PNG version of this icon set is attached - it can be printed on self-adhesive paper and attached to premade blank dice.  Obviously, these aren't the only possible categories of icons for a set like this, and other possibilities exist within each category.

Step 3: Make a Bag

Picture of Make a Bag

I knitted a small string bag with a drawstring - using my 14-peg French knitting loom - but it would have been just as easy to sew a small pouch out of scraps of fabric.

The six dice pack nicely inside the string bag and it fits comfortably in the pocket .

Step 4: Play the Game

Picture of Play the Game

Just roll the dice, then try to assemble them into a coherent statement - then think about how you would make that thing - for example (as pictured):

Giant Random Industrial Metal Clockwork Robot - this could be an idea for a story - or maybe just elements of this combination are provocative - how can we use randomness industrially? - How would you make a random device based on clockwork mechanism? Is it possible to make clockwork toy robots from industrial scrap metal?  etc...

Wearable Organic Wind Stealth Home Vehicle - hmmm... tricky, but maybe it could provoke thoughts on sustainable laundry drying methods for camper vans used by crack commandos.  OK, work with me... the point is, this starts you thinking in new directions - what about a foldable fabric wind turbine for charging a camping lantern?

Manual Random Pocket Wood Personal Game... I'm picturing something made from wooden cubes... Any ideas?


Mr. tony stark (author)2013-10-18

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!

cefn (author)2013-01-21

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)cefn2013-01-23

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?)

cefn (author)Atomic Shrimp2013-06-22

I finally tracked it down and it's Design with Intent...
...with the main thing (for me) being the downloadable 'lens' PDFs...

claramecium (author)2013-02-03

I love random games! :P

white dragon (author)2013-01-08

wouldnt it be easier to get the cubes and sanding it down?????

im not trying to be mean

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

bajablue (author)2013-01-12

I can't imagine a single Maker who wouldn't love a set of these Invention Dice!

bajablue (author)bajablue2013-01-12

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)bajablue2013-01-12

Didn't think of that... done! Thank you.

bajablue (author)Atomic Shrimp2013-01-15

Glad to see you made it in! Best of luck!!!

bajablue (author)Atomic Shrimp2013-01-12

You're welcome... I'll be watching for it... and good luck!

wingandarrow (author)2013-01-07

An idea for Manual Random Pocket Wood Personal Game could be what you just made.

Thetis (author)wingandarrow2013-01-10

um... that may not be a coincidence.

the potato (author)Thetis2013-01-15

well i think he set that one up just to see how many would awnser...maybe...just maybe

Atomic Shrimp (author)the potato2013-01-15

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)

the potato (author)wingandarrow2013-01-15

true dat

swilus (author)wingandarrow2013-01-11

Troll? Lol

the potato (author)2013-01-15

is there any substitute for thw wood blocks?

Atomic Shrimp (author)the potato2013-01-15

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 potato (author)2013-01-15

for Giant Random Industrial Metal Clockwork Robot maybe giant random robot art that moves?

Claydiz (author)2013-01-13

I'm not good with wood but i do have a 3d printer. I will be making these on that.

vennev (author)2013-01-11

Absolutely love it! Great idea

ehudwill (author)2013-01-11

Neat idea. Thanks for sharing. These look fun.

swilus (author)2013-01-11

Very cool and creative!

Mr. Boo (author)2013-01-10

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. Boo2013-01-10

Let me know if you want the original SVG source for the face images...

Mr. Boo (author)Atomic Shrimp2013-01-10

Yes, I would appreciate that very much,

bugsy_malone 666 (author)2013-01-10

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 :)

I did actually make an online version of these on my website - - 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.

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. Boo (author)2013-01-10

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!

Johnkaye (author)2013-01-10

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!

neffk (author)2013-01-10

Very clever.

dwrenne (author)2013-01-08

I got these for my Daughter , Christmas 2011 . Great fun . Same concept and great for getting their imaginations going.

Atomic Shrimp (author)dwrenne2013-01-09

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.

rimar2000 (author)2013-01-07

This is a VERY GOOD IDEA! Thanks for sharing it.

randofo (author)2013-01-06

I like it. This looks like a fun exercise in inventing. Perhaps I will make a set.

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