Introduction: Pop-Up Dice Tower
Plenty of games use ’em, and we need a place to roll ’em! Wooden dice trays are very nice… but sometimes table space is limited. It can be awkward for each player to reach the middle of the table to roll dice, be it during D&D, Yahtzee, or some game in between. 3D-printed dice towers are also neat (some 3D models I’ve seen are phenomenal), but not everybody has access to a 3D printer. Likewise, dice tower kits can be bulky to store and transport and may not disassemble well.
In recent months, I’ve been intrigued with what talented people can do with just paper, whether it’s with origami, kirigami, pepakura, or even pop-ups. I encourage you to go search YouTube for some examples (this may consume hours to years of your life… proceed with caution!). I wondered if I could use my interest in paper crafting to help solve the first-world, probably-only-in-my-head “problem” of the need for a cheap and portable dice tower.
I decided to come up with a collapsible, easily-stored dice tower that is so cheap and easy to make that every player at the table can afford to have one. The materials are readily-available, the tools are fairly minimal, and I’ve found it to be a lot of fun building this contraption. (All original patterns were built in Adobe Illustrator and then imported into Silhouette Studio.)
Now naming it was harder than I thought:
Stop, Pop & Roll Dice Tower
Open Up & Throw Down Dice Tower
Fold-Down Throw-Down Dice Tower
Pop & Drop Dice Tower
Enhanced, Advanced Paper Tower of Chance
Dice Shower Tower
The Polyhedral Cathedral (actually, that one’s kinda growing on me…)
Eh, call it whatever you like.
Step 1: Materials
• Cardstock (Lighter weight is fine; 2 sheets for the tower, 1 sheet for the “guard-rail” forest, and 1 sheet for the base.)
• Clear Tape
• White Glue
• Chipboard Clipboard (old school!)
• Peel & Stick Felt
• Popsicle Stick
• Jigsaw or Coping Saw
• Metal Ruler
• Silhouette Cameo or a printer, an X-Acto knife, a creasing tool, and cutting mat
• Mailing envelope (for storage/transport)
• Dice for… well, rolling!
(My local Dollar Tree has chipboard clipboards. Most of the supplies for this project can be gotten there… except for the jigsaw and the Silhouette Cameo… and the peel & stick felt… and the cardstock and the cutting mat and… OK, so you may need to go to Hobby Lobby also, but I still love Dollar Tree!)
You can use Silhouette Studio on your Mac or PC to cut all the cardstock on a Silhouette Cameo (files attached). But you can (nearly) just as easily print the pieces and cut the them manually with an X-Acto knife and a metal ruler on a cutting mat.
Step 2: Printing & Cutting Manually
To get started, print out the 4 pages of the attached PDF. I recommend a gray cardstock for pages 1 and 2, and green sheet of cardstock of page 3. (Page 4 can be whatever color of cardstock you like; it won’t show while the tower is assembled.) When cutting the pieces by hand, only cut on the black lines. The red lines indicate where the paper would be folded, and the blue lines are guides. You can certainly print the pages in black & white if you need to—just refer to the PDF to see how the folding lines are colored.
(If cutting with a Silhouette Cameo using Silhouette Studio, the red lines are the shorter dashed lines, and the blue lines are the longer dashed lines.)
Step 3: Folding
After cutting the pieces out, fold along the red lines. Using a metal ruler edge can be a big help. Crease the paper using a creasing tool (like a Silhouette Spatula, or even a dried-up a ball point pen) against the ruler edge.
***Quick terminology for the unfamiliar: Valley folds and Mountain folds. These are common origami terms that define the direction in which you fold the paper. A Valley fold points down to form a Valley in the paper. A Mountain fold is exactly the opposite. If you fold a piece of paper in half and open it back out so it resembles an open book, you have made a Valley fold. But folding a piece of paper down the middle to make it stand up on its own like a table tent… that’s a Mountain fold. I’ll always describe the type of folds relative to the red lines.***
Body of the tower
(page 1; recommended paper color: gray)
While facing the printed side of the first page, fold the 2 short sides as Valley folds. These flaps will later be glued to a paper base that’s shaped like a baseball home plate.
Then fold Valley folds on the other 4 taller red lines, keeping the blue lines on the interior of the tower.
Don’t glue anything yet, though! We’ll need to glue down the interior ramps before sealing up the whole tower.
Tops of the tower and the interior ramps
(page 2; recommended paper color: gray)
For the tower tops, Mountain fold the longest edges and the short hinge in between. Valley fold the remaining edges.
For each of the ramps, Mountain fold the outer edges, but Valley fold the center line.
(page 3; recommended paper color: kelly green)
If cutting this piece by hand, you certainly don’t have to follow the weird, curvy line. I just drew that to help indicate a treeline. The whole thing will function just as well if you cut a straight lines or even freehand cut where there’s a squiggly line. Fold each of the red lines in the same manner; all Valley folds or all Mountain folds. Either way is fine. Just make sure you make a mirrored set.
We will ultimately glue these two pieces together at the smallest point and wrap them around the base. But for now, just cut and fold them.
(page 4; paper color: whatever you like, since it is hidden when assembled)
After cutting the top piece out, crease it along each red line (either way). Now fold the piece in half on the shorter fold and glue these two pieces together, so that we have a stiffer piece. (I tend to spread the glue with a scrap piece of cardstock until it’s fairly evenly distributed over the whole surface that will be glued.)
While the glue is still wet, go ahead and fold the whole piece in half again (but don’t glue it again!). When the whole model is disassembled, this piece will fold flat. But when the tower in use, this double-thick “home plate” piece will open up flat at the base of the tower and tuck underneath the heavier piece that we cut from the clipboard.
For the very bottom piece, I’ve found it helpful to have the 2 shallow curves cut out because this is where we will tuck the flaps for the forest/guard-rail one the tower is complete. Remember, the blue lines are just guidelines (for when we tape down some edges).
Step 4: Gluing Pieces Together
Once everything is cut out and folded, let’s go back to gluing the tower together. When gluing flaps down, take care to spread the glue all the way to the edge of a hinge.
Take one of the ramps from page 2 and glue one of its flaps down alongside the blue lines on the inside of the tower piece from page 1. Keep in mind that the top of the tower is the side that doesn’t have the big 45º notch taken out of the bottom. It’s possible to glue these ramps down exactly backwards (I’ve done it myself… and I designed the thing! Be sure to keep the ramps pointy-end tilting up.) So you’ll want to glue the ramps to the tower one hinge at a time, aligning the top hinge of the ramp with the bottom of the blue line.
I’ve found that it helps to keep the topmost point of the ramp as close as possible to higher end of the blue line (the tower wall hinge side). If you try to center the flap or align the flap more toward the lower end of the blue line, it makes it impossible for the tower to open fully to be a proper rectangle.
Now that we have each ramp glued down to one side of the still-open tower, let’s apply glue to each remaining ramp flat and fold the tower closed. Press down on the areas where the ramps are glued. Open up the whole thing after several seconds, just to make sure that glue didn’t seep out and affix tower walls together.
Once this dries a bit, go ahead and glue down the short flaps on the tower’s long side, just to close the tower up. (The flaps can go on the inside or the outside of the tower; your preference.)
After the main part of the tower is all glued together, let’s glue the top and bottom parts onto it. The “home plate” piece from page 4 gets glued to the bottom flaps of the tower, pointy-side facing backward (“forward” being the opening at the bottom of the tower.) When the tower is collapsed, this “home plate” piece folds in half.
Now for the tops of the tower. (I could use big words here like ramparts, bastions, and crenelations. But why?) Fold the tower tops on the short hinge, and apply glue to the outside of the bottom flaps. Glue this piece down to the top of the tower, matching flattened hinge side to the flattened hinge of the tower. (Getting this backwards means the model won’t collapse flat and totally defeats the purpose of the entire exercise and should never, ever be done. Twice. By the designer himself. Ugh.)
When folding flat, you’ll see how the two un-fastened edges just slide against each other.
At this point, the tower should be finished.
Step 5: Building the Base
So now we’re left with only that one piece of cardstock from page 4 with the little shallow curves. So what do we do with that? First, we get our clipboard. Then, we trace the outline of the whole piece onto a clipboard (just make a straight line on the long sides; don’t include the shallow curves in your traced line).
Using your jigsaw (or coping saw), cut this shape out of your chipboard clipboard to form a base for your tower. (Hey, the whole thing can’t be made of paper! I mean it could… but it would fall over at the first sign of a D20.) I find that a jigsaw is a better choice than a coping saw for cutting out the base, but use what you have! (Heck, you could likely CNC cut the base if you like; but just like with those aforementioned 3D printers, not everyone has access to such.) As always, count your fingers and toes when using a saw and make sure you have the same number of digits before and after cutting. (Seriously, be smart when using power tools. Goggles, earplugs, steady working area… you know the steps.) If my math is right, you *should* be able to get 3 total bases out of 1 clipboard. I assume you’ll be making at least one Dice Tower for each person you’ve known since kindergarten. But maybe I’m wrong.
Remember that last piece of cardstock from 2 paragraphs ago? Go get it now that you’re down cutting out your clipboard base! Line the base up against the cardstock and wrap some clear tape all the way around to the other side. Use the blue lines as guides for your tape, keeping the inner edge of the tape in line with the edge of the shallow curves. Put another strip of tape around the triangular edge, leaving a “sleeve” open at the end.(If your tape is a different width, that’s OK; just tape straight against the inside of the blue lines.)
Now let’s glue the cardstock down onto the base… but only the rounded edge! This cardstock side of the clipboard base will be the bottom side of the whole piece.
Step 6: Finishing Up
Nearly done! All that’s left is the felt and the brace. Line up a long edge of the base to an edge of the peel & stick felt. Leave a little margin on the other long side and cut out a section of felt big enough for the whole base. If you plan well and don’t cut *too* wide, you should be able to get 3 bases worth of felt out of one 8.5"x 11" sheet of peel & stick felt. Go ahead and stick it down and trim it up! Be sure to stick the felt on the non-cardstock side!
Now all that’s left to “build” is the brace. Push your tower to the full open position until the opening seems relatively square and measure the diagonal distance inside. It should be something like 3.5", but check your model to be sure. Find a popsicle stick and measure a 3.5" segment in the middle (don’t use the rounded edges within this measurement).
Now mark roughly another .25" on the outside of each of your marks.
Go ahead and cut the ends off of the stick to these outermost marks, making it a 4" stick, give or take. (I prefer using an X-Acto for this since I find it easiest to control, even though it takes several passes and will dull your blade pretty quickly.) Then cut halfway up the stick at the 3.5" marks. Then cut lengthwise to allow for 2 tabs, so your final piece will have 2 “notches” up top that stick out .25" each.
Press the front and back corners of the tower to open it up and slide the double-thick “home plate” piece at the bottom into the “sleeve” between the clipboard and the cardstock that’s affixed to it. Wedge the wooden brace in between the two unconnected halves of the tower’s top, and the whole tower should stay open and rigid.
The tower is done, but your dice might go anywhere (even off the table). So let’s add the guard-rail “forest.” Insert the longer tabs of the guard-rail into the shallow curves underneath the clipboard. Then tuck the shorter tabs into the back “sleeve.” Wrap the two guard-rail pieces around until they overlap at the front. Glue (or tape) these two halves together.
Now grab your dice and try it out!
Step 7: Tear Down and Storage
So, once all is said and done, the entire contraption can be broken down into 4 flat pieces: the tower, the base, the guard-rail, and the brace. (Once you remove the guard-rails, fold them in half right in the middle of where you glued or taped them. This way, the guard-rails can be folded up to roughly the same length as the base.) All of this fits neatly into an 8.5"x 11" bubble mailing envelope.
I hope you enjoyed making your pop-up Dice Tower, and I wish you many excellent gaming sessions with it!
You may have noticed the 2 crescents cut on each back wall of the tower and wondered why they are there. I added them in case a rule card or an area-affect card of some nature needed to be displayed but table space was limited.
*One modification I might suggest (especially to Silhouette users) is the option to preprint a stone texture (with mortar lines running horizontally on a landscape orientation) on the first 2 pages before cutting. This gives the tower and the turrets a stone wall appearance. I recommend that you print 2-sided and print as close to the edge as you printer allows, because otherwise the print may not wrap all the way around the tower. Be advised that such a texture, even if only printed in black, will use a good bit of toner or ink. I’ve included a PDF with some textures I’ve found.
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