Introduction: RPG Dice Tray (Cheap & Easy!)
I remember growing up jealous of my friends whose parents let them play Dungeons and Dragons, so I recently decided to try it out with my 2 sons. We have a blast, despite only 3 players, and I really enjoy the project opportunities that go along with table-gaming. Unfortunately, as an American living in Japan, I've had to make just about all the "accoutrements" myself; I can't justify the expense of shipping overseas when I have two good hands and a shed full of tools!
The need arose for a way to keep dice rolls from falling off our Japanese (read: laughably small) gaming table. I started by using printable "rolling towers" I found online, but it just doesn't feel the same as rolling by hand... After searching the Internet for ideas, I decided to put together a Dice Tray.
As with all my projects, I came up with lots of options for methods and materials and settled on the easiest and least expensive. I have included some suggestions along the way regarding how your project could be better than mine, so if you'd like to give this a try, please read the entire Instructable before selecting your materials!
Step 1: Materials, Cost, and Build Time
Materials, cost, and build time will all vary depending on the design and method you choose for assembling the Dice Tray. The following is summary of my approach, but your experience may be different.
WOOD BOX (140 x 140 x 65 mm)
DISPOSABLE CHOPSTICKS (14 pairs + extra in case of splitting)
AIR-DRY CLAY (about a baseball's worth)
THIN DOORMAT (synthetic felt; without rubber backing)
WATER-BASED PAINT (liquid in tubes)
VARNISH (brush-on; designed for clay, wood, and paper)
HOT GLUE GUN
"X-ACTO" KNIFE / CUTTING PAD / STEEL RULER
LARGE PAPERCLIP / TOOTHPICK / ETC. (for shaping clay)
* I get materials for almost all of my projects at the dollar store.
** Below costs are for the materials and how much I used (of things that can be used for other projects as well).
BOX: Total=$1.00 This Project=$1.00
DOORMAT: Total=$1.00 This Project=$0.50
CLAY: Total=$1.00 This Project=$0.30
PAINT: Total=$1.00 This Project=$0.10
VARNISH: Total=$3.00 This Project=$0.80
CHOPSTICKS: FREE (I always ask for extra when I order-out)
Expendature for this project: $2.70
Step 1 - 00:45 (work)
Step 2 - 00:30 (work) 24:00 (dry time)
Step 3 - 00:15 (work) 24:00 (dry time)
Step 4 - 00:30 (work) 24:00 (dry time)
Step 5 - 00:30 (work)
Time for this project: 2.5 Hours working + 3 Days allowing to dry
As the pictures show, I decided to finish the sides with a stone wall topped by Tudor style framed walls. If you choose solid stone walls, chopsticks may not be necessary; or for Tudor walls with no stone, shredded toilet paper mixed with glue (or just wrinkled paper) could be used in place of clay. Small round gravel pressed into clay could produce a "cobblestone" effect, or lining the sides with unbroken rows of chopsticks could end up looking like wood paneling.
Again, there are a lot of options, so decide what "look" you're going for before you purchase materials!
Step 2: Planning
Most of the planning for this project was done in my head, so I only have 2 drawings to share.
This is an important step, however, because measuring the size of your box vs. the thickness of chopsticks (or dowel, etc.) you plan to use will determine how many "panels" will go on each side of the box. In this case, 2 per side; requiring 5 65mm pieces (x 4 sides) = 20.
With that decided, you can calculate how much material will be needed to build the framework.
As shown in the 2nd picture, I originally intended to have 3 rows of small bricks on the bottom wall. Once I started working with the clay, however, I decided it was too soft to make such small shapes.
Step 3: Assembling the Frame
I take no responsibility for any injuries you may sustain while working on this or any other project! Knives are sharp and hot glue guns are, well... HOT!
Measure and cut chopsticks (with a sharp knife: scissors will crush the ends) to fit each side of your box.
* This would be the time to paint chopsticks if you so desire. I did not paint my dice storage or pencil boxes (see last picture), so I left the chopsticks unpainted to match.
The quantities required of each length will depend entirely on your design. In my case, I was lucky enough that the vertical and horizontal pieces were the same length (65 mm), and the 45-degree angled braces were about half the length of the other pieces.
I used Japanese-style chopsticks which are tapered, so the "handle" portion was not straight enough to use. Dowel or Chinese-style chopsticks would allow for less waste!
Heat up your glue gun and have your pieces ready to assemble.
* If you plan to use wrinkled paper instead of clay to fill the panels, I recommend affixing it to the box before the chopsticks.
Attach the vertical and horizontal chopsticks starting at the center of each side working out (they are numbered in my drawing from step 2). This will allow you to trim horizontal pieces as necessary to fit the edges within the confines of the box's sides.
Angled pieces were added last after the glue on all sides had cooled.
It isn't necessary to clean-up any excess glue if you plan on covering the sides with clay.
Step 4: Building the Stone Wall
I was unable to take photos as I worked (and no one was around), so these pictures are from the completion of this step.
As mentioned in "MATERIALS," I used air-dry clay from the dollar store. Because I don't know the flash-point of whatever stain was used on the box I bought (and because I wanted to use hot glue to attach the chopsticks), it was important to use something that would not require putting the entire project in the oven. Further, this is the first time I've ever tried to make something out of clay, so I wanted a cheap, forgiving material in case I made serious mistakes.
The unexpected bonus of using air-dry clay is that you can mix paint right into it instead of brushing on paint after the clay has dried. This also means that inevitable chips and scratches will most likely go unnoticed!
Mix paints into your clay until the desired color is reached.
Spread clay around the sides of the box until it reaches all the way around and creates a solid "ring."
Working with whatever tools you feel comfortable (I used a paperclip and a toothpick), shape the clay into something resembling your desired pattern. You will be able to carve it further once it has dried.
Set the project aside to dry according to the instructions on the clay's packaging.
Step 5: Filling-In the Panels
Assuming your clay has dried, take a few minutes to clean-up any rough edges and/or deepen the grooves between your "stones," etc.
For the Tudor wall panels, I used uncolored clay. It probably would have been better to add a little yellow ochre, however, because the clay I bought is REALLY white.
This step is as simple as pressing the clay into place between the chopstick framework.
Again, set the project aside to dry according to the instructions on the clay's packaging.
Step 6: Seal and Protect
In the first 2 pictures; the first step again is to clean-up your dried clay (you won't be able to once the varnish is on).
Shown in the 3rd picture; I used a brush-on varnish designed for Wood, Paper, and Paper-Based Clay. That way I could varnish my pencil box while I was at it. I think any spray-on clearcoat would work just as well if you have the space and inclination to apply it.
I am not an expert on applying any kind of paint or varnish: follow the instructions on the package!
Step 7: Lining the Interior
With the varnish dry, your Dice Tray should be looking just about complete. The final step is to add a liner to dampen the sound of rolled dice.
Felt is traditional and comes in all sorts of colors, but I used a cheap doormat because it is stronger than regular felt.
(Rubber-backed doormats would be too thick for this application; check the dollar store first!)
The interior dimensions of my box were 60 mm deep x 130 mm across on each side. The drawing I've scanned here shows how those measurements relate to cuts made on the lining material. Be sure to measure all sides in case your box is not square!
Cut out your material in a square including the length of the box's sides and depth (130 + 60 + 60 = 250 mm).
Mark squares with sides the same length as your box's depth on each corner with crayon and cut-out.
Fold-in sides C and D, then A and B over those as indicated in the drawing.
Insert the folded material in the box making sure the center "square" of material is flush with the bottom.
Glue folded sections of material to the sides of the box in the order: A > B > C > D. Sides C and D will end up overlaping sides A and B at the corners. It is important to glue the sides but not the bottom, and that the bottom is FLUSH before gluing; wrinkles or bumps of glue under your rolling surface may cause unwanted crits!
Some, if not all, sides will also stick-out over the top of the walls due to the thickness of the material. Trim these sides carefully and re-apply glue if needed.
Step 8: FINISHED!
At this point, I declared the Dice Tray finished and ready for the gaming table!
I may, someday, add a chopstick "frame" around the top to hide the edges of the felt and the visible portion of the original box. For now, however, the Dice Tray serves its function and does it with plenty of style!
I'd love to see pics if anyone decides to give this one a try; and thanks for reading!
Step 9: Version 2.0
A few months after completing this project, I started pinning my maps (I use some homemade and some published dungeon tiles) to a corkboard to compensate for the lack of table space. It worked well enough that I found my little dice tray now too small for the entire group to use together; an update would be required...
For this second dice tray, I chose a size that would fit my dice-storage box (sized to fix 1 lb. of dice) inside for easy storage of both between game sessions. The basic construction method was the same; using the following materials:
MATERIAL CHANGE: (Instead of clay and chopsticks)
GRAVEL (from my garden - pieces with similar color and varying shapes)
HOT GLUE (brown - from the dollar store)
FELT (same type as first box, but gray instead of black)
I found hot-gluing rocks on the side of a box just as challenging as mashing-on clay, but I really like the result.
Thanks again for reading, and happy building!