Cowboy Dice

Introduction: Cowboy Dice

These large 3.5" X 3.5" dice are always a hit. They are great for the beach, camping or back yard. You can use them to play any dice game. A few suggestions are: "Ship, Captain, Crew", "Left, Right, Center", "Yahtzee", "Horse Races", "Twenty-one" etc.

These can be made using stain or paint, and they come out just fine. This version I am going to make them a little different by burning the "pips" (That is what dice dots are called) with gunpowder to give them that "Cowboy" feel. We had the gunpowder from clearing out my in-laws house a couple years ago. I finally came up with a use for it. Me and my kids had fun making this one, I hope you enjoy the project too.

*One 4"X4" post will make several sets of dice. This is a good project to make multiple sets at one time. They make great gifts.


4"X4" wooden post (The actual dimension is 3.5"X3.5"... go figure)


Large drill bit or forstner bit for the pips.

Thin piece of wood, plastic or cardboard for template

Can of H110 pistol powder ( Or something similar) Small torch. (I used a kitchen torch. I found that my regular blow torch blew the powder out of the pips instead of lighting it.)

Sander or sandpaper

Tung Oil

Clear topcoat

Step 1: Cut Your Blocks and Make Your Template

  • Take your 4"X4" post and cut into 3.5" blocks. These should be pretty close to exact cubes.
  • Cut a piece of thin scrap wood, plexiglass, cardboard or whatever for the template. You will need to drill 7 holes in the pattern shown. Be precise with the holes on the template. This will be the guide for all of the sides of all of the dice.
    • I put a little lip on the one side so it was easier to hold firm when marking. Makes the process go much quicker.

Step 2: Mark and Drill "pips"

  • Use the template to mark the holes on the dice.
    • Use a die from somewhere to get the correct layout of the pips.
    • Marking the pips is much easier than trying to use the template on with the drill. You will mess up the template. (At least I did)
  • Drill the pips using a drill or drill press to put the dimples in the dice. It's up to you how deep you want to go.

Step 3: Marking the Pips (dice Holes)

**This part can be dangerous. Be sure to do this in a safe well ventilated area outdoors only. Be sure to have a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher nearby. (I had both). Use proper protective gear including eye protection, fire retardant clothing or gloves. **

Now for the fun part.

  • Fill the pips with the H110 powder.
    • Fill to the top and level off.
    • Try to avoid loose powder on the face of the dice. Makes sanding much harder.
  • Using a long lighter, or small torch, ignite the powder. The powder will flare up hot and fast and should only burn for a second or two.
  • Scrape out the ash and repeat as needed. I repeated the process a total of three times to get the nice dark color.

This part is pretty cool and we had a bunch of the kids in the neighborhood watching as we did it.

Step 4: Sand and Finish the Dice

Now that the dice are marked you are ready for sanding and finishing.

  • Use a sander or sandpaper to clean up the face of the dice and to round off the edges and corners.
  • Clean the dust off the dice really good. I used vacuum, tack cloth and mineral spirits.
  • Use Tung oil (or stain) to seal and bring out the color.
  • Apply clear top coat. You can brush or spray this final layer.
    • Allow to dry completely between coats. I made a drying rack out of a piece of scrap plywood, some golf tees and a hot glue gun. Works really well.
  • Project is complete. I have included a picture of a couple of other versions with paint and stain. All made from the same 4"X4" post.

*I had a branding iron made for my shop, so my final step includes branding the pieces with my logo.

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