Introduction: Dumpwood RPG Player's Box

About: On my way to being a dumpwood craftsman.

I started playing a very well known role playing game a while ago. I'm having fun with it and decided that I want something more than a little plastic kitchen container to keep my dice, miniature, cards, etc. in. Perusing the interwebs for DIY game box ideas, most of the items were a pre-made box purchased from a craft store and gussied up to match the theme of the maker's game of choice. I just didn't want to use a craft store box, so on went my thinking cap.

Just about everything I make is done using dumpwood. What is dumpwood? It is wood salvaged from the local dump. The supply is ever changing and I will sometimes rescue wood that I don't have a project for, yet. Often, the wood is already configured in the form of its pre-dump use. This is where the thinking cap is so vital: figuring out how to use oddly shaped wood to accomplish your goal.

The main piece I used happened to be a home made toy corral with fences made of doweling. The fence posts were sunk into holes drilled in a 30-something by 20-something inch rectangle 3/4" plywood base. For this project, I removed the dowel pieces to use the plywood.

This box is different from the game boxes I came across in my searches. Whether mass produced, home made, or professionally built, all the boxes I looked at were of a traditional build: outside walls mitered and fastened like a frame and inside walls cut and fastened to make sections. I decided to make a traditional looking box in an unconventional way, borrowing from band-saw box techniques to make the box sides and sectioning walls all one piece.


- 2 pieces* of 3/4" plywood cut to desired box width and length. 7" x 10" in my case.

- 2 pieces of thinner plywood (for floor and lid) cut to desired box width and length. 7" x 10" x 3/16" in my case.

- wood glue

- 1/4" doweling (optional) equal to box depth x 4

- hinge(s) appropriate to your level of function, form, and availability

- fasteners for the hinge

* or more, depending on the depth of your box.


- table saw or similar

- scroll saw or similar

- chisels

- sandpaper of various grits, I used 80 (on a belt sander), 100 (on a block), and 220

- drill and bits

- clamps

- maybe a rotary tool and wood carving bits

Step 1: Planning a Layout

This box is cut out of plywood using a scroll saw, though a jigsaw should work too. Decide on how many box sections you want and how they are to be arranged. I did this using a piece of paper and a pencil and ruler to plan out the configuration of my box. I decided on a larger section to carry cards and such, a smaller section to hold dice, and an even smaller section to hold a character miniature. During play, the large section can be used as a dice tray for rolling those bones, my main purpose for it.

First plans can be drawn free hand, just to get into your mind how many sections you want. Above you will see two partial designs I scrapped.

With your final design in mind, use your ruler and pencil, on new paper, to draw a full size perimeter of your box. Decide on how thick you want the outer walls of your box to be and use that thickness value to set the inner perimeter of the box. Now work on the sections. If you are making the box to hold something specific, like dice or playing pieces, make sure you measure those so your box sections will hold them. Now that you are making a full size drawing, you may find you can't fit everything, or maybe you want to rearrange the sections to be more pleasing to your eye. Great! Just erase and redraw until you have everything the way you want. Better to lose some graphite and eraser crumbs than changing your mind after cutting two sections out.

What you now have is your cutting template.

Optional step: I wanted to stick dowels through the box corners to help hold the stacked pieces better. It isn't necessary, but it helps during the gluing stage. If you want the same, mark where you want the holes and what size they will be.

Step 2: Cutting the Sectioned Pieces

If your piece has holes in it as mine did (first image), try and arrange your template to place the holes in your planned voids (you may consider planning your box around the holes). Mark your perimeter and your sections from the template.

Using the saw of your choice (table saw for me), cut the rectangle pieces out of the thicker plywood (or laminate plank, or whatever). As an option, you can cut the thinner pieces to the same dimensions. I realized afterward that the plywood cross-section looks like book pages and thought it might have been nice to have the thinner pieces cut a little larger to make the finished product look like a book.

Unless you are taking the the optional dowel step, skip this paragraph. Mark your drilling points on one of the thicker box section pieces. Clamp all the pieces flush together. Drill your marked holes.

Take your cutting template and transfer the pattern to your thick pieces. Drill holes within the areas that will be your voids. Prep your scroll saw (coping saw, jigsaw) with your desired blade and cut out the voids on your thick pieces. You may wish to take the time to figure out a jig to ensure straighter cuts.

Step 3: Gluing the Box Together and Sanding

Decide which piece you want on top, and glue the other piece underneath. Make sure to match up the voids you cut. Loosely clamp together so you can move the pieces around. Move pieces into position - flush on the sides, matching voids - and clamp tightly, ensuring the pieces stay how you want. Wipe up any glue that seeped out.

Dowel option: Glue and stack pieces. Move pieces into position and drive dowels through your dowel holes. Clamp tightly and wipe up any glue seepage.

Once glue is dry, undo clamps. If you are like me, and cut the sections out of the plywood pieces separately before gluing, there will be some dissimilarities. Use a coarse sandpaper on a small block to sand down the bumps on the inner walls of the box. Use your block, or a belt sander if you have one, to sand the outside walls, mainly to get any seeped-out glue off. I recommend saving this sanding step until after you attach the box bottom if it is to be flush with the rest of the box.

Choose one of the thin pieces to be the box bottom. Glue and clamp it to the sectioned pieces. Ensure the piece is in the correct position before tightening clamps.

Use a fine sandpaper to smooth up the box surfaces, inside and out. Round out sharp corners if you want.

Sorry, didn't think to snap pictures at this step.

Step 4: Attaching the Lid

You could skip this step if you don't want a lid, but I wanted one as I will be carrying stuff from my house to where I'm playing the game.

Obtain the hinge(s) you think fits your purpose best and attach your lid to the box using them. In my bucket'o'hinges, I found a single long hinge that was, very luckily, the same length as the long edge of my box. I definitely recommend pre-drilling for the screws.

If your screws end up being too long and poke through the other side of the lid, like mine, you can file them down flush with the lid surface (second image).

Another problem the screws I found had was that their heads stuck out, preventing the box from closing all the way. With a Dremel wood carving bit I made indentations opposite the screws so the box lid could close all the way.

I also shaved down the underside of the lid where the hinge sits so that the hinge surface is flush with the lid underside.

You will see I placed little rare-earth magnets in the lid and box. In this case, the magnets I used were 1/8" diameter left over from another project. Maybe not the best since they won't hold the lid closed if the box is shaken vigorously while upside down, but I don't plan on doing that, so it will probably work fine for me.

Step 5: Setting You Free!

So you have a box with custom sections inside and maybe a hinged lid! Now you move on to the finishing touches to get the look you want.

Decorate the lid to match your game or character theme or whatever preference you have. Burn a design on it. Paint it. Stain it. Line the inside with something. Whatever you fancy.

Add foam to the small section so your mini doesn't rattle around during transport, thus extending the life of its glorious paint job.

Add a thin layer of neoprene or leather or some other noise dampening material to the bottom of the large section to dull the sound of dice if you plan on rolling them in there. I have yet to find one I like among my current array of resources. It may be the only thing I buy for this project.

Anyway, these suggestions may not pertain to your use for such a box. The beauty of many an Instuctibles project is that your result is customizable by you to suit your need and taste!

Happy gaming and/or crafting!

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