Introduction: Food Dice; Dinner Deciding Dice

I thought of this idea as a present for my father. I eat with my family regularly and instead of a cooking mom, I have a cooking dad! I hope to instigate a weekly day for this DDD-game!

When your feeling a bit uninspired or just want to leave things up to chance, grab the ‘Food Dice’- mason jar and throw the dice until you get to a meal!

It consists of 6 “colored” dice, a corresponding list of foods and a (mason) jar, that’s it!

You’ll start off with 1 main dice, ‘the decider’, with colored dots on it. By throwing this it will correspond to another dice in the jar, ‘the category dice’. Every category has 6 dinner possibilities and every number refers to one accompanied on the "Food List" (attached in PDF and Word).
So the decider will make the decision which food-category-dice to throw for a meal.

I came up with the following food-categories;

  1. Pasta
  2. Rice
  3. Potatoes with … (AVG’tje)
  4. Specials
  5. Vegetarian
  6. Order-out

(NOTE; this is quite personal as to what we regularly eat, dishes we like, and easy to get foods in our area. You can and should personalize this to your own/ families preferences!)

Step 1: Tools and Materials

This project doesn’t need much, and most electric tools I use can be substituted by handtools. I would most highly recommend a cross-cut saw off all used powertools, together with an electric drill!

For “Cutting blocks”

  • Block/ beam of hardwood
  • Cross-cut saw or handsaw with miter-box
  • Router with small curved insert or a fine wood rasp/ file and sandpaper
  • Sanding paper (320 grit) (sanding machine optional)

For “Drilling holes”

  • Electric drill with 6mm wooddrill and a ¾” holesaw
  • Pencil + ruler/ protractor
  • Woodfiller/ liquid wood (optional) + small ‘grinding stone’ or 100- 120grit sandpaper

For “Painting”

  • White wood primer
  • 7 different colors of paint (white, red, gold, pink, green, brown and yellow) (black optional)
  • 1 soft and 1 hard small-sized brush + cleaning material (white spirit)
  • Transparent or clear varnish/ coating

For “Decorating and finishing up”

  • Foods list (see attached file)
  • Descriptive front picture (see attached file)
  • Laminator + laminating pouch (optinonal)
  • Clear scotch tape
  • Bottom fluffy fill for the jar
  • Big (mason) jar

Step 2: Cutting Blocks

I decided on a quite large format dice; 4x4cm. I have a fairly large glass jar and I want it to look ‘filled’. If I’d gone with 2x2cm for instance, the dice wouldn’t even fill up half the jar which would look a bit silly. The other advantage is that I can still use my cross-cut saw on the 4cm measurements but would get downright dangerous if I’d try that on a 2cm dice. I stuck a piece of wood down (using double-sides tape) on my cross-cut saw at exactly 4cm from the cutting blade. This way I have 3 cuts to make for a pefect 4x4cm cube.

Once you have your 6 cubed blocks of wood, you should first find centerholes and other positions for drilling. The straight edges make it much easier and more precise to follow into the corners. I knocked off the edges straight away… and had to ‘guess’ where to set my ruler onto. Rounding the edges makes the dice more able to roll around so don’t skip this step, just do it after finding centerholes and other positions described in the next step!

I’m using my router for knocking off the corners with a small rounded insert. Since these blocks are basically too small to use a plunge-router on, I secured my router up-side-down into my bench-vise.

(NOTE; I’m using the router very irresponsible here! Please don’t do this if you’re not completely and 100% familiar and certain with this application! In this case just grab a file or rasp and do the edges manually!

2nd NOTE; I’m intentionally not wearing gloves. These would make my fingers bulkier and more prone to getting snagged by the chisel! Always wear safety glasses with these kind of tools though!)

Now all that’s left is to give all dice a good sanding. I’m using a 320grit sandpaper and a sanding machine for this. A bit bit lazy maybe… you can definitely do this by hand!

I’ll sand them after I’ve drilled the holes that count as numbers though, so I can sand everything in one go!

Step 3: Drilling Holes

Finding center and other dot positions

So I was a little too fast with the whole routering of the edges… anyway…

For every hole or marking needed, you need to have the center of that face of the dice. All other markings are dependent and measured out from this centerpoint. So its safe to say it’s fairy important to get this one right!

Real easy to find though;

Draw a cross on it connecting the opposite corners. Where the lines meet is the exact center of that face (assuming your blocks are square!). #1 covered

Now with a protractor (triangular ruler) on any other kind of ruler I measure back 1,5cm, on both sides from the centerdot and put a marking. #’s 2 and 3 covered

Do the same for the other cross-line. #’s 4 and 5 covered

The last two dot go in between the #4-dot markings. By centering my protractor on the 2 dots I’m able to find the center quite easy for the third-hole-in-a-line for the #6 markings. By having an equal measurement on both sides aligned to the dots (which in my case is (just short of) 1,1cm), the ‘0’ on the protractor becomes the center. #6 covered

The decider-dice

Instead of using numbers to correspond to a category, I’m going for colors. To make it a little more intricate (and i like the bare wood to show somewhere!), I’m drilling out a hole on each side and will paint the inside of this hole to correspond to a category-dice instead of painting the entire face of a dice.

This means I only have one ‘dot’ to drill and color per side. This hole is made with a 3/4” wood-holesaw. I taped it off about 5mm above the bottom, this will help drilling every hole equally deep.

After the drilling I filled up the small hole (3 times, sanding in between) made by the drillbit using ‘liquid wood’ and sanded it smooth using a router-bit-insert (just by hand, not in a Dremel!).

You could also use 100 to 120 grit sandpaper and push your finger or something else small into the hole cleaning excess woodfiller up. Watch out that your not grinding down the sides of the hole, only the bottom!

(You could skip the drilling and just paint the whole side to a corresponding color. I would paint it before routering the edges so you get nice colored squares)

The category-dice

The rest of the dice are normal, 1 to 6-dotted dice. These will be completely colored, corresponding to a food-category. I drill out 1 to 6 holes on each side with a 6mm wooddrill. Again I taped it off about 5mm above the bottom, this will help drilling every hole equally deep.

I needed a even smaller router-bit-insert for sanding down some of the small fraying around the hole, and used a small round one. I didn’t patch the holes in the bottom since the space is so small, I wouldn’t be able to finish it off nicely.

NOTE; all opposites sides of a dice amount to 7! So 1 and 6 are opposite of eachother, aswell as 2 and 5, and you guessed it, 3 and 4 are again opposite of eachother!

Step 4: Painting

Now is the time to give all dice a good sanding. I’m using a 320grit sandpaper and a sanding machine for this. A bit bit lazy maybe… you can definitely do this by hand! Clean off any remaining dust and lets get painting!

I’m giving all the category-dice a white primer-coating first (lightly sand after). The only reason I’m doing this is for the colors to be more vibrant and bright. The darkness of the wood would ‘suck’ a lot of color out of the paint!

You could skip the primer by giving it multiple coats of the colored paint. With a couple layers you get the vibrant colors aswell!

The decider-dice stays ‘bare’ (read; clear/ transparent) (except for the dots). These get a primer-coating aswell (lightly sand after). Once the colored paint in the dots has dried I traced the inside ring of the hole with white paint. I thought it would look nice and make the color in the dot stand out a bit more!

The 6 other dice are completely covered with a single color per dice (except for the dots)..

NOTE; it’s important to make enough paint if mixing for a specific color. It very hard getting the exact color back if you run out halfway along your dice. I need to ‘make’ my pink (and maybe gold too), by mixing red and white, so I want to mix enough to cover the dot in the ‘decider-dice’, the whole of 1 ‘category-dice’ and a tad for a clear-coating-experiment;

The leftover paint I used to experiment a bit with different kinds of clear coating. I had a couple around the house but don’t know the outcome of the products so I prepped a couple pieces of scrap wood to see how they would look.

I used every color and left a piece bare spread across two pieces of scrap wood.

Wha… wait a minute… what the…

At this moment I found out I was 1 dice short… yea… I suck…

It took me 2 days before I could go to a carpentersshop looking for a scrap piece of Maranti, I didn’t have any left back home.

After these 2 days I noticed that the paints on the dice still hadn’t dried… and after some (hindsight) googling I found out that normal wood-primers aren’t the best undercoat for my project… Me and my always-reinventing-the-wheel attitude…

Another 2 days later I started to notice a difference… I took a good 10 days before the paint was as good as dry, so take this into consideration if painting oils (over woodprimer)!

Back to painting

I liked the Linseed oil the best for its finish on the decider-dice so decided to go with this one, coating the all dice with it. The spraypaint would have been alot easier, but i didn't like the high gloss finish...

NOTE; I made a quick and dirty drying rack by plunging 5 drywall-screws through a thin piece of multiplex. I’ll mount every dice onto the screws into the #1 hole in the dice after I’ve coated half of it. Then I don’t have to hold/ touch it anymore while finishing the other half and it doesn’t create a messed-up side by laying it down to dry.

Step 5: Decoration and Finishing Up

I’ve taped the front picture on the inside of the jar and put the (laminated) ‘Foods List’ in the jar onto the other side (this card is loose inside the jar and could be taken out if needed) it should be readable from the outside. To add a little look to the plain jar I put in some fluff material in the bottom of the jar.

Now just chuck in the dice!

Step 6: "Are You Feeling Lucky, Punk?"

You could give everyone in the family 1 chance to throw their favorite meal;

  1. State your favorite meal
  2. Take the decider-dice AND the dice where your favorite meal is represented
  3. Throw both dice at the same time
  4. If the decider-dice AND category-dice land exactly corresponding to your favorite meal; WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER!!

My personal favorite meal is ‘Surinam brown beans’, which is in the ‘rice category’, which is the white dice. So I’ll take the decider and white dice, throw these together at the same time. If they land on ‘white’ AND the number ‘4’ (which corresponds to Suri b. beans) means I win and that will be the dish of that evening!

To play it fair though, even if the first to throw throws their favorite combination the rest will get their chance to throw too. It’s unlikely that 2 or more throw their favorites. If so, take it to voting or throw again!

After that the cook of the evening gets to decide according to throwing the dice in the following order;

  1. Start with the ‘decider-dice’. This will land on a color which has a separate color-corresponding dice.
    (*Brown corresponds to red and green together; See “Connecting the dots” below)
  2. Grab the color-corresponding dice and throw a number.
  3. Check on the ‘Foods-list’ which dinner you need to prepare for.

Connecting the dots

There are a couple of things to quickly explain;

  • I have brown as a dot in the ‘decider-dice’, but no brown ‘category-dice’… and a red dice, but no red dot on the ‘decider dice’. The brown on my dice represents “potatoes with …”. When you throw this “potatoes with…”, you need to grab the green and red dice to get to a complete meal. The green represents a vegetable and the red represents meat. This means you get an “AVG’tje” as we Dutchies call it; a combination of potatoes (Aardappel), meat (Vlees) and vegetables (Groente).
    I’d start with the green one, cause if it lands on ‘spinach’ we always eat fish-sticks with that (which would mean I don’t have to throw the red dice anymore).
  • All colors used represent their category!
    - Green for veggies and vegetarian
    - Yellow and white for the color of the (main) food
    - Brown for potatoes, as they come out of the ground!
    - Red for meat!
    - Gold for ordering out, as in spending money’s!
    - Pink for specials, he’s a manly man yeah, and at least 50% homofoob! xD
  • The ‘specials’ (pink dice) aren’t really that special… I just had a hard time filing these foods in another category.
  • Instead of the “throw again” you could also choose to put on “take your pick” which would mean they can choose the dish/ component in that specific category.
  • When ‘Sushi’ or ‘Spareribs’ is thrown, you can decide to get some take-out sushi… it’s a lot of prep and/or a lot of groceries for a meal like this.
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