Introduction: Laser Cut Puzzle Dice Box
After getting into D&D 5e, I started to love the game just playing with my friends. As I moved onto a DM I saw a wider scape of things also having fun with the players I work with. D&D is a game that can be customized to your own type of play, making it the most fun game I have ever played outside the internet world.
My first try at laser cutting was making a dice-box which was for D&D, as such I made a dice boxes for my old DM, working hard on them for a long time. As you can see it is a puzzle dice box that can hold seven standard polyhedral dice and can be custom-engraved. They have strong magnets and felt linings to finish the clean look to the box.
This box was made because of the want for a dice-box that would work with me but also have an interesting puzzle type opening. Most of the other dice boxes usually needed a CNC machine also a big problem for me because my workshop was just wanting to buy one but stopped after Covid-19 struck. This project needs a laser cutter which should include engraving but other than that uses normal materials for its use. I made this box many times out of cardboard just trying to check if the puzzle pieces would fit properly and at last found the best design for me.
(Even though most of the things were made by me through trial and error I would like to give a shout out to wolfboxshop who also did an Instructable which gave me this idea for a puzzle dice-box. The link to his dice box is here: Laser Cut Magnetic Dice Boxes)
You will need these items:
- Plywood, 1/8 or 3mm (Red Oak)
- Magnets, 10mm x 3mm round
- Wood Stain
- Wood finish
- Wood/Tacky glue
- Contact Adhesive
- Felt (any color)
- Sanding Block (use with the sandpaper)
- Clamps (to hold together)
- Newspaper or Parchment paper (this is so that it is all clean and does not go on any tables)
- (Small) Mallet (if you like smashing things gently)
- Scissors or Fabric Shears (only if you are cutting the felt by hand)
- Laser Cutter Access
- (Belt Sander is optional) Sandpaper(120 and 220 but if you want it really smooth then 320 as well)
- Drill press or Hand drill
Step 1: Customize the Design (Make It Yours)
You will need a vector editor for this. These include Adobe Illustrator(not free) and Inkscape(free). They both work great but there are other vector editors out there. Other ones should work fine if you know how to use them.
Personalizing the dice box is one big part of the whole project (It is what makes your box look good). It is also one of my favorite parts of the project because you can change the box depending on what you like. You can change the puzzle to be more complicated or simpler depending on what you like. you can even make it so that it does not have a puzzle depending on what you like. This can show off what your character in D&D is going to be like or even just making it for a friend. Both the top and the bottom can be engraved. I would love to see your designs down below.
If you've never used a vector editor or even a drawing/editing app with laser engraving and laser cutting, here are a few tips to start your adventure.
- You can use images from the internet or any images that best suit your style and then use the Image trace tool to turn it into a vector image. Then scale it so that it fits in the box design (circle). You can also use a bitmap image depending on the type of laser cutter you are using.
- Engraving is when a layer of the wood is removed/burned to make a cool design on the already clean wood. The more power the laser cutter uses, the deeper it will engrave on to the wood.
- For most laser cutters the have it so the darker the shade(color/lightness), the deeper the wood will engrave, so white would not be laser cut at all but the darker it gets the deeper it will engrave. You can use this so it will have an interesting design on your dice box (I have set the cutting so that the blue lines are for just cutting but not all the way through, black is for cutting all the way through, and red for the engraving; you probably need to change it depending on the laser cutter you are using).
Step 2: Preparing for Laser Cutting & Engraving
First of all, you need a flat piece of wood. If you have a piece of wood that is not flat, there are multiple videos that can help you with flattening the piece you have already.
If you want to sand it before laser cutting(which would be ideal for a good clean finish) then use a 120 grit piece of sandpaper on the wood. You need to focus the sanding on the rougher areas. After it feels smooth then move onto the 220 grit sandpaper and make a few more passes. Flip it over to the other side and repeat, then dust of the sandpaper, however, works with you (using your hand or with a cloth). Avoiding using water, because this will cause the grain of the wood to swell.
Next, you need to prepare the file for the laser cutter. Measure your piece of wood, put those dimensions into your vector editor with the same dimensions. Check which direction the grain of the wood is facing. Import the file into your vector editor, then rotate all the faces of the box so that the 10mm round holes are horizontal or vertical to the direction of the grain. This way the grain will be the same on both the lid and bottom of your dice box. Change the width of the stroke/line to 0.01mm or some other millimeter depending on how precise your laser cutter cuts. Make sure to only change the edges of the box where it is getting cut, pay close attention to your engraved images.
I used my school's workshop for my work. I used it for laser cutting. Makerspaces are great places for laser cutting and/or engraving, and you often pay by the hour for the access (You should always ask for help if you are unsure of what you are doing). You can also find places that do the laser cutting for you and give the pieces to you through shipment or pickup. Ponoko does good laser cutting and sends it straight to you (I do not if it is International, and if so please comment below).
Here is a video to understand how to make a file for laser cutting(this will ): Laser Cutting File Making
Step 3: Laser Cutting
Put the wood which you sanded earlier into the laser cutter and adjust the bed height (this is the height from the laser and material you use) so that it is in focus. Turn the laser cutter on plus any additional fans or ventilators, then start the process of laser cutting. Yay! Make sure you are close by or keeping an eye on it if something goes wrong. You can also just enjoy the satisfying look of the bright laser cutting process or the smell of the BBQ fumes which come with the cut. Or even both if you are that interested (I mean, I am).
Once it has finished, take all of your pieces out of the laser cutter slowly so that if it did not cut all the way through you can cut it off with a crafting knife. Use a pencil or pen to make a mark to show the underside of the piece is laying faced up on the laser bed. This will help you to put it on the right way up and keep it aligned later in the process.
Step 4: Gluing & Sanding
After putting a layer of parchment or newspaper so that none of your tables get sticky because of the glue, you need to arrange the pieces (shown above), glue all of them together with wood glue. Start with a big squirt of glue on a piece of parchment/newspaper or on the piece of parchment/newspaper which your pieces of wood are laid on. Then take a flat popsicle stick for spreading the glue all over the marked side of the wood(you should have marked this earlier). Or you can lightly add some wood glue between each layer; then push both of the layers together, be careful to align the edges correctly. Remove any excess wood glue and hold it firmly for 20-30 seconds before continuing onto the next layer to repeat the process until all the pieces are stacked. You can use clamps: this will make it stick together more firmly or you can leave it there untouched until dry (both clamping or unclamped will take 30 minutes at least but can take up to an hour).
When sanding you can use sandpaper or if you have a belt sander then that would be faster but it is all on what you prefer. When sanding with sandpaper use 120 grit (sandpaper) to sand off most of the scorched wood. After that use a 220 grit or 320 grit (sandpaper) to smooth it out (using the 220 will take more wood than the 320 but would be better if there is a little layer of scorched wood). If you are using a belt sander then sand off the outside of the dice-box halves. Use sandpaper to sand the scorched side of the wood which has unusual puzzle pieces. Sand any of the visible faces that look scorched. Dust off both halves of the dice-box. Try to not sand off the pieces where the dice are going to stay (The fragile pieces will break if you sand them so let them be).
Step 5: Making the Hole for the Dowel
In my design, I made it a unique puzzle piece which is a tricky thing mostly because of the maths and how it was going to work. I made it open in a Yin & Yang shape with a lock in the middle (I had to test a lot for this!). When you put the hole on the opposite ends you need to be careful not to put it in the wrong place. I used a skewer as my dowel and it ended at the bottom (you can add an end at the bottom but I did not because it would take too much space, my art initials are in the way).
When you make a hole for a dowel you need to measure the dowel width to check how it is going to fit (skewers are 2mm wide). You need to find the right drill piece and attach it to the hand drill(not recommended ) or a tabletop drill press (recommended) which makes precise holes if you use clamps of course. I will only be telling how to do it with a drill press because I am scared my hands will destroy the piece if I use a hand drill. Mark the spot you are drilling (the photo above is). To drill the piece you need to place the bottom box piece (where you put the mark) and clamp the box onto the surface (platform for drilling) of the drill press. To check you got it on the right spot lower the drill (it needs to be "Off") and if it touches the middle of the mark then it is in the right spot (you can move the box to the right place if not). After it is in the right place drill all the way down and take it out of the drill press after removing the clamps. Put one of the top halves and adjust the drill press to leave 3mm of wood for the top engraved design. Drill on the mark you put for the piece for the top half of the box. Repeat this with the other half of the top part of the box. Glue the dowel in the top half's hole we drilled and repeat with the second dowel on the opposite side. Now you need to glue the circular wooden piece which remained on the bottom of the box. Glue in the middle of the wooden piece after placing it through the second hole in the bottom half. Repeat this on both half's of the top part of the box as shown in the pictures above.
Step 6: Staining & Wood Finishing
When staining it you can choose to not do the rim on the top half and the decorated bit on the bottom half (You should probably test the stain on a piece of the same type of wood but a scrap piece to check if the stain is right with you, if not then feel free try another wood stain which won't damage the wood in any way). But it does look good staining the whole thing (I did this). A tip when you try not staining the rim on the top half, be really gentle so that it does not get any stain on it (you can also use masking tape and tape the area which you do not want to stain to have an interesting design). Use a wood stain of your own choice, follow the directions shown on the wood stain, and stain the top, inner and outer edges of the plywood pieces. If you do not have gloves on your hands then put some on (highly recommended).
Make sure to stir the Stain with a stick or a separate brush from painting or the first few strokes will be really dark. Areas that are engraved tend to absorb a lot of liquid and may need another layer of stain. If you are not satisfied with the color of the wood after the stain you can put another full stain on the whole thing once the pieces have dried(3-4 hours or even up to a day). Let the pieces dry before continuing on with the project. After the stain has dried remove any dust from the box pieces and follow the directions of the wood finish you chose. While I chose to use varnish, you could also use polyurethane, spray-on poly, oil, or beeswax as you finish. Follow the directions on the wood finish you chose.
Step 7: Cutting & Placing the Felt
This is probably the easiest job in the project if you laser cut it. Attached down below is a file of the shapes for the felt liner (this can be laser cut or used for tracing but you can trace from the laser cut discard pieces).
Tracing the Felt This works well on light-colored felt or will work on dark if you use a light coloring pencil. Using a pen or pencil to trace a line around the shape of the interior on the piece felt. You either trace with cut out pieces of paper or with the pieces left by the laser cutter. Cut along the line with scissors or a craft knife. Laser Cutting (Recommended) You can also directly cut the felt on the laser cutter which I did because it was easier and it did not mess up the felt if you did any mistakes. The file for lase cutting is right below the one for printing. If you want to laser cut felt search for the corresponding laser cutter in your used browser and you will find the right laser cutting power and speed. For my project, I used black felt because I used a dark wood stain and the dice I like to put in it is going to be a dark color. All of this fits well with the felt, perfectly. Place the felt pieces into the corresponding holes in the box and you can use contact adhesive (or super glue, tacky glue, or any fabric glues). You do not have to glue them, you can customize it with and change of color depending on the dice you use.
All the laser cutting files are down below, two of them are if you are not making it a puzzle piece and the other two are if you are making it a puzzle piece:
Step 8: Placing the Magnets
When you put the magnets the finished product should stick together.
Before you place the magnets here is some information on how magnets work, all magnets have two poles which are North and South. Opposite poles attract each other (North and South) while the same poles (North and North, South, and South) repel away from each other. This means we want our project to have North and South poles on separate sides making it easier for us to work with. Lay the three pieces side by side while the two pieces fit together away from the full piece. Place all the four magnets on top of each other. Slide 2 of them into the two separate holes in the whole piece, flip the two magnets which are leftover, and place them into the two holes in the two pieces that look like they fit together. After you have placed the magnets take them out one by one and put some contact adhesive (you can also use super glue) on the hole then press the magnet into the hole(place the magnet in the direction as before) and clean off any excess adhesive (or super glue) with a damp cloth. If it did not go all the way use your hands to push it in (using something like a hammer can demagnetize the magnet if you are too aggressive) then wash your hands to place the felt. If the magnets are still not flush, you might have gotten the wrong size magnets or the file got messed up (The file did get messed up for me a couple of times while I tested it because some of the things were not objects- my school laser cutter needed the file to have no lines and only objects). If it is just a little off then you can put something like wood on it and hammer it down gently in the on the spot of the magnet, this should put the magnet in the right position.
Step 9: It's Done (at Last) YAY!
Congratulation on finishing your dice box and show it to all your friends, DM's and Players. Brag about the care and work you up in it and they will be amazed at your final product. You do deserve it! If you want to know how to open the dice-box if you used the same design as me just twist the middle circle then flip it upside down and it should pop down one layer, then twist it till the second layer comes out (you might have to pull it gently), and for the end do the same thing as before but be sure to hold the circle and flip the dice-box gently so that it does not drop all the dice!
Thank you for reading, and I hope that this has helped you with your project or it helped with the making of your puzzly masterpiece. I am happy that I joined D&D as the first tabletop role-playing game I have ever played and will try to post more projects as soon as I can. I also want a give a great thank you to all the people who showed me the ropes to D&D and Laser Cutting so "Let's get rollin!"
If you liked this Instructables, I would be Thankful if you vote me for the Instructables CNC contest!
Thank you for your help
Participated in the
CNC Contest 2020