Introduction: Geek Chain: Chain Made Out of D20 Dice
Well, there are two things that led me to this project. First one - I like to feel individual, have something to break form the grey mass of everyday life. Second - too much free time.
Probably you've seen small chains which you can attach to your trousers. I tried to find a way to make one-of-a-kind chain. And I did. As I'm a gamer (computer games, RPG and so on) I decided to take some RPG dice and make the chain out of them. I know that there are surely more freaks like me so I'll try to tell you about making item like mine as much as I can.
Step 1: Tools and Preparations
Before you begin, think of a place where you are going to work. You'll need some tools so it'll probably be some kind of workshop (your basement, garage etc.). However, there is one thing that you should consider FIRST - GOOD VENTILATION. I'm not joking, this is for YOUR HEALTH PROTECTION. Work will involve piercing the dice with hot metal. It produces FUMES, which are HARMFUL. Make sure that you cover your face. If you put a cooling fan directly at the source of fumes, then a simple bandana on your face will be enough.
Materials and tools you'll need, in the order as in the photos (from left to right):
1. Two quick swivel bolt snaps. Each of them is about 5cm (2 in.) long, which makes them perfect to attach into your trousers.
2. Dice. A lot of them. Color is of your choice. Each die is 2cm (0.8 in.) measured from side to side, not between vertices. To find the desired lenght of your future chain, simply take a piece of string and put it to your trousers, find the appropriate amount and check the length.. REMEMBER to do the measurement when you're having your trousers on. If you just put them on the table and try - you'll get different result. Length which was satisfactory for me was 50 cm (20 in.). Margin of mistake would be around 5 cm (2 in.). Make sure to buy several dice more than you need, just in case of mistakes. I've bought 28 and finally put 23 on a chain (with only one lost during experimental piercing).
3. Some sort of string - a spine of your chain. I have considered several alternatives:
- first one was cotton string. Why not? – too weak, and too easy to tear apart.
- a metal cable. Why not? – not flexible enough. The chain wouldn’t hang freely under its own weight, but keep the cable’s shape.
- a metal string. Similar to the one in your bicycle’s brakes. Why not? – too thick, and without any isolation it would work like sandpaper. Also there would be problems with flexibility.
After eliminating all the alternatives I was left with nylon string. You can buy it in any shop with building materials. The one I’ve chosen is 1mm in diameter. It’s durable (I was unable to tear it apart by myself, so it should protect you from any accidents), it’s flexible (no problem even when it was put through the dice twice) and it’s easy to work with.Length which you will need is double the length of chain, plus 30 cm (12 in.) to avoid shortages. In my case it was 50+50+30=130 cm (4 feet and 4 in.)
4.Source of flame to heat up the thing which you’ll pierce the dice with. I think that portable (touristic) propane gas tank is the best, however anything that can generate similar temperature will do. Things like cigarette lighter can’t give you enough temperature.
5. Thing which you’ll use to pierce through the dice. It has to be metal to heat up well, and has to be AT LEAST the same diameter as the string you are using. It may be anything: drill, thick needle (preferably surgical), nail etc. I’ve chosen hex wrench (Allen wrench), 2mm in diameter.
6. Pliers to hold the piercing item. It’s necessary as it will be literally red-hot.
7. Wire cutters to get rid of the remains of piercing.
8. Vise to keep the pierced die still and keep your finger as far from the heat as possible.
9. You may, but don't have to, take cigarette lighter and SuperGlue.
Step 2: Piercing the Dice
When you gathered all the equipment and prepared your workplace you can begin the piercing. Do NOT try doing this with any sort of driller. You've got around 75% chances that the die will crack or even shatter.
Before you start - think of the pattern in which you will pierce dice. I have pierced them on the way that first one was pierced on the axis 20-1 walls, second one 19-2, third 18-3 etc., red and black separately. Working this way I got 20 dice. Two last red were pierced on the 9-12 and 5-16 axises (to make wall 20 well visible) and on the last black one again on the 5-16 axis to make wall 13 (my lucky number) visible. Thanks to that different numbers are visible, giving the better look of the whole.
Again: VENTILATION. Try not to breathe these fumes.
Take one die for trial piercing. Get hang of it before doing it "for real".
1. Put the die into the vise. Make sure of two things:
- The side which you will go through should be positioned horizontal. Do it as precise as possible.
- Do not squeeze the die too much. If you do, you may crush it, however it must be held strong enough to stay in place under pressure of piercing.
2. Get your piercer in a good grip. Heat it up until it glows gold. It has to be literally red-hot.
3. This step is hardest, because you have to be fast AND accurate. Put the piercer perpendicularly to the side of the die and push it down. After you push it through, move piercer up and down several times to make sure the channel is complete.
Mind several things:
- Keep the angle. If you lose direction you probably won't be able to regain it.
- Don't try to push entire channel at first try. Most probably you won't. If the piercer lose temperature, then the melted plastic as well. When the plastic cools down it gets back to solid state and it may trap the piercer giving you a lot of trouble recovering it. (I had this problem once and I was really close to resolve it with hammer, but fortunately I managed to pull the piercer out.) For me it was optimal to re-heat the piercer twice for each die.
- When you feel that there is no resistance for the first time, you may think that you pushed through the die. Most probably you didn't. Out of my 24 dice 23 of them had bubbles of air trapped inside (at the center of the die). So if you feel no resistance that means that you got to that bubble, which is around halfway through.
4. When the channel is done, take the die out of the vise. During piercing some of the melted material poured out making "collars" of plastic which hardened when cooled down. They are solid but very easy to cut off.
5. Repeat steps from 1 to 4 until all of your dice are pierced.
Step 3: Creating a Chain.
You're almost done. I can assure that the hardest part is already behind you. Now it's time to put all the pieces together.
1. Take the nylon string. If you cut it earlier to the preferred length (130 cm, or 4 feet and 4 in.) it's good, if not - do it now. Bend it in half, but DON'T cut it into separate strings.. Now you have 65 cm (2 feet, 2 in.) of double string.
2. Take one of the bolt snaps and your string from the side of the bend. Put the bended end through the hole of the bolt snap and put the other end of the string (the one with separate endings) through the loop of the string. One photo is worth 1000 words so look at them to clear your view. Tight up the knot.
Now you may use the lighter. What for? To make the knot solid. If you move the string over the flame it will soften because of the temperature and when cooled down it will harden but this time EXACTLY in the shape before warming it up. Easy way to prevent the knot from loosing itself. Have in mind to keep the string in flame as short as possible, literally for a blink of an eye (I don't know how long it may be: 0,1 of a second, maybe 0,2). Do NOT try to melt the strings together. They will become very weak and vulnerable during longer heating.
You may also use glue to get the knot connected into one piece. It's not necessary, but I wanted to minimize chances of tearing the chain apart. I used simple SuperGlue (which you can buy in every shop). One drop of it is enough. Watch out not to glue string and bolt snap together. It would mean lack of flexibility.
3. Thread the dice on a string.
4. When all the dice are on the string it's time to take the second bolt snap and close the chain. Leave 2-3 cm (more-less an inch) of free string so the dice won't be squeezed and the chain will be more elastic. I don't have any knowledge about making professional knots so I just put the string into several random loops around the clip and around itself. After that I heated it to get solid shape of the knot. A drop of glue assured that the knot will not loose itself (watch out not to glue string ang bolt snap together). Finally I cut off the remaining string 3 cm (1 in.) from the knot.
Step 4: Finish
Done. You've just finished your chain.
That's all I wanted to tell you. I hope that it was fun for you to make it, and it will be even more fun to wear it.