Introduction: Dragon Scale Dice Tower
While looking online trying to find a dice tower design that appealed to me aesthetically and did not require a laser cutter to make since I don't have one, I stumbled across a webpage with a tower that I found interesting, but most of the links are broken and there is very little description as to how it was fabricated.
So I went off of the few pictures that were available and headed boldly into the making process.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
A scrap piece of 2x4
Some paper to make a template
A ruler, protractor, and Pencil
Tablesaw (with a fine toothed blade 1/8" kerf)
Step 2: Design ... and Eventual Redesign (Fixed Screw-up #1)
I planned on making the overall height of the tower at 11 inches and 3 inches on each side.
I started by taping two pieces of plain printer paper together to draw out a simple template (there will be a bit of overlap)
Initially I planned on a simple 45 degree slope. After I applied the pattern to the wood I realized it would not work out properly for cutting purposes. The cuts will not line up from one face to the next. (See step 5 )
The second picture shows what the end pattern resulted looking like. As you can see the pattern is a combination of angles and flats to make all the cuts and faces line up properly.
Step 3: Trim to Size
Even though the lumber is labeled as 2"x4" the actual physical dimension are closer to 1.5"x3.5"
I was able to shave the wood down to get it to the final dimensions of 1.5"x3.125" (that 1/8" was left on the long side to account for the blade kerf when cutting the long side in half so the final pieces would measure 1.5"x1.5"
If I didn't already have the 2"x4" to use to make this I probably would have gotten a 2"x2" to make the tower pieces from since the actual dimension of 2"x2" is close to 1.5"x1.5" and then it is just a matter of cutting out the sections and gluing them together.
Step 4: Laying Out the Pattern
once I had the wood cut to size, I applied the template and scored the wood through the pattern onto the wood.
To make it easy to fit all the parts back together after cutting out the travel path I numbered each outward face of the wood for each of the parts that will be top, removed, and bottom.
Once the pattern was applied I used the tablesaw to cut the boards in half to get the 4 equal sized sections.
Step 5: Switching From the Tablesaw to the Jigsaw
To make it easier to see I traced the score lines with a sharpie marker.
At this point I realized that the cuts were not going to line up right from one face to the next.
The solution was a combination of angled and flat cuts (see the pattern correction mentioned in step 2)
This change had a happy result of angled steps rather than a consistent slope so the dice get extra agitation on the way down.
Step 6: Finished Cuts
The top section consists of 3 sections of wood.
The bottom section was made up of four parts.
These cuts would have been far easier to make with a chop saw instead of a table saw.
The bottom sections are very simple. one single 45 degree angle cut.
The top sections all consist of two cuts.
The smallest section has both cuts on the same face at opposite angles to each other.
The largest section has one cut on one face and then it is turned once before the second cut is applied to the wood again with the cuts at opposite angles to each other.
The middle section is the most difficult. The bottom cut is flush to one of the faces. The top cut takes off one of the corners so that when the three top pieces are put together they form a semi circular guide for the dice to enter the tower.
the following measurements for the parts are the overall length of the parts at the longest points
6.5" (trimmed to 5.5")See step 9
9" (trimmed to 8") See step 9
Step 7: Aligning the Top and Bottom Sections
Before you start gluing the pieces together, make sure that you are satisfied with how the parts line up and make any adjustments you feel necessary.
It is much easier to sand the faces and cuts while the parts are separate.
Step 8: Assembling the Top and Bottoms Sections
Since there won't be any real load on the wood a very light layer of glue is sufficient to keep the part together.
For now it is recommended that you keep the top and bottom part separate just to make finishing the wood easier.
Step 9: Sizing Issue (Screw-up #2)
I have a larger set of dice that I like to use and I noticed that although the dice would fit through the channel, there was not enough room for the dice to roll freely.
Standard polyhedral dice are sized at 16mm. So no modification is needed for them to roll well in the tower.
My large set is listed as 28mm. By cutting an inch off of the bottom of the two longer pieces of the top section I was able to gain enough clearance for even my larger set of dice to roll freely through the tower.
Step 10: Glass Is Cheaper Than Acrylic ... Apparently (Screw-up #3)
I though I would be slick and grab a few picture frames from the dollar store and use the acrylic from the frames to skin the outside of my tower.
It turns out that the picture frames that the dollar store offered have real glass ... grrrrr
So off to the big box store I went to get a sheet of acrylic. I was able to get 18" x 24" acrylic sheet for about $12.
Cutting the acrylic in a straight line is very simple. Using a razor knife and a straight edge, score the acrylic where you want it cut. Apply pressure to both sides of the score and the acrylic should snap apart cleanly along the scored line.
For curved or multiple angle cuts a fine toothed coping saw works well.
Step 11: Trying for a Dragon Scale Finish .... Aaaaand ... No
Since my main use for this tower is for playing D&D, I wanted to go with a Dragon theme for my decoration.
I found a scale pattern that sadly looked much better on the screen than when I printed it out, and it was just too busy when it was placed on the tower.
Step 12: Homemade Dragon Scale Instead
So Instead I decided to make my own scale pattern.
A few coats of Gesso had the wood sealed and primed for painting.
A good solid coat of purple for a regal color, and a thin coat of silver to give a semi-translucent metallic look to the finished scales.
I have seen videos of scale paint patterns done with fishnet stockings, but I did not have any. So I grabbed the bag that the oranges came in and used that instead.
Before I applied the silver paint to the dice tower, I did a test on some cardboard. Satisfied with how it looked I moved on to the tower sections.
Step 13: Painting
At the last minute I wanted a contrasting color to make everything Pop. I opted for red to give it an interior "fleshy look" to the whole construction.
Once the red paint was dry I was able to mask it off with some tape before applying the silver over the purple base.
To get a more realistic organic look to the scales, I pulled the net tighter in some areas than others so not all the scales were the same shape and size.
Once the paint dried it was time to glue the top and bottom sections together.
Step 14: Finishing Touches
Black felt was applied to any of the areas that the dice would be rolling down to give added traction and also to quiet the sound slightly.
Then It was a matter of applying the acrylic skin to the outside of the tower so the dice stay contained in the tower on their trip down.
I did not have any small screws to attach the acrylic to the tower, so I just glued up the acrylic and slid it over the tower. For now, the acrylic skin is snug enough that it is staying in place so it is not vital to screw the acrylic on to the tower, but I will probably attach it more permanently at some point in the future.