Monday, August 10, 2015

Crafty Gamer - DIY Dice Trays, A Modified Method

I've come a long way from my first DIY dice tray, back in the day. Back then, the only thing that drove me was NOT paying a premium to roll my dice in a fancy compartment.

I made sure my medium was a wooden box of some sort (it was a square frame with a solid face for painting), and I grabbed the typical, trademark green felt to line the insides. At the time, I was aiming for function, so it wasn't the most glorious dice tray I've made, but it was good enough. The felt was precision-cut with my X-acto knife to a fat cross - all one piece of felt - and adhered with some spray adhesive, which is quite troubling if you get the felt mis-aligned. It was also troublesome if you didn't cover all parts, leaving some felt edges flapping loosely.

In the end, I finally got my own, unique dice tray. It was more effort than I expected, but the final product paid off in the end. I was even more ambitious the second time I performed this when I made a custom TARDIS dice tray for my brother as a Christmas gift. But after that, I felt a little spent on the whole DIY dice tray method.

Felt and Other Methods Revisited

It wasn't until recently when I came across some empty cigar boxes that I wanted to make another DIY dice tray. Some of these were just GORGEOUS, so to get a decent wooden cigar box for $5 was a steal in my book! I found one with some classy art both outside and inside the lid, which was hinged to the box. But then came the realization that I'll have to use the spray adhesive on such a delicate medium. This wasn't your typical sturdy wooden box from a crafts store - this was some light, airy balsa wood to store cigars in. While pondering over the options, I came across some unique felt that had adhesiveness already applied.

My new best friend.

Basically, think of a giant, rectangular sticker that's all felt on one side. That's what this was, and this glorious fabric saves me the trouble of EVER using the spray adhesive ever again. It was what I used to line the insides of my cigar box with little effort.

Great way to recycle old cigar boxes.

In addition, I approached this slightly different than my first dice tray, namely that each side of felt was its own separate piece. Even then, some of the edges came out a bit off (trust me, they did), but not as wildly off as my first attempt. Also, I still insisted using a hobby knife, which still slowed things down. The new method can be done entirely without a hobby knife, but it's listed IF you choose to use it, and mainly for one step.

In culmination, I've concocted the most ideal DIY dice tray procedure below! This can be applied to any open box you wish to convert.

Fun game, btw.

For this example, I'll be converting the base box of my Hostage Negotiator into a dice tray for easy, instance dice tray usage!

How to Make Your Own Dice Tray

What you'll need:

  • a vessel that will become your dice tray
  • sticky felt
  • paper
  • scotch tape
  • a hobby knife (Not necessary, in retrospect. Can still just use scissors. I just like to be very precise.)
  • a good pair of scissors, for cutting felt
  • a ruler, preferably metal
  • a self-healing cutting pad (saves you from cutting your own tables)

STEP 1: Measure out size of the dice tray base, and cut out a paper template.

Ooo, how snug...

Since we're doing each side individually, we'll start with the base. Take out the insert, carefully measure the inside base. For the Hostage Negotiator box, it's roughly 7 1/8" x 5 1/8". Now, with a metal ruler and hobby knife, cut out the paper template. You can also just pencil in the template, then cut with a pair of scissors. Once you have the template, check to see if it neatly fits in your box base to verify. Once that's done, then it's time to put that template to use!

STEP 2: Tape template to back of sticky felt, and cut out felt.

Make sure to cover all edges.

If your sticky felt is like the one I use (PrestoFelt), it will have a paper backing (like an unused sticker) to keep the stickiness in check. Go ahead and flip the felt to that side and stick the paper template to the paper backing. Lay it flat and cover ALL edges with tape. Not only does this ensure that your template doesn't move, but it will also give you the most accurate cut. Also, the paper template will naturally release when you're done since, well, you snipped off its tape bindings. Perfect for you to reuse again, if you so choose!

Used to do this with a hobby knife. Now, with a template, scissors are just fine.

The last time I used sticky felt, it never occurred to me to create a paper template. The consequence was me over-obsessing with a hobby knife directly cutting over felt. This caused slight (but glaring) inaccuracies that I didn't notice until it was too late. The paper template is clearly the easier and faster choice.

Like a glove!

Once this is cut out, go ahead and place it (paper backing and all) inside your box to admire your handiwork. If everything went according to plan, you should have a nice, fitted piece of felt as your base. Good job! Now, just leave it there for now, until you have all pieces of felt cut out and positioned.

STEP 3: Measure, template, and cut out pair of inner opposite sides, minus a millimeter.

Measure twice, cut once.

The very first thing I learned when dealing with felt is to never forget that it adds its own thickness to the equation. It may just be a millimeter, but that's still extra felt that can bunch up on the corners, making your DIY project a little bit more ugly than intended. It makes measuring and cutting up all the felt in one batch at once futile, because you won't realize the excess felt until it's too late. This is why we repeat the measure-template-cut process in batches, to account for the difference.

With the base felt still in the box (remember, not stuck on yet), take your ruler and measure out one side from the TOP of the felt to the box edge, or to whatever height you choose. If you're cutting a piece that'll be flush to the edge, it's important to consider than extra millimeter of felt from the base, or else you'll have extra felt spilling over the edge. Do the same with the opposite side, to verify the measurements.

Prepping sides.

Once you get the measurements, cut out two templates and perform Step 2 as before, remembering to line up your paper templates to ensure the fit is proper. Now, with you new pieces of felt, prop them up (along with your base felt, which should still be in the box) against the sides to see how it looks.

So far, so good!


STEP 4: Repeat step 3, minus another millimeter.

Lastly, you want to measure out the other pair of opposite sides, taking into consideration yet ANOTHER millimeter. Remember, now that there is one pair of opposite sides cut, you'll have to contend with TWO extra millimeters of felt at either end, which is about 1/8" an inch total. So, for the Hostage Negotiator box's side length, that'll make the length an even 7".

Make the paper template as before, and hold it up against the existing felt to ensure the fit is proper. Once you're confident in it, repeat Step 2 again, and then line up all your felt pieces to the box inside one final time to make sure everything is aligned.

STEP 5: Breathe.

*Heavy breathing intensifies*

Stupid, yes, but you are SO close now to finishing this up. You'll need a moment to yourself before starting the last step. But at least you have all the pieces ready and raring to go!

STEP 6: Adhere the felt pieces.

This is it. Apply the pieces of felt in the same order as you Take the backing off the base, and carefully apply it to the box base. It's the biggest piece, so be extra careful. Once that's done and enough pressure is adhered to secure it in place, go ahead and apply the first pair of opposite sides next, which should be much easier to manage given the size.

It's at this point when you may start to see some slight gaps in inner corners where the felt meets up. Sometimes these things slip. Fortunately, most of the felt is hairy or thick enough to easily comb-over these minor issues.

Finally, apply the other pair of opposite sides. Once everything's done, apply a final degree of pressure all around the box, to make sure the adhesive is firmly stuck. Voila! You did it! You built an in-game dice tray for your board game! Now, rub your hand in its poshness before adding the rest of your components inside.


And maybe roll a couple of dice!

I'd like to see what you guys convert to dice trays! Have any questions on my methods? Post in the comments below!
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