I am a delayed follower of Critical Role, a live Dungeons and Dragons production. Delayed both in that I started following Campaign 2 and that I never watch it live (past my bedtime). But I’ve been fascinated with the paraphernalia they use: dice bags, rolling boxes, etc. I decided I would turn my hand to making a dice box as a present.
There are plenty of really nice dice boxes you can purchase. I think the impact Critical Role has had on D&D accessories can’t be understated. But the boxes aren’t terribly complicated and they are a nice keepsake.
To start, I needed some good wood. I have a decent set of tools as well, but nothing that a typical house owner wouldn’t have. I went with some hardwood to make sure it was a bit more durable. To make the box in the photo at the top of this page, I bought 1 piece of 1/4″ x 5″ oak and one piece of 1″ x 5″ oak. I believe they were 3 feet long but get as short as you can. That much would is enough to do this project twice, and still some to spare.
A note on wood, if you’re new to it. A 1″ board is its nominal height. It’s actually smaller than that, about 3/4″ high. Originally, I thought I was going to need a double layer of wood but in fact this was the perfect height for the dice sets I have. In the drawings below, I am using the actual height, but it’s the 1″ board.
Tools and Equipment
- Wood. One piece that’s long and about 1/4″ tall and one that’s about 1″ tall.
- Table saw. You could probably do this with a hand saw but it’d be a bit slower.
- Power drill. Used to make the main dice holes and to create holes for the corner magnets and screws.
- Handheld jig saw. You could also use a hand saw. This was only to make the notches that connect the dice tray and the dice holder.
- 3 drill bits. One really narrow (guide holes), one the width of your magnets, one 1″ spade bit
- Wood glue
- Super glue
- Clamps or weights. I used 1 large clamp to hold wood together as glue dried. You could recreate this with weights pressed against the wood or with strong rubber bands.
- 4 x Neodymium craft magnets
- 4 x Wood screws the same width as the magnets
The Dice Holder
The holder is a solid piece of wood with a bunch of holes drilled through it. I decided to make mine 3″ x 5″. That’s plenty of space to hold a set of 6 dice, the standard D&D set. The holes are 1″ across and I used a spade bit. You probably have one if you ever were given or bought a set of drill bits.
To make this project easier for someone of my skill ability, I drilled all the way through the wood. I used the thinner board as both the top and base of the box.
Tip: the first time I attempted the box, I used a piece of test softwood. And I was lucky I did because I neglected to measure off a margin. Mark off at least a 1/4″ around the top of your block. Then, from those lines, arrange your dice holes. Otherwise you may find (as I did) that some holes are going to cut through the edge of the block.
The Dice Tray
The dice tray is just three pieces of the 1″ board cut to size. You could probably do this by hand but it’s very quick on a table saw. In my case, I cut 4 pieces 5″ long and 1/4″ wide. Two make up the sides of the dice tray. The other two make the end of the dice tray. One connects to the two side pieces. The other needs to be cut slightly shorter, and is glued inside the end.
This picture shows my initial plan. You can see how 3 of the 4 5″ pieces will connect to make the box. Put the last one aside.
If you did the same as me, cut your dice holder so that your dice tray fits into the notches. My notches were 1/4″ wide and 1/2″ long. The 1/4″ width is the same width as the dice tray pieces. I used these notches to give myself more wood to glue the holder and tray together.
Glue the side pieces to the dice box first. Then glue the end on. Clamps or rubber bands can help you keep the two sides pressed together as the glue works.
Prepare for the Magnets
Let’s return to that last piece of wood. Once you’ve glued the tray sides to the dice holder, you have finished the main part of this project. Now you just need to cut a top and a bottom to it.
My box copies the commercial boxes and uses magnets to attach the lid. In order to do that, you need a wide enough piece of wood to place the magnet (lid) and the screw (dice box/tray). The dice tray is too narrow if you have used 1/4″ wide pieces.
Measure the inside end of the dice tray, the opposite end from the dice box. Cut the remaining 1/4″ x 5″ piece of wood down so that it fits into the end. It should end up being 4 1/2″ (since each side is 1/4″) but measure to be sure that’s correct. Slather the inside end of the box and place this shortened piece into place. This will make the end of your box 1/2″ wide. This is plenty for a magnet or screw and you won’t split your wood.
The lid and base are easy. You should be able to measure out the wood based on the dice box frame you have. One piece of the 1/4″ x 5″ wood will be the base. Glue it on and clamp it.
My lid uses 1/2″ neodymium magnets that are about 1/4″ wide. You can get them at Michaels for about C$8. I use 4 of that 6 pack. If you look closely at the commercial boxes, you’ll see that many of them have a screw on the other half of the box. A neodymium magnet is pretty strong and so you can make it easier to open the box if you only use a magnet on one side.
This is the fiddliest part of the project. You need to drill:
- 4 guide holes for screws (one for each screw)
- 4 countersunk holes for screws (one for each screw head)
- 4 magnet holes (in the lid)
I placed my screws 1/4″ in from the edge of the box. One at each outside corner of the dice holder. One at each outside corner of the dice tray. With 6 magnets, you could actually do two more in the middle if you wanted.
First, drill the guide hole at the marked point, a 1/4″ in from the edges. I used my absolutely thinnest drill bit. I wanted to make sure that when I turned the screws, they went straight in.
The guide hole is also useful to start your countersunk hole. This uses a drill bit that is the same width as the head of the screw you’re using. Drill down just far enough so that, when you screw in the screw, the top of the screw head is the same level as the top of the dice box/tray.
Choosing the Screws
I went to our nearby Lowes store and, with a magnet in hand, walked up to the wood screw display. I found the 1/2″ (how deep they go into the wood) wood screws and I found some that looked about the same width as my magnet. I then ran the magnet over the box to make sure the screws were magnetic.
In my case, the screws I found were the same width (1/4″) as the magnets. This meant that I could use the same drill bit for both countersunk holes and magnet holes.
It is probably obvious but you want your lid holes to match up with your screw holes. Otherwise the magnet may be too distant from the screw to adhere. I am not a very exact carpenter and I was worried that, if I just measured 1/4″ in from the corners on the lid, that it wouldn’t be quite right.
I measured in 1/4″ from each hole on the underside of the lid. But then I took a piece of letter paper and laid it over my box, with the screws inside their holes, countersunk.
First, I ran my finger, on top of the paper, over the edges of the box and the screw holes. This should make edges and dents. Then, with a pencil, I did a brass rubbing-type motion over the edges of the box and the screw holes. Just turn the pencil onto its side a bit and lightly draw over the holes and edges. You’ll see a ghostly copy of them appear.
I then lifted the paper and turned it upside down on top of the lid. The pencil marks on the paper should line up with the markings you’ve already made on the lid. Frankly, I trusted the markings on the paper more. I used the same really thin drill bit and drilled through the paper to make 4 guide holes in the lid. I drilled at the 4 indentations created by the screws in the paper.
Now I had 4 guide holes and could use the larger drill bit to create the magnet holes. This is tricky, because you don’t want to go through the wood. In my case, I erred a bit on having the magnets stick out of the lid.
But I did drill right through one corner. It’s not the end of the world. But if you do this, keep your wood shavings. Put some super glue in each hole and place a magnet in the glue. You might be able to get by with craft glue or wood glue but I was worried that the magnet would stick to the screw and pull away from the lid.
Once the super glue has set, you’re done. If you drilled through the lid, take some wood glue and partly fill the top-side of the hole. Then press wood shavings from your drilling into the hole until they overflow. Press them in as hard as you can. Then let it dry.
Now you can sand and stain or do whatever final touch up you want. I used a stiffer sandpaper to get the edges worn down a bit. It also smoothed out the wood patch I made. I used steel wool for a bit of soft fine sanding, but watch out for the steel bits sticking to your magnets.
I chose a stain + varnish in one. The dice box is going to get a lot of contact with greasy hands and I figured a varnish is worth the extra protection. I used steel wool between the 2 coats of stain. The stain had the added benefit of making the wood hole less noticeable.
The bottom of each dice hole and the bottom of the tray is covered in felt. I’m hoping the felt will reduce the sound of the dice when the box is carried. It also is a nice finishing touch to give the box a bit of color.