Introduction: Wooden Dice Tower - Hand Tools Only
Due to certain circumstances, there have been a lot of board games being played at home during the last months. After searching for runaway dice for the umpteenth time, I decided to make a dice tower.
A dice tower is a device that both tries to eliminate the "you didn't shake the dice properly" quarrels, and the "where did that dice go" searches. You insert the dice on top of the tower, they bounce off platforms inside the tower with a satisfying rattle, and finally roll out with suitable force at the bottom of the tower.
This instructable shows how I made my tower. You don't have to follow the instructions exactly, make due with what material you have or can get hold of. I simply let the dimensions of the lumber determine the size of my tower.
The lists below contain a quick summary of the materials and tools I used for this project. The steps to follow will have more details and photos.
- Alder 28mm x 90mm (1-1/8" x 3-1/2")
- one 165mm (6-1/2") long piece
- one 50mm (2") long piece
The pieces are resawn and ripped to the required dimensions. What we want to end up with is:
- 1 * 165 x 90 x 8 mm (back)
- 1 * 120 x 90 x 8 mm (front)
- 2 * 165 x 45 x 8 mm (sides)
- 2 * 50 x 45 x 8 mm (inner platforms)
- 1 * 45 x 90 x 8 mm (lower ramp)
- Angle jig
- Wood glue
- I used Titebond Liquid Hide glue
- I used a bench oil (Tung/Linseed mix), followed by garnet shellac
- Shooting board (optional)
- Router plane (optional)
- Measuring and marking tools
- Marking knife
- Marking gauge
- Protractor (optional)
- Sliding bevel (optional)
Step 1: Material
I used a piece of alder, sold as 28 x 90mm (1-1/8 x 3-1/2"), which made the tower turn out at approximately 165mm (6-1/2") tall, 87mm (3-3/8") wide, and 53mm (2-1/8") deep.
We will need one piece that is 165mm (6-1/2") long. From this piece we will create the front, back, sides, and the lowest platform. We also need a second piece that is 50mm (2") long, from which we will make the inner platforms (and save a piece for testing our finish on).
Step 2: Tools and Supplies
Step 3: Resawing the Lumber
- Measure and cut the lumber into one 165mm long and 50mm long piece
- Use the marking gauge along the edges of the longer piece to mark out three equally thick pieces, in my case this thickness was 8mm.
- Start resawing :)
- We want to end up with three pieces that are of approximately the same thickness
- From the shorter piece, we only need one 8mm thick piece, so resaw that too
- Now might be a good idea to save some sawdust if you need to fill in some gaps later in the project
Step 4: Flattening, Squaring, and Ripping the Lumber
Now it's time to bring out the hand plane and square.
Plane the three pieces to equal thickness, and make sure that they are nice and square.
One of the three pieces should be rip sawn down the middle to make the sides. Use your marking gauge to draw a line down the middle, and saw accordingly.
Make sure that the pieces are still square and of equal thickness.
A shooting board is a great help here.
Step 5: Dice Exit, Lower Ramp, and Angle Jig.
We will shorten the front piece to 120 mm to make an opening to actually let the dice out. Be careful when sawing, because we will use the off-cut to create the lower ramp.
Use your marking knife and square to strike a line across the front piece 120 mm (4-3/4") from the top. Crosscut along the line, and use your plane and shooting board to clean up the cut edges.
The lower ramp needs to be placed on an angle. The first photo shows the planed angle across the end grain. Since I want the same angle for the inner platforms too, I decided to make a small wedge for my shooting board to make it easier to get consistent angles.
To create a jig for a drop angle of 60 degrees, measure out 30 degrees on a piece of scrap 2x4 (make sure that the piece is true and square). Saw diagonally along the line, and use your plane to clean up the slope. To test that the geometry is correct, I recommend that you take a small test piece and try your jig, measure the resulting angle, and visually check that it looks ok. See the photos for details.
Step 6: Rabbets on the Front and Back
We will now create rabbets along the inside long edges on the front and back pieces.
Set your marking gauge to the thickness of the sides and strike a line on the inside of the front piece, along both long edges. Repeat on the back piece.
If you have a router plane, you can now set the depth of the rabbet on your router plane, and use that as a marking gauge to make a depth line along the outside edge. Otherwise, use your marking gauge. I set the depth of my rabbets to just 2 mm, but in retrospect, 3 or even 4 mm could be a bit better.
I did the rabbets using a chisel and a router plane. The wide chisel helped to keep the shoulder straight and square, and the router plane made it easy to cut to the proper depth, but you can cut the rabbets with your method of choice.
When the rabbets are done, do a test assembly to check that everything fits together as it should. Now is also a good time to do a dry-run on how to clamp when gluing.
Step 7: Inner Platforms
Remember the 50mm long, 8mm thick piece we cut off in the beginning? That will become the inner platforms.
Rip cut the piece along the middle, plane and square up the pieces. You should now have two equal pieces, approximately 50mm long, 8mm thick, and 45mm wide.
These two pieces should also have the 60-degree angle planed on the end grain, so bring out your jig again and go at it. See the photo how the platforms should fit afterwards.
Oh, they don't fit nicely... The platforms and lower ramp are still oversized, we will make them the right size step by step, and make sure that we don't mess up.
Step 8: First Glue
This is the process I used for gluing up, and making the platforms fit. I'm sure that there are better ways, please let me know how your process was.
The first thing we want to glue up, is the left hand side to the bottom piece. Why the left? I just felt like starting with it. When gluing, I always clamped up the entire tower to make sure that there were no misalignment that would for instance make the front not fit properly afterwards. By clamping in all four sides of the tower, I could be sure that it would fit together properly even after all sides were glued.
Apply glue to the left-hand rabbet of the back of the dice tower, add in the left side piece, and assemble the tower and clamp it up.
Make sure that you practice your clamping before applying glue!
Step 9: Testing Your Finish on Scrap
...otherwise you might have to scrap your finish.
While we're waiting for the glue to dry, we can start thinking about what kind of finish we want.
I took the rest of the 50mm piece, sanded it smooth, put a piece of tape across the middle, and put oil on one side, and shellac on the other. I added several layers of shellac, and two coats of oil. This process took several days since the oil needs at least 24 hours to dry before applying the next coat.
The result was that I liked the colour of the oiled surface better than the shellac, but I liked the feeling of the shellac better. I then decided to add some tape the other way, and try and apply a couple of more coats on shellac over half of the oil, and half of the shellac.
This way I found out what combination made the end result I wanted. It might be that you want some other finish, but remember to test it on the scrap piece we have.
Step 10: Lower Ramp and Platform Fitting
Now that we have one side fixed in place, we can start making the lower platform the correct width.
Place the platform with the angled end towards the back, and press the left-hand side towards the left side of the tower. Make a small mark on the right of the platform where the rabbet of the bottom piece is.
Start taking off material from the lower ramp a little bit at a time, test fitting the right side of the tower every now and then.
When the fit is just right, try to assemble the tower again with the lower ramp just press-fit in it's place. If everything closes up nicely, we can start our second glue-up.
First apply glue to the right-hand rabbet. Before putting in the right side, apply glue to the angled end-grain and both short sides of the lower ramp, and put it in the correct position. After that, place the right side of the tower into the rabbet, and assemble and clamp the tower again.
If everything worked out, the lower ramp should now be properly glued to the tower on three sides, and both the left and right side of the tower are glued to the back piece.
When the glue has dried, it's time to fit the inner platforms. This time the platforms need to be narrower so that the front can have both sides seated in its rabbets, without the platforms coming in between.
When the size is right, apply glue to the angled end-grain and the side towards the back of the tower of the platforms, and clamp them in.
Step 11: Masking Tape and Finishing the Inside
Since the next step to glue in is the front, before we do that, I suggest that we apply finish to the inside.
Make sure to add masking tape to the rabbets of the front, and also on the areas that should be seated in the rabbets. If there is finish on surfaces to be glued, the glue won't take properly.
When the masking tape is applied, go ahead and apply the finish you want to the inside of the tower.
Step 12: Gluing Up the Front, Sanding, Finishing
When the inside is fully finished, remove the masking tape, apply glue to the rabbets on the front of the tower, assemble the tower, and clamp it up.
When the glue is dry, we're almost done.
Plane off any protruding material, fill any gaps with sawdust and glue mixture, sand the outside to the desired smoothness and apply finish according to own taste.
I applied one coat of oil until it didn't soak in anymore, then wiped it off. After the first coat was dry (24 hours), I applied the second coat, and while it was being wet, I wet-sanded with 1000-grit wet-dry sandpaper. Wipe off the excess oil, and when it is dry after 24 more hours. I started adding shellac.
After a few layers, I sanded it down with higher and higher grits (P3000 and P4000 at most). The final coat of shellac was left as is to get a glossier finish.
Step 13: Done
Second Prize in the
Hand Tools Only Challenge