DIY Dice Box (and how to do it better)

Storage a.k.a How to Hold Your Crap

The unique and intriguing aspect of collectible games is that your main goal is to catch/draw/trade them all.  Dice Masters is definitely no exception, with over 80 different dice and going into the hundreds of cards. This is all well and good, but in the quest to get the final few super rares, we have come to have a ludicrous quantity of both dice and cards, and in turn, need a way to store them and organize them for transport to the FLGS, a friends house, or just to have on the shelf.

If you are like me, you went to a craft/hardware/organization store, and shelled out for a Plano box or something of the sort as well as all the dividers you could fit in it.  Don’t get me wrong, these are fantastic for holding all you can, but therein lies my issue with that.  I have been able to tote every die I have collected back and forth to the two to four OPs a month, as well as to Mat’s to play.  I could say with a fair degree of confidence that no one needs to carry 8+ of every die, let alone the 15 Vibranium Shield dice I have brought along time after time.

Personally, I am physically limited in what I can haul around to under 10 pounds, so this really led to me to wanting a better option.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

After searching high and low, I came to the conclusion that in this niche hobby, nothing exists to fill the gap, yet.

Trying to isolate to what exactly I needed, I made a simple list of requirements.

1. Compact enough to carry in any bag
2. Durable enough to survive in a bag
3. Dividers to keep every character die separate.
4. Able to hold ‘max dice’ listed on cards

Armed with a simple list, exact dice dimensions and middle school level woodworking skills I visited a local craft store. For less than $10 I was able to grab the following:

– Wooden box with latched lid – 7″x 7⅛”x2″
– Precut “hobby board” – 2’x3″x⅛”
– 2 pieces of felt 10″x10″
– 1 sheet adhesive backed foam 10″x10″

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First thing I did was cut the wood… I’m kidding, of course. I wanted to establish how to lay it out, or even see if it could work.  Now this part will be different depending on the version of Dice Masters you are making this for.  Avengers vs X-Men happens to have 38 characters (including both Mjölnir and Vibranium Shield) whereas Uncanny X-Men is limited to a paltry 36 characters (including Cerebro).

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The box I found happens to be just slightly wider than deep, so I switched to a 7 row, 6 column layout to allow a little more finger room.

Now that I figured out how I wanted to lay this out, I tried to devise various methods before realizing that technology is my friend. As of late, I’ve become quite a fan of woodworking videos on YouTube, namely Steve Ramsey, and took inspiration from his Router Bit Storage.  Using a nonexistent understanding of Sketchup I was able to draft up the box and design not only the spacing, but every piece including cuts, with intent for the pieces to interconnect using what I believe are half-lap joints, or what we commonly see as the dividers in a case of beer.

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After some failed attempts using a newly acquired handheld electric jigsaw, I was thrilled to have had the foresight to get some pencil files for the slots.

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Using a simple X-Acto knife and an aluminum straight edge. I ripped the 3″ wide piece into 4 pieces just shy of ¾” wide each, and cut them together into (4) 6½” and (4) 6⅝” lengths.  Then, taping the respective lengths together into a neat stack, I was able to trim each slot evenly so the intersecting pieces would stay square across the box. This process could be done with almost any cutting tool, but in retrospect power tools were overkill.  I picked up an X-Acto saw and mini miter box to do a box for Mat.

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A great deal of hand filing later (admittedly too much), and after trimming the shorter pieces for the middle sections, there was a rough framework.

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Happy with this, gluing began to secure the latticework together, and to especially hold those shorter pieces in place.

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Next step, lining the box. This really serves a multifold purpose. It not only adds a little style to the project, it quietens the rattling of the dice while in transit, it allows the lid to be used a dice  tray if so desired, and it keeps dice in their assigned seats.  Since I had opted to make the dividers ¾” tall to allow for better finger accessibility (and avoid having to buy more wood), the box had a little too much wiggle room for dice to slip out of their places while closed.  Thankfully the foam added enough thickness to dampen roll sound AND fill that space, making sure nothing gets out of line while running to the local OP.

You can find adhesive backed felt, but the colors are a little limited. If you am have your heart set on Royal Blue,  Deadpool Red, or Psylocke Purple; you can use a fantastic product called Super 77 that will happily adhere fabric to wood or even plastic or metal.

Before attaching, you obviously have to trim the felt down for that “professional” look. I found that trimming felt to the exact spec was ineffective. To compensate for the fabric’s desire to stretch, cutting about ⅛” under the space’s dimension made for an ideal fit after stretching for a smooth surface.

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To make certain all was in place, glue was applied to every surface that wood contact’s wood, and I chose to place the framework ⅛” above the bottom felt to further limit any wandering dice. A nice side effect is that cleaning dust or debris out is a bit easier with a spray air duster.

Allowing all adhesives to cure for 24 hours was ideal, especially since these glue joints are going to be getting bumped around over the next several months.

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Finally, the project completed, and loaded up with those precious UXM dice.  I don’t have access to 4 of a character dice, but this gives you a good idea of the size and fitment of this build.

Things I Would Have Done Differently

First of all, I would have taken more time and care using a simple saw to keep the cuts cleaner. On that same note, I would have refrained from filing as much to make sure the joints were tighter, so glue wouldn’t be as necessary.

Finishing. I would have taken time before gluing and finished the wood in some way. Either spray lacquer, possibly wax, or even just paint to take it from looking like a simple craft box to something more custom and unique. I also would have liked to mask off and either stain, burn or paint the Dice Anon logo into the lid.

Measurements. Opting to trim down to ¾” rail height was a definite fail. The dice are a hair over ½” tall/wide/deep and the box empty was a bit over 1¼” tall inside. 1″ rails would have made fitting even 6 dice in each slot possible, just not quite comfortably.

Wrapping Up

This project was as much about making something that wasn’t a bulky plastic hold-all as it was about educating all of you about the option to just DIY a nice box you can show off at your next OP.  With my broken back and limited crafting skills I was able to throw together this in a matter of a few hours spread across a couple of days.

I would love to hear thoughts, suggestions or even criticisms. If you can do it better, please let us know your tricks and send pictures or links.

Finally, because I realized after the fact that the box seems a bit larger than it is, here a picture of it on the official WizKids AvX play mat.

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This isn’t the only crafty project I have in the pipeline, and I plan on doing some different things in this same vein. And some unique new things, as well.

Stay tuned for more great stuff, and may the rolls be with you.


About Andrew Fearn

Passionate for gaming of all sorts, OCD about collecting.

16 comments:

  1. That is really awesome.

    I actually just got myself a setup yesterday. I went to Harbor Freight, local home improvement place that is dirt cheap.

    I got a small toolbox, literally small as a lunch pail, and 2 plano-type plastic containers. Both of the plastic containers fit all of AvX and all of Uncanny max dice. Both of the plano fit into the box, along with my bag. The top part of the box has 2 smaller plastic containers which hold 16 sidekicks and 1 set of each action die.

    It fits everything for me and all of it was $7. I think I am going to put all my cards in a card binder.

    The one you made looks super nice though. Way nicer than my plastic lunch box looking toolbox. But I also am lazy hahaha.

    1. Ha ha. I love it. I think the idea Andrew had was more to get people out of the norm and find fun ways to carry your dice, and make it practical in terms of size and weight. I mean, this thing is smaller than a mouse pad in dimensions.
      I’d love a picture of this toolbox setup of yours. Mathew @ Diceanon.com . Shoot me a pic.

    2. Thanks Jarimy,

      I took a couple visits to harbor freight myself. The boxes they have drew my interest, but at least at this location, the plastic bins were only I believe 22 slots and I’m too crazy to allow character dice to commingle.

      The constant sight of either bulky Planos that can hold 16 of each character (I gave mine to Mat) or compact ones with too few dividers is what really set me on this path.

      It also brought to mind that WizKids has even more series in the pipeline, so if I could make a complete, compact solution that is reproducible, I could have a fairly consistent looking series to go along over time.

  2. Full disclosure – I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday, to pick up one of those popular round containers with the small boxes on the side. I got one for like $4. I’m still working on the solution I like best.

    Well, I stumbled upon the wood box section. I didn’t buy one, but I can’t rule out the possibility that I might try and create one of these myself.

    They just were so nice.

  3. What store exactly did you get the items at? Hoping it was Hobby Lobby.

    Side note – I was the only dude in the entire place. And it was PACKED with people. Funny stuff.

    But 40% coupons to be had, I will most likely be returning to buy one of the wood boxes.

  4. Anyone have Andrew’s e-mail address? I am in the process of doing one of these myself and was curious what kind of wood he used for the dividers. I am using balsa would as a test run, but I think something a little sturdier would be better for a final product.

    I am having a blast doing this. Except for running around all over town looking for supplies. I think I have everything I need. I would never of guess a small saw for a mini miter would be so difficult to find around here.

    If Andrew sees this – what kind of wood did you use? You say “pre-cut hobby board” – what exactly is that?

    Also, how did you do the cuts the long way with ease? I used a mini miter for the cuts on the ends, but not the long way. Long way was a tad more difficult to keep straight. Is there a good item to do long cuts with to keep them straight? Just clamp them down with a ruler? Or is there a mini miter type item that would help that you know of.

    1. Hey Jarimy,

      I’m excited to see someone else trying this out.

      As far as materials, I used 1/16″ basswood, which is usually right next to the balsa at most hobby stores. I bought 1/8″ for the second attempt but after using the 1/16″ inch, it does fine with the latticework and glue really strengthening it. Balsa is nice for times you want to bend because it is much less dense than basswood.

      I was able to get a saw, miter, the basswood, felt, foam, and box all at Michael’s craft shop locally, not sure how far reaching they are.

      For cutting the lengths I did just what you thought. I took a good metal straight edge (ruler) and carefully measured and clamped them together onto my worktop, then with firm pressure using a normal X-Acto over a couple of passes gave me a nice and clean cut. Because I was trying to extract as much out of a single piece of 3″ wide, I measured each at 0.765″ with a caliper, but I think just getting two boards and cutting at 1″ would make it much easier and give a better tolerance if you are off by a little.

      I also found that cutting widths was a little easier, because then I was able to tape them together and make certain the length and all notches were even.

      1. Nice! I finished the balsa wood layout. I am glad that I did that as a test run. It looks decent, but no way it would really work functionally. It’s not strong enough. It was a great way to test some things out though.

        My box is a little different of a layout than yours, so I need to pin down my exact measurements, so the balsa helped test it.

        I am hoping to finish it up this week. Will post pictures or e-mail them to whomever can post them. Will also send pictures of my toolbox setup that I got at harbor freight.

        We do have a Michael’s, but I think it’s on the way other end of town. Hobby Lobby and AC Moore have been where I have stopped at. Going to try and find a Michaels closer just to check out what they have.

        I think I am going to get a self healing cutting mat. I don’t have a workbench or anything like that, so I was doing most of the cutting hanging over the side of the table. If all goes according to my addictive personality, I will have a workbench in the house somewhere and my wife think I am more insane than before.

  5. A great idea and box as a result. I may need to try this myself, but am considering adding a handle (or possibly work from scratch to place a handle) for more of a briefcase style.

  6. Or, you could just get an Ultra Pro Pro-Dual Deck Box at Walmart. Especially when you are just starting out. I have an UXM Starter Deck, two Bags, the card checklist, 8 booster packs worth of cards and dice, and the rule book stored in it. I store the rule book in one of the pockets made by the lid when closed.

  7. Hi Andrew…I absolutely love the look of your box. I’ve recently gotten hooked on Dice Masters myself…my collection has been growing and I’m not entirely satisfied with using the collectors box for storage. it is not nicely compartmentalized like your box there, and I find myself constantly reorganizing my dice when I travel with it. Your design here is very eye catching…I’m sure you are the envy of all at your local game shop.

    I was thinking about giving this a try myself, but I live in Canada and I’m not sure where to find the supplies you used. We also have Michaels in Canada, and I can probably get most of the stuff I would need from them…but the box itself I can’t seem to find. I was thinking of ordering online the exact same one that you used…any idea where I can find it? Was there a brand name on the box to help me identify it? I have found several similar boxes that can be ordered online, but nothing with the same dimensions as you indicate.

    Any help you can provide would be great. I’m far from handy with this kind of thing, but I’ve been looking for a little project to keep me occupied for a little while and I think this might be it.

  8. Hi Andrew, love the box and going to attempt one myself. Just curious, what were your final lengths in between cuts?

  9. I happened to be in my local Michaels on the weekend again as the wife wanted to pick up something…so I checked over in the wood projects section and I found the same box Andrew used! So I bought one and plan on starting my own project in a few days.

    I’m going to try a few different things with it too…I’m going to try to burn the DM set logo into the top, and perhaps stain my wood a darker colour before gluing. I also thought of including a little felt pocket on the underside of the lid, to perhaps store a few cards or a rule book or something.

    I’m far from a handy guy, so this may not turn out well…but I’m going to give it a shot.

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