Dice Game

Length of Project:
Project theme:
Suitable for grades:
Tools & Materials
Material List
  • Pre-made box or tray, INNER dimensions approx. 1 ½” x 5 ½" x 8 ½"
  • 12” - 3/8” metal rod
  • ½" x ¾" hardwood, approx. 80”
  • carpenter yellow glue
  • polyurethane-based adhesive (eg, Gorilla Glue or similar)
  • Optional

  • four 3/8" star lock washers or star lock caps
Tool list
  • safety glasses
  • ear protection
  • dust mask
  • measuring tape
  • pencil
  • mitre box
  • backsaw or crosscut saw
  • wood clamps
  • scrap wood with 90° ends (~ 1" x 2" x 3" or similar)
  • awl
  • hand drill or drill press
  • 7/16" twist bit
  • 3/8" twist bit
  • felt pen
  • hacksaw
  • metal file
  • number punches (0-9)
  • hammer
  • sandpaper (80-120 grit, and finer if you choose)
  • sanding block
  • Optional:

  • mitre saw
  • vise

    Make two tab-support pieces:

  1. Measure and mark two pieces of wood 1/2" x 3/4" x 5 1/2".
  2. Using a backsaw and mitre box or a crosscut handsaw, cut the two support pieces. Note: if you decide to use power tools to cut the wood, safety glasses and ear protection must be worn at all times.
  3. Remove any rough edges using sandpaper. A dust mask is required while sanding.
  4. Glue and clamp the support pieces (carpenter yellow glue is recommended, it has a short clamping time of about 25 minutes).
  5. Make the tabs:

  6. Create a “butt block” to ensure all pieces are cut to identical length: if using a mitre box, place your backsaw in the 90° slot. Place a scrap of wood exactly 3” away from the saw blade and clamp in place as shown.
  7. If using a mitre saw, unplug the saw and put your blade in the down position. Clamp a scrap of wood exactly 3” away from the saw blade to act as a butt block.
  8. Press your length of ½"x¾” hardwood tightly against the butt block and cut. If you are sawing with a mitre saw, cut down through the wood and let the blade come to a stop in the down position. Only raise the blade once it has fully stopped, this will prevent the piece of wood from binding and possibly deflecting. Remove the cut piece of wood, and repeat this process until you have twenty 3" wood tabs.
  9. Mark your 20 tabs for drill hole placement: draw a lengthwise line down the very middle of the biggest face of each tab. Now, draw a small mark across this line exactly 5/8” in from one end.
  10. Use an awl to poke a small indentation on each tab where the two lines intersect.
  11. Insert the 7/16” twist bit in the drill. Place your tab on a scrap piece of wood and clamp both securely to the work surface.
  12. Drill a hole through the tab at the indentation. Repeat for each of the remaining 19 tabs.
  13. Put on your dust mask. Use sandpaper and a sanding block to clean up the ends of each tab.
  14. Line the tabs up in your tray or against a straight edge,. Use the number punches and a hammer to indent the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 on the top end of the tabs OPPOSITE the holes (see the photo of the finished box to check the orientation of your tabs before you begin).
  15. Make holes for the metal rod:

  16. Measure and mark the four locations on the box to be drilled for the metal rod. Each hole should be 1" in from the outside end of the box.
  17. Calculate the height of the four holes: for this example, the box is constructed with 3/16" plywood; if the box you are using has a different bottom thickness, recalculate as necessary. Add: bottom thickness + thickness of tab support + 1/2 thickness of tab (3/16" + 1/2" + 3/8" = 1 1/16" from the bottom)
  18. Use the awl to poke a small indentation at each of the 4 dots.
  19. Clamp your box to the work surface, and drill the four 3/8" holes as marked, repositioning the box and clamp as needed.
  20. Prepare the metal rods:

  21. Use your measuring tape and felt pen to mark 6” of metal rod (same measurement as the OUTER width of your box).
  22. Secure the metal rod in a vise or hold tightly to the table and use a hacksaw to cut the rod at the mark.
  23. Repeat the previous two steps so you have two rods the same length.
  24. Use a metal file to remove any sharp edges or burrs from the ends of the rods.
  25. Assemble the game:

  26. Line the tabs up in the box in order 1-10 on each side. Insert each rod through the first hole, through the tabs, and through the hole on the other side.
  27. To prevent the metal rods from sliding out of position, you can push a 3/8" star lock washer (or star lock cap) over each end once the rods are in place. Alternatively, you can apply polyurethane-based adhesive to both ends of the rods where the wood contacts the metal.
  28. Look up the rules online to play your new game. To play with a partner, search for the rules of “Countdown!”; to play solo, look up rules for “Shut the Box”.
Extension Challenges
  1. Highlight the numbers: dab paint (of a contrasting colour) into the number indents. After they are dry, sand the top surface of the tabs until the only paint remaining is in the numbers.
  2. Use a non-toxic wood finish such as oil or cutting board wax (apply after sanding the tabs and gluing in the support pieces).
  3. Make your own box from scratch. Some versions of “Shut the Box” have a lid that you close when you win; design a box with a hinged lid to shut so you can celebrate your successful play as well as store the dice when you’re not playing. Alternately, see “Tea Tray Part I” for instructions on how to make a custom-designed low-walled tray.
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