I had lots of those cubes leftover from dismantling pallets all the time, and they were piling up. I couldn’t think of that many things to do with them besides using them for places to let things rest on or against as paint dried or polyurethane cured until I saw my dogs playing with one and tossing it around the yard. So, I looked at the cubes and realized they were almost “square” (not perfect – but good enough), so I sanded them down and chopped them with a miter saw until they were square-ish. The beauty of this particular idea is that the cubes don’t have to be perfect – they’ll be beaten around in the yard if you do a good enough job. So, they could be turned into a Yard Yahtzee Dice Set!
Make an easy family-friendly project:
After squaring them up, I used a router to round over the edges on all sides of each cube. I realized I had two distinct sizes of cubes – one about 4″ across and one style about 3″ across. This will matter later if you decide to do this. I patched/glued any significant defects such as large cracks, etc., and once that dried, I did a simplified way to find the centers and then aligned the holes. I drew an X shape from corner to corner. The center would be either the #1 or the center of a #5.
Measuring out the rest of the dots:
I then used a small ruler and let the width of the ruler be my guide point from the center of the cube, and after drawing the X, I’d then draw an “H” shape. That pretty much gave me all the critical points – other than dividing each leg of the X into quarter pieces for the #2 and #3 sides. I marked up all the cubes like this, so they were consistent. The only difference for your cube size is to find something (a ruler, a strip of wood, etc.) that puts the dots as far from the center point as you like. Then, try to picture it as a giant set of dice and go from there.
You can cheat on this Yard Yahtzee dice set and just paint the dots, but the wood inlay is much more interesting!
Next, I used a drill press to drill out 1/2″ holes. I used a hole saw on the drill press and used various upcycled woods to make small plugs. Almost as if you’re sinking in screws and are making plugs to hide the hardware. If they don’t cut clean, you don’t have to worry. When you glue them in, and when they’re dry, you can sand them down nice and smoothly. Don’t bother doing much clean-up at the front end – it doesn’t save you time. You’ll be drilling out 21 plugs per cube – as well as drilling 21 holes in each cube to make a single complete die. You’ll need five dice for a full Yahtzee set.
Start sanding the dice set – carefully!
When all the dice were done, I used a belt sander (4″) and the plugs’ ground so that the surfaces were nice and smooth. See our advice for sanding a pallet. I re-routered any corners that got impacted by overzealous sanding and then hand-sanded to smooth them down so they’d be comfortable in tiny hands. I stained some of the plugs for better contrast, but most I didn’t bother – planning on using light plugs on the darker redwood cubes I had and darker wood on the pine cubes.
What do you coat with? It’s up to you!
When the stains were dry, I applied a LIBERAL coating of Tung oil. Yes – I did NOT use polyurethane. I figured that these would be bounced around, will hit the cement, rocks, etc. If one of the recipients needed to re-sand a damaged corner, they could apply a bit of wood oil and return in business in minutes. I followed directions and used two coats, gently rubbing between each coat to absorb excess oil.
But you can’t just hand the dice set over in a grocery bag. Build carriers that double as scorecards!
When the dice were drying, I built vertical crates for them (on purpose). They are sort of like a wine bottle bag out of pallet wood. These I did polyurethane, but on two sides, I created scoreboards using chalk paint (again – follow directions), and then drew the scoreboard boxes, etc., using a 7mm yellow acrylic paint pen because that stuff dries rapidly and would show up well. Finally, I finished them off with chunks of leftover sisal rope from my cat tree project to make little handles-slash-retainers. They’re just bulky enough that the dice don’t go falling everywhere if you knock the crate over.
Use what you have and save money!
I made six sets, and my family/friends LOVED them! They were a huge hit and a great way to use 30 cubes! :D The only thing I had to buy for this project was some chalk at the local dollar store. I purchased five multi-colored chalk sticks per pack, so 20 cents per Yahtzee set.
So hopefully, this gives you some inspiration for those leftover cubes. :-D And if you don’t want to do this project, here are ten other kid-friendly ideas!