Bringing a Box to Life

I have gone back and forth about sharing the entire process of making boxes. Is it a secret process like an age old recipe handed down through the generations that only one person is allowed to know? Honestly, not really. There are a lot of small makers doing dice boxes and rolling towers out there, and many of them are doing wonderful work.

What makes DW boxes different? I told myself early on that I will only make my own designs, not recreate someone else’s design. I want people to look at my boxes and be able to recognize that it’s a Dirty Woods box. Did I redesign the wheel? Maybe, but I like my wheel. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

If you didn’t know by now, it all starts with CNC. After running a slice of wood through the planer to make it the thickness I want, then it goes on the machine (affectionately known as Dusty Sr). I load the desired layout design into the control computer, check my zeros, and press go. Some woodworkers say that CNC isn’t real woodworking, I don’t participate in those arguments because it’s just a tool I use to get the job done.

After the CNC is done I take it back over to the planer to take a little bit off the back side so I can pop out the box from the surrounding waste material (I say waste, but I save what I can to use on other projects or give to people who want it for other stuff). Please excuse the mess, this process generates some excess which seems to multiply exponentially (like rabbits) when I cut a bunch at a time.

Next up is the router. This is something that I only started doing mid 2020. Before this the boxes were super square, and had a hard edge on the outside. The were good before, this is one of those little finishing touches that just makes them better.

Sanding is self explanatory, but very important. Cutting corners sanding will change the end quality. I sand multiple times in the process, at least 4 times I think.

This CNC is Dusty Jr. Really it’s the original CNC I bought at then end of 2018, but it’s dinky. Like, fits on a desk dinky. Jr is Jr because it’s small, and only does the graphics carving for me. I get a lot of people who ask me if I use a laser for the graphics. Nope, all CNC router. A laser is on my wish list still if anyone needs birthday gift ideas for me.

Yes I can load up custom graphics and carve them in boxes. No, they don’t always translate well. I do it this way because it works well for the resin inlay, and it’s what I know how to do.

Speaking of resin inlay, this is what it looks like for step one of the resin process. It took time to figure out the best way to do this, and resin isn’t cheap. Also note that the box is sealed at this point. Three coats before resin, otherwise it’s a higher risk of bubbles (which translate to holes later). This resin pour is a rather simple two color fade (accent? blend? mix? I don’t know the official term, we just do it) carbon black, and crimson.

The resin takes a full 24 hours to set before I can move on to the next step. In all honesty I should probably wait longer, but sometimes we get anxious to see the result of the pour.

After the resin is set I run it through the planer to knock the high points down, then sanding again. I make sure to sand up to around 1000 grit to make sure there are no scratch marks in the final product. After sanding I seal the whole thing, then sand again, then seal again. Yes, it makes a difference.

Finally, I install magnets, then velvet, then foam (if it has a miniature pocket). The magnets are countersunk Neodymium, a rare earth element, and fastened with stainless steel screws. The velvet has an adhesive backing (so far I have not heard of the velvet coming apart from the tray) and I either hand cut the pieces, use a punch for the hex shapes, or cut a bunch with a Cricut.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a final fancy pic of this custom box before I sent it out, I’m just always excited to get the boxes out the door to their forever homes.

However, here is a pic of a different finished box just for funsies.

I hope this was an enjoyable post for anyone who hung in there and read the whole thing. This process took two years to get to this point, and in two year from now the process may look different. If it’s the exact same, then I failed. I hope to always be chasing a better process and better end product.

Happy gaming!

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