Inventory and Custom Orders

Over the last couple years I have started having a presence at regional conventions. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and despite the fact that I am somewhat introverted, I absolutely love being at cons. The 2021 downtime have given me the opportunity to streamline how I want things to run. The big subjects I have been focusing on are customs, cons, retails stores, and developing new products.

The largest overall factor is inventory, which is what I am focusing on now. With Origins Game Fair on the horizon I basically have to make boxes nonstop from now until September to feel comfortable having enough to not run out. While it is a good problem to have, I have no idea how much is enough since this will be our first large convention (not to mention the pandemic makes attendance levels an unknown right now). As a result of my own anxiety I will be limiting custom orders to a few slots a month.

As far as customs go, I love doing them, and I spend more time making sure they meet expectations. While that is in no way a bad thing, it does take me away from focusing on overall inventory. The one thing I have been putting off this whole time is adding a few bucks to spend the time making a custom box. I want to make sure that customs are still within a reasonable price, so I feel like $10 is a modest enough charge.

Speaking of cost, there has been an increase in wood prices in many parts of the country. Somehow we were insulated from it for the most part here in the mid west, but walnut has gone up (which is a pain since it was already more expensive than most domestic woods). I am considering a small charge for walnut on customs, but we’ll see. Really it just means there will be fewer of them in stock in the long run and more cherry, ash, maple, and likely a return of coffee wood (which looks like ash and oak for the most part, but will have the caffeine graphic by default).

The last two items on my list (not last in priority) retail stores, and new products. You can find DW boxes and towers in two stores locally, and I plan on adding a few more this year. Likely the big retail store push will be for the next holiday season. As for new stuff, I have to put it on the back burner somewhat so I can focus on inventory levels. Once things get to a comfortable level of operation I will start working on the new ideas I have rolling around in my head.

That’s where I am at right now. Feel free to comment with insight, or suggestions. Also, don’t forget to get on the custom order list if you want something made, it could fill up fast.

Happy gaming!

I wrote a game for you…

The small town of Ravens Roost is a way point of trade between major cities. It sits on a tributary river about half a day’s ride west of Konbjerg (or a home brew city of your choosing). The town was originally a garrison several generations ago when the wilderness was a larger source of unrest, and danger. On the western side of the river is a fortified garrison, and a temple (which now serves as a logistical center for trade caravans). Around the fortification arose merchants, inns, and a warehouse district on the water. On the eastern side of the river is a sparsely populated farming community, and local trade village.

Normally a fairly uneventful hamlet, Ravens Roost has recently been the target of a series of break ins over the past couple of weeks. Rumors fuel wild guesses as to who or what is responsible, and the list of stolen items is no help. The garrison constable doesn’t wish to dedicate what little man power he has to the issue since the break ins do not directly hinder the trade routes. The adventurers are hired to stop the break ins by a representative of the little-known merchant house Envaris, with the blessing of the garrison constable.

I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in 1989 (why does this feel like an addiction meeting). For all the games that I made up over the years this is the first one I actually put on paper. Well, it’s digital. With no real plans to do hard copy runs any time soon.

Despite it taking so many years to actually publish something, I will say that it is much easier now than it would have been back then. WoTC really hit on something when they created the open gaming license and started supporting community content with the Dungeon Masters Guild.

This is something I have always wanted to do. I recognize that my first attempt is just that, a first attempt. I don’t plan on getting wealthy on one module (or multiple for that matter). The important part right now is that I put it out there. Step one complete. Project done.

Also important, which I believe is paramount in the TTRPG community, is contributing to the community. Even if no one buys it ever it is still a significant game module to me. I introduced a number of new players to the game with this content, but back then it was mostly in my head. You don’t even have to buy it to run it. You can pay $0 to download it from dmsguild dot com, or you can pay the 1.99 if you want and I’ll put it in the coffee fund.

I want to make more. I also need feedback to know if it’s any good. So let me know if you read it, or run it. What works? What didn’t work? Or, better yet, are you a brand new DM (GM) that want’s to run it? Ask questions, I’ll help you learn how to run it. I want to help make the TTRPG community a better place. I feel like I need to after playing for 32 years.

Enjoy!

Small Box Prototype

The new small box design is 3″x5.5″ as opposed to the old 4″x4″ square small box. Why the change? The medium and large boxes are rectangular in design, so the small will match the shape. I like the look, there is just something more aesthetically pleasing about it.

Along with this design is a smaller tower, which fits well with the idea of travel utility. They are both sized the same, something the old tower slot would not be able to do. It’s actually about the same size as the mini tower redesign, but it will accommodate standard sized dice up to a d20. For DCC players you would still have to use the 4″x7″ tower for your d24 and d30, or roll them by hand if you were using the small tower.

Keep in mind these pieces are not fully finished. No sealer, no magnets, no velvet. Also, the smaller size on direction (the 3″) means there would be limitations on graphics and resin pours. It would be great for laser etched graphics (still on the list to buy… eventually).

Despite my opinion on the small box prototype, it’s not up to me if it replaces the square design. If no one is interested, then it wont be a thing. So, here’s some additional comparison pics. I’d love to get some feedback.

Normal tower vs small tower.

Happy gaming!

21 Expectations

I have high hopes for 2021. Of course, I had high hopes for the year that shall not be named, but the thing about planning is making sure to be flexible. If you can’t adjust then expect disappointment.

My first priority right now is inventory. I keep getting excited about new projects I am working on and want to make the things. However, with the conventions that are already on the books for later this year, and the retail stores that need to be restocked, I have to make sure that boxes are available.

Full disclosure, I did do some redesigns and updates while I had downtime on the cold days. Expect to see a new small box because I just wasn’t too happy with the square box. I just didn’t put a ton of thought into it originally due to the simplicity, I changed it to a rectangle shape to match the medium and large box shapes. Small change but I think I will feel less “meh” about it.

I redesigned the dice slot in the rolling tower. It was never as clean as I wanted it to be, but I have yet to cut the new one so the jury is still out on the result. The benefit to the new slot is sizing. I can now make a smaller tower that matches the dimensions of the redesigned small box and I think it will make a great matching set. I also made a micro tower for fun, but there’s not a lot of micro dice out there so we’ll see how it plays out.

For pending redesigns I have the three piece tower box, and the travel size DM screen. The tower box doesn’t need so much of a redesign, more just figuring out a better way to streamline the build process. It’s a bit tedious right now but I have had people ask me about it so it may become a priority. The DM screen is a similar story. The build process is wonky and I need the pieces to not have tear out in the wood, but I did upgrade the magnets so that feels like progress.

DW is in two retail stores right now, Saltire Games, and Hometown Comics and Games. I am happy with the result of the holiday season, but am unsure about off season sales. Regardless, I will make sure they are stocked with boxes and towers. I also intend to add a couple more stores to the list soon (again, inventory) so if you are local to Indy then go take a look and support your FLGS (friendly local game store, for the muggles).

Conventions are starting to come back, albeit slowly (which I support). InCon and Indy Pop Con in July, and Origins at the end of September. I don’t know how much I can stress the importance of Origins to Dirty Woods, it’s like hitting the big time. I don’t know what other cons will pop up, but I do know that for the most part we are going to try to focus on the ones in state. Connecting to the game community locally has become more important to me over the last two years.

Dirty Woods online footprint is something I have given a lot of thought to lately. I’m not happy with Etsy right now, don’t expect to see listings on there any time soon. Obviously DW is on WordPress, and I’m waiting on a domain transfer so the .net address will be alive again soon. I also plan to list available products on here, once I have more products available (buzz word, inventory). My experience with the FB shops was just ok, it works but there are little things that make it just “meh” overall.

There is more happening behind the scenes at DW but I feel like I’m rambling at this point, and I want to save some for more posts. Feel free to post questions or suggestions. Community input means a lot to me, and is a big factor in what drives Dirty Woods. Also, if you are playing games in person, send me pics of your boxes and towers in action. I love seeing DW stuff “in the wild”

Happy gaming!

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!

The Wild Ride

Revisiting the blog world. I read my old posts in an effort to return to getting my words down on paper (digital paper?). I have been wanting to do this for a while, but it has been a wild ride in the 2 years since my last post. Aside from the known craziness that was the dumpster fire of 2020 I have been focusing on this thing we all know as Dirty Woods.

DW was supposed to be more than just “a thing” since my first step was the blog. It’s currently a CNC woodworking business more than anything else, but the real “thing” is a conglomerate of things that make up the whole DW. The contents of that conglomerate have changed a bit since the beginning and are really starting to solidify and take shape. Am I Dirty Woods? Or is Dirty Woods it’s own entity? How many licks does it take to get to the center? The world may never know.

Shortly after my last post I got that first CNC machine and began making little things. Not really knowing where it would lead, I came up with many different ideas on what I could make. A year later I had 3 machines, upgraded my work spaces, sold boxes at multiple conventions, separated from the army national guard, connected with the game community in a whole new light, started playing more tabletop games, etc. Once 2020 hit I was looking forward to a huge growth year for DW. When life throws you curve balls you either adjust or strike out. I was in a good place to adjust.

Without getting into the details of how 2020 went, I will say that we (the fam and I) have been very lucky. The fates were with us. The big guy has a plan. However you want to look at it. The past year has been very humbling in reminding me how fragile this all is. Also, teachers deserve a lot more (credit, respect, money, bear hugs) than they get. I am not good at being an e-learning guide but I made (and still am making) an effort because that’s what the kids deserve. Bottom line, I was able to pump the breaks on DW so I could spend more time focusing on the well being of the entire family.

I have a lot of work I should be doing in the shop. The unheated shop. The shop that is colder than the refrigerator. I have to put drinks away so they don’t freeze and explode on the tools. The big shiny new(ish) CNC doesn’t do well in the icy temps so instead of making more boxes I am working on the blog. I reorganized the office for finish work and shipping operations. I updated my CNC designs to be more efficient. I designed a few new products. I finished doing taxes for the year. Anything to keep the business moving forward, or at least feel like I am moving forward.

There are a lot of big things coming and I feel like I am perpetually standing at the starting line waiting for the flag to drop. DW has a table reserved at Origins Game Fair, our biggest opportunity yet, and everything is at a standstill. No pressure, but I really need to be stocking up on inventory.

There is so much I can write about. In reality the point (that I am making to myself maybe) is that this whole thing is full circle. Things I wanted to do in life when I was a teenager looking forward to adulthood are now my reality. Making things in my shop, writing, being part of the tabletop game industry, playing games, going to cons, all of it is my dream job. I don’t think I would be as successful as I am if I had started this 25 years ago and a big part of that was changing how I define success.

I am truly humbled by it all.

Thank you.

Now back to business. /end mental dump

New Roads

It’s been an interesting year and a half since my last blog post. However; I have thought about writing again off and on. After going overseas to work for a while, loosing my mother, turning 40, and just general shenanigans with home and work life, I feel like I am at a cross roads. An epoch in my life. I use that word specifically due to recent music I listened to.

I watch youtube channels of people that do what they love for a living, mostly outdoors things, or small workshops. I keep hearing “I took a risk, and it payed off.” There’s a lot of things I would love to do for a living. Other people did it, I should be able to as well, right? I know what I want to do, I just have to figure out how to get there. I am going to start hobbies that generate some income, “side hustle” as the kids are calling it these days.

I am not sure how the blog is going to work into all of it yet, but I know it needs to be part of my life. Next week I head to Colorado again. Also, I ordered a CNC wood carving machine that should be here by the time I get back. This is me investing in myself. So expect posts about the outdoors, and woodworking over the next couple months. Mostly for myself since I don’t really have any readers yet lol.