{diy with style} Summer Fun with DIY Wooden Yard Dice

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A few weeks back I was browsing my local Crate & Barrel's extensive line of stylish outdoor furniture and summer entertaining accessories. I was scoping out their outdoor games when I spotted a set of five Wooden Yard Dice. I have many fond memories of playing Yahtzee with my grandparents, so I love the idea of introducing my kids to some fun dice games while playing in the yard this summer - but the $60 price tag of the Crate & Barrel dice made me do a double take! Hello DIY project inspiration!

DIY Wooden Yard Dice

DIY Yard Dice: Supply List

The dice from Crate & Barrel are 3.5 inch cubes, so I knew that a 4x4 piece of lumber from a hardware store would be perfect {because despite the name, a 4x4 is actually closer to 3.5x3.5 in dimension}. After looking at all of the 4x4 options, we selected a 10 foot length of Douglas Fir because the boards were in better shape than most of the others types of wood we looked at - with fewer cracks and large knot holes. From this one board, we were able to cut more than 30 3.5 inch cubes - enough for 6 sets of 5 dice.
  • 4x4 Douglas Fir Lumber {10 ft length is enough for 6 sets of dice} - $12.84
  • Chop Saw {I used my dad's} or have them cut at your hardware store for a small fee per cut
  • Hand Held Electric Sander - already owned
  • Sand Paper - Coarse Grit & Fine Grit - already owned
  • Rust-Oleum Wood Stain {color: Summer Oak} - $5.48
  • Foam Brush {for applying stain} - $.98
  • Rag {for removing excess stain} - already owned
  • Expressions Vinyl Black Outdoor Permanent Adhesive - $7.45
  • Fiskars .6" Circle Punch - $5.99 {on sale at JoAnn}
  • Black Canvas Drawstring Bag - $2.50/each from JoAnn {on sale}
  • Iron-On Transfer Paper for Dark Fabric - $.70/sheet {1 sheet per bag} 
The total cost of all the supplies was just under $52. From these supplies, I created 6 sets of dice, complete with carry bag, bring the total per set to less than $9! Quite a steal compared to the $60 Crate & Barrel price tag! 

DIY Yard Dice: Tutorial
STEP 1: Cutting the Dice

I took the 10 foot long board over to my dad's house, and we used his chop saw to cut it into more than 30 3.5" cubes. Because we didn't have an appropriate jig, we clamped a 2x4 to the saw to serve as a guide for cutting each cube to exactly 3.5 inches.

Cut wood lawn dice

We quickly discovered the chop saw, which has a 10 inch blade, is just slightly too small to cut all the way through the 4x4. With each cube we cut, we were left with one uncut corner.

Cut wood for yard dice

We were able remedy this situation by simply using a hand saw to cut through the final corner of each cube, but if you are able to use a chop saw with a 12 inch blade, rather than a 10 inch blade, you could avoid this extra step and speed up the process.

Cut wood for lawn dice

We were able to cut a total of 32 cubes from the 10 foot long board, but two of them we discarded because of knot holes. This left us with 30 good cubes, perfect for 6 sets of 5 dice.

Wood blocks for yard dice

STEP 2: Sanding the Dice

Once all the cubes were cut, I sanded all six sides of each die with a hand-held electric sander. I began with a coarse grit sandpaper, then repeated the process with a fine grit sandpaper to achieve a nice, smooth finish on each die.

Sanding wood for yard dice

The 4x4 had slightly rounded edges, but the cuts we made with the chop saw created, crisp 90 degree cuts. As a result, each die had 4 rounded edges and eight square edges. I wanted each edge of the dice to look the same, so I used the sander to round the square edges, which turned out to be much easier than I expected.

Sanding wood for yard dice

As you can see in the side by side comparison, the wood grain on the cut sides of the dice was pretty rough when I started, but, after a little sanding, each die was a nice smooth cube, ready for stain.

Sanded wood blocks before and after

STEP 3: Staining the Dice

I typically prefer darker stain colors, but when choosing a stain color for my DIY yard dice, I decided to stick with a fairly light color to ensure that the black dots would easily show up, even from a distance. I chose Rust-Oleum's wood stain in Summer Oak.

Staining DIY yard dice

I applied the stain with a foam brush...

Staining DIY yard dice

...then used a white rag to wipe off the excess stain.

Stain on DIY yard dice

STEP 4: Adding Pips to the Dice

I love DIY projects because you always learn something new in the process, and in this project, I learned that the dots on dice are called "PIPS." Rather than trying to paint the pips on the dice, I decided to take the easier route by creating stickers from an outdoor rated, permanent adhesive vinyl.

Expressions Vinyl for DIY yard dice

I had used this same adhesive vinyl for several past projects, including my LOVE scrabble tile coasters, so I knew it would hold up well even if exposed to moisture in the grass.

To cut the pips, I purchased a .6" inch circle punch at JoAnn. After testing the punch on the vinyl, I determine that in order to get a nice, smooth cut I needed the punch to cut through the vinyl first, and then the backing {punching from the backside of the vinyl first resulted in chewed up edges rather than a nice, smooth circle}.

Cutting vinyl for DIY yard dice

Each die requires 21 pips, for a total of 105 pips per set of 5 dice. Fortunately, cutting the pips is super quick and easy using the punch. I just punched all the circles into a small kitchen bowl to

Before applying the pips, I did a quick Google search to determine the correct placement of the numbers of each side of a die. I learned that the 1 and 6 are on opposite sides, the 2 and 5 on opposite sides, and the 3 and 4 on opposite sides.

To apply each pip, I simply peeled the backing off of the vinyl {which comes off really easily} and stuck the dots on to the dice. In order to get the spacing of the pips right, I used the removed backing from prior pips to layout a 3x3 grid on each side - then removed them one by one and replaced them with the black vinyl stickers in the appropriate places.

Adding pips to yard dice

After sticking on each pip, I pressed it down to make sure there was a good seal around the edges.

Adding dots to yard dice

STEP 5: Creating a Carry Bag for the Dice

The Crate & Barrel dice come in a nice, drawstring carry bag, so I decide to create the same for my dice. I picked up some black, canvas drawstring bags from JoAnn {on sale for half price}. I designed a simple label for the bags which I printed onto dark color iron-on transfer paper, and then I ironed the labels onto the bags.

Creating carry bag for DIY yard dice

DIY Yard Dice and Carry Bag

One of my favorite dice games is Yahtzee {download the rules here; and printable score sheets here}, but there are endless games you can play with up to five dice. Here are a few more five dice games to get you started: Snake-Eyes, Beat That, Run for It, Dice-1000 and Stuck in the Mud.

Playing yard dice on the lawn

I can't get over the fact that I was able to make six sets of dice for less than the cost of one set at Crate & Barrel. I gave one set to my husband and one to my dad for Father's Day, and the other sets I am going to hang on to as future gifts. 

DIY yard dice for less than Crate & Barrel

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  1. Yahtzee! This is a REALLY good idea! And it looks JUST LIKE the Crate & Barrel version. Wahoo! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I am so impressed. They look great and what a fun way to bring the game outside!

  3. What a clever little project! It's amazing how overpriced things are in stores and yet so inexpensive to reproduce. One can never have enough yard games.

  4. This looks like a SERIOUSLY awesome family game night!

  5. Angela, this is the coolest idea ever! I had never seen the Crate and Barrel version but I LOVE yours! This would also make such a great gift. Pinned :)

  6. How do you roll more than 2 at the same time?

  7. How do you roll more than 2 at the same time?

    1. Sometimes we roll them individually, and other times we use a large bucket to roll them all at once.

  8. Never heard of this game but sounds like fun. Do you include instructions when you give as a gift.?

  9. You mentioned the correct placement of the dots on opposite sides, like the six and the one. As I scrolled down the page and saw the photo of Crate & Barrel's $60 set, I couldn't help but notice that one of their die in the photo has a 1 in front and a 6 down the left side. Kudos to you for getting it right!

  10. You mentioned finding out the correct positioning of the dots - like the 6 and 1 being opposite. I couldn't help but notice the photo above of the Crate & Barrel $60 set has one die with the 1 in front and the 6 down the left side. Kudos to you for doing it right!

    1. Thanks for noticing! I didn't realize that Crate and Barrel had it wrong until I tried to stage my photo similar to theirs, and couldn't because their pips are in the wrong positions. I guess it doesn't really matter, but I'm particular about things like that ;)

  11. Your set is much nicer than the C&B set.

  12. I've had a hard time with my blocks cracking after they've dried out, has this been a problem for you at all?

    1. I have not, but the wood that I started with was already completely dry.

  13. Do you use any sealer on the dice after putting on the pips?

    1. I did not use a sealer. The vinyl I used for the pips is a permanent outdoor adhesive, so I didn't think it needed a sealer over it to keep them on, and thus far they have help up great.

  14. Do you use any sealer after applying the pips?

  15. Angela, I was looking at your yard dice blog, but can't find the Fiskars .6" Circle Punch. Any thoughts on where to find this online? Thanks for a great blog.

    1. Kenny, I'm not seeing that punch on the JoAnn's website any longer, but it's available on Amazon (affiliate link): http://amzn.to/22dRbRS

      The Amazon listing doesn't state that the size is .6", but this is the SMALL circle, and the MEDIUM circle is a 1" punch, so it must be the right one.

    2. I purchased the Fiskars .6" Circle Punch at JoAnn just a week ago. I haven't used it and plan on returning it after I realized I could borrow mom's Cricut Explore and save time/hassle by letting the machine do the cutting. I haven't tried it yet so I can't tell you if it is…but I wanted to mention that I've cut enough blocks for two sets and I've noticed the same problem with the wood cracking, mostly in the middle. It seems like more cracks are appearing all the time! I purchased the same wood…maybe I should cut the rest and let them sit around for a while?

    3. Using the Cricut to cut the circles is a great idea. I thought about doing the same, but wanted the illustrate an inexpensive way for anyone to do it without the need for a specific machine. I do think it will make it even quicker and easier for you though! As for the wood cracking, I'm not sure what to tell you since I didn't have that problem at all. It may have to do with different climates. Your best bet might be to ask for recommendations at your local hardware store.

  16. I'm wondering where you buy the outdoor permanent vinyl.

    1. I bought mine through Amazon: http://amzn.to/2bWVuRo {affiliate link}

  17. Using the vinyl is a great idea, I drilled all my holes with my drill press then pained inside each one. This is so much simpler and quicker. Thanks..

  18. Can I ask what size drawstring bag you purchased? Would 6 dice fit?

  19. Can I ask what size drawstring bag you used? Would 6 dice fit? Super cute, by the way!

    1. The drawestring bag is 12 x 12 inches, and yes, all six dice fit in it with no problem (since the dice are 3.5 inch cubes)!


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