Completed – An Ancient and Terrible Dice Tower

Welcome back, folks! I’m glad to have this dice tower wrapped up! It provided a lot of challenges and required me to use materials and techniques that were new to me.

I’ve put a ton of photos on this post so I’ll just jump right in. Descriptions will follow underneath each photo as a how-to. Let me know what you think!

The tunnel for the dice to roll through is a Pringles can. I used plaster cast rocks as the baffles to toss those dice around. I did copious testing of the tunnel at this point, using a rotary tool to sand down problematic sticking points. Dozens of rolls later, I felt comfortable pushing forward.

Strips of XPS foam were hot-glued vertically to form the rough outline of the tower. I used a handheld hot-wire foam cutter to place deep gouges in the foam. Following that, I ran a long blade up and down over the foam to get the texture you see here.

I used plaster to mask the seams. Once the plaster was applied, I used a blade to scratch lines that matched the texture of the foam. In this way, the seams began to fade. With the plaster dry, I wet the whole tower and applied sandless grout. This finished the job of hiding the seams.

This is a sampling of the different skulls I went through in trying to nail the right look. It was a challenge to “sculpt” the head I was looking for. In the end, I found a sanding sponge was much more useful than a blade or hot-wire cutter.

Above is the skull I ended up with. It looked the most like the source material. You can see how I used the plaster to blend it in to the rest of the piece. This also gave me the confidence to make significant changes without fear of ruining the whole thing.

Along the way I started experimenting with clear caulking and cotton balls to create a waterfall effect. I mixed the cotton and caulk, formed it into the shapes I wanted, and let it set on wax paper. I also used aluminum foil to see what caused less sticking. Wax paper was more effective. The aluminum foil stuck to the caulk quite a bit.

The grout was quite fragile at this stage so I started adding PVA glue and paint in an effort to give it some strength. Many layers of clear coat would follow throughout this process. It is a joy to see what a layer of primer will do to a multi-media project.

I intended to use resin to create a pool. Resin has a way of draining out all over the place if you let it so I tested the porousness of the pool by dumping some water in.

Milliput was used to create a root system that originated from the dice tunnel. I created texture by running a silicon-tipped sculpting tool down the roots. These would give washes a good place to take root. Heh.

Jute string makes great vines. I frayed it a little bit between my fingers to add some dimension to it. I should crop my pictures…

These are some resin pucks that I whipped up to test different water colors. It was potentially useful, though I ended up using a different color.

Here is when I broke out the airbrush and started going to town with different shades of green. I always applied it from the top down to leave the rock recesses dark. After that, the whole thing got a gray drybrush. That drybrush is what really started to tie it together. Also note that the first water fall was scrapped as is evidenced by the exposed foam.

This is a cool shot of the top of the tower. I like the rocks as baffles because it maintains the illusion that this could be a terrain feature for your tabletop game instead of “just” a dice tower.

Behold attempt number two at a waterfall. It didn’t last long.

I threw this photo in to show you what you can do with cheap looking plastic plants. I think there is so much more character and realism added to the painted plants.

At this stage I started adding some Easter eggs from the game into the tower. This little creeper was a fun change of pace. The head is Milliput with a grass tuft haircut. The body is masking tape, wrapped foam. The teeth and nails were made from melted and pulled scrape sprue. If you squint you can see the Milliput anaconda draped along the bottom. I shredded a handful of leaves through a strainer and applied these as ground litter. You can see how that looks on top of the tower. When that dried, I used the airbrush to apply a watery brown filter to it.

Having gone this whole project without firing up the 3d printer was making me itchy. To fix that, I found some cool pots on Thingiverse and got them added to the tower. I made some gold coins with a plastic straw and the ever present Milliput. I also used my static grass applicator to apply a thick layer of 8mm flocking. Finally, you can see the next iteration of waterfall on display. I ended up smearing the clear caulk onto the wax paper and drawing lines down its length. It dried as a solid strip that I caulked to the face of the tower.

The tree stump was made using a stick, PVA soaked paper towels, and cordage, but that’s a how-to for another day. The mushrooms were made from yet more Milliput. I used various AK Interactive products for the leafy vines.

I chickened out for a day before I poured resin. Resin can go wrong a lot of ways and I was subconsciously hesitant about getting it started.

Unfortunately, my first pour was too thick and cracked. The resin I used creates a lot of heat and is susceptible to cracking if you use too much too fast. Boo. I wasn’t able to fully hide that crack under the waterfall.

Glares hide cracks… Nice! I used some Mod Podge to create ripples. I kept it conservative because this is where the dice land.

Copper painted foam finished off the eyes. Its probably not for everyone, but it adds a bit of eye-draw to the otherwise monotone backdrop. I built a box to house the whole thing. It cleans up the sides of the foam and makes it harder to shoot dice into oblivion.

Let me know what you guys think. I had to clean the whole workshop out after this one, but I’m ready to start the next project. Now I’ve got to figure out how the heck to mail this.

4 thoughts on “Completed – An Ancient and Terrible Dice Tower

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