"Dice Deck" Gaming Accessory with V-Carve Inlays

Hello everyone,

I am part of a large group that gathers every weekend to play card, board, and role playing games.

Since I acquired my x-carve last May, I’ve noticed a lot of Kickstarter and Facebook posts for laser cut and milled boxes for dice, minis, cards and a few other gaming accessories. These have inspired me to try my hand at making some Christmas gifts this year.

After a lot of prototyping, I’ve finally settled on a design that fits perfectly with decks of collectible cards. These are my early prototypes:

And this is the final design prototype, made with scrap pine and composite decking, colored with dry erase markers. (The dry erase markers were what was within reach at the time, and it worked surprisingly well as a stain).

I like a challenge, so I decided to do v-carve inlays in the final boxes. I ordered a large variety of intarsia-style domestic and exotic hardwood from http://www.ocoochhardwoods.com/ which showed up recently. These are 2-foot long boards, 4" wide, 3/4" thick. They sent me a lot of 5" stock in place of 4" - no complaints!

Yesterday I started on the first box. I ran in to some issues with the fine detail and a 90-degree bit, so I’ve ordered a 30-degree and 60-degree bits before tackling the next inlay. I filled the gap with west systems resin mixed with sawdust from the inlay, but I didn’t have enough dust mixed in to make the filler look like wood. I still think it looks decent for a first time v-carve inlay.

Material selection: Purpleheart for the base, yellowheart for the inlay.

After the inlay was glued in place I separated the pieces on my tablesaw and sanded it flat. You can see the gaps and unfilled groves where the 90-degree bit just couldn’t maintain the detail. (Notice one of my kittens photobombing in the upper right…)

The cutout and subsequent sanding came out well, given that somehow my cutout path was missing tabs (!!!).

Unfortunately, due to the missing tabs I have some tear-out on the corners of each half that I am going to need to deal with… I’m not quite sure if I am going to try to patch this with some shavings or round off the edges. I allowed enough extra material in the thickness dimension that I can take off up to an extra .1 and still hit the minimum dimensions I need.

Now that this first one is done, I have 12 more of these boxes to design and cut out. Each inlay or sculpt will be unique, and the wood will be matched to the recipient’s tastes. I should be ready to start finishing these by the end of November. I plan on a resin finish buffed to a high gloss with brown tripoli compound.



Nice work. :slight_smile:
I can’t wait till I get moved so I can work on more stuff.
I will see if I can set up a video for some projects so people can see it.

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The new bits have finally arrived. In the meantime I’ve been working on inlay designs. I have upped my game by doing mockups in Photoshop using the vectors with photos of the wood grain I am planning on using.

The next piece will be inlaid with Padauk and Yellowheart into a box made from Wenge (this is the Photoshop mockup of what I hope the inlay looks like):

Here are the vectors for the phoenix graphic: phoenix.dxf (150.8 KB)

Also, here are the vectors for the abstract koi from the original purpleheart/yellowheart box: Abstract Koi.dxf (78.5 KB)


Nice work. :slight_smile:
Can’t wait to see it completed.

The test cut and inlay pressing turned out great! The new bits allow me to produce far more detail than a standard 90-degree router bit.

I am kicking off the 4 hour inlay carve in yellowheart tonight.

The Yellowheart inlay carve didn’t do well. This is what I ended up with:

The yellowheart chipped and flaked way more than the poplar test piece on the edges.

I was using a 30-degree v-bit feeding at 40 i/m. and the cut depth is 0.04. To date this is the hardest wood I have ran on the x-carve, and I suspect the feed rate is too high for such fine work.

Aside from the wasted material and time, this turned out OK because I got some feedback about the person this gift is for, and I selected a slightly different design, carved in Padauk. Here is the mock up of what it should look like:

I slowed down my feed rate to 20 i/m and increased the depth of cut to 0.08. I hoped that the deeper cut will result in less rubbing = less potential to chip something that has already been carved. As always, the dewalt 611 is set to 1.

I carved the new design for 5 hours and ended up with these…

These inlays look great - there is just a lot of cleanup that needs to be done with a dental pick to removed the fuzzy bits and flakes.

The carve for the inlay pocket in Wenge took about 2 hours. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the finished pockets, all I have is one snap from the carve in progress:

I sanded the pockets to remove the fuzz from the edges of the carving, then went over the entire piece with a dental pick to remove all bits of extra wood from the pocket.

Today, I mixed up a small batch of fast curing epoxy resin and pressed the inlay into the pocket with some heavy C-clamps. I’ll be slicing this sucker apart and seeing the result in a few hours…

Here are the vectors for the new phoenix design: Circular Phoenix.dxf (594.8 KB)

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I am making progress here… not bad for v-carve inlay #3 (counting the prototype).

I sliced the inlay block off with the tablesaw, leaving about 1/16 of an inch of extra wood that will need to be sanded down, I was presented with this beauty…

Looks great, but that was what was supposed to be flush with the wood. The fit around the edges was really good, so I think I need to mill the pocket slightly larger and deeper than the inlay.

As expected I lost quite a bit of detail sanding down the inlay to be flush with the board. I also have a few small pockets that I will need to fill with resin before I sand it to 120 grit then flip it over and cut out the boxes.

For scale…

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Looks nice. :slight_smile:

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I cut the latest boxes out tonight. I remembered to be sure I had tabs on the cutout this time.

I had a problem with the X rail being out of square… it showed up on the margins around the inlay. One half of the box was a hairsbreadth from cutting into the inlay itself. I got lucky. It’s time to calibrate this machine again.


Sooo… life happened and this project didn’t get completed in time for Christmas. Oops.

I’ve dusted off the project box and started working on these again.

One of my friends has two daughters, middle names Rose and Lily, so I planned on incorporating that into the design. She likes pieces with some character, so I picked out a piece of red cedar with some neat color streaks from a pin. Unfortunately, the red cedar is not tough enough for fine v-carving; it chipped out a lot during the carve. I’m using a 30-degree v-bit to get a deep inlay for the fine lines and maximize the gluing surface, so this might have turned out better with a larger cutting angle. Lesson learned.

The rose pattern was the logo from a book series called Kushiel’s Dart.

Since this cedar is ruined, I’m going to switch out the cedar for rosewood or bubinga - both of these can handle the fine detail.

I’ve also carved a fourth box - this one has the same pattern in both sides, but has two different woods for the inlay, bloodwood and paduk. Here are the carves after cleaning them up a bit:

These are now coated in resin, pressed, and drying downstairs.

I had some issues in the past when clamping the wood directly - it occasionally cracked the male inlay. I’m attempting to work around that by using a couple strips of plywood as press plates to spread the force more evenly across the work-piece.

As usual, here are the vectors for these boxes:

Kushiel’s Dart.dxf (165.0 KB)

fire-dragon-filigree.dxf (232.5 KB)


Thanks! I did run into exactly the problem you mentioned. The carving bits I use have a .02 flat on the tip. I’ve increased the size of the female inlay by a .004 offset on this latest piece to cut the pocket slightly deeper. I cut the male inlays to have a 0.1 inch gap after seating, and these were much better than the phoenix piece.

I also had a very slight tram alignment issue I finally tracked down. I had assembled one of the lower x-axis v-wheels without the washer between the carriage and the bearing. The washer must have fell off when troubleshooting one of the adjustable wheels. It fell onto the carriage and I didn’t even realize it was needed. I just noticed it when finishing the upgrade to unthread eccentric nuts and had all the bolts out. I’m used to having extra parts post assembly, not missing parts post disassembly!

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I couldn’t wait for work to end, so I sliced these open over lunch. I cut a little too close on the table saw and brushed up against the face of the workpiece. Nothing a little sanding cannot solve. I also have a lot of voids in the resin to clean and fill. For some reason this batch had a lot of small bubbles. I’ll have to pull out the heat gun to eliminate them if they show up in the next batch. I’ll also switch from the fast-cure resin to the normal-cure time to give myself more than 10 minutes of pot life on the resin. I don’t need to use the fast cure now that the temperatures are creeping back above 50F.

Unfinished paduk inlay in wenge:

Unfinished bloodwood inlay in wenge:


Thanks for pointing that out. The very first Koi box was done with wood glue, but I didn’t like the result due to the large gaps in that first piece. I switched to resin afterward as a hack for filling the gaps that appeared in that first inlay.

I know a bit more about why I had wide gaps in the first place (minor mistake in depth calculations, v-bit with a flat tip, tram alignment issue); and have made some adjustments. I’ll try wood glue again on the next one.

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Right, the latest pictures are fresh from the table saw. I haven’t done a final finish on any of these boxes yet - I want to get them individually prepped, then finish them all in one go.

I have decided to flock the box interiors (sanding inside corners sucks!)

I am still undecided on a final finish. I was thinking a final coat of resin and a polish to protect the fragile inlays. I typically finish with hand-rubbed tung oil, but I am not sure if I can do that then put a coat of resin over the top.

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Sanded to 220.


I love the detail you’re getting on these boxes. It’s sometimes hard to remember the scale you’re working on viewing the photos, but then I remind myself: “Oh, yeah, this is smaller than a deck of cards!” :scream: This is really impressive!

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@PhilJohnson - I’ve just ordered the 60-degree bit you recommended. At $15, I’ll give that bit a shot.

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Thank you!

I really do need to start including a coin or a ruler in the shot to indicate the small scale. Occasionally I get frustrated seeing the flaws in my photographs, but then I look at the boxes in real life and those same flaws can barely be seen with the naked eye. The voids in the last photos are no larger than 1/32 of an inch!

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what method do you use to cut off the top layer attached to the V carve inlay? Bandsaw?