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Black hole pic inspired dice trays

by Jul 12

Remember that first picture of a black hole from a few months ago? I thought it was really neat and became inspired to make dice trays based on the picture. The dice tray needed to be functional, but also have an organic shape that reminded me of the varying intensity of the accretion disc (ring of colors) represented in the picture. While working on this project, I was further inspired to make space-themed dice trays as gifts for my friends.

Used clay to help visualize test shapes.

Wanted an organic shape like a black hole, but it also needed to be functional as a dice tray.

Felt like the varying height of this wall represented the varying intensity of the black hole picture. I think one side of a black hole's accretion disc is believed to always be stronger than the other side.

I'll sculpt the dice tray from a small chunk of 2" thick polystyrene insulation board.

Verifying height of the insulation board should work well for a dice tray. The previous castle wall dice tray I made has been in use for many games now. The height of its walls has worked well.

Used a bucket to draw circles on paper. In addition to the height of the walls, I wanted the thickness of the walls to reflect the intensity of the black hole picture.

Verifying size of the dice tray rolling area. Again, my previous castle wall tray has been working well so wanted to pursue a similar size.

Used a bucket to draw circles on polystyrene insulation board.

Cut a hole in the board so I could thread the hot wire through and cut out the middle circle without disrupting the ring wall.

The hot wire was disconnected, passed through the hole in the pink board then reconnected for hot cutting.

After hot cutting the interior circle, the hot wire was disconnected to allow the piece to be removed. Melting styrofoam makes bad fumes so wear a respirator!

Hot wire cut the outer circumference. The wiggly edges will be cleaned up with sanding later.

The hot wire cutter wasn't really designed for this angle while cutting a piece this large, but creative solutions always exist.

Verifying size of the internal dice rolling area and the external overall size. It's nice to have a large dice rolling area, but our gaming table is usually cramped for space so keeping the tray compact was important.

Made a round sanding tower from an empty metal food can. I don't know if it should called a sanding tower. I just made that up. It helps me sand the inside of the curved surface.

Polystyrene is quick to sand, but generates bad particles to breathe. Wear a respirator! Those little nicks will be filled in later.

Used Milliput epoxy putty to patch the nicks and smooth the surface.

Used water to smooth the Milliput areas.

Cut a round bottom from foam core board. Saved the scrap board for later use as a felt cutting pattern.

Painting the model tray with a thick primer helps fill small gaps and provide a similar texture across the different materials used to make the tray.

Added double sided tape to bottom of tray so it won't float up in the mold box after it's covered in liquid silicone.

Beginning to build the bottom of the mold box. This will be a basic one-piece mold. The sculpted dice tray has been attached to the bottom of the mold box (the black foam core board) using the double sided foam tape.

Used foam core board to build the mold box. The angled walls in the corners provide extra rigidity to the box and reduce the amount of silicone required for the mold.

Measured mold parts A and B in the smaller buckets. Poured the small buckets into the first mixing bucket (far right) and mixed a lot. Then poured the mixed silicone into a final mixing bucket (far left) for even more mixing. This double pour mixing helps ensure consistent and thorough mixing of the A and B parts. Finally, poured the well-mixed silicone into the mold box.

Removed the mold box from the mold.

Removed the dice tray model from the mold.

Preparing to cast a copy of the dice tray using my new mold.

Measuring epoxy resin parts A and B.

The mixed epoxy resin has been poured into the mold.

The resin has started to kick.

The resin is still kicking. I used SmoothCast 305 for my first batch of trays, but switched to SmoothCast 300 for faster curing times.

Now we have a plastic dice tray.

Used a belt sander to clean off the flashing (extra plastic overflow) from the bottom of the dice trays. Also hand sanded all surfaces of the trays to remove mold release residue and further smooth the surface.

Primed the dice trays with spray primer and allowed the paint to cure for a good 5+ days. Early tests revealed paint adhesion problems to the epoxy resin so I tested a variety of plastic and automotive primers. They all exhibited the same issue with paint easily scraping off, but I found that allowing the primer (even the cheap/basic primer) to cure for 5+ days solved the issue.

Established a smooth base coat of black using an airbrush.

Smooth black base coat on more dice trays.

Used an old toothbrush to speckle stars into space. What about the black hole inspiration? During the project, I was further inspired to make space scenes. Since these were going to be gifts, I thought space scenes would be more recognizable and understood. Don't worry, my black hole version is pictured later.

Applied white paint using an airbrush to define the general areas of the nebulae. A white base will help the nebulae colors show up better.

Introduced a pearlescent purple for portions of the nebulae.

Added a pearlescent blue for other portions of the nebulae. Blended the colors together in some areas for more depth and variety.

Used gentle masking tape to create painting masks for planets. After trying a variety of methods to cut arcs and circles, I finally purchased a circle cutter which was absolutely worth it.

Similar to the nebulae, starting each planet with a white base will help subsequent colors show up better. The overspray in the bottom of the tray will be hidden with a felt liner later.

Adding some color to this gaseous planet.

Removing the masking tape to reveal the final planet is the best part of this project.

One of the dice tray pours didn't have enough epoxy so the bottom was extremely thin. I belt sanded the bottom away and used this remaining piece as a template for making the felt bottoms.

Felt is very difficult to cut with anything but scissors and felt is practically impossible to write on with anything I owned. However, a quick airbrush of white provided the perfect pattern for cutting. Since the tray is not perfectly round, the vertical marker I sprayed shows me how to orient the felt to the front of the dice tray.

Cut out the felt, applied some spray adhesive to the felt, glued the felt to the tray.

Dice trays waiting for their felt to be glued.

Dice tray testing. Dice rolled into the trays successfully.

Warning: Bad dice never return from the black hole dice tray.


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