So, spring is finally here, and you and your friends and family are looking for fun things to do that’ll get you outdoors. Well, our DIY Yardzee game is a fun little project that will help you do just that.
But what’s Yardzee, you ask? It’s just like the decades-old dice game Yahtzee, enjoyed by millions the world over, except it’s bigger and built for the back yard or beach.
With Yardzee, essentially, a group of people each roll oversized dice and compete against one another to come up with the highest scoring combinations. It’s a lot of fun to play and, for some, even more fun to make—especially if you involve other people in the process.
A few of us here at Infinite Energy wondered just how hard it would be to make our own version of Yardzee. So, we made one from scratch, and then we thought we’d outline how we did it, just in case you want to make one, too.
Before we get into how to make your own version, we’ve included in this blog a complete list of the materials and tools you’ll need to get started. That list is also in the printable PDF we’ve included (links below), and you can also find a condensed set of build instructions, a rules sheet, score sheets and paper painting templates in those packets, as well. Enjoy!
Tools and Materials
- One 4 inch x 4 inch x 8 foot Douglas fir square post (4X4)
- Two cans (minimum) of different colored spray paint
- Several grades of sanding disks (or sandpaper if doing by hand): 40, 80 and 120 grit
- Carpenter’s square
- Measuring tape or ruler
- Scissors or pen knife
- Masking tape
- Drop cloth
- Scrap paper/ cardboard
- Eye protection
- Dust mask
- Disposable gloves
- Ear protection
- Saw (hand saw/electric circular or miter saw)
- Electric palm sander
- Five-gallon bucket
- Computer printer and printer paper (for pdf packet)
Building the Dice
We wanted to make our dice from scratch, so we went to Home Depot and bought an 8-foot length of square post made of Douglas fir that we cut into cubes. If you want to skip this step, however, you can sometimes find already-made wooden cubes of the same size at craft stores such as Michael’s. You might still have to do a little sanding with these pre-made cubes, and then, of course, you’ll want to paint them (discussed later on). But this might be a good option if you don’t have access to a saw of some sort.
If you want to make your own wooden cubes, the posts that they’re cut from are typically listed as 4x4s—a measurement that refers to their width. But they actually only measure 3 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches. And that matters because you’ll need to cut your post into 3 ½-inch sections (not 4-inch sections) to create perfect cubes.
Measuring it Out
Once you’ve got your post home, use your measuring tape or ruler and a pencil to mark out 3 ½-inch sections along the length, starting from an end of the post. After you’ve got your marks, use a carpenter’s square, held against the top edge near your mark, to draw a straight line all the way across the width of the post, and then repeat until you’ve got a series of straight lines drawn.
You’ll only need five of these lines, as you’ll only need to make five cuts to make the right number of dice for one Yardzee set. But you can make even more if you want. An 8-foot post (96 inches) will yield 27 cubes, which gives you enough to make another four Yardzee sets—with a little scrap left over.
Making the Cuts
We used an electric miter saw to cut up our post. But you can use a variety of saws to get the job done. An electric circular saw will work, too, though you may have to cut your line on both sides of the post, as most circular saw blades won’t cut deep enough. Or you could even use a good ‘ole hand-powered carpenter’s saw, though it will take a bit more time and elbow grease to get the work done. The lines you drew earlier will help you keep your cuts straight and true.
Also, before you use any power tools, be sure to wear appropriate eye and ear protection. And a dust mask is a good idea, too, especially when you begin sanding your blocks.
Sanding Them Smooth
We wanted our dice to look as close to their miniature counterparts as possible, which means we did a lot of sanding on each corner and sharp edge of the blocks to give them a nice rounded look. We used an electric palm sander to accomplish this, but hand sanding works just as well. It just takes a whole lot longer.
Start off with a relatively heavy grit—40 grit is a good place to start (the heavier the grit, the lower the number). A heavy grit paper will help you cut through the bulk of the sanding faster, and then you can refine the feel of the blocks with finer and finer grit as you progress. We followed the 40-grit sanding with 80 grit and then finished up with 120 grit, and that gave us a nice surface that was ready for paint.
Applying the Paint
Before doing anything with paint, make sure you’ve chosen a well-ventilated area to work. Most paint, especially if it’s out of a spray can, gives off harmful fumes—painting outside is usually one of your best options, weather permitting. Also, depending on where you’ve chosen to paint, you may want to use a drop cloth or old newspaper pages to protect the surrounding areas from paint overspray. And consider wearing disposable gloves. Paint’s never good for your skin, no matter what type it is, and many types are hard to get off without harsh chemicals.
After you’re set up and ready to go, you’ll want to make sure you’ve removed any dust or debris from your freshly sanded cubes. You can try wiping them off with a damp rag or sponge, but be sure the cubes are thoroughly dry before attempting to paint them. In most cases, a quick swipe with a dry rag will do the job.
We used two colors of Rust-Oleum semi-gloss protective enamel to paint our wooden dice—white, for a base coat over the whole cube, and blue, for the number dots.
It was easy to apply, and it dried relatively fast. But you can use any number of brands and types of paint you’d prefer, even latex house paint or acrylic that’s applied with a brush. Just make sure the second color you use for the dots of your dice is compatible with the first—using the same type and brand is often a safe bet.
To paint the base coat, we lined our dice up about a foot apart on a drop cloth and sprayed them with several even layers, waiting a minute or so between coats on all but the one side facing down. And then we gave the whole thing a second coat about an hour later. Several hours after that, we flipped the dice on their sides and repeated the process for the side that had been facing down. We spray painted our blue dots the next day, after the base coats were good and dry.
Before we sprayed the dots, we studied a real set of dice to see how the number dots were arranged (see sample layout in our printable PDF). And we also made paper templates (also in our PDF) that were marked for the dots. Then we cut each dot out and taped the templates—one side at a time—onto the dice and hit each with a quick even spray of blue paint. We also used a little scrap cardboard and paper to mask off the sides we didn’t want to get blue overspray on.
When each side was dry, we removed the paper template and started all over on another unpainted side until all the dice were painted. We played our first game of Yardzee a few days later, using a 5-gallon bucket as a giant dice cup and our printed score sheets to keep tabs on the winners. We hope you have as much fun as we did making and playing this game.