To be fair, I have been wanting them for some time now for other projects, and I'm sure starting to watch the Vikings show hasn't affected my desires whatsoever!
To that end though, I discovered that SAGA uses proprietary dice, which are both out of stock in my local store, and crazy expensive when they're not! (Over $3cad per cube).
I decided I wanted to make my own. Bone stinks (not metaphorically, either), an ivory-looking plastic (no animals harmed!) is only available with a minimum order of $50usd, wood doesn't feel very viking-like, and then I realized there's a way better product: Soapstone!
Vikings famously left runestones all over, with sagas written on them, laws, signage, etc. I could easily get and carve soapstone into the runes I need, it'd probably be cheaper, definitely be more fun, and allow me to get an initial vibe on how soapstone carving works. As much as I've made models and the like, I've never done carving in any significant way other than some rudimentary whittling.
Enough talk, on to the pictures!
For round 1, I marked with a pencil, cut with a basic hand saw, and repeated on each side until I had very rough-hewn cubic shapes. After this, I used a rotary sander to refine the lines a bit, and make it as close to a true cube as I could. At this point it was more about getting a feel for the material than trying to get exact cubes, and in fact I figure any little imperfection ends up feeling even more viking-like!
Next, I used a stone to mark a stone before grooving it with a stone... Graphite pencil, metal file. I found the recursive tool use funny in an almost punning way. Here you can see the penciled in runes, and the first pass with a carving tool - an old and broken dental pick!
Next the runes were deepened and shaped with an old broken craft blade. The bottom right two have been given this second pass.
Here's a shot of all the cubes, with their runes deepened, shaped, and ready for final cleanup!
Next up came the buffing. My research suggested either using 250-1000 grit sandpaper, or a more complex method involving beeswax and an oven. I may try the latter at some point, depending on how the first set chips, but for now, I wanted to keep as basic as possible. Similar to sandpaper is emery boards or nail files, and I decided to grab one from a drug store with 5 levels of 'granularity' including one so fine it just looks like ultra-dense foam.
Still wet in this shot, the buffing was done on each side with each of the five levels (I hope I didn't miss any) and then dried in between. Keeping the stones and tools wet keeps dust down, and allows for easy cleaning off of grit so you don't get scratches.
If ever it felt like I wasn't accomplishing much, I only needed to look in my water bowl to prove I was!
Finally buffed, cleaned, and test-rolled! The runes, having received no buffing, are distinctive and clear. You can see slight chipping or marking on the very edges from them bumping against one another. I will probably end up rounding off the edges of any future dice I make, but for set no. 1 it should make each gradually accrued chip look more and more thematic!
With increased confidence I wouldn't damage the tools with my creativity, today I was back to the shop, to cut off two more slices of wood! Using a belt saw gave me absolutely accurate cubes this time around, and were absolutely way faster and easier to get cubes!
Just to again ease my Mother's mind... Yes I was using a respirator mask, and goggles, and wasn't even pushing the stone through by hand, but with a random block of wood so the material couldn't even slip and cause me to push my fingers into the whirring blade of doom!
Time for round two of dice engraving! This time it'll be standard D6s as well as more rune dice so I will have two full sets to play with. Stay tuned for more!