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  Homemade Dominoes


After my brother Steve and I got back from our trip to set up dominoes for Penn & Teller, we thought it would be nice to have more professional dominoes for any future gigs, however unlikely that would be.

We found that there aren't many retailers that sell dominoes in bulk, and it would be too expensive to buy multiple sets. So we agreed that our best option would be to make our own.

Cut It Out

The largest normal dominoes we have are 2" tall, 1" wide, and 3/8" thick, so we decided to make our dominoes the same size. We started with three sheets of MDF plywood, and began cutting dominoes out of them.

But before we use any power tools, let's take a moment to talk about shop safety. Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules that come with your power tools. Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury. And remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these...

...safety glasses.

The first step was to rip the boards into one inch wide strips. This was done on a table saw. The strips were then cut into two inch long pieces with a chop saw. A stop was installed to keep the length consistent, and another clamp kept the wood flat against the table. We cut six strips at a time, getting about 20 dominoes out of each.

Here is Steve looking very much like a lumberjack, and he's okay:

Pretty Colors

As our kitchen course demonstrated, bare wood dominoes aren't all that visually stimulating. So we decided to paint our dominoes with several different colors.

Early tests with spraypaint were disappointing. It pooled on the smooth faces, and soaked into the sawn edges. We had more success with latex paint and a big brush. Even then we had to go through some trial and error to figure out the best way to apply the paint.

First, 756 dominoes were laid out in a grid. The face sides each get three coats of paint since they will be seen the most. After carefully flipping, repainting, and breaking the dominoes apart, they are lined up in rows against a stop. More paint is brushed across the tops. The dominoes must be separated before any paint dries between them to prevent paint from tearing off the wood. The process is repeated until every side is given a nice, vibrant hue.

Here's a boring, yet imformative video of my painting technique. Note how I pull the brush towards the center of the grid to prevent dominoes at the edges from being pushed out.

Put Your Stuff in That Box

To sort our dominoes by color and make them easier to store, we got these clear, stackable plastic bins. We currently have 16,000 dominoes in 20 colors:

White Yellow Red Cyan
Light Grey Glow in the Dark Lime Green Sky Blue
Medium Grey Purple Tan Violet
Dark Grey Forest Green Brown Cobalt Blue
Black Pink Peach Orange

So that's how you too can make your own dominoes! The cost is actually fairly low, but the time you spend cutting and painting will consume you. There are probably easier ways to go about it, but I'm not bright enough to figure them out.