My expertise is the cold, hard, industrious feel of Metal dice, but I’ve always been extremely interested in the various options out there – both for myself and for you, dear reader.
To that end, the weekly players of my D&D5e game pooled resources (not evenly, I bet) to purchase me this beautiful set of Imbuia wooden dice from Artisan Dice during one of their dice lotteries. It even came with a complementary d20. I believe it’s Chechen (black poisonwood), but I’m unsure as it was not labeled.
I was extremely excited to get this beautiful set and was so touched by my players’ gift that I didn’t realize until I brought it home and started excitedly taking photos: there were a lot of problems with the set. See the captions on the below photos for more details.
After contacting Artisan Dice about these issues, they happily said “If you’d like to send it back to us we can replace it with a different box. If you send the d4 with it we’ll try to replace it with a matching piece.”
Happy to do so, I shot the package out to them express mail. That was December 14th, 2016.
After a dozen e-mails, a phonecall, and a few Tweets – along with re-sending my address that was misplaced – I finally got the replacement case and d4 March 15th, 2017. For those of you with sharper minds than me, you’d realize that’s 91 days.
I find the lack of communication and the tardiness a huge turn-off, so I thought I’d give this info before moving forward. Let us not dwell on it, though. On to the review!
Each set of Artisan Dice comes in either a stamped steel case (looks like a boot polish tin, but is quite serviceable and nice) or Aromatic Cedar for an additional $20. If you’re splurging enough cash to get a set of dice that costs the same as most people’s entire dice collection, then why not go in for a little extra?
Uh… well, it’s… Okay, when I got my Cedar Box back from them, it looked pretty horrifying. Most of you out there may not be able to tell, but this poor wood is being denied some serious TLC.
SIDE PROJECT! Storage Improvement
Instead of just leaving it looking like a burned up dried out scratched to hell hunk of wood, I decided to do some basic woodworking on it.
Step 1: Sand off all the sanding marks and laser shadows.
Be gentle with the lettering – if need be use a tiny sanding sponge. If you screw up the edges of these letters, you’re just out of luck. A little at a time and be careful. I started with 400 grit sandpaper and worked up to 1200 grit for a near glassy surface.
Step 2: Apply a wood oil (NOT A STAIN)
Here we can see the real color of the cedar once the dust is removed and the dried wood is given a semblance of moisture again. The difference is incredible. I chose Linseed oil for this project, which isn’t best – but it’s what I had on hand.
Step 3: Seal the whole thing in a thin layer of wood wax, and then buff it well.
You may not get all of the deeper scratches (shown above) but those add some character. Cedar should have the color of a reddish-purple bruise if treated correctly. And now that it’s nice and smooth, it’ll snag less and scratch less. With a protective wax on it, it’ll last for months if not years without you doing a thing to it. When in doubt, buff on a little more wax. This whole thing took me about 14 minutes start to finish including photos.
OKAY, STORAGE FOR REAL
Cue sultry jazz music.
Hubba hubba! Yessssss – what a little care can do! It makes me flustered just thinking about how well this thing cleaned up!! The dice case is approximately the size of a traditional coaster, about 1/8 of an inch taller than a d20 – it’s a very proper size. Cedar is a fantastic wood, leeching a smokey forest scent for YEARS sometimes DECADES after being machined.
The lid is held in place by four decent enough magnets and a beveled ridge that allows the lid to snap down and hold firmly. The faceplace, the black part that holds the dice, is quite delicate, though no where near as breakable as they once were, so handle with caution. I’d also advise you to SERIOUSLY CONSIDER sanding down the rough surface inside the case, as the ridges (clearly visible) can rub and scratch the surface of your dice if jostled too frequently.
Moving from traditional plastic dice to hardy metal is a safe and easy investment for me. But brittle gemstone dice and tear-able wooden dice… it was a leap for me. An uncomfortable leap. But just look at these things.
Striking, no? You can expect hardwood dice to give a warm luster. No dice is “perfect” as that is not the nature of wood, but each one has subtle character. Even the near identical d6s each have markings that differentiate them from one another. The edges are sharp and clean, but with use will round out ever so slightly and become more smooth with time.
Capturing the finish on these dice is a little problematic, as they are not epoxied to look glossy, but instead coated with a lovely matte finish that feels clean in the hand and leaves no residue or stain when in contact with fabric.
Comparing each Imbuia die to it’s Chessex brand plastic counterpart shows more of the subtle differences in size, shape, and appearance. Note the edges are more crisp and defined on the wooden dice, as they are not tumble sanded in vats.
The d6s are much larger than traditional plastic dice, and since they are used so frequently, it’s definitely a boon.
I also commend Artisan Dice for putting a “10” on their d10 instead of a “0.” Though it complicates the d% roll, seeing as the d10 is used much more frequently, I enjoy the change.
Side by Side you can see the wooden d20 is slightly smaller than the plastic counterpart – primarily since the die is manufactured to maintain its shape during manufacturing, while plastic die are made larger than need-be and tumbled to a more appropriate size. Sadly, the tumble process makes it lose its beautiful crisp faces for each number.
Here we see the Chechen wood, Teal and Gold from Chessex, and Imbuia die. Note: when selecting a wooden die, you may need to take into account just how dark some of the woods get compared to others. If you don’t mind sticking your face on top of your die after you roll, it’s no big deal regardless.
These dice are extremely light. The entire 10 piece set weighs less than a 7 piece set of standard plastic dice. They also, funnily enough, weigh the exact same as a single metal d12 from the Easy Roller Gunmetal series.
I will not lie to you, dear reader: I have reservations about Artisan Dice (the company). They seem passionate and interact with their fans frequently. They take great care in their dice sets and deal in some very extravagant materials for said dice. They offer an extremely wide range of options to choose from and were forerunners in the “exotic dice” trade. For that, they will forever be a staple in the hobby.
But until I begin to see more quality control, snappier customer support, and more transparency from shop floor to customer, I will have severe reservations about giving approval to an otherwise beautiful and enthralling product.
The dice are marvelous and very well built, but every other aspect: the package it arrived in, the state of the dice case, the unacceptably lengthy return procedure, the price ($138 with shipping – one of the cheapest on the site), and their mishandling of my personal shipping information… It just soured an otherwise beautiful experience.
I don’t always advocate rolling, but when I do… be sure you have to Drop the Die.
Review by JB Little, Follow me on twitter for more “useful” information.