How Do You Quantify the Value of Hobby Time

This post is about me rekindling my woodworking hobby. I love spending my time making things or at least engaging my creativity; I am an engineer and the son of a oil painter. I don’t have mom’s skill with oil, but I do have my own skills.

Like so many folks, I am pulled in many directions. I am on the board for my astronomy club, and as you might expect, I help out with the website and other technical things. I enjoy doing my own yard work carving out my land from the woods. Okay, mostly I just clear out the invasive bushes from my land which itself is mostly forest. I try to spend time hiking. I have this blog and I code. I want to get back to making electronics again, but that’s been a long time. I also play Dungeons and Dragons which leads me directly to the point of this post.

Playing D&D is something that I did when I was a young teenager, and it was a lot of fun for me. As time went by, I lost interest, and became more interested in other things. Some years ago when they released the fifth edition of D&D, I purchased the starter set for nostalgia reasons. It was fun to connect with something I played when I was young. I was also a new father at the time, and was thinking a lot about my own childhood interests. Well I ended up playing regularly for several years with a few friends and coworkers. We play a few hours every other week or so, which makes our adventures take years. We’re almost all dads so life often gets in the way of our games, and that also is a factor.

A few weeks ago while I was recovering from some severe asthma symptoms, which explains why I did not post much in the last few weeks, I was looking at Etsy. I do this periodically to see if I get any ideas or to see if I can support a small business to meet a need of mine. Generally I prefer to make things myself like I did with my son’s sandbox, but one never knows.

There are these things called dice towers. Basically when you play table top games with a lot of dice, like Dungeons and Dragons, space on the table can be a premium and having a place to roll your dice can be helpful. A year or two ago, one of the guys who plays with my group bought a very nice felt lined wooden dice tray. For some reason thinking about that when I was sick got me thinking about dice towers. I saw several on Etsy, and I decided that I really wanted one. Initially I was going to buy one of them, as it had been a very long time since I had made anything in with wood. As always when I want to buy something, I sleep on it for at least a day or two. By the next day, I started thinking that for the price, I could make one myself. They are not hard to build, and the local hardware stores have all I need.

I love going to Home Depot and Lowes. I am not sure if it’s a connection to my father, or what. I love going to hard ware stores and buying things that I can use. Maybe it’s just the fact that I like to work with my hands in reaction to the fact that I am a software engineer by day.

So aside from the felt that I used to line my dice tower and the associated dice tray which I found online, I was able to get all I needed from Home Depot for less than what it would cost me to buy one. Now I ended up making two dice towers, one a foot tall and one six inches tall. I had an absolute blast making them, and my son “helped”. He also used some of my scrap wood to make a “ship”.

My son’s ship: scrap wood, tape, and markers.

I did end up buying a few tools, a small woodworking saw, miter box, and a clamp. I also bought a utility file, which I will also use to hone my lawnmower blade. This totaled less than $20. These items will be used again as there are more such things that I can look forward to building in my home. My wife’s father was a great woodworker and my wife has many more ideas for me to build in the house; more fun projects for me. I do not say that ironically, these are all “if you want you can make…” kinds of things, not the kind of things that if I never get to them that we’d ever argue about it.

As for actual parts, I spent $10 and $15 for the wood for each of the two dice towers and trays. The one that was a foot tall used more wood. I used sand paper that I purchased years ago, and the sander that I attached the sand paper to is a hand down from my father. It’s old but works great. I did spend a few bucks on a little bit of stain, and the wood glue was also something we had in the house.

All that being said, I think I could say that I spent about $50 on tools parts, and the share of existing things that I had. This is for two dice towers. On Etsy similar products are being sold for a lot more than that. Now I think I could probably sell these things on Etsy, but I am not sure I want to do that. I am not sure it would be as fun or that I would spend the time on it to make it worth while in light of my other hobbies.

Again, though, those $50 that I spent gave me time with my son to help show him how much fun and rewarding it is to make things on your own. I also had the pleasure of making them, and I truly loved doing it. This was several hours of entertainment making the two dice towers, and I will also have many hours of fun using them. I will likely only use the second one which has significantly better build quality.

The final look of the Second Dice Tower

I think that the second one, which is oak with a mahogany stain. I love the red color. It works, and I look forward to many years of fun using it.

Here is the first one. It’s unfinished without felt and stain.

The dice tray is removable in both cases. Were I to sell them on Etsy, I would have to quantify how much my labor is worth to justify making them for others and the effort to setup Etsy. I must say that I do like building, and the fun of making them might make the low price I could charge for my labor worthwhile. I am considering that.

I think you might find it fun to see my work space.

My basement work space.

You can see that I used work glasses and a face mask. I don’t need the wood dust nor the fumes from the stain my my lungs.

I forgot to mention that I also purchased that triangle. The hammer, tape measure, chisel, and scissors were all purchased previously for other projects. I do love buying tools, and I do have to be careful about that.

So what do you all think about this? Do you all view some or all of your hobbies this way? I don’t always measure my hobbies this way, but the more time I spend thinking about FIRE, the more I tend to do this. Do you?


  1. Those dice towers look great! My wife is really into board games and has been eyeballing the towers Kickstarter. Do you think this would be a good project for a wood working novice? We have all the tools you listed, I just don’t have much practice using them.


    1. Thank you for the kind words. I had a blast making them with my preschooler.

      Those 2 were my first woodworking projects since high school. I did make one out of cardboard first, and that helped me visualize it. So, I am a novice and I think it is a good project. Two of my D&D guys are going to make their own, and they too are enthusiastic novices like me. I’d love to see a picture when you get it made!

      The wood is 4′ by 4″ by 1/4″ at home depot. In my area, they charge $7 for each one made of oak. Popular is half the price. On the second one I bought 1.5″ by 4′ by 1/4″ oak for $3. This was worth it to me for the fun factor.


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