Laser-Cut: Hive Box Improvement

A New Home For My Six Sided Friends

I like hex tiles. They’re like squares but with so much more gaming potential. One would think that with such a elegant simple strategy game there would be an equally elegant and simple storage solution that came with said game. Not so much. While I do think the little portable plastic zip bag that the game box could be a neat thing to bring on trips or whatnot I’m just bothered by the fact that the box which contains such well fitting components contains 60% air. Its like a Yahtzee game box. A game that contains 5 d6’s, a golf pencil and a small pad of paper somehow needs to come in a box the size of a dinner plate yet all its components can easily fit in your pocket (A future project design you can be sure). My mission: make a more compact sexy box for my Hive storage needs.

Working Out The Design

I took some notes from my first encounter with storing hex tiles vertically from my suburbia insert, which used angled sections for the tile sides to rest on. It was a good idea for the Suburbia insert since its design purpose was to place the weight and impact of the tiles on their sides and avoid the points which would dent over time. I also wanted the tiles to have two guiding angle rests because it seats the tiles quite nicely. I can basically drop a lane of tiles down and they all align together which makes the obsessive organization region of my brain go “squeee!”.  Another thing I though is “hey, I should make this look nice while I’m at it.” To accomplish that I wanted to keep the outside as clean as possible.

Here’s my original problem:

Hive_CAD View

Ugh, Those little side tabs are showing. Well that’s just not a clean looking surface at all. I have no room for the Hive logo. Now how am I going to know which box is the Hive box besides “Hey, what game is that? It must be Hive because that box looks busy as a bee.” Solution: Put that box….in a box. Genius! So I built a box around that box and now I’m ready to cut it all with LASERS! Ever wonder what a laser cutting template looks like? Well its your lucky day.

I give you…Laser cutting template 1 for Hive box:

Hive layout

Exciting, no? No, the answer is most certainly no. More than sanding, but still it’s a solid no.

The Build

I used a Birch plywood stock of 5mm thickness because that’s what I had at my local home improvement store, and having worked with it on a previous laser cutting experiment I knew the what to expect for settings up kerf offsets, power and speed.

One thing I’d learned from my Cards Against Humanity box was that filling in a logo burned into the surfaces was time intensive, easy to mess up on and didn’t deliver a clean consistent look. This time I wanted to see what inlays would look like. I cut out the Hive logo through the top surface and also cut a identical logo dimensioned in a way so they would just fit snugly together. To assure the letters had something to butt up against I added a think 1/8″ panel behind that surface as shown:

Hive_Clamps Top2

I heard that it was possible to pre-paint a piece and cover the cut area with painters tape to prevent the burn residue and singe marks to ruin the paint.

Painted wood cut lumber logo

After that I just needed to carefully pre-sand all the pieces since I wanted to keep the laser cut blackened edge look and if I had sanded after assembly I would have to have been super slow and careful to not sand over any edges.

Assembly and Finish

The Live logo inlay turned out great.


I liked that appearance so much so that I decided to try another little experiment. Just seal it, no stain, no oil. DSC_0088

The wood took on a beautiful honey color with only a semi-gloss polyurethane dual coat. Hive Finished Box

Hive Complete

Left a little empty space for the final two tiles for the expansion I’ve yet to purchase.

Hive in use

Lessons Learned

The polyurethane added a bit more thickness than I expected and if I put on another coat I’m not so sure the box would open or close very smoothly if at all. I’ll need to coat a few pieces of scrap wood I’ve pre-measured with my trusty calipers and do a post measurement on different coat counts and brush methods to see what thickness this adds so I can have a well sealed box while not impeding its operation.

When prepping the yellow letters of the Hive inlay logo I give it a single layer of polyurethane for extra protect. That was not a good idea. The coating reacted badly with the laser and made a messy edge. I was able to cleanly peel off the layer like a piece of painters tape to my surprise so no real harm done but next time I wont need to waste the time of allowing it to harden for a few days before cutting.

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