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Making circular tokens from mat board

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maarten
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Joined: 04/12/2011

For a game I'm developing, I would like to make little circular tokens made from mat board about 1.5 mm (0.06 inch) thick. Their dimensions are 15 to 20 mm (0.6 to 0.8 inch). These things are standard issue game components: think of the 'money' or 'population markers' in many games and you have a near-perfect idea of what I'm after.

However, after a few experiments I found that my hands are not steady enough to cut such small yet good circles in mat board this thick. The circular cutting tools I've come across cannot handle both the thickness of the board and the size of the circle. I've also tried using a 'holpijpje' (lit.: 'hollow little tube')---this is the Dutch word for a carpenting tool with which you can punch out small circles in thin pieces of wood or carpet. The mat board doesn't like being treated this way: it tends to split across the edge, and the edge itself is not really straight but slightly skewed, as if the counter was sliced off a cone rather than a cylinder. (This is hard to explain in words.)

Can anyone offer suggestions or tips on how to produce a small number (250) of high-quality tokens?

Torrent
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Making circular tokens from mat board

I would actually have suggested something like a hollow-copper-pipe cookie-cutter sort of thing. I am curious about yoru problems with this method. Is this the mat board used for Picture Framing, or the sandwiched stuff with a foam core?
A little rounding of the Top of a token is probably expected. Look at most produced games, tokens tend to have a rounded top and smoother bottom.
If it is really pronounced you can try the following. Sandwich your matboard with wood. Pre-Cut a circle from the top piece. Reinsert this cut piece into the tube and weight it with a marble or something. You might have to shave the little wooden circle a little to get it to slide more freely in the tube. Then Try to cut the circle from the sandwiched Mat board. The even weight should help the mat board from crumpling upwards in the middle (which is as close as I can understand to your problem). The Top piece of wood with the precut hole should also help a little in keeping the Tube straight.
I don't know the action this tube needs to work. Is it something that you hit with a hammer or is it a slow twisting sort of thing? I would recommend atleast trying both methods and see what results. Be careful with the hammer, especially don't bend the tube and dont try to wahck it all at once. You would want short straight taps.

A variation on this would be to have a fairly thick bottom piece (20mm or so) with the sam circle cut out. Line up the circles Top and Bottom and then with the weighted pipe try again. Think a Hole-Punch. It has a round cutter and a baseplate with the same hole.

The other thing that comes to mind is a Hole Saw. Not exactly whay you woudl want, but it might give you an idea. It is a Drill Bit that looks like a cookie cutter with teeth. The drill spins it and can make larger holes than with normal drill bits. The thing I'm thinking of is that usually you have a little disk of wood left over. I think it would tear your mat board badly as the teeth are usually large.

Good luck and hope this helps.
Andy

prophx
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Making circular tokens from mat board

I have found that my personal design preference is sticking with square (or rectangular) tokens due to the fact that they are much easier to cut out and in my opinion are easier to pick up as they have corners instead of smooth sides. Square tokens do not diminish the feel of the game and in some instances can compliment it much better than circular tokens. I just don't think it is worth the hassle if it can be done much easier with the same effect. I've wasted too much time with circles.

rob

slam
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Making circular tokens from mat board

If you are willing to spend a little money, you can get little wooden disks here:

http://www.caseyswood.com/catalog/cat_pg9.htm

for example, 500 7/8" disks are 3 cents a disk=$15.

You can get 3/4" circular inkjet labels here:

http://www.planetlabel.com/cgi/search.cgi?user_id=10782324984179312452&template=inkjet3.shtml&database=planetlabel.txt&0_option=1&0=LT6005-120CJHG

That's more expensive ($64.75 for 100 sheets)

If you want cheaper options, you can make a custom stamps, or buy smaller quantity of whole sheet labels and get a craft punch to punch out circular labels.

maarten
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Making circular tokens from mat board

Torrent wrote:
I would actually have suggested something like a hollow-copper-pipe cookie-cutter sort of thing. I am curious about yoru problems with this method. Is this the mat board used for Picture Framing, or the sandwiched stuff with a foam core?

Hrm. There's two things which caught my attention upon reading this. Most people I've mentioned the problem to bring up the words 'copper pipe'. Is there something special about using copper? Or is it just the fact that whenever people think of metal pipes, they think of copper ones? Second, you mention that there are different varieties of mat board. That is something I hadn't thought of yet. As far as I can tell, there is no foam core in my board: the edge is a very even gray. What type of quality should I get? Mine is just the el-cheapo generic gray A0-sized board from an art store.

Looking at the little disks I made, I have come up with a better description of the most important problem: the split edge. The mat board I use is made up of many thin layers which are normally invisible and pressed together very firmly. With your fingernail, you can split those layers apart, but it takes an effort. (You would be able to tear the board in half in such a way that you end up with two pieces of the same size as the original, but half its thickness.) However, after punching out the disk, that splitting becomes much easier, and sometimes already happens inside the hollow tube because of the friction between the metal tube and the board.

Now of course noone in their right mind would try to ruin game pieces on purpose in the way I described, but I was thinking of the wear and tear they are subject to when people are picking them up from the table. Perhaps what I described is simply a consequence of small pieces, that they are simply structurally weaker because of their size. Which brings me back to the question I wrote down above: which board quality should I buy?

Anyway, I really appreciate your answer as you gave me some new ideas which I would like to try out.

maarten
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Making circular tokens from mat board

Prophx wrote:
I've wasted too much time with circles.

That is of course also an option :-). Large squares, or hexagons. Good suggestion, I'll definitely keep this in mind.

Anonymous
Making circular tokens from mat board

possibly not helpful, but may spark off some ideas.

I have a hole cutting device for making the holes that grommets are set in. It cuts a hole about the size of a shoelace hole (5 mm)

Cutting these out of leather, makes lots of perfect little 'rounds' and made in differing colours of leather, and with a slightly bigger hole punch, might yield cheap tokens.

http://www.farthingales.on.ca/grommet_tips.htm
(see the guy with the hammer and the log)

this also reminds me that having the piece of wood under the thing im cutting holes out of allows the cutter to chop through the leather and into the wood a bit, this might help in your card thing.

also try filing the edge of the pipe so that it is sharper. (copper is quite soft so a nailfile might do it.) also being soft it will probably blunt more often.

now i have started rambling....

Torrent
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Making circular tokens from mat board

You are partially right about people thinking metal pipe as copper. Atleast with me, I think of pipe about that size as copper. Also I know that you can get copper to hold an edge (and be pretty sharp) a lot better than say aluminum.

About the splitting. It sounds like the Glue that holds your matboard together is either not evenly spread or just not very strong for what your trying to do. You certainly could try getting one peice of a higher quality board and see how that goes. The stuff I guess I'm thinking of (which may be exactly what you have I dont know), is the board that is used to Mat Photographs. It is usually set up so you cut a hole out of the middle for your photograph and leave a colored border. The inside is usually a different color to make a contrast. Since it is designed to be cut, I would think the glue should be pretty even.

A last thought about the pipe. It would be interesting to see what your circles look like. If it really is the friction in the pipe causing problems, I wonder if you could file/bend/coerce the cutting end of the pipe inward. So the cutting edge is a slightly smaller circle than the rest of the pipe. It would probably disturb the surrounding board more, but might let your piece slide easier along and not ripple the layers.

Andy

FastLearner
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Making circular tokens from mat board

A company called Sizzix makes hand-held paddle punches that are specifically for punching stuff out of paper and cardboard.

They have two circle punches. The first one says it's 1/2" to 1" in diameter, but I've seen it and it's about 3/4"... I don't know why they are so imprecise. The second one is 1/4" diameter:

http://www.sizzix.com/shop.cfm?function=detail&ProductItemNumber=38-0826&

http://www.sizzix.com/shop.cfm?function=detail&ProductItemNumber=38-0828

You just tap them with a hammer. Hopefully they'll work better than your carpenter's tool. Mind you, I haven't used one of these yet, but I will probably purchase one before long. I don't see any reason why you have to use their special hammer -- I'm sure they're just trying to sell hammers. The only trick is ensuring that your die has some kind of protection, so you're not hitting metal on metal (which is all the hammer does, as near as I can tell).

-- Matthew

VeritasGames
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Making circular tokens from mat board

Is there any reason you couldn't use colored glass stones or tiddlywinks? These are readily available at most craft stores. They are generally cheap enough to work with. Tiddlywinks (or the transparent equivalent found in craft stores) are pretty cheap.

Oracle
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Making circular tokens from mat board

slam wrote:
If you are willing to spend a little money, you can get little wooden disks here:

http://www.caseyswood.com/catalog/cat_pg9.htm

The discs look good but I also need some matching (same thickness and wood) square tiles. I looked in their catalog but I couldn't find that.

They do have wood cubes which I also want.

Everything they have is unpainted though. There's been some threads here about painting wood bits, but it would be a lot easier to buy them pre-painted. Do you know of an source of painted wood bits with an English website?

Thanks,
Jason

Deviant
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Making circular tokens from mat board

I've heard somewhere on the board that you can dye wooden pieces in food coloring. That would be fast and easy (and cheap!), I'd think.

Oracle
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Making circular tokens from mat board

Deviant wrote:
I've heard somewhere on the board that you can dye wooden pieces in food coloring. That would be fast and easy (and cheap!), I'd think.

I think a better alternative to food colouring is rit dyes. Since they don't have to worry about making them safe to eat, they can make it more colourfast, and dye is a lot cheaper per quart that food colouring ;)

For either of those, I would expect a big problem with the colour coming off on the player's hands and when you store the bits, they'd contaminate each other and the other game components.

Using proper wood stain might be a good idea; you can submerge the bits in the stain and after you pull them out, wipe off as much stain as possible on a clean rag/paper towel. Then they should be dry enough to set on a clean rag to finish drying. Wood stain is also a lot cheaper than food colouring and is available in lots of colours.

Most of the wood bits I've seen (caracassonne meeples, warcraft units, etc) are painted. I would try laying out the bits on news paper and spray painting them, then leave them to dry, turn then over and spray paint the sides I missed the first time. I don't think that 2-pass system will get a nice, consistant coating like a profeessionally made bit, but it might come out alright.

Jason

Torrent
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Making circular tokens from mat board

If you are going to try to spraypaint your pieces, don't lay them directly on the newspaper to let them dry. The paint will tend to drip down the sides, and even a little of that will make the pieces stick to the newsprint. If the pieces are small I suggest laying out toothpicks to set the peices on. Yes the pieces may stick to the toothpicks, but I find that easier to deal with than bits of newsprintall over. The 'large' round toothpicks work better than the flat ones for this.

Also waxpaper may be an option, as paint won't stick to that quite as badly as to newsprint.

Andy

Oracle
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Making circular tokens from mat board

Torrent wrote:
If you are going to try to spraypaint your pieces, don't lay them directly on the newspaper to let them dry. The paint will tend to drip down the sides, and even a little of that will make the pieces stick to the newsprint.

That's a good point. Even if I use the toothpicks or wax paper, the dripping will still leave the paint very thick at the bottom of where I painted, so the result won't look very good.

Have you spray painted pieces?

I bought some spray paint to paint my computer case, but when I experimented with it (by starting with the extra drive bay covers), I had far too much trouble with dripping so I gave up. That's actually the same spray paint as I would have used to try painting wood bits :).

Maybe stain is the best idea then since after wiping it off, there's not enough to drip. I still like your wax paper idea for stain.

Jason

Torrent
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Making circular tokens from mat board

Quote:
Have you spray painted pieces?
Not playing pieces, but shelving and such. I just remember the problem with stuff sticking to the newspapers. I think the trick is to spray very lightly. So keep the can a ways from the pieces, and do a sweeping motion across them.

I wonder if you could make a set of little stands from pegs in a board. Then you could RubberCement your pieces to the stands and be able to paint them all-the-way round in more or less one go. Rubber Cement rubs off pretty good, and you would just have to paint the 'underside' where the stand was by hand.

Andy

FastLearner
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Making circular tokens from mat board

Several people have told me that RIT dye works well, though I haven't tried it. Even with food coloring, a light spray of clear acrylic afterwards (which you'd probably want to do for that nice sheen) would seal them, eliminating any dye transfter problems later.

I just haven't been creating bits in the kind of quantities I think you guys are talking about: I only create the bits for one proto at a time. I color the wood with markers -- dry erase work best, but even regular markers work fine -- and then seal them with spray acrylic. The end result is nice looking bits. If I want white then I hand-paint them with basic acrylic paints.

My biggest problem is sanding things. Sure, some the the bits come nice and smooth, but things like bulk wood cubes and stuff have -- for me -- insufficiently smooth sides. I spend way, way too much time sanding.

-- Matthew

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