How to clip your counters
William Collins
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I spent a while going through some older threads about counter clipping, and once I had enough advice rolling around my head, I decided to do it to my ASL Starter Kit 1 counters.

Why clip counters? Well, there's an aesthetic quality to the clipped counter that I enjoy, that's true. But it's not the only reason. Many people believe that the clipped counters will last longer, as the clipped edge, created by the even downward pressure of the clippers, will stay adhered to the counter far longer than one not clipped. In addition, the clipped edge relieves the counter of any hanging chads; this is generally believed to help the counters, during play, to not grab each other when being moved about the battlefield.

Whether or not you think that they look good, the evidence is there to support the above theories denoting advantages in both game longevity and play benefits.

I hope that this hasn't been done to death, forgive me if that's true. I thought this list might serve as a repository for information about clipping such that clipping newbs or anyone interested in the clipping phenomenon could find the info all in one place.

Enjoy, and please let me know what you think!
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1. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
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Step One: Sound Off, recruit!

Here's everything you need to get going. We have:

1. ASLSK1 counters
2. Self-healing cutting mat
3. Straight edge for cutting (and protecting your hand)
4. Hobby knife with NEW BLADE
5. Dremel tool with filing drum
6. Bottom of a CD jewel box tray
7. Counter tray
 
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2. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
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Step Two: Let's Get a Move On!

Now that you have everything set up, sit down in a well lit area and get your mat ready with your knife. You really should use a new blade in your knife. I can't overly express how important this is; It will safe guard you from injury, as dull knives *do* slip more, and it will protect your counters and make your job much easier.

Set your counter sheet in a comfortable area near the center of your mat. Mentally, you should think of that first German Infantry two rows as a set; you will be cutting out this counter set first.

Align the straight edge such that it's thicker, protective cutting rule edge is directly above the die cut line along the top of that first set of counters. It's important that you cover the counters with the rule and cut with the sprue visible. This allows you some error room should the knife wander; it will cut the sprue paper rather than your counters.

Holding the edge down with as much even pressure along it's length as you can, draw the knife at a right angle to the counter sheet with the side of the knife flush against the straight edge. Applying slight pressure (another reason why a fresh blade works so well is that it takes less pressure to cut) draw the knife slowly back across the die cut. If you need to, make the same cut a couple times, but you can get it done on the first try for the most part. Some people prefer to cut in several, low pressure motions, and to each their own.

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3. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
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Step Three: Once Again!

Now you can flip the counter sheet around so that you can cut the bottom edge of that first counter set.

Follow the same rules above and cut through the bottom. Remember to cover the counters with the straight edge, and be careful not to go into the next set of counters (don't worry, it's pretty far away).
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4. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
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Step Four: Bring it On Down!

Now you can flip the counter sheet ninety degrees and cut the side of the set; repeat this for the fourth and final side.

Be careful!

As an option for those who feel pretty steady with their knife, you can delicately cut down the horizontal center of the two row set...again, be careful as you won't have one of the rows protected by the straight edge.
 
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5. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
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Step Five: It's all in the Details

If you have cut things correctly, it should take minimal effort to remove the two row counter set from the paper sprue. In most cases it will either fall right out or take a well-placed corner poke or three with your hobby knife.

Now you should have the set ready to separate with your hobby knife. Since the counters are only held together at this point on the corners, this won't take much time or effort. Still, be careful and go as slowly as you need to go.
 
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6. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
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All right!

Check it out! We now have that first set of counters ready to be clipped. Now let's move on to fabricating the cutting jig!
 
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7. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
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Step Six: Time to Grind

Go ahead and grab your cd tray and decide which corner you want to grind down.

Holding the tray securely with your off-hand, and the Demel tool fitted with a filing drum, slowly grind the corner of the tray at a forty-five degree angle; I just eyeballed mine and it came out fine.

Try to grind at about 50-60% of the power of the tool, and don't go too fast. You will notice some plastic "slag" type build-up, but don't worry. It will either grind off or you'll get to it in the next step.

When you think you are getting close, and it might be pretty soon because you don't need to take off much, go ahead and stop. Remember, you can always grind a little more off, while it's impossible to add anything back.
 
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8. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
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Step Seven: Clean up the Corner

Using your hobby knife, scrape off the plastic "slag" and clean the corner area really well. You don't want your counters to be marred sliding in and out of the corner for clipping. Address the plastic at a ninety degree angle with the knife's blade to avoid cutting into the plastic. This is more of a scraping than a cutting motion. Take your time and make the whole thing clean.
 
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9. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
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Here's what my jig looked like when I was done.
 
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Step Eight: Testing, Testing. One, Two...Three?

Place a counter into your jig and slide it into the corner. Does it look right? You can test clip now with the counter, or with a piece of the sprue, and see how things look.

If it's not enough of a clip, go back to the above steps and take off a little bit more.

If it's too much of a clip, well, you still have three more corners, so don't fret. Just start over on another corner.
 
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11. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
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Step Nine: Commence the Clipping!

Now you can go ahead and clip your pile of counters. I like to hold the tray in my off-hand and secure the counter with my thumb. It's pretty easy then to clip with my other hand, put the clippers down, and rotate the counter to it's next corner.

Make sure you use a good set of new clippers. They are pretty cheap and work loads better than rusty old things.

Citizen k, below, is correct in that the smaller fingernail clippers are really the preferred tool; In addition to his observations about the greater efficiency of using said clippers, they will give a tighter curve to the clip, making the final counter look more polished, and less octagonal (which is a main concern of many clipping-detractors). (and Citizen k also mentioned that in his post. I am stupid.)
 
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12. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
William Collins
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Here's the whole German Infantry that is included with ASLSK1.
 
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13. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:403]
William Collins
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Step Ten: Enjoy!

Continue and clip as much as you need. Here's a shot of all the counters in ASLSK1 clipped and put away in a Chessex style counter tray; I think I would recommend the GMT style ones, actually, since the large, attached lid and low relative weight of the Chessex tray make it unwieldy and accident-prone; you want to be playing games, not picking up and re-sorting counters!

Thanks for reading, and I hope that you enjoyed this. Let me know what you think.

[edit] This is aimed squarely at the time-sensitive detractors: It didn't take any longer to actually clip the counters with the jig than without the jig, strangely enough. So, looking at the life-cycle time expenditure, if you cut enough counters to justify the building of the jig (maybe ten minutes or so once you have everything ready) then it's really a no-brainer.
 
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