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Subject: making game counters - die cutting machines? rss

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Mark J
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Monroe
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I'm kicking around for an efficient way to make game counters for prototyping or maybe for small-scale production.

I'm thinking here of counters that are square and, say 1/2" to 3/4".

Cutting out counters with a paper cutter and/or scissors is painfully slow and very difficult to make all the counters of consistent size and shape.

Has anybody tried to use a die-cutting machine to do this? Are there off-the-shelf dies available? If not, anybody know what it would cost to get a custom-made die?

I did some tinkering with using a Zing electronic cutter to make counters and I'm having, shall we say, mixed results. Maybe it's just a matter of getting all the settings and set up just right.
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Glen Dresser
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Have you explored laser cutters at all? The machines aren't cheap, but maybe there's a makerspace near you that has one, and would set up a job for you on it for a donation.
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    I make all my counters with adhesive foam sheets from Michael's. Print on cheap paper, stick to adhesive foam, cut with scissors or a cutting wheel. Super cheap, super fast, and the counters have an interesting flex to them that makes it easier to pick them up.

             S.


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W Scott Grant
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Similar to Sagrilarus, I actually use the light-weight wood from Hobby Lobby. Works great for counters and tiles. The drawback with wood is that unless you are a master-level craftsman (which I'm not), I would avoid non-standard shapes. I tried to do a puzzle-piece cut (like the border tiles-strips used in Catan) and the results were horrible.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Yes, much like John Tamplin over at Deep Thought Games, LLC, I use an Ellison Prestige Pro die cutter for producing the privates, shares, trains etc for my 18xx designs.
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Mark J
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octothorp wrote:
Have you explored laser cutters at all? The machines aren't cheap, but maybe there's a makerspace near you that has one, and would set up a job for you on it for a donation.


To the best of my knowledge, laser cutters are multi-thousand dollar machines. I can see laying out a few hundred for a hobby, but not thousands. If you know of laser cutters available for hundreds of dollars, I'd very much like to hear about it.
 
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Mark J
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Sagrilarus wrote:

    I make all my counters with adhesive foam sheets from Michael's. Print on cheap paper, stick to adhesive foam, cut with scissors or a cutting wheel. Super cheap, super fast, and the counters have an interesting flex to them that makes it easier to pick them up.


Hmm, no my first few tries at making counters, I got some foam sheets (later tried chipboard), printed counters on adhesive label sheets -- full page labels -- stuck the label sheet to the chipboard, then cut the rows with a hand (rotary) paper cutter, then cut the individual units from each strip with scissors. This worked in principle, but (a) It took a long time, and (b) I found it very difficult to cut precisely enough on the lines. That is, when I was done if you made a stack of my units, some were obviously just a little big bigger than others, or not quite square, etc.

Maybe it's a matter of just being more careful as I cut, or getting a better paper cutter, etc etc. But I was hoping for something that would be faster and easier.

Plus my fingers got sore from all that cutting with scissors.
 
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Mark J
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clearclaw wrote:
Yes, much like John Tamplin over at Deep Thought Games, LLC, I use an Ellison Prestige Pro die cutter for producing the privates, shares, trains etc for my 18xx designs.


What sort of dies are you using? I mean, what shapes, sizes, etc. And where did you get them?

My hypothetical thinking is that something like an Ellison would be perfect if one could get the right dies. You'd think there are enough game designers out there that suitable dies would be available, but I tried googling and wasn't able to find anything. I'd especially think that dies for playing cards would be readily available, that seems like something lots of people would want, for custom playing cards, flash cards, etc. But I just don't know how or where to look.
 
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J C Lawrence
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saneperson wrote:
What sort of dies are you using? I mean, what shapes, sizes, etc.


I am currently using the default test die that comes with the die cutter and am considering commissioning a couple of custom dies, one for 18xx-type track tiles and one for smaller cards for shares, trains, etc as the test die cuts sizes rather larger than I'd prefer.

Quote:
And where did you get them?


The test die I'm using is available from Ellison for ~$20. Custom dies are also available from Ellison for ~$300ea (sample size of one: I've only had one quote done, which was for the track-tile die). Ellison have many other dies available from their website, but none that I found interesting for my needs. I have no need or interest for instance in a playing-card die.

Quote:
But I just don't know how or where to look.


http://www.ellisoneducation.com/catalog#facets=category~shap...
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Corsaire
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I have CraftRobo by Graphtec, also sold as Silhouette new version. Costs around $200. I haven't run it on chipboard, but does a wonderful job with very thick cardstock. Basically it is an old school plotter with an xacto like cutting blade that you can send your own vector graphics cutting instructions to. It has a detector that will align the cutting to print marks on your print copy.
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Yeah, a proper die setup (the machine and say 2 custom dies) can be $800 to $1200. I'm planning on adding that and an 11x17 color laser printer to the shop and doing my smaller releases in-house and also take on some outside work to help offset costs.

I've yet to try the foam method but I know when it comes to selling games that companies with 'squishy' counters are not usually very popular and can have problems in wargames in regard to stacking. There again, I haven't tested but I think I would like them myself (I like single sided counters and no stacking as a rule).
 
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Mark J
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Corsaire wrote:
I have CraftRobo by Graphtec, also sold as Silhouette new version. Costs around $200. I haven't run it on chipboard, but does a wonderful job with very thick cardstock. Basically it is an old school plotter with an xacto like cutting blade that you can send your own vector graphics cutting instructions to. It has a detector that will align the cutting to print marks on your print copy.


I think that's similar to the Zing that I recently bought. You basically draw a vector image and it cuts it. I found it works great on cardstock -- I tried using it to make cards on 110# cardstock and that worked quite well. A shade slow maybe, I'll have to time it, but I laid out 9 cards per sheet and it cut that in maybe a minute. It has a laser to align the cutter with registration marks and if you do it right, while, I had an image that I drew with 1/2 point thick lines (1/144") and the blade went right through every line on the page perfectly.

But then I tried it on some thicker material to make counters and I just don't seem to be able to get clean cuts, and it's very slow. Now I don't want to bad-mouth the manufacturer. They admit in their documentation that you need to tinker with settings and experiment to get good cuts. I spent several hours tinkering with it and couldn't get it to work quite right, but my last try was pretty close, so maybe with a little more work I'd get there. I intend to play with it some more. It's very flexible, but I'm thinking that a die cutter would be easier and a lot faster.
 
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Mark J
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pnpfanatic wrote:
Yeah, a proper die setup (the machine and say 2 custom dies) can be $800 to $1200. I'm planning on adding that and an 11x17 color laser printer to the shop and doing my smaller releases in-house and also take on some outside work to help offset costs.


Yeah, I'm kicking around the idea of trying to produce a game at home. I realistically don't expect that any game that I invent will sell millions of copies. I think hundreds is a realistic goal. So if I could crank out a couple a week in my spare time I could probably keep up with demand. The other obvious alternative is POD printers. I'm new to this, I'm just considering possibilities.

Quote:
I've yet to try the foam method but I know when it comes to selling games that companies with 'squishy' counters are not usually very popular and can have problems in wargames in regard to stacking. There again, I haven't tested but I think I would like them myself (I like single sided counters and no stacking as a rule).


The "foam" that I'm talking about is not very squishy, no more than typical cardboard I think. The stuff I played with I got from, umm, I got something from Staples and something from Hobby Lobby, but the foam I used was like 2 or 3 mm thick.
 
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Josette Baysdell
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I recently made my husband two sets of wargame counters (1.25 x 1.25" and 1.25 x 1.75"), about 330 counters in all. Used 8.5 x 11" white labels for printing and a heavy black chipboard for the base.

I made most of the initial cuts with a utility knife and a metal ruler.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006O87O6/ref=oh_details_o...

and then finished them off with this rotary cutter.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001CE8JF6/ref=oh_details_o...

It was kind of a long process, but the counters turned out very well, nice smooth cuts. The rotary cutter was a bit pricey, but worth it.

As the borders of the different armies were black and red, we finished them off with permanent markers along the sides to cover any visible white label edges. Made them look fairly professional.

Now he wants more. I think I have gotten myself into trouble here.


 
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Roger Mark
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http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamepublisher/2456/the-game-cr...

 
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Mark J
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grunt101st wrote:


Sure. That's another option.
 
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