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Subject: Essentials for DIY Projects rss

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Andrew Brown
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A questions for all of the PnP experts out there. I'm interested in starting some of my own DIY projects as well as make prototypes of game ideas I have. For someone who is just starting out, what do you recommend as essential tools of the trade?

Keep in mind that I am working from the ground up. That means I need:
Printer
Any needed computer programs
Cutting tools
PnP supplies (bits, cardstock, etc.)

I want to be able to make/print:
cards
maps
custom dice and tokens

One last request. I would like recommendations to take into account value for money. I don't need to create the PnP paradise. What tools do you think have given you the best results relative to how expensive they are?

I'm new to this so I don't even know if all of my questions/requests are appropriate or important. But you are the experts so I have faith you can steer me in the right direction. Thanks.
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Tim
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GodfatherPTS wrote:

Keep in mind that I am working from the ground up. That means I need:
Printer
Any needed computer programs
Cutting tools
PnP supplies (bits, cardstock, etc.)


I wouldn't worry about buying a printer. Just go to your local copy shop, Office Max/Depo, Or Fedex Kinkos. Prices for color laser printing on anything 11x17 and smaller are perfectly inexpensive. Large format printing (larger than 11x17) gets *really* expensive in color, but remains cheap for B&W.

As for computer programs, just pick a solid graphics package and stick with it until you learn it. I'm assuming you're on Windows? Paint.NET www.getpaint.net is a free graphics program that comes pretty close to rivaling photoshop for every day use. There are a handful of features of Paint.NET that I actually prefer over the more expensive commercial programs.

A good vector drawing package is good too. If you don't know what that means, google it. Vector art is important when drawing things that need to scale well and look the same whether they are printed at 1/2" or 12". Inkscape is a free open source competitor to Adobe Illustrator... but it's kind of like how Open Office is a free open source competitor to Microsoft Office. It gets the job done, I guess, but it's not pretty.

Just get yourself a nice rotary cutting tool from your local hobby or quilting shop (these are usually in the quilting section). I use an Olfa 45mm rotary cutter. Make sure to get a metal ruler with a big thick lip so that you can't slip over the ruler and cut yourself!!!! EDIT: Don't use a straight edge cutter, box cutter, or xacto knift. It will drag, tear, and cause the edge of your cuts to become "raised" -- definitely spring the $17 for a decent rotary cutter.



You may also want to get some arc punches for cutting out circles, but that's probably something for later. I haven't sprung for one yet.

Spray adhesive. I just use the cheap Elmer's spray adhesive you can get at Wal-Mart... It's glue in an aerosol can.

Chipboard will be found at your local art supply store. It generally ranges from 1/2-ply to 3-ply. 1/2-ply is like $2.50 a sheet at my local store (sheet being a large 2' x 3'). The temptation will be to assume thicker is better. Thicker is hard to cut, and actually looks bad if you're cutting out tiny pieces (like little 1/2" war game counters. 1/2-ply is perfect for that. I've used 1-ply, but wouldn't go above that).

Printing cards. Don't overdo it here. I used to go to great pains to make cards. I used thin sheets of PVC plastic in the middle of two sheets of linen paper because it created the same consistency as playing cards. They were beautiful, but you're never going to be able to cut them perfectly so you're going to have to sleeve them anyways. Then you lose all your hard work behind a sleeve. Lately I've just been printing on semi-gloss photo paper, cutting and sleeving along with a cheap playing card. It's honestly just as good and nobody is going to notice (make your cards about 1/16 of an inch larger than the playing card so the card is hidden. you can even drop a dollop of glue onto the playing card so it doesn't slide around and become exposed behind your paper).

Of course, there's always places like Artscow for having cards printed.

EDIT: SEMI-GLOSS is your friend. Another temptation will be to assume everything should be glossy. *really* look at your game collection. You won't find much that's glossy in there. Glossy will look less professional then a semi-gloss or matte finish, if you're getting your print work done on a nice laser printer it will still look nice and vibrant.
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Joseph
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Keep your eye out for the 50% off one item coupons for Michaels. A lot of the things you need you can find in the scrapbooking section. They do the coupons everyother week or so. Plus they usually give you a 50% off coupon for the next week when you buy something. If you take your time you can get a lot of what you need a a good price.

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Subhan Michael Tindall
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If there's a JoAnn Fabrics superstore in your area, get on their mailing list. You will get coupons for 40% off every few weeks in the mail.
I'd also ditto on Inkscape, it has a steep learning curve but once you've got the basics down it is essential, especially for map creation. There are some plugins available to generate hex layers etc.
For cards I like to print on linen paper, glue to cardstock, and glue a solid color back on.
As far as the above advice regarding a rotary cutter, YMMV. I've been cutting for years with straight cutters, it's all in the technique. It's essential to keep your blade VERY sharp - I buy utility knives in the 3 or 4 pack at the dollar store & frequently snap off a knew blade. The problem some rotary cutters have is that the blade can wobble a bit. I tend to make tiny components often, so even a .05 MM variation can be obvious. There are some great tutorials on the http://www.worldworksgames.com/store/index.php?view=pages&pgid=1 web site on dealing with cardstock, foam core, etc. Be sure to check out the stuff on edging.
For gluing, you want a low-moisture glue. Common gluesticks actually work fairly well, if applied evenly (they can clump sometimes), or Uhu Office Pens.
Also, a metal straightedge is essential. I use one with a cork backing, but I normally turn it over so the metal side is down as this gives me greater precision in my cuts.
Good luck!
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Jake Staines
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A couple of points to add:

- Using a knife instead of a rotary cutter is fine if you do two things: make sure your knife is *sharp*, and go over the cut lightly once or twice to make the initial clean cut before pressing harder to get through the material. Rotary cutters can be hard to control at first, but most people have no trouble with a knife and a ruler. Bear in mind that cutting cardboard dulls knife blades remarkably quickly, don't be surprised if you go through a blade or two cutting a sheet of counters if you're using something like a box cutter.

- When selecting a ruler, remember that not all metals are equal: aluminium is pretty rubbish for cutting against, because it's actually soft enough for a cutter to bite into it if it's sharp enough to do a good job on the card. Also, it helps a lot if you can find a cork-backed one (rubber is OK), because that gives it grip on the thing you're cutting, minimising the chances of mis-cuts. If you're planning on laminating things (or using self-adhesive plastic to protect, or whatever) this is particularly useful, as the laminated surface is practically impossible for a metal ruler to grip on its own.
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Andrew Walters
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Clear contact paper. I use it on everything. Protects against skin oil and moisture as well as stiffening your cards and giving a professional look.

Save the better cereal and cracker boxes for utility purposes, to cut on and glue on and so forth.

Full sheet label paper - far easier and cleaner than spray adhesive or rubber cement. A box of 100 is $30 so it's not cheap, but cheaper than the alternatives in the long run (spray adhesive is messy and it's over $10 per can).

If you want to make custom dice you need either some dice from the dollar store or 3/4" wooden cubes from Michael's.

You can cut neatly with an Xacto or utility knife and a metal straight edge, you just need to use a new blade. I like to use a paper cutter for a lot of things, though.

White glue - it's miraculous stuff.

Buy the heaviest card stock you can, 110 lb card stock, not 65 lb cover stock.

I very much like the better copy paper. Get the 24 lb, 98 (or 94) brightness paper instead of the 22 lb, 88 or 90 brightness paper. You can see the difference both visually and in neatness of construction.

A handy small desk lamp - you'd be surprised how many things are easier with proper lighting.

Metal straight edge. Minimum one foot long, but I use my metal yardstick pretty often.

Black sharpies - coloring the edge of things can make things neater.

Zip lock bags!
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K H
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Ditto on the full-sheet label paper. It seems pricy up front, but it will save your sanity on so many types of projects. You can foray into the realm of fancy glues and papers later on, when you have more experience.

Someone mentioned white glue. I use it frequently in my own projects, but I would never recommend it to someone just getting started in DIY/PNP. It has too much moisture content, and will cause paper to swell and pucker if you don't get it on just right. It works best with heavy weight card stock (110 lb.) which is more forgiving.

For making custom dice, adhesive labels are your best bet, particularly if you can get dice with indented faces. If you frequent thrift stores, you can sometimes find used games with indented dice in them for cheap. If you apply stickers to standard dice, the ink will wear off with use. A more advanced option is to use heat to transfer laser toner onto standard blank dice. For that you need a heated burnishing tool or a hot clothes iron and reversed images printed heavily in laser toner on plain glossy inkjet photo paper. http://www.dicecreator.com/2010/05/20/open-source-dice-makin...

There has been a lot of debate over whether the razor knife or the rotary cutter is the better choice for making games. The truth is that each excels at different types of cutting, and it's up to you to identify which is most appropriate to your own application. And for some applications you can't beat a pair of quality all-metal craft scissors. If you have deep pockets, get all three tools. If you have to choose only one, the razor knife can cut anything that the other two can, even if the quality of the cut is sometimes lower. Scissors and rotary cutters can't make the same claim.
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Dave C
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Wow.. I'm incredibly cheap.

Cereal Boxes and clear boxing tape... take the printed bit and cut out.. cut out bit of cereal box .. use the tape to cover the printed bit (protecting it) and wrap it to stick to the box bit...

hint.. have the plain brown side be the exposed side.

dice: http://www.amazon.com/Chessex-Special-Dice-Set-Polyhedral/dp...

or

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0043C8WO2?tag=article-boar...

... and sharpies... ya know.. those pens. .. they come in lots of colors (don't forget to open a window if coloring a lot of things..)

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kerli
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If you want to do it fairly cheaply, then here's what I use: cereal boxes and double sided tape. I use scissors to cut most of the things out. 2 layers of cereal box gets you quite nice playable tokens, 4-5 layers feels actually really nice and heavy. Just apply tape to another side of cereal box and stick your tokens down. The only thing is whether you think you'll be sane at the end of cutting all of them out. One layer is quite enough if you make tiles etc, just keep your cardboard nice and flat.

For paper, at the moment I use just simple printer card, but I quite like Epson Double-Sided Matte paper, too. (We have Epson printer and it's great, though we didn't buy it specially for PnP games, you know, just for regular home use) But, as the first poster said - you don't have to have printer, just see what works best in your local copy shop.

I also used to use clear sticky-back plastic to protect the pieces, but I did discover spray enamel this summer. Much faster, even if smellier. I may have to go back to the plastic in the winter, though, because of all the rain - can't spray and leave stuff outside to dry anymore...

I get my dice from Amazon, just do the same card-and-sticky-tape thing with them as well. Nothing too fancy, works for my purposes. Maybe I should try the full sheet label paper, sounds a great idea.

I haven't tried making my own deck of cards yet, but Artscow pops up often. Maybe, if I did, I would just print the cards, glue 2 layers together and use a corner punch to make nice round corners. And sleeve.

About the knife and rotary cutter debate... I have both, though I have to say that lately I have used rotary cutter more frequently. However, you do have to have a steady hand AND a special mat (but they come in sets usually anyway) to use it. If you get a knife, make sure it has long "stripy" blades, so you can snap one bit off any time the knife tip starts to become blunt. Any other kind is, as far as I'm concerned, a waste of money, if you plan to do a lot of craft cutting. Be sure to have something safe to snip the end off with, though - like pliers. As I said, though, I use scissors for most things myself - I only need to cut one layer at a time, and you can make round shapes and everything.

Rant over!

tuskel,
sincerely
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Richard Morris
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I bought a set of arch punches for tokens, but found them quite difficult to get consistently good results from. In the States, you can buy wooden discs very cheaply (try Casey's), so wooden discs with labels stuck on is now my preferred method. I looked, and failed, to find an European source of the discs (well, at other than silly prices), so I have just bought a few thousand from Casey's, and have had them shipped to a friend who will hand them over when I am at a conference next week.
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Richard Morris
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For cutting, I usually use both a 'craft knife' and a rotary cutter. I use the craft knife (with metal ruler) to cut a guide line, which makes it easy to keep the rotary cutter straight. Using a rotary cutter with a ruler I found problematic. Doing it by hand with no guide is equally problematic for other than very small cuts.
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Tom McThorn
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My DIY toolbox has:

Printer: Use color laserjet provided by the office because I'm too cheap to print on my inkjet at home.

Rotary cutter: A good Olfa one. Wasn't cheap but worth it.

Cutting mat for the rotary cutter. Again not cheap but you need it to protect your cutter blade (which are expensive to replace)

2' metal ruler. Got this at Sears. Use it with the rotary cutter...or to smack the kids when they're bad. (just kidding on the kids part)

3M spray glue; I buy the large cans; again not cheap but worth it.

Self adhesive Laminate sheets; $20/50 sheets from one of the office stores.

Spray clear coat from Wal-Mart. I stopped using the laminate because it's too shiny and the spray stuff protects but is a matte finish.

Paper: I bought a ream of 100# white paper for printing money/cards on. It's heavy enough for handling but not too thick. For cardstock I use the cereal box method plus found that at Costco between the items on pallets they'll have large sheets of thin cardboard similar to cereal boxes and they're like 4' square. And free! For heavier chipboard for maps/counters I buy sheets at Aaron Brothers for about $5; they're 3'x4' sheets and come in different colors. Basically they're picture matting cardboard.

The cutter/cutting mat/ruler (plastic) can be bought at Jo-Ann Fabrics or Michael's. If you go to their websites you can get 40% - 60% off coupons.
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Andrew Brown
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Thanks for all the fantastic replies. I've worked over 12 hours today so I don't have much energy for a response other than thanks. I look forward to making some decisions about how to start some PnP projects. It should be fun.

Of course, now that school has started back, I hope I can find the TIME for these projects as well. I like the idea of using the metal ruler to keep kids in line. I could pull some serious double-duty with that one. And if I get fired, my time concern will disappear.
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Not all craft knives have straight edges on them. It's very easy to find, even in the UK, blades which curve like the stereotypical scalpel. Try a #10 or #12 blade from x-acto.

While it's true that steel will cut into an aluminium edge, if you're holding it so that it can you're doing it wrong, such as using a pointed blade and holding it too steep. Pointed blades are not good for scoring paper or card.

Using one of the blades I've suggested you should be holding the flat of the blade flat against the guide or rule you're using. So long as this remains parallel, and there's no reason it shouldn't stay that way with only a little care, the edge can't actually contact the guide to cut into it. This means that there is a very small displacement of the guide from the cut, equal to the about half the width of the blade, depending on its grind of course. (Chisel ground blades avoid this problem but would put the edge right on the guide.) But you can adjust for this when you place the guide.

This Re: Which inkjet printer to buy? and this Re: Best small board method? are two posts I wrote about printers and there are other replies there too.

In an aside, I am quite sure that the second of those was in reply to ldsdbomber. Having looked for it it took a while to find as it seems Lee Harris has had his account deleted. His username elicits no return. If anyone keeps those account deleted threads up to date here's another one if you haven't already.
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Slounger wrote:


For making custom dice, adhesive labels are your best bet, particularly if you can get dice with indented faces. If you frequent thrift stores, you can sometimes find used games with indented dice in them for cheap. If you apply stickers to standard dice, the ink will wear off with use. A more advanced option is to use heat to transfer laser toner onto standard blank dice. For that you need a heated burnishing tool or a hot clothes iron and reversed images printed heavily in laser toner on plain glossy inkjet photo paper. http://www.dicecreator.com/2010/05/20/open-source-dice-makin...


Wow, that dicecreator site/page/business has come a long way since that blog post. He does custom stuff with laser engravers now.

And, not to sound like a broken record since it gets mentioned every few days here, but http://www.indentedblankdice.com/ is THE source for quality indented blank dice, virtually 100% identical to the Hasbro indented dice, and the quantity, selection, colors and service is tops (not to mention BGG gets a % of the sale if you tell then you can from here). I have hundreds of them myself on hand at any given time. I used to do the used game/thrift store route for these dice, and I'm really glad I don't have to anymore.
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Dave C
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I will now be getting my dice from here! Thanks!

http://www.indentedblankdice.com/
 
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