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How Gutenkunst Cut His Counters
By Richard Gutenkunst
November 2010

Of prime importance is the right scissors. You need a barber shears with a serrated blade. In other words, when you look at it, one blade looks like a saw with very, very fine teeth. I’ve only been able to find these scissors at barber’s or hairdresser’s specialty shops. Expect to pay a bundle. The teeth of the scissors blade apparently grip the cardboard just right to enable you to get a smooth, clean cut.

Next, you get a good grade of crescent board. Hard pressed is best, the kind you buy at an art supply store. Get it as thin as makes an acceptable playing counter for you. Examine the edges carefully. They should be smooth and clean. Get your supplier to cut your board into handy 1-foot to 2-foot-square pieces. Look at them again. If the edges are smooth and clean, this is the poster board for you. When it comes to your counters, though, never mind how they cut it. That’s not how I do it. The way they do it is only suitable for very large pieces. Go ahead and try it and look silly.

This is not about drawing counters. Only about cutting and mounting them. I presume you have a sheet of paper with your playing pieces printed on it. Eleven by eight and one half inches is too big to work with, but you can cut your counter sheet to a convenient size.

The Basics

You don’t leave any flash on the counter drawings, you leave it on the cardboard. In other words, before gluing, precut your cardboard to be slightly larger than your counter drawing mini-sheets so that when you glue the counter sheets to the cardboard you leave a border on the cardboard. This border is the “flash.”

To glue the counters together use Ross’ Rubber Cement, one coat on the back of the paper counter sheet and one on the cardboard. Let dry and then very carefully put them together flat. Use a nylon burnisher to bind them and squeeze out any air bubbles. Use a light touch so you don’t smear the ink.

Now apply transparent tape over your printed side. You can use transparent packing tape, but transparent book tape (used for repairing books) is best.

This process is really geared to making one-sided counters, but if you want two-sided playing pieces, you now cut off the cardboard flash and carefully line up and glue the reverse side on. You have to be very careful because your surfaces have to match exactly.

Apply transparent tape to your reverse surface or surfaces. Use an X-Acto knife to trim the excess tape.

Now take your special scissors and proceed to cut yourself a set of game pieces.

I kid you not. That is how I did it. It may be personality more than anything else. I did this to keep my hands busy while I watched television.

Technology advances, though. You can go easier on your hands if you use a pair of Fiskars. This is the brand name of a pair of office scissors especially made for the task. While you’re at the office supply store get yourself a three-pack of 20” by 30” Elmer’s Illustration Board, stock number 722-170. At $13.99 a pack you’ll probably start looking for cheaper, but it is absolutely perfect for counter making.

Naval Counters

In presenting Avalanche Press naval counters for download, it is best to imitate the 5x2 formation used for an actual die-cut job. Packing tape (and standard book tape) is a little less than 2 inches wide. When you laminate your counters it is best to have a large tape border because your cut is smoothest if you cut everything at once.

After you download your counters wait a day to let the ink set. Smearing is your main danger with this method.

Leave plenty of border when you cut out a group of counters, then glue them to cardboard allowing for plenty of waste.

Apply your transparent tape using a wide border for plenty of waste.

If the counters are two-sided, cut out your group. Now add your backs. Since the backs contain only a ship silhouette, you can be a little off. You can skip adding the plastic tape to the bottom, but if you do, use a waste piece of cardboard and a number one X-Acto to trim it.

If the counters are big enough that you can plastic-laminate the counter sheets first, cut the excess tape away and then glue the shiny combination to your counter stock.

You want to get as much as possible in your final cut, as this give you a smooth, professional-looking counter.

This piece originally appeared in December 2006.

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