Gutenkunst Cut His Counters
By Richard Gutenkunst
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
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
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
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.
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
This piece originally appeared in December
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