Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Clear Counter Sheet Lamination!

Keep your miniatures! Don't give up on minis! You can play with them outside like in my blog
Steps to making a counter sheet from 3 mil clear overhead sheet of plastic you can print on.
1. Wear rubber surgical gloves if you have them so you don't lay down oils that can be trapped beneath the lamination when you laminate. I have done this and ruined over 20 counters on a sheet from my fingers laying down oil, having it bubble and - well - a mess. 
2. Print out the counter sheet FIRST on a regular sheet of paper. Really inspect it to make sure it passes. Mistakes on a clear sheet of plastic that you can print on is expensive while a sheet of paper is not (yet).
3. THEN Print out the counter sheet on 3 mil overhead plastic or if you have some print out on 7 mil overhead plastic if you KNOW your printer can take it. You test if your printer can take 7 mil by having it print on a 20 pound card stock. Do not buy the plastic overhead sheets where you can only print on one side and it is slightly bumpy on the other. Those will produce counters with bumps on one side. The one that are bumpy on one side are for overheads so that the bumps are plastic that raises the plastic sheet slightly over the glass so the whole sheet does not get hot on the hot glass. The raised areas of one side print only clear plastic will not laminate well AT ALL (it was a costly mistake for me).
4. Carefully remove the sheet from your printer (wearing rubber gloves - not cloth - cloth gloves leaves behind lint that WILL be laminated - trust me) and carefully cut them with some HEAVY DUTY scissors, not regular ones. Regular ones will stretch the plastic. So, the sharper and beefier the better. After you have trimmed the clear sheet of plastic with the printer material on it hot off the press do the next step. If you feel confident with an exacto knife and a ruler - you can do that too but, believe it or not, it does not have the control that a pair of heavy duty scissors gives you.
5. Carefully place this clear sheet of plastic with the printer material on it between the sheets of the prepared 7 mil lamination sheet. If you printed on 7 mil clear sheet of plastic then still place it between the sheets of a 7 mil lamination sheet.
6. Warm up the laminator - most Laminators will have two lights. One to tell you it's on and the other to tell you that it's warmed up and ready to receive sheets. Even after the 'ready' light it on - wait about 20 seconds anyways. Better to be safe with a hot tool than be sorry with a bubbly lamination sheet!
7. Run the combination of clear sheet in the center with 7 mil lamination on the outside through the lamination machine. Twice or three times if necessary. You want it a little hot on the third pass to make sure to MELT all the glue the will hold the plastic sheets together. The glue is heat activated glue and you want to make sure it got hot. You can test this by putting your finger on it and having to remove your finger because it's hot enough for about 1-2 seconds of pressing your finger.
8. Trim the laminated clear sheets that have been put through the laminator.
9. Place the sheet again between 7 mil lamination sheets or if you printed on 7 mil already, place the 7 mil printed sheet of clear plastic between 3 mil lamination sheets.
10. Once they are out of the laminator and you have 2 layers properly on top of the printed clear sheet of plastic with the counter set on it then cut the sheet into 4 quarters. Run these through the laminator once.
11. Cut those quarters into smaller pieces and run those through the laminator once until you are left with single counter units.
12. Finally take a thin cardboard sheet (20 pound is good) and place individual counters on the cardboard and run those though the laminator once. Do this with counters that you see that there is a light part next to a dark part where the glue has not taken complete hold. Enough lamination heat will 'weld' all the sheets together into a solid piece of plastic. Basically a Shrinky Dink counter without an oven or having to calculate the shrinking process!
14. (I don't like the number 13 haha) Buy some lock-tite plastic counter separators like this.  With my counter collection you will end up making up to 4-5 sheets of these and that will yield up to 1300-1600 counters if you multiply for each type correctly. Putting them all into a plastic bag will not do it.
15. Have fun and remember that cutting and laminating these counters will be time consuming and laborious. Space out the times you do this - like make 1/2 counter sheet today - 1/2 tomorrow - kind of thing. Put music on while you cut and reheat singles on the cardboard sheet, etc.

Notes on counter size:
Font size 3.5 is the smallest on 600 dpi you can get. You can put a LOT of info on a counter but try to limit the counter to symbols to differentiate it from others (the NATO-like symbol in the upper corner of each counter) and just one small word or two on the sides. The unit picture should be no less than 60% of the counter. No one likes looking at a 1/2" x 1/2" piece of plastic with writing ALL over it. The hex size on a map you would buy for 1/2" x 1/2" counters (regulars I call them) are 20/32" (15.88mm) on the side to side and 22/32" (17.46mm) on the corner to corner. A 1/2" x 1/2" counter is 12.7mm x 12.7mm exactly. If you want to make a larger counter than this then you will have less counters on a sheet and subsequently need a larger map as well not being able to use the beautiful maps that come with OGRE (as well as any Avalon hill game you pick up). Remember the size of your counters will determine the range of maps you can use. The smaller the counter, the more maps you can play on.

Notes on laminating:
Printing on 3 mil clear plastic with 7 mil lamination then 3 mil lamination yields a 31 mil clear counter. You can put 3 mil on top of the to make it 37 mil but I would not push it. 

DO NOT print on 7 mil clear sheets.

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