Buttons, Badges & Pins - People Power Blog

Buttons are an inexpensive way to create game pieces for board games and various applications in the game and toy industry.  A button maker is an essential for small production games or even for board game developers creating mockups of their games.  Flat back buttons are a cheap way to create a one off board game.

What kind of button parts will make board game pieces? There are a couple of options: Medallion back buttons or flat back buttons.

Medallion back buttons are black plastic backs, popular in 1” or 2” or in 6” with a cardboard flat back.  What makes this interesting is the “Third Press Operation”  A method of flattening a button to make it more like a coin.  Read more about the third press here.

Most of the square, oval and rectangular buttons also have an option for flatbacks that are plastic backs without the pin - There will be holes in the plastic!

Round flat back buttons are available in most sizes with clean flat metal backs. No holes.  Widely available in 1”, 1-1/4”, 1-1/2” and 2-1/4”.  These you do not flatten.

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Welded up eyes? - What are they?  How do you use them?

I think welded up eyes are an underestimated, under-used little accessory for button making. They are a small metal ring with a backing plate.  Think of any pin-back button and the holes on the back of the button: welded up eyes can be inserted through the hole in the back - pressed in the button maker for permanence and used to attach key-chain, pendant, ponytail holder or any other accessory.  A welded up eye can make a button attachable… to almost anything.

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How to make a pin-back button: How are buttons made?

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The insurance question pops up pretty frequently.  You are starting a button making business at home: when do you get insurance?  What are the liabilities for a home business?  If you make the buttons at home and sell at events or to stores, do you need insurance.

The quick answer is that strictly speaking you do need liability insurance and I know this is not the answer you wanted to hear.  If you are selling a product in stores, online or at events you do have liability exposure that you may want to cover but a business policy is costly for a small business just getting going ($1000 + per year) and not everyone uses their button making business as a full time business but that makes no difference to the price even if it is part-time.

Most home insurance companies will do a small business insurance extension to a home policy for $200 - $350 per year. If your insurance company does not allow button making as a home business then try a different company or get your broker to look around. You should get the additional coverage for the aprox $250 a year.

Do consider that in the research & development stage or whilst making samples and developing your business plan for your button making business you do not need liability insurance.  As soon as you start selling you do need business insurance.

Many people have of course worked from home for years and never had insurance.  Some event organisers will want a copy of your liability insurance as part of the application for vending but THE MAJORITY DO NOT in my experience.

The events that usually require liability insurance are the larger commercial events or events run by the city, province, state or municipality. These are often the better events for sending so there may be no way around the insurance issue.

My personal experience is that I did not get insurance for a couple of years, whilst I was setting up my business.  I suppose I took a risk and I was lucky. If you ask a financial adviser, insurance broker or lawyer, they will tell you to get insurance.  If you can afford the lawyer you can probably afford the insurance.

This article was written in response to multiple questions over time on the insurance question:

Hi Button Guy, I’ve got a strange question for you and hope you’ll be able to answer it.

 I’ve ordered 2 button makers from People Power Press and love them.  (2.25 and 1” models) I bought the machines so I could make some “environmental” buttons and have had a lot of fun making a bunch of environmental ones and others as well.

 I want to sell buttons, mirrors etc. at our local craft fair (and anywhere else I may be able to), but to do so, I had to get a business licence from the municipality.  I did that ($75 a year), but they also require that I have liability insurance.  

 Our home insurance carrier will not allow us to add my “business” to our policy as a home based business (the $250 a year option). They say that making buttons at my kitchen table and selling them is too risky  because of choking and pricking hazards to customers.  Apparently I need a business liability policy costing approx $1000 a year.  If I choose to have a website, that might be higher. Their reasoning being that I might attract business from other countries and different laws would be in effect. Crazy, eh?  Especially since I doubt I’d make more than $1000 a year.

Thanks to Ryan Mitchell from Mitchell Sandham Brokers for his input on home and small business insurance.  http://www.mitchellsandham.com/

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People ask me all the time if the circle cutter is necessary when buying a button maker.  Do I need a graphic punch to make buttons? What is the graphic punch for?

No you do not need a graphic punch or circle cutter to make buttons.  You can cut circles with scissors.  A button made with a circle cutter or graphic punch looks identical to a button cut with scissors when finished.  The difference is the time it takes to make the button or more relevant the number of buttons you wish to make at a time.  If you’re making a few buttons at a time, up to say 20, you can do that with scissors.  Once you start thinking you need 100 buttons in an hour that will be difficult with scissors - and not much fun.  If you need 1000 buttons in a day: impossible but certainly doable with a graphic punch.

A Graphic Punch for cutting circles to make buttons

If you are doing “make your own button” events, tables or workshops with kids then you also do not have to get a circle cutter.  Better to buy pre-cut circles to match your button maker. I know People Power Press sell the pre-cut circles here:  http://peoplepowerpress.org/products/copy-of-mylar-bulk-mylar-for-button-making

 There are different kinds of circle cutters.  I recommend the graphic punch from Tecre for speed and excellent centering. (See picture above) Good centering is key, when buttonmaking! http://peoplepowerpress.org/search?q=graphic+punch  If you are doing low volume circle cutting or if you buy pre-cut circles and just want a circle cutter for occasional and not volume use then this is a reasonable cutter for $20 - (You do get what you pay for)  http://peoplepowerpress.org/products/hobby-cutter-adjustable-for-circle-cutting

A hobby circle cutter for button making Inexpensive hobby cutter

If you are considering getting more than 1 button machine and looking to save money.  Say you have your eye on a 1” button maker now but further down the road maybe a 2-1/4” then an adjustable cutter makes sense.  Not if speed is your driving force, graphic punches are faster, but a well priced machine that cuts multiple size circles is the adjustable rotary punch:  http://peoplepowerpress.org/products/adjustable-cutter-for-circle-cutting-for-multiple-button-makers   A big plus for the rotary punch is that it cuts fabric!!!  A lot of people make fabric buttons - without mylar so you get the fabric texture and graphic punches do not cut fabric.

adjustable rotary circle cutter Adjustable Rotary Circle cutter

Any feedback on your experience with circle cutting and/or this article welcome!

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Multisize button makers sounds great.  A button maker that makes different sized buttons because it has interchangeable dies - sweet idea!

But the reality is not so sweet………..

Problems with multi-size button makers are many.  The advantages of multi-size button makers are few, in fact I can’t think of any but if you have bought one and see an advantage let me know.  I would love to hear about it.

1) Most multi-size button makers including the badge-a-minit use a plastic base for the dies.  This is problematic, as the plastic wears quickly and the button makers no longer line up.  This also applies to some of the made in China machines.

badge-a-minit 3-in-1 Badge-A-Matic Combointerchangeable die, multisize button maker
Badge-A-Minit: 3-in-1 Badge-A-Matic Combo  $1099 on sale!
$1699 on sale with cutters & parts.


2) Price!  The badge-a-minit machine is the same price as 3 standard button makers!!

3) Button parts -  Badge-A-Minit takes non-standard button parts up to 300% more expensive than standard button parts.and also certain chinese machines use button sizes with European mm dies.  Also non-standard.

4) And for me the biggest point is that button making is labour intensive.  One machine with multi dies means only 1 person can work at a time and you have to keep messing with the dies.  

Give me 3 different machines any day!

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How to “Tune-up” a Tecre, red & black, button maker.

Firstly I personally do not believe in fixing stuff for the sake of it.  Fiddling with or dismantling your button maker is a bad idea.  These button machines are solid and well made and have a warranty - if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it!

So these button machines have proven to be extremely reliable, doing a little preventive maintenance, from time to time, can help to keep your machine operating smoothly  If used with care the following information will show you how to “tune-up” your button maker.

If for any reason you are uncomfortable following these instructions, give us a call or swing by and we will make arrangements for you to return your machine and have us do the tune-up your machine for you.

Don’t simply try to pry apart the dies, if you have it jammed, as you will likely damage the dies.

Also, DO NOT attempt to dis-assemble your machine, as you most likely will be unable to re-assemble it and have it work properly and may well damage it in the process.

Doing maintenance on your button making machine.

To do a tune-up, you will first need to gather a few items. You will need:
a 7/16” wrench, a can of silicone spray lubricant, a 3/16” allen wrench, and paper towels.

Step 1: Spray a small amount of silicone spray at each location marked by the arrow, in the photo below. (If you use too much silicone spray, it will end up on your button designs, which won’t be good).

Step 2: Now take the handle and work it up and down 5 or 6 times. You want to work the silicone spray down into the upper crossbar that the two bolts go through (shown in the photo below) Also spray a little silicone where the handle attaches to your button machine. Do so on the other side of the handle, as well (not shown).

button maker tune-up, fix your button press

Step 3: Rotate the pick up die and crimp die so they are positioned as shown in the photo below. Take the paper towel you sprayed with a small amount of silicone spray and rub it around the beveled edge of the Crimp Die. Doing so will help prevent an issue where the mylar disc doesn’t crimp tightly and has a bit of a “bubbled” look at the edge of your button. The silicone spray allows the mylar to slide smoothly.

You may repeat this last step anytime your mylars don’t seem to be as tight as they should be..

Lubricating your button maker

Stick lubricant works very well if you are having issues with the mylar not crimping properly.

Stick lubricant available in your local hardware store or also online: here.

Step 4: Now rotate the pick up die so that the upper die is located directly above it. Then push the handle down all the way so the upper die slides into the center of the pick up die (not shown).

Step 5: Next, take the 7/16” wrench and tighten the two top bolts (shown below) until they are both snug. DO NOT overtighten these bolts, as doing so will damage your machine.

tightening up your button maker

Step 6: Now spray a small amount of silicone spray onto a paper towel and spread it around the outside of the inner plug on the upper die (shown below). Doing so will make it easier for the outer ring to slide up and down during the button-making process.

And spray a little silicone spray on the base plate on which the dies rotate (shown below). Doing so will make it easier for you to rotate the dies as you are making buttons. Again, not too much or you will get it on your hands and on your buttons.

Step 7: Now turn your machine over and use the 7/16” wrench to tighten both brass colored bolts (in the photo below). Make them tight, but DO NOT overtighten them, as doing so will damage your machine.

button making machine tune up

Step 8: And finally, find an allen wrench that fits inside the “Flat Head Bolts”. First slightly loosen the Flat Head Bolts (see image above) and then snug them down. DO NOT overtighten them, as doing so will damage your machine.

That’s all there is to it. Your button machine should now work as good as new!

If it doesn’t, or if you are uncomfortable following these instructions, give us a call and we will make arrangements to have you return your machine to us and we can do the tune-up for you.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to dis-assemble your machine.

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