Buttons, Badges & Pins - People Power Blog

QR Codes or Quick Response codes and buttons are a marriage made in heaven.

Pin-back buttons, pins, badges or whatever you call them are an ideal vehicle for promoting websites but what about a button that can be scanned on a cellphone and the image takes the cellphone user straight to your website.

QR codes don’t just need to go to a homepage, you can generate a QR code to lead a browser to any web address, to a special offer page, to a secret page or a surprise page.  Follow a QR code button and see where you end up!

QR code button making techniques

How to generate your QR code artwork for a button.  There are dozens of free code generators online.  Try this one  or just search for one online.

What are QR codes


QR-Code in a Newspaper

“QR-Codes are two dimensional barcode (datamatrix) that is designed to have its contents decoded at a high speed.” source

With the technology of mobile phones constantly advancing, especially within mobile internet, QR-Codes are the perfect solution to quickly and efficiently bring mobile phone users onto the mobile web. QR-Codes can be used to store all kinds of data including web addresses. QR codes can also be used on:

  • Buttons ( pins, badges)
  • Fridge magnets, locker magnets
  • Magazines
  • Papers
  • Business Cards
  • Buses
  • Signs
  • T-shirts

How QR-codes Work?

Take a mobile phone such as an iPhone, android or blackberry or any phone with a digital camera. Take a photo (or scan) the QR code to capture a picture of the QR-Code.  The in built QR-Code software decoder will then transform the data into an action by the mobile phone, such as:

  • Connect to a web address
  • Download a MP3
  • Dial a telephone number
  • Prompt your email client with a sender address

This is done in a millisecond making the transformation from a users mobile phone to the mobile web instantaneous.

How to put a QR-code on a button

Putting a QR-code on a button is not really different from putting anything on a button.  You need a good quality artwork and you need a reasonable printer. Artwork can be generated online.  Just decide on the url you want to link to, fill out a simple online form and most sites email you back a .png file instantly.

Try this free online QR-code generator

Layout your sheet as you would normally.  Of course a square button is great, especially if you have a square button maker or if you are getting your buttons custom made by a pro, they will have a square button machine, but a round button will also work fine.

Add some text for the visual:  What about “Scan me”,  “Follow me” or “special offer”

You can use colour - they do not have to be black - but whatever you do TEST your qr-code before you make a bunch of buttons.  Make sure your code works!!

Enjoy!

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 Maintaining your button machine.

Button makers, or at least the good ones require very little maintenance.  Remember a good button maker is all metal, NO PLASTIC PARTS!!   I have a number of the Tecre style button makers that are 10 years old, they have made trillions of buttons and work with very little maintenance.  But these are smaller button sizes, 1” or 1-1/2” round.  I also have larger button makers that need more attention and certainly need silicon lube.  This is just a smear of lubrication every 500 buttons or so.  It’s cheap, quick and just becomes a habit.  If you have a button maker you definitely need to get some silicon lube.  This can also help and certainly does not hurt a smaller button maker.

Relevant question from a customer:

“I’ve used my button maker to make buttons since purchasing it from you, and I noticed upon pressing my latest set that the machine isn’t wrapping the mylar tightly around the edges of the button at the very top of every couple of buttons I make. There is a little bubble of empty space between the edge of my button and the mylar itself. I’ve double checked that I’m not putting in double sheets of mylar or anything, and I’m using fairly thin paper (28lb) for the designs… What could be causing this? Thanks for your help!  

Stick lubricant for maintaining a button maker.

The question above is certainly a likely candidate for silicon lube.  Mylar problems are often caused by need for a little lubrication I would recommend visiting your local hardware store or buy a stick of lube online.     the button guy

How to maintain a button maker by the Button Guy
  To buy silicon lube online

HOW TO USE SILICON LUBRICATION ON YOUR BUTTON MACHINE.

1.  Do not use oil, WD40 or anything but a clean silicon lubricant.  Some people use silicon in an aerosol but for the button makers I find stick lubricant works better.   This is to protect your images and your buttons.  Grease or oil stained buttons will not do well!! Keep your button maker clean!

2. Identify the crimp die in your button maker.  (See image below)  Regardless of style or make of your machine you will have a crimp die where you put the pin-back in.  (The pickup die is where you put the shell, image and then mylar)   Most crimp dies have a 45 degree surface just visible above where the pin-back goes in. This is the spot!  Just put a bit of the stick lube on your finger and rub it around the crimp die.  Think of it more as massaging it in as to just smearing it across the surface.  The purpose is to fill microscopic damage to the die making it smooth to allow the mylar to pass easily across the surface on the second press.

That usually does the trick and in normal circumstances will be enough.  If you have very serious problems or you picked up a used button maker that’s been in an attic for 25 years you could:

3.  Slide or rotate the lower dies to allow easy access to the upper die.  Using a silicon lubricant stick just put a little on your finger as if you were using lip balm, chapstick or lip gloss.  Apply a modest smear to the perpendicular walls of the upper die.  Massage the lubricant all the way around that upright wall of your upper die.   Just enough to leave a thin film of silicon. No need to use much.

4.  Go through the button making motion a couple of times to get the lube where you need it.  Then make a button as normal.  The first button or maybe two will need wiping with a clean cloth.  After that your back in business.

5.  Repeat every 500 buttons or as necessary. This maintenance requires very little lube.  1 lube stick will last a lifetime.

6.  Another problem solver option for older or damaged button makers is to make sure the dies are clean, free from rust or paper, metal or plastic debris.  You can use a cloth or if you’ve got it: compressed air to clear away the grunge.  Then soak the dies with the more liquid style aerosol can silicon lubricant and then wipe clean with a clean dry cloth. Search the die for metal burrs and damage.  Clean up any damage with very fine emery paper and then clean the die again with liquid silicon to remove any metal dust.

7.  Sometimes an older red and black Tecre button maker grinds a bit when it swivels. DO NOT USE WD-40.  Using lithium grease, available from any hardware store you can grease the base plate with a smear of silicon grease between the die carrier plate and the base plate. Just smear the base and swivel getting the grease between the two plates.

WHERE TO BUY SILICON LUBRICANT

Lube sticks are available at dollar stores and are inexpensive.

 To buy silicon lube online

How to repair & maintain a button maker

Maintaining a button machine

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I get asked this one alot.  “The Chinese are cheap at everything, why not button makers?”  Here’s the actual question this time:  I know that they say not to buy buttons from places like china. But you have to say that there prices especially for machines are so much cheaper than from the US. There has to be some companies that sell good quality parts. Please let me know if you know of any.

Chinese button parts are actually more expensive than US button parts, they are also not compatible with standard button parts.

There are no real Chinese button machine options that I have found.  Whilst the button machines are often cheaper than US options the parts are really so much more expensive that the saving on the machine is lost.  US companies produce literally millions of buttons a day and the Chinese have a long way to go until their production matches that of the US and until then they will not be able to compete on the price of button parts. Over the years you will spend more on button parts than you will on the original purchase of the button maker.  Chinese parts are selling here mostly in 100 packs and are about double the price of US parts at the 1000 rate.

As far as quality of the button machines is concerned they are also worlds apart.  The Tecre button makers for example are extremely well crafted, designed by engineers, built for the long term, sturdy and precise. In comparison the Chinese button makers contain plastic parts, are not sturdy and are not a comparable precision press.  A button maker is simply a press but it has to press accurately and it has to take the repetition of button production. The plastic parts and low quality metal in the Chinese button makers will not allow them to work well for long. They are certainly not engineered to the calibre of Tecre button machines.

A third point is that the Chinese have based their button makers on millimetre sizes so you cannot use cheap North American parts in the Chinese button machines. Also if you look at Chinese button parts they are a little bit nasty.  They are using low grade metal so the buttons are super light or in some cases they use white plastic backs with a pin that is glued on.  If your selling buttons with your designs a good way to depress your button sales would be to put your designs on cheesy button parts.  If you’re giving your buttons away as a promotion maybe it doesn’t matter…….maybe.

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Flattening Button Edges is only possible with the 1”, 2” and 6” sizes only.

Why would you want to flatten the edge of the back of a button.  Well for the 6” it makes the clocks look better.  For the 2” it is particularly popular with people that make rosettes and also medallions (pendents and game pieces).  With the 1” too medallions look better and are easier to stick.  You can make a hole using a “Key-chain Punch” and put them on a chain or keyring. You can also use a sticky pad, double sided tape or glue.  These are also used widely for game pieces.

This is not the same process as flattening the front of a button as is done with 3-1/2” coaster buttons.

When using the Third Press Operation have a rare earth magnet (or strong magnet) to get the button out of the die.  It really helps.

Technical details - Medallion Back Buttons - Third Pressing Operation

When a button is made with a plastic flat back such as those used for medallions, the rim of the button is crimped at approximately a 45 degree angle. This leaves a flange extended inward and away from the flat back as shown in the lower left picture.

The Third Press Operation is unique to the red & black button makers. This process allows the 45 degree flange to be pressed down onto the flat back so a more secure and flat crimp is obtained. This is shown in the lower right picture. The Third Press Operation is currently available for 1”, 2”, and 6” button sizes.

Flat back buttons can be mounted directly onto plaques, trophies, and other applications with a two-sided peel and stick foam disks. “

 Cross section of a standard six inch button
            
Cross section of a button after the Third Press Operation






See the difference?

  1. Assemble a button without a pin installed in the back. There is no room in the button assembler for pins during the Third Press Operation. Adhesive pins can be attached after the button is complete.
  2. Return the button face-up into the pick-up die cavity of the button assembly machine (where the shell, graphic and mylar were first placed when the button was made).
  3. Pull the press handle to the lower limit of its stroke to flatten the edges of your button. If you are using a manual machine the third press will require more force than the previous strokes of the handle.
  4. Attach an adhesive pin to the button or use a peel & stick foam disk to mount the button on a trophy, plaque or medallion. 

2" button flattened using third press method  pickup die & crimp die illustration on a button maker

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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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