By popular request, and despite the fact that all of this has been done by other people before (and with much more professionalism and better quality photography), I am going to walk you through the ridiculously easy process of making a button.
Since I do not want to put anything on here with my work logo on it (for a variety of reasons, most of which can be summed up as “you are quite possibly a crazy person who should not be given information about where I work”) I am going to make a button for a friend of mine.
The machine that I’m using is a Tecra Button Maker that my boss (who is awesome and humours me) purchased from this shop. Including shipping, it was just under $600.
I realize that’s crazy expensive. It totally is. But this machine is built like a tank and is very much not a toy (despite being really fun to use).
This is what the button maker and the cutter (mentioned later) look like:
(The pink Christmas tree, my scissors, the assorted pocket knives, and the bottles of perfume are not mandatory. Neither are the crumpled papers on Coffee’s desk or the fossilized wood from Arizona. Remember when I said that this was not a professional documentary? Yeah.)
Step one is to find an image that you really like AND that will still look nice when it’s resized to fit on your button. The machine that I’m using here makes buttons that are 1.25″ in size – small, but not ridiculously tiny. If you don’t want to find an image, you can always create your own. (The buttons I have made for work have been, so far, just text and simple graphics.)
The image that I decided to use for my friend is this:
.. because it’s something my friend likes.
The next step (for me) is to download a template from this site. Again, I have zero artistic skills, so I needed something very simple and easy-to-use.
After choosing my image, I open the template up in The Gimp (you could use Photoshop if you’re fancy like that) and spend about 45 minutes yelling profanity at my monitor while trying to arrange the earlier image onto the template.
I’m not even kidding. This is totally the hardest part of the entire process.
If I were making multiples of the same button, I’d create a full page of the same image by copying and pasting the end result of my Gimp’ing. In this case, since I’m just making one button, I hit “print” and get this:
The purple paper there is only decorative – my desk is white and the white paper got sort of lost when I tried to take a picture of it. At any rate, you can see the image that I’m going to be using.
The next step is to cut the paper into strip(s) like this:
We need to make strips because the next thing we’re doing is putting it through the hole cutter. This fancy shmancy doo-dad cuts circles that are exactly 1.25″ in size. Much easier than trying to cut circles by hand, trust me.
We put the strip of paper in like this:
And then we line up the little markings around the edges, like this:
That image isn’t perfectly aligned – you can see the markings at the bottom, and left, of the image – but I adjusted it before pulling the handle and punching it out.
Next we gather up all the things we need.
Specifically, we have the image (cut out and ready to go), the button “blank” (the shiny metal circle), a plasticy mylar-like cover, and the pin that will go on the back of the button.
The machine I’m using also makes magnets and mirrors and other interesting things, using almost exactly the same process, but I haven’t attempted those yet. I’m still enamoured with the buttons!
Here’s a shot of all the pieces:
Next we grab our button machine and rotate the bottom section (which has 2 ‘cups’, sort of) to the face-side. It looks like this:
Then we load in the button blank, followed by the image, followed by the plasticy cover – like making a sandwich. They just stack onto each other and fit perfectly into the ‘cup’. There’s no way to get a good picture of this, sadly. You’ll have to trust me.
We then rotate the bottom around again (180 degrees). (This photo shows it halfway rotated). You can see the empty cup on the right side – when I’ve fully rotated, that empty cup will be in front of me.
Once it’s fully rotated, and that empty cup is in front of me, we pull the handle. The machine takes the button blank, image, and the plasticy mylar part, and pulls it up inside. (You can’t see this!)
In the empty cup, I place the button pin – upside down, like this:
I then rotate the bottom part again (180 degrees) and pull the handle down..
..and then, I pull the handle back up and rotate the bottom 180 degrees again..
AND LOOK! IT’S A BUTTON!! I HAVE MADE A MUTHERFUCKING BUTTON, PEOPLE! IT’S LIKE MAGIC EVERY SINGLE TIME THAT I DO IT, I SWEAR. SERIOUSLY. I AM EXCITED!
Then I just pop it out of the cup:
And that’s it! A button has been made and a blurry photo has been taken of it. Ta-da!
In all seriousness, it takes less than a minute to make a button once you’ve got the image printed and cut. It’s ridiculously easy. If I had a spare $600, I’d sit around the house making buttons in my jammas ALL DAY. I would. It’s just THAT much fun. Yeah.
(If you have a spare $600, please send me a button maker. I will make you some buttons to repay you.)