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Discussion Starter #1
i started using 1" buttons as promos for my t-shirts and now sell them too. as the t-shirts/buttons are not my primary business, i am outsourcing the buttonmaking instead of doing it myself.

just wondering if anyone here has come across a company that makes exceptionally nice 1" round, 4-c buttons, especially ones where you can actually read the url or message on the side edge?

i've shopped around a quite a bit. had lots of samples printed. right now am using the company that has the best color reproduction (a lot of the samples i got looked like really bad xeroxes, even after i redid the files using the color values that they gave me!). but a few others were assembled neater (it must be a factor of the kind of equipment they use).

anyone?
 

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baumwolle said:
(it must be a factor of the kind of equipment they use)
Highly unlikely.

I'm actually in that business myself (suppose that cat just came out of the bag), and there aren't actually that many different equipment manufacturers out there.

There's a few brands of manual presses, and I only know of one automatic (there may well be more, but they're not prominent). 99% of businesses would be using the same manual hand press. There are a couple of brands out there that are thoroughly craptacular, but I've never heard of a professional (or even semi-professional) business attempting to use them - they tend to only suck in home users and avid crafters.

It's possible that the badge parts come from different manufacturers (I'm very happy with my supplier, so I haven't experimented with other companies parts), so that could make a difference. I suspect that all the parts can probably be traced back to the same factory though.

The biggest two factors are going to be the printer the company uses, and how lazy they are when they press a badge. It's not a difficult process, but obviously if you're doing a lot it can get tedious. Mistakes can slip through, although to be honest it's pretty fool-proof.

I'm not sure how many businesses are using an automatic press - I don't know of a single one that states they do, but obviously some of the higher volume places must be. The majority of businesses in the field are very small though, and the business is spread between them. Most of them wouldn't feel justified in buying an automatic press.

You may notice a quality difference between manual and automatic, but I doubt it. The manual presses produce a perfect quality product, and while I haven't used an auto-press they're a relatively expensive piece of equipment (which is why most companies don't own one) and I seriously doubt they're anything other than perfectly precise. The main difference is labour (and potential strain) and speed (not surprisingly an automatic machine can far outpace a manual).

A very, very, very high percentage of button businesses are very small (or at least started that way) and are run by college-aged alternative kids - basically they're run by the largest demographic who uses them. As a consequence, some of them are extremely unprofessional.

If I was looking for someone to make me 1" buttons I would judge the book by its cover - look for a professional and clean website and the usual trappings of a successful business. A lot of them are small businesses puffing themselves up, but that doesn't really matter - they should do the job just as well. It's not a difficult business, so if someone can be bothered putting on the trappings of success, they'll probably bother to take the care to give you professional results.

I know what you mean about the bad xeroxes though... I've seen some shockingly bad attempts out there. This would mostly be because people are trying to just use their home inkjet to print the buttons instead of buying a good quality printer more suited to the job. Because buttons are so small the image resolution is very important - you might not notice the grain on a full size photo from that printer, but when the entire image fits within an inch it becomes a lot more noticeable.

As for outsourcing vs. DIY... it's easy to learn and it doesn't cost a lot - but it is time consuming. It's not expensive to get them outsourced (and there's still good margins in the product if you do), so you're probably better off concentrating on maximising profit in other areas of business. Still, if you find you have spare time and want to increase your margins, it is one area you could look at doing inhouse.
 

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Actually, something else that could affect the quality did just occur to me.

Button designs are printed onto a sheet and then a circle cut out to make into a badge. There are several ways to do this. I suppose you could cut them with scissors, but the main ways are a circle cutter that uses an exacto blade, or a punch cutter.

A lot of people who start out buy the circle cutter because they think it'll be good enough, and at first the punch cutter seems expensive for what it is (I don't think anyone who has actually used one would still say that). From what I hear (I skipped straight to the punch cutter) they're a pain to use. If you let the blade get blunt, obviously you're not going to get a very neat result. Remember what happens when you use a blunt blade? You get a ragged edge, and the paper crumples. If you go ahead and press that anyway, you may notice a quality issue (the strange thing is you may well not - the edges would be hidden underneath, and the paper is pulled taught so the crumpling may or may not be noticeable).

You mentioned specifically that you wanted to have text on the edge of the button - with that the operator is going to need to be careful to make sure the text is registered properly on the artwork, and then (and this is important) that they cut out the circle perfectly. Often when you do this step you do it in a hurry, and the circles are often off by a mm or two. When the badge is made up, this is completely unnoticable... unless you have a design where it's important that everything lines up perfectly.

It helps to be obsessive compulsive in this business ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks, Lewis.

Yup on the unprofessionalness of some of the companies, and exactly why I put the word "good" in the subject line ;) Some of the sites are kinda scary and turnaround times too vague for me, especially when ordering 1000s at a time to resell.

By assembled "better," I meant that the button edges from some companies are less pointy, if that makes sense. I wonder if it's a factor of the weight of paper used? A heavier paper would crinkle more when folded over the edge than a light one, no?

Out of curiousity, any estimate on how long it might take one person to make 1000 1" buttons, start to finish? I haven't a clue.

As I mentioned above, the t-shirts and buttons are a pro bono project of my full-time design studio so to start doing everything myself isn't an option right now...but you never know.

b
 

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baumwolle said:
By assembled "better," I meant that the button edges from some companies are less pointy, if that makes sense. I wonder if it's a factor of the weight of paper used? A heavier paper would crinkle more when folded over the edge than a light one, no?
Yeah, that is a possibility. I've experimented a bit with thickness to get an idea of what can and can't be used, and if you use something really thick the mylar splits. I wouldn't have thought people would print onto paper thick enough to cause a problem (there is some leeway - you can press paper thicker than standard copy paper), but it is possible.

I do know exactly what you mean about the crinkly/pointy edges. I have made some badges like that, I'd just never let a customer see them ;)

Also, while I think that the standard supplies probably all come from the same factory, I don't actually know that. The thickness of the mylar would definitely affect the edge of the button, so if the supplies are, in fact, manufactured by different companies that could make a difference.

Unlike t-shirts you can't really know where exactly the parts came from (no convenient neck labels or RNs ;)), so different distributors could be selling different products or the same product and you can't really know without thoroughly testing them (which I haven't done).

baumwolle said:
Out of curiousity, any estimate on how long it might take one person to make 1000 1" buttons, start to finish? I haven't a clue.
I haven't sat down and timed it (which to be honest I should have).

You can do a thousand in a day, but how much of that day it takes is going to depend on how quickly you want to do things (i.e. the quicker you go the more tired you are going to get, and from an OH&S point of view it's not necessarily a great idea).
 

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Hi all, I realise this is a mightly old thread but if it is resurrected at all I'd like to ask a question if possible.

At the moment I have one of the circle cutters but find this to be frustrating at times. I simply wondered if anyone knew of somewhere in the UK selling the punch cutters that Lewis mentioned.

I've seen a few on the internet from Australia (from Badge-A-Minit), I've seen a few Passport Photo rectangle ones on the popular auction site and lastly I've seen a few from Poland at this site CUTTER EQUIPMENT

The Polish hand cutter one is 37 Euros (or £30) but they also have a Table Punch Cutter which looks pretty smart and that's 75 Euro (or £62). Ideally I was looking for one from the UK but realise that might not be possible.

At the moment I actually use a vinyl plotter machine for large orders although this requires taping a second layer to the paper to avoid the blade going right through the paper sheets.

I've emailed the Polish company anyway to see how much delivery to the UK would be. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
Klint
 

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