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Tutorial on how to make your own Geo Tokens

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Apparently you can only post so many pictures per reply so i had to break this up into several posts.


This tutorial was designed and based on making a 3D game piece for a board game. However the same process can be applied to making Geo-tokens of your own for very low cost. Once you have the molds made you can make as many as you need when ever you need them.


For now and the sake of argument, lets assume the Magma Pool is a wierd geo token.


The tile I am starting with is the Magma Pool.


Step 1: Making the tile base template.




Start by cutting the shape of the tile base out of corrugated card board. Layer as many as needed to get the desired thickness of the base. Then tape them together using packing tape. This holds them together as one and also provides smooth edges.


Step 2: Forming the base in the modeling medium




In my case I am using regular playdoh. Its forgiving but does not hold high detail and will move around as you mould the tile. If you go with a more clay like medium, you may wish to design your master in the positive. I use the playdoh as it works for what I need and allows me to release the master plaster tile easily.


Press the template into the medium and get a nice set to it. Notice you will push excess medium out of the way. Use this to get a tight fit.


Step 3: Designing the tile features




In my case I am designing this tile in the negative. Since every feature that is added displaces the medium, for deep holes or features you may need to extract some medium first with a wire, cutting it out and leaving a hole. Then form your feature with your tools.


I use several stones and bits and pieces for making my terrains. It all depends on what your designing. Remember with playdoh it moves easily so as you make features you may distort others, so you may have to extract some out of the way so it doesn't just mush around as you push it out of the way making a feature.


This is the step you use your imagination with. If you can work in the negative like I do then that’s fine, but if you want really good detail, then use a sculpting medium and design your tile by removing matter.


Important Note: You may want to design your tile in such a way that the mould will allow an easier release of the tile. This means none of the features of the tile should have large horizontal empty space under them between themselves and the tile base.


For example, if you were trying to pour a tile that had a letter T on the base, the space under the T, would cause the mould to hold onto the T and would break the T when releasing the tile. Where as a letter L, the mould would slide right off, as there is no space under the letter that the mould holds onto.


By keeping this in mind when designing the tile, when it comes out of the mould, the mould doesn't have to be stretched to release the tile, it should almost fall out on its own. This will extend the life of the mould as it will see less stretch when releasing the tile.

Edited by lordzogat
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Step 4: The finished tile features




Here is the finished designed tile. Again its complexity and design will depend on what all you do to it and the look your going for. Think of your desired finished product.


Step 5: Mixing the Tile medium




In my case I am using plaster of paris. Its low cost and effective, yet can be brittle. In later steps I will show a process used to seal and harden the formed tile.


Make sure you refer to the mixing guides and instructions of the medium you decide to make your tiles from. Your moulds may have to be formed from different materials to be compatible with the medium used to make the tiles.


Step 6: Pouring the tile forming material




Here the mixed plaster of paris is being poured into the mould slowly so as to fill all the crevasses. Depending on your medium and its behaviors you may have to pour it in a different manner, read the product specifications.


Step 7: Letting the tile set.




After pouring the plaster of paris to the top of the tile base, I tap the board rapidly to help any air bubbles escape tile holes and to allow the plaster to settle into all the details.


Now the tile sits until it hardens. This time length depends on your medium. Quick set Plaster of Pairs is generally 15 min set time.


Step 8: Removing the master tile from the Play doh






Once the tile has had time to set, its time to remove the mould. The nice thing about playdoh is it comes off fast, just be careful not to damage the fragile features. First remove the bulk of the playdoh. Then using a scraping tool remove the bits around the features.

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Step 9: Cleaning off the excess Playdoh





The water will dissolve and remove the playdoh if you want, but I try to save a bit of it each time and then the rinse phase goes faster.


The first picture is kind of cool the way the water is hitting the tile. This is the tile under warm water. I use regular craft paint brush to brush out the remaining playdoh as it dissolves.


Step 10: Clean up and filing down the sides.




Now is the time to file the edges flat. They get distorted as you make the tile, so now is the time for cleanup. You can also make some minor corrections to the details at this stage, but its all subtractive detail however.


You may also need to file the base of the tile flat once they come out of the moulds.


Step 11: Allowing the tile to Dry




At this point the tile needs to completely dry before the sealer can be applied. Uusually this takes at least 12 - 24 hours.


Oh yah, time frame - up to this step its taken about 2 - 3 hours to complete this entire process of making the tile. Maybe a bit less as I was writing this tutorial during part of it.


Step 12: Sealing the tile




This step should occur for both the master tile and any tiles formed from the moulds. The sealer is made from a 1:1 mix of white schellac and Methyl Hydrate. Both should be available at the hardware store. Methyl Hydrate is also used as fuel in some stoves, or used as a thinner.






Mix the two together and then drop the dried tiles into the mix until air stops escaping. Drain of the excess mixture and let the tiles drip dry, then I place them in the cardboard flat from a case of pop. There is a slight odor so you may want to do this in a well ventilated location.




The tiles should dry for about 24 hours, or until dry to the touch. This step prevents the britle plaster from scratching or breaking apart. It also acts to seal the pores of the material so its easier to paint.

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Step 13: Preparing the Master Tile and making the mould.


In this step you need to choose what type of moulding material your going to use to make your mould. There are several brands of mould making materials available and often consist of a two part epoxy mixed at 1:1 or 1:10 ratios of resin and hardner. Also you want to get a mould making material that has the right hardness factor. For moulds that flex, I would suggest a hardness shore of about 30. They cost roughly about $60USD for a 128oz kit. That was on ebay.


Another method to make a mould is using a tube of Silcone Tub & Tile or Exterior Window Caulking with Mildew Resistence. It costs about $3 - $5 a tube and a tube should do 4 - 7 tiles of this size.


I have found for the plaster of paris tiles I make, the silicon caulking found in tubes at any hardware store, releases the tile far better and with less damage and no releasing agent, then the mixed epoxys do.


a) Using Epoxy mixed resins and hardner.




Prepare the tile by covering all surfaces with vasoline and removing the excess. Place the tile in a low discardable tray about the size of the tile with a bit of room on each side. This reduces waste of your moulding compound. You may want to stick the base of the tile firmly to the bottom of the tray or surface to prevent the resin from going under the tiles flat base.


For my frame I placed Packing tape on a table sureface, built a frame from lego, sealed it all with packing tape, then taped it to the surface sealing all the edges. This allowed me to customize the frame shape to the tile.


Then following mixing and pouring instructions, you slowly cover the tile, degas if necessary and let it sit until it cures.


:) Using the tube of caulking.





Start by gluing a block of wood to the underside of the tile. This will act as a handle.




Once dry, prepare the tile by covering all surfaces with vasoline and removing the excess.





Using the silicon tube in a caulking gun, slowly push out caulking into the surface of the tile working in small areas forcing it into all the cracks. I suggest working from one area to another pushing a bit of caulking ahead of the end of the tube. This allows it to cover the tile and allows air to escape as you go, as the caulking is being pushed into the small spots instead of being droped on top and sealing air in.




Once the top is covered, go and do the sides so that it just over laps around to the flat back side. Excess silicon it can always be trimed off with scissors.


Place the tile somewhere such that it will stay put and untouched. I placed mine in the workshop vice. Allow it to cure for at least 12 - 24 hours or until it feels firm in all areas. The surface of the silicone will dry in a matter of hours, but the insides will take longer. The thicker the layer the longer the curing time. If you try to take it off too soon, it will tear and wreck the mould. Better to give it longer than to try to take it off too quick. The entire surface should have no squishy feel and be stiff and spongy.


The thickness of the layer should be about 1/4 inch or more. There is a trade off to the thickness. The thicker it is, the firmer the mould will be and less likely it will bend out of shape from the weight of the plaster of paris, also the less forgiving the mould will be when releasing.


Thinner moulds will have a tendency to with stand tearing as its flexibility is higher due to lack of firmness. Too thin and the mould will not hold its shape.


Larger flatter tiles will need an equal proportion of thickness to support the bulk and mass of the tile!



UPDATE: As sometimes happens with older tubes of caulking and different types, the silcone does not cure as fast as it should. Or perhaps the enviroment in which it is in, is not suited for best curing potential.


I checked the mould I did the other night, its been over 24 hours and its still squishy and the surface is tacky. This may be the caulking as it was an older opened tube that had been resealed or the temperature of the enviroment as mentioned. I will trying moving it to see how it does. This is all part of the issues you may face. I would normally use brand new tubes, but would also be making moulds for all the tiles at once, not just the one.


I finally tried a new tube of Tub N Tile caulking with Mildew Resistance. It has cured and set the way I wanted.


This is where making larger tiles consumes more resources in every case.


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Step 14: Making Tiles from the cured Mold.






Now that the mold has had a proper chance to set and is the right material that is spoungy and holds its shape, it is ready to make tiles. The other mold present has nothing to do with this project, but is a small building mold for another game, to be used for 3D Scenery. I put it in this picture to show you what other molds can be used for.






I have poured the first tile and it has set. I removed it from the mold and filed the base flat. Now it just has to dry out for the next step






The tiles have been sealed as we did with the Master Tile in step 12. This will prepare the tiles for painting which is the next setp.

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Step 15: Painting your tile.




I will be using acrylic paints from any craft or dollar store. The painting process I will be using is a combination of layered painting and drybrushing. With dry brushing painting, you cover the tile in its main color in a darker shade, then you slowly add highlight layers to make the features to stand out.


The dry brushing comes into play when you load a brush with a highlight color and remove the excess paint fromt he brush. Then by wiping the brush on a paper towl, we remove even more paint. When the brush is almost dry, you begin to slowly sweep the brush over the feature areas you want to highlight, and allow the paint to slowly collect on these areas. As you move the brush back and forth over the area, the more pressure you will have the apply to release more of the paint left in the brush as it is drying as you sweep the brush. We will see this process in play in a bit.


Since the primary feature or resource of this tile is the lava, and since any color is transparent when compared to black, then we must do the lava painting first. Also we want lava to show up in the cracks, so the red must go first.




Apply lots of red paint to the surface of the tile, again since it is very transparent paint and depending on the color being used, you may need several layers to get a nice coating. Make sure the previous layer is completely dry before going to the next layer, otherwise you just push half dried paint around, ruining your layers.


Here are pictures of several layers of red being added, progressivly getting to a solid red state.




I had to add roughly 4 layers to get the red color I wanted.




Since the lava is warmer in the center of the pool as seen in the pictured tile, then the center is done in brighter shades of orange and yellow.


You can try to blend in some orange and a touch of yellow while the last layer of red is wet, but this can be a hard and time comsuming process. It just takes practice to get a smooth blend, and going backand forth between darker and lighter shades. Always clean the brush frequently to prevent mixing of the blended colors. Time and practice, wet blending is not easy. This is often why dry brushing is better.




You could also start to use the dry brush method by letting the last red layer dry completely and then start with a redish-orange dry brush highlight. Again only applying a very small amount of the shade. Continue by lightening the shades and adding a wee bit at a time. If you change the shade too quick the highlighted later stands out too much. In some cases this is wanted but not in this case for the lava temperature change. This is what too much drybrushing in too drastic of a shade change looks like.




I had to step back and use the wet blend method that took alot of time to get a smooth blend. This would mainly be used for liquid surfaces only. But it depends on the look desired an application.




At this point we now have the tile covered in the primary resource with its necessary high lights. We now begin painting the secondary resources and their layers. In this tile its the Black rocks that surround the lava pool. Since the black covers everything, you must take your time and use a steady hand and only cover what you want. If you make a mistake, attack that section vigerously with a wet clean brush and hope it releases the black before it has dried.


This is the tile after the first layer of black is applied. Only one layer is needed. By carefully covering the rocks and their sides, I have allowed the lava inbetween the cracks to remain and stand out.



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I now begin by using the dry brush method to highlight the rocks very very carefully. Last thing we want is to touch the lava pool with a dark color.


I mixed some black with a silver metallic paint to make a lighter shade of black to apply to the rocks, but also used the metallic of the silver to give the rocks some shine.


I then mixed a touch of black with white to make a even lighter shade to just brush over the jagged rock areas to make them stand out.


In the case of this tile, there were very few layers needed to achive the desired look. In some game tiles I do, each section could have 3 - 5 base coats, 3 - 6 highlight layers on primary resource and 4 - 5 layers on secondary resources.


Here is the finished tile.





Here are two pictures that show the 3D features of the file from ground level.






After this tile is finished its painting, I usually coat them in a flat or gloss sealer to help protect the paint. The tiles should be stored in a cool protected area and no painted surface of one tile should rest against another. I place each tile in its own bubble wrap baggie.


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it informative. You just have to go at it and give it a try, if you make mistakes, learn from them and push on. Feel free to comment and ask questions.


Now here is one picture of all the tokens I have made for Geo Caching. The four in the top left have not yet been painted so I will update the picture when I have painted them. They are the first few from the new molds for those tokens.



Lord Zogat

Edited by lordzogat
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Your handmade coins look great!


Thanks for the wonderful pictures and excellent explanation! Expertly done-very easy to follow.


How long does this process take and how many "coins" do you usually get from a mold?


Having the experience, I have designed and created the master token, prepared it for the mold and poured the mold in under 4 hours.


My molds have yet to fail, they last a long time if handled properly and cared for.


Having said all that it does take some time getting use to working with the materials. Plaster of paris can be brittle and needs to be handled with care when carving or adding detail from a master token.

Edited by lordzogat
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OUTSTANDING!!! You've Got Skills man! :D It's a great tutorial and I hope to try some parts of this in part of a new cache project, too. This is great for sigs, cache camo, future coins? and any number of other applications. Well done :D


Thanks to all who have commented on the topic. It makes all the effort of doing the tutorial worth while when you know its appreciated.


I am more than happy to help people become creative and understand it does not have to be difficult to do these things yourself. You just have to try. You can make some really unique and cool sig items to share with fellow cachers for a low cost and a small time investment.


I have always been the type to look at a project, break it down into its key components and just do it.


I would love to see your items you make if you use this tutorial as a guide.


Remember this as well. You can always start with a solid plaster (unsealed) token and carefully etch in your design using various tools. I simply use a push pin as the plaster freely comes away with little effort. However you are limited to the amount of detail as a result of the properties of plaster.


Have fun with it, try it out and show us what you have accomplished. I will keep making tokens as the ideas come.

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Plastic resin - hard to paint and costly for both mold and casting material


Plaster of Paris sealed in a marine varnish or clear coat resin after being painted - Low cost casting material and mold material, sealing resin or varnish will be the cost component.


Wax - cheap, easily broken, floats :(


Some stone casting compounds are immediatly water proof and have durability - again cost.


A plastic resin compound will stand up the best to water over time. What about a double sealed cache container to keep the contents dry, they have to take it above surface to get in. This way its not as critical that the sig items be sealed.

Edited by lordzogat
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Bumping, as its that time of year again, to start thinking of making your own personal tokens. Make a personalized token thats cheap and cost effective. Use them as Swag or a calling card. Personal items hand made are often preferred.


I have had many a Geocacher contact me to let me know happy they were to find one of my personal tokens, and even some kids get all excited over finding my pirates gold pieces.


Have fun, and please ask questions if you need help.

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Do you have any tips on how to make the lettering come out well? I've tried using a needle to write the letters in the playdoh and I've tried using typewriter keys... neither seem to work out well...


The playdoh would be really hard to put lettering in. I would make the token design in playdoh without the lettering. Cast the master token, then let it set and harden. Then carefully subtract the plaster with your needle or a push pin is what I use. You really have to take your time and go over each letter a few times to get a nice smooth letter. Don't slip as all errors show up.


You might be able to slowly tap the typerwritter keys into the surface. Practice on a blank first. Sorry for the late reply.

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I found the use of old dental scrapers and/or a few newer modeling tools work great for that application. I've even gone to the point of using larger needles. Heating, flattening the end, bending, shaping, sharpening and re-tempering the end. Then mount in a pin vise. Works great for a tool you plan on using a lot.

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For lettering: you could try getting a set of jeweler's screwdrivers.


Then you could carve out your letters as stonecarvers cut letters. It would take some practice and would probably work best in a semi-hardened medium (not play-doh, but perhaps "the green stuff" about halfway cured).


I haven't tried this out, but I can imagine it working -- if you have a steady hand. ; )


"The green stuff" (I think it's marketed as "Yellow + Blue" or "Blue + Yellow") is a good medium for sculpting small things. It has a relatively slow cure time, so you don't have to rush to get it sculpted; you can easily add newly-mixed green stuff to something that's already cured, and it stands up very well to the moulding process. It's what the guys over at Thunderbolt Mountain Miniatures use for their miniature masters.


Edited to add: fully agree with Pabloturtle's assessment of old dental tools. They're super for sculpting. I love the idea of using silicone caulk as a casting medium; I'm going to have to try that out, thanks!

Edited by Jackalgirl
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