Project Drink Coaster!

A while ago, my wife and I were discussing the possibility of finishing our basement, which is not going to happen for a while due to cost and desirability – right now, the basement is a man cave because it’s risky for my wife and her physical disability to get down the stairs, and once the basement is finished, so are my prospects of having a man cave. One thing we had mentioned after watching lots of HGTV is trying to get decorations for the basement that reflect our personalities and family connections. Among these is our mutual interest in board games. While there are a number of ways to display board games in a decorative sense (or just get advertising posters, which we have done as well), we wanted something that would just be sitting around and evoke a “huh, that’s neat” response.

It was around this time that I noticed the picture frame coasters that we had gotten for our wedding anniversary. They were relatively fancy and held wallet-sized photographs. Thinking back to the reclaimed board game notepad (used an old Scrabble board as its cover) that I found at a local store, I set out to find drink coasters that were appropriately sized to fit cards from some of our favorite board and card games.

This was very difficult. In fact, it was impossible. I couldn’t find *any* photo drink coasters that could fit a standard size poker card. The closest I got was a set of cocktail napkin drink coasters – and those had a hole in them so the cocktail glass could rest on the napkin (I really like these coasters, too, but they weren’t what I was looking for). This, of course, meant DIY project.

I started out with the fundamentals of what I’d need for the coaster to work:

  1. It must be able to support a drink.
  2. It must be somewhat slide-resistant on the bottom.
  3. It must have a way to replace the card inside the coaster.
  4. It must be transparent (at least on top), so that the board game piece can be seen.
  5. It must protect the card so that it can be removed and used at a later time.
  6. It must be relatively easy to make, because a DIY expert I am not.

After reading some DIY websites on making drink coasters, all of which were informative but none of which had exactly what I was thinking of, I settled on the following:

Components:

  • Two 4 inch by 4 inch pieces of acrylic, the thinner the better (the thinnest I was able to find at Local Big Box Hardware Store at a reasonable price was about 0.08 inches thick).
  • 4 rubber furniture bumpers (I used these)
  • 4 screws, longer than the two pieces of acrylic are thick, but no longer than the acrylic and bumpers combined are thick (for me, this meant 1/4 inch screws, color chosen by my wife)
  • 1 card or other thin item.

Hardware needed:

  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Ruler
  • Clamps

Process:

The first step in my preparation was to actually get acrylic of the appropriate size and thickness. I was able to find sheets of the appropriate thickness, but had to get them cut. On my first trip to Local Big Box Hardware Store, they were willing to cut it down for me, but on later trips said they did not do “project cutting”.

Once I had the acrylic cut to the proper size, I set up the following steps:

  1. Align the two pieces of acrylic so that their edges are even.
  2. Clamp the two pieces of acrylic together.
  3. Apply the four bumpers to the corners of one side of the acrylic, about 1/4 inch from the edges).
  4. Using the side without bumpers as the point of entry, drill through the two pieces of acrylic and bumper at the center of each bumper (four holes total). Drilling all the way through the bumper is critically important to keeping the bumpers on the coaster when finished.
  5. Unclamp the two pieces of acrylic.
  6. Place the card between the two pieces of acrylic.
  7. Again using the side without the bumpers as a point of entry, screw the two pieces of acrylic together through the drilled holes. The screw should go all the way through the two pieces of acrylic and into the bumper.
  8. To replace the card at a later date, unscrew the coaster, change out the card, and replace the screws.

Using this method, I was able to produce the coasters seen below.

The Monopoly coaster was the first prototype, using a different style of rubber bumper (one that I’d prefer to use if it wasn’t more expensive). The coaster with the Fluxx card is more recent, and reflects my current methods. The coaster with the picture of the Detroit Renaissance Center is an example of a variation I tried out as a gift for a friend who’s out of state – that picture is a trimmed postcard.

For cleaning, any glass cleaning solution works (we use vinegar in a spray bottle).

Even though we haven’t finished the basement yet, we still use the coasters in our dining room and living room, and keep a large number around for when we host board game days at our house.

The methods of creation, admittedly, could still use some refinement. Using a drill press would let me make straighter and more even drill holes and allow me to drill multiple coasters’ worth of acrylic at the same time. I also feel like it needs some sort of thin seal around the edges to make sure it’s watertight (although I’ve never had a problem with drinks or vinegar getting in the side without any seal).

In all, I’ve probably made about 25-30 coasters using this method, some of which I’ve given to friends, others of which I’ve kept. Sadly, I can’t make any more as I don’t have the necessary resources to cut more acrylic, but I’m looking into ways to get some more cheaply (what’s been suggested most recently is to go to a plastics manufacturer and ask if they have scrap that they can cut down to 4×4 squares).

This is my first crafty DIY project of this nature, and I’m curious as to what other people think. Have you seen something similar to this? Do you have suggestions as to how I can improve it? Any other general thoughts?

-John

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3 Responses to Project Drink Coaster!

  1. Edward says:

    You could probably use some silicone to seal the edges.

  2. Pingback: GenCon 2012 Recap, or Why I’m Not Playing D&D At Large Conventions Anymore | John's Personal Blog

  3. Pingback: Game Design: The One Game a Month Program | John's Personal Blog

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