Upgrading your cardboard tokens

With resin! Part 1 of 2

All board gamers reach a point where they face the inevitable question: “How do I make my game look and feel better on the table?” If you own a copy of Monopoly, there’s very little that you can do beyond yeeting the game onto a wild open flame, but that’s not your fault. (Okay, maybe it’s your fault a little for owning a copy of Monopoly.) But most games have a wider range of choices. There are entire guilds on BoardGameGeek devoted to finding metal upgrades for their coins, for example. Due to the cost of shipping and handling, this can work out to be quite expensive. (Folding, spindling, and mutilation are included at no extra cost.) If like many of us you live outside the US, another expensive option is to buy GeekUp Bits from the BoardGameGeek store. These tokens are utterly fantastic to own and play with, make no mistake, and are wonderful if you don’t mind the price.

For the more skinflint among us, there is another option for upgrading those cardboard pieces: polymer resin. A little resin can make your ordinary, boring cardboard chits look and feel stunning. What this lengthy intro is leading into (once its author finishes meandering down the garden path of verbiage) is an extensive tutorial on how to do it.

I’ve been at this for a while, and have upgraded several sets of chits. But I’ve also made a number of mistakes with my earlier runs. Now I’m passing this learning on to you so that you don’t have to go through as much trial-and-oh-so-much-error as I did. I’ll show the results of some of the errors as well so you know what you’ll be avoiding.

Some caveats before you start

I suggest first practising on unneeded tokens or something similar because the process can be a little fiddly the first couple of times. I have bags of unused cardboard coins because I’ve gone to great expense to buy metal coins for a lot of games. These make perfect practice, and practise makes perfect.

The best tokens and chits to use for this sort of project are those that don’t need to be stacked on top of each other. The resin pieces, while gorgeous, are domed, and this convex surface does not lend itself well to neat stacks.

Smaller chits come out better than larger pieces such as first player markers.

What you’ll need (AKA a shopping list)

Here’s a list of things you’ll need:

  • A large silicone mat, preferably fingered if you can find it. Look in the baking aisle in most stores. You’ll likely want one at least 40-50 cm along one side, and around 30-40 cm down the other. Just don’t get one that’s too small, or too large to fit on your work surface.
  • Nitrile gloves, obtained from a pharmacy.
  • Face mask, also from a pharmacy (but these days who doesn’t own a face mask or two?)
  • Wooden stirrers. Ice lolly sticks work in a trice, but the thinner ones are better.
  • Plastic tot cups, roughly 50 ml.
  • Syringes in various capacities. I use 5 ml and 10 ml syringes. Also obtainable at a pharmacy.
  • Small shallow container; an old jar lid will work.
  • Craft blade, from a craft shop.
  • Small paintbrush, roughly 3 mm wide, obtainable from a craft shop.
  • Podge (craft shop, again).
  • 2-part polymer resin. I got mine from a craft shop as a set of 2×50 ml bottles. This 100 ml set usually sees me through around 300 to 500 standard-sized tokens, but YMMV so it’s best not to do ludicrous numbers of batches at once. More on that below.
  • Electronic lighter (the BBQ lighting type with the long barrel). A regular lighter will burn your fingers; not so much fun.
  • Felt-tipped pens in assorted colours (kid’s stationery stash), or a black permanent marker.
  • Toothpicks, from your kitchen or local grocery store.
  • Paper towels (also kitchen).
  • A large, open-ended box. You’ll want one large enough to cover a given set of tokens, so something larger than a shoebox. (Unless you wear size 27 shoes, in which case you can happily use your shoebox)
Top row: Pratley high-gloss polymer coating; wooden stirrers. Plastic tot cup; syringes. Electronic barbeque/braai lighter; small ceramic bowl (shallow container); plastic container of podge. Twelve kokis (felt-tipped pens) in assorted colours.
Bottom row: Nitrale gloves and a face mask.
Background: The aforementioned objects are aranged on a large silicone mat,
Not pictured: A large, open-ended box.


  • Actual hands on time: Around 2 to 3 hours total
  • Time from start to finish including waiting: About 4 days per set of chits

A short bit about resin

There are a lot of resins about, and the reason I say polymer resin is to differentiate it from plant-derived resin, which we all know is useful for resurrecting dinosaurs. Polymer resins are synthetic, and come in a variety of forms and names. The most common verbiage you’ll see is “casting resin” vs “epoxy resin” vs “acrylic resin”. If you’re in a hurry or can’t get the exact type you want (the type we use in this project is casting resin), any of them will do. Casting resin, also known as jeweller’s resin, tends to dry clearest, and is used for these sorts of art projects. Epoxy resin is usually used as an adhesive for super extra ultra mega bonding when you really, really don’t want something to come apart. Acrylic resin is lovely once cured, but you need to take many safety precautions with it because those fumes are utterly vile. More importantly, they can wreck your lungs. My suggestion is to stick to craft-shop resin because it’s safest, easiest to work with, and usually more easily available. Some of the epoxy resins I’ve worked with had really insane resin-to-hardener ratios such as 1:35. These are so difficult to measure in reasonable quantities for small projects that it’s not worth the hassle. If you need to work with enough resin to cover a table, you’ll want to source from a speciality store, because the 100 ml bottles I use won’t do much more than a good-sized chess board, nevermind a table. Anyhow, after that amusing sidelight, let’s get on with the project!

The final result

Just so you have a clear understanding of what the end result looks and sounds like, I’ve included a video below of myself dropping them and moving them around. I’m not sure if I managed to get the ASMR effect in these videos but I’ve definitely tried.

An overview of the process

This post is already quite long, and we still have a ways to go. But while you’re gathering your equipment and finding the time (and place) to work, let’s look at the steps we’ll be discussing in Part 2.

In broad strokes, the process looks like this:

  1. Decide on some chits.
  2. Prepare the chits.
  3. Mix the resin.
  4. Apply the resin.
  5. Wait.
  6. Flip the chits over.
  7. Mix another batch of resin.
  8. Apply resin to the other side.
  9. Wait.
  10. Finish the tokens.

And after this you’ll have some lovely pieces to play with!

Next time: How to resin your tokens

Once you’ve got all your equipment, it’s time to head over to Part 2: The Steps! where we go into all the details about how to resin your tokens, step by step.

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