Thinking of buying a button maker?
Here are some pictures of button makers with my recommendation (or not) as to what is a good buy and which machines or companies to avoid. I have tested and used all this equipment myself, wasted a lot of money...so you don't have to!
Perhaps you want to get your own button maker and make your own buttons. Here are some photos of the kind of equipment you can use to make buttons yourself in your home or office. I hope this information helps, I have bought, sold and used a lot of different button making equipment over the last 8 years. The first button makers I ever bought are still going, but a few I have used in the meantime were poorly designed or in some cases had plastic parts. Definitely not good if you want a machine that will last. It also blows my mind how much some manufacturers charge for their button parts and these companies with expensive button parts nearly always have non standard or odd sized buttons eg. 2-3/8" instead of the very popular and standard 2-1/4"
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This is a good, almost antique, button machine but probably hard to find now.
A good old solid metal almost antique button maker.
This machine was made in Russia, probably around the 60s or 70s. What's great about this machine is it is solid as a rock, takes standard 2-1/4" button parts which means you can still get the parts and they are inexpensive. If you see one of these at a yard sale grab it. But as always with buying a button maker - it doesn't have to look pretty but it must work. The only way is to test a that's the case, this button maker is worth more now than when it was made. The circle cutters that used button maker. If came with this button maker as standard are not really any good for the long term, but may just get you out of a fix.
Simple circle cutters for button making.
Circle Cutter similar to the one that comes standard with the Russian made button maker above. Like I say, not really great but a cheap option to get you going. You can pick these up for about $20 - $25.
Just found a photo of the Russian circle cutter - but really better to invest in a real circle cutter - a couple of good examples below.
Handi Punch for circle cutting.
These kind of hand punches are about the only "Made in China" button making product that work. They are usually made for the small button sizes like 1" or 1-1/4". If you position your paper correctly you can cut more than 1 at a time. Maybe even up to 5. But they are really only recommended for small volume. Price point: $75 Price check 1" button maker
Another image of the handipunch as above. Like I say, Not as fast as the Graphic Punches below but good for small volume.
Now we're really getting to it with circle cutters. These are the real thing! But not cheap.
At the back you have a die press with dies. The press is or $500 and each of the 5 dies you see can be from $100 - $500 depending on size. But if you have to make 25,000 buttons by Friday then this is what you need. Bottom left is an adjustable rotary cutter. If you sift through old comics and magazines to find your images for button making then the rotary cutter is excellent. Also, if you're on a tight budget but want to make more than one size of button, this punch is adjustable and can be good for multiple sizes of buttons. The Tecre graphic punch (bottom right) is described below - it's the biz!!
Tecre Graphic Punch for Circle Cutting.
As for circle cutting this is the Merc.
When your doing your artwork you line up your images in rows. Print your buttons out and just trim your paper into strips so you can feed them through this cutter. Then you just feed them through and pop them out. No blade, child safe!! Just feed and pop and you can get a good production speed and keep your buttons centred! Remember.... a round button with round artwork looks really bad if it's even only slightly off centre.
Price point $150 - $175
This is another graphic punch from a different manufacturer. I haven't used one of these, but all metal and same principals make it look pretty good.
Die Cutter for use with steel rule or
This one I call the nodding donkey. The idea is good, it works but it is slow. It is hydraulic and you have to pump the handle a few times, whereas the die cutters below require just one movement. But this is a solid beast and a bit cheaper than those that follow.
Die Cutter for use with steel rule dies only
Die Cutter for volume circle cutting.
Excellent die cutter for use with the cheaper steel rule dies (see left) Cuts 20 - 30 images at a time. Cuts quickly and well, but remember: if you have a placement-sensitive image, you probably are maxed out at 5 or 10 images at a time. Paper moves (even if you staple it) so a circle image inside a circular button must be cut very carefully. For sensitive images you may be back to the graphic punch and doing them 1 at a time.
This is a pro cutter for volume.
The counterbalance design means you can cut through 30 sheets without effort. Adjust the height using the adjustable press ram for easy changes in height adjustments
This machine will speed production but the same limitations apply: If the image must be placed exactly in your button, you are limited to how many you can cut, even if the machine cuts 30 sheets.
High polish steel cutting dies for above pro cutter. Expensive but a good investment to boost production.
Hobby kits for button making.
This is a badge-a-minit hobby kit. Plastic parts are always problematic and with so many rings and bits they are easily lost. These are also NOT standard 2-1/4" buttons, but are in fact 2-3/8"! These non standard button parts can be 300% more expensive than standard parts so what seemed like a deal at the time can end up being a mistake. Also, as I have mentioned above, to test a used button maker you make a load of buttons and see how many fail. With this stuff AT LEAST 50% will fail so be careful.
Bench Press Hobby Kit
This is another hobby kit from badge-a-minit and in my tests this is no different to the one directly above:
* overpriced button parts
* plastic pieces that wear out
* non-standard button sizes can be hard (or expensive) to get
* failure rate at more than 50% in my tests and this has been confirmed to me by many colleagues (could have been that I'm just no good at it!)
Real Button Makers.
This is a badge-a-minit semi-pro machine. It's metal and it works quite well. Comes in 3 sizes: 1-1/4", 2-1/4" and 3". Remember this is badge-a-minit so these are non-standard sizes!!! But if you see one of these on Craigslist or at a yard sale, do the 50 button test and buy it. The badge-a-minit circle cutters (on the right) do work but are plastic and slow. But good for cutting artwork out of comics and magazines!!!!
Interchangeable dies for multi size machines.
Not without their problems!
This is a multisize machine from badge-a-minit: 1-1/4", 2-1/4" and 3" sized buttons. It seems to work well and is a superior machine to many of the poorly made chinese machines that have been out there recently, but it does have some of the same issues. See interchangeable die problems below. Also this machine takes expensive non-standard buttons.
The problem with Made in China button makers.
These button makers have major problems: the interchangeable die carrier is PLASTIC. After changing the die a few times they no longer line up. This makes the failure rate very high.
Another problem with made in china button makers is the price and quality of the parts. A lot of the button parts are simply not nicely made. Who wants a button with a cheesy white plastic back, or a magnet that looks like it's from the dollar store? Remember these are made in non-standard sizes! You can't just buy the good stuff. It won't fit!
I repeat - NON STANDARD SIZES means very expensive button parts and you cannot use the US made quality buttons in these machines.... and I mean expensive. They are selling 100 buttons for almost the price I buy 1000.
Good button makers.
There are excellent button makers from sources other than the US. Spain, Portugal and Germany all produce great button makers with standard size buttons. These normally take standard buttons! But check!! Watch out for European mm sizes. They are not compatible.
The Tecre Button Making Kit.
Distinctive black machine with red handle from Tecre. The swing base method is fast and easy to use. If you ever see one of these used - GRAB IT!!
The Tecre 2-1/4" button maker.
Solid metal, standard size buttons, 0.0001 failure rate. Fast swing action means you can really produce but the machine is compact and light so fine for traveling to events.
Price Point $275 Price check Tecre machines
An electronic combo machine for Badge-A-Minit 2-1/4" (which means actually 2-3/8") buttons. It works well but it's a bit of an overkill. It is much more expensive, but no faster than the badge-a-minit semi-pro machine above. But it works so if you like burning up the planets resources....knock yourself out!
Plastic and low cost machine but it does take standard low cost button parts. Recommended for low volume hobby button makers.
Price point $150.
Industrial button making
Air power attachments available.
An all metal beast! A precision instrument making rectangular, round or oval buttons or magnets. But you choose your size. Like most good button makers, each machine makes one size.
More industrial button machines.
These are solid machines. Side to side action (as opposed to swing) works well too. These are heavy machines, great for using air power in an industrial setting but a bit heavy for transporting to events. The circle cutters that come with these are not great, but add a graphic punch or a die cutter as they are standard sizes for the machines,
Air Power for button makers with foot pedal.
This is the kind of equipment you need to power a side action (not swing) button maker with air. You will need an inexpensive compressor and a standard hook up. Picture shows button maker, air head with foot pedal control.