Wednesday, March 10, 2010

DIY Bottlecap Checkers Set & Box

The first project of the week is complete.  You may remember that I mentioned here a cracked pedestal table that was destined to be refinished for our condo.  The ultimate goal is to create a game table that can be tucked into a corner of the living room.  A place where my kiddos can play Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders right now, and in a few years, sit down to a friendly game of checkers.  I started thinking about creating a set of checkers that was customized to the purpose of the condo.  How much fun would it be to have checkers which allow you to be a part of Team Ski or Team Ride?

On Monday, I showed you this photo of the bottlecaps in their original state.  You can purchase plain bottlecaps from a homebrew store, but we don't have any of those near our home in semi-rural Colorado.  I found HairBowCenter, a seller on Ebay, and purchased a lot of 100 bottlecaps for $4.90.  Not a bad price for 100 pre-colored caps. 

When the caps arrived, the colors weren't exactly what I had in mind, so I decided to customize them with my own colors.

Step #1: Remove the rubber liners inside the bottlecaps.  I used a sharp knife to get under the liner.  Once I had one side loosened, I could carefully pull the circle out in one piece.

Here's the pile with all of the rubber liners removed.  These seals may not be bothersome for some projects, but I wanted graphics on the inside of my caps as well as the outside.  More to come on this.

Step #2: Spray paint the caps on both sides.  I used Rust-oleum's Satin finish spray paint in Claret (Red) and Hunter Green.  I picked these cans up for $2.99 and $3.78 respectively at my local Ace Hardware store.

Use light coats of paint and allow ample time for each coat to dry.  I did two coats per side and allowed about 2 hours between coats. 

Step #3: Meanwhile, you can download the custom graphics in the form of a PDF here. I designed these to have the same look and feel as vintage bottlecaps from the 1950s and 60s, but with a modern twist.  FullLabelSheet.pdf contains the Ski and Ride graphics for the front side of the checkers.  FullLabelSheet2.pdf contains the "crown" graphics for the inside of the caps - the "king me" side of the checkers.  You can cut these out with scissors, or an even easier method is to punch them out with a 1"-sized paper punch.  You can buy these at your local Michael's or Hobby Lobby for around $12.  I happened to have one lying around from some long-abandoned scrapbooking projects.

Step #4: Apply a thin coat of ModPodge to the top of each bottlecap.  Allow this to dry slightly so that it becomes tacky.  Center each punch on a bottlecap of corresponding color.  Be sure to press firmly to remove all air bubbles and/or creases.

Step #5: Once these are dry, apply two more thin coats of ModPodge to the top of the checkers.

Step #6: Once these are completely dry - I waited 1 hour between coats - repeat the process on the inside of each bottlecap to apply the "king me" crowns.  Here are the finished products.

Step #7: Every good set of checkers needs a box in which to store them.  I've had this unfinished pine recipe box sitting around my house for 6-7 years.  These sell for approximately $2-$3 at Michael's. I applied two coats of my Claret (Red) spray paint to the outside of the box and allowed it to dry thoroughly. **Note: You could use primer before you spray with your colored paint if you want a smoother finish, but I wanted some of the rough-hewn texture of the wood to show.

Step #8: I needed a divider in my box because this project will ultimately have a set of chess bottlecaps as well. Stay tuned for those downloadable graphics and a picture in an upcoming post. I purchased a piece of balsa wood at my local Ace Hardware for $1.33.  Measure the inside dimensions of your box, and cut a piece off of the balsa strip to match.  Balsa is so soft, you can score it with an Exacto knife, and you can get a clean break with very little work.  Apply hot glue on three sides of the wood (bottom edge and two side edges) and slide the piece into the center of the box.

Here you can see the balsa wood in place.  I painted the inside of the box with craft paint in an Antique White color.  This paint was available at Ace for $0.99/bottle. Use a good quality brush to avoid too many brushstrokes. Allow the paint to dry completely.

Step #9: Download the GameBox graphic here and print on standard bond-weight paper.

Step #10: Create a graphite-transfer in order to apply the graphics to your box lid.  Rub the back of the paper with a regular pencil.  Make sure to cover every line on the artwork.

Step #11: Center the sheet on the box (scribbled pencil-side down) and trace over the graphics with a ball point pen.  Apply steady pressure in order to transfer the lines, but don't push so hard that you make indentations in the soft pine wood of the box.

Here's a close-up of the faint transfer lines on the top of the box.

Step #12: Use these lines as your guide to paint the box. I used the same Antique White craft paint and a small paint brush.

Here's the lid after I hand painted it.  I didn't worry too much about complete coverage because I knew that I was going for an aged look.

Step #13: After the paint dried, I sanded down the top and the sides with 220-grit sandpaper by hand.  This removed just enough paint to give the box and the graphic the weathered look of an old fashioned sign or barn painting.

Finally, I filled up the "Checkers" side of the box with my custom Bottlecap Checkers.

Next step? The chess pieces. 



  1. Wow Sara - you are so creative and motivated! I am highly impressed :)

  2. That is very awesome! One of the best projects I have seen in a while! So original, I love it!

  3. That is a fantastic idea, I love it!

    Please feel free to link your project up with my Talented Tuesday Link party on My Frugal Family, found at!

    Hope to see you there!

  4. Thanks to everyone for the kudos. It was such a fun project to make - and so simple! I need to get cracking on the matching chess pieces. And, of course, finish the game table Before & After that was the inspiration for the checkers.

    @Heather, thanks for the Link party suggestion. Love your blog - and the new design!

  5. Wow this is awesome!! Great job.

    Feel free to stop by my blog and enter my jewelry giveaway!

  6. Wow that is so cool! You are very creative! Come stop by my Favorite Things Friday Party if you would like to join in!

  7. Great tutorial and photos. Wonderful idea and great graphics. TidyMom turned me on to your DIY checker set! Glad she did.


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