The Making of the Home Set
Like many great ideas, Ballcraps was conceived at a bar. While watching the BCS Championship game, the guys had a few friendly arguments about the outcome of each drive.
The bookmaking needed to be fast so we arrived at an incomprehensible shorthand. There just had to be a better way to track these fast-paced bets.
So we drew up the most common bets on a dry-erase surface and used poker chips to track our bets. After several sessions, we set up the board you see today.
First decision: Did we want to build the prototype ourselves, or outsource it to China.
“MADE IN AMERICA” has a nice ring to it, so we embraced the challenge.
After enlisting the help of expert printmaker Dave Ulrich, we settled on silkscreening white ink on blue felt to capture a high-stakes casino feel.
Water-based ink just looked too grainy. Instead, we used plasticene ink — it doesn’t air-dry, making the silkscreening process longer, but it binds beautifully to the felt and provides sharp, clear lines.
But felt is soft and the board would slip on a coffee table, so we still needed one more step.
Dave first suggested using some old bookbinding techniques to affix it to a bookboard.
We also considered affixing a heavy rubber strip underneath, at each end of the felt.
Ultimately, we noticed that the texture of the plasticene ink provided enough friction to stop the board from sliding on a smooth surface, so we decided to silkscreen the back of the board with a pattern and a darker color. This provided the grip we needed.
We adjusted the screen for the back of the board for the second edition, individually numbering each one.
We used a fine screen to provide the highest level of detail.
We didn’t have a vacuum table to keep the felt in place while pulling away the screen, so we used spray adhesive on the table instead.
Because of the plasticene ink, we needed to use a heating device to cure and dry the silkscreen print:
Real poker chips were key . . . you don’t really feel like you’re gambling unless you feel the weight of the chips. For the first edition, we foiled stamped the chips to make them distinctive. The second edition of the set doesn’t have the foil stamp.
Because the felt playing surface was not affixed to any board, we had plenty of options for packaging. We decided to use two clear plastic tubes. The felt was rolled around the one tube, which holds the chips, and this assembly was then placed easily into the other, larger tube.