Flattening Warped Chips

ski_ex5

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I was going to post this info as a response to PCF member MoscowRadio's "Baking Inlaid Chips" topic. However, I thought it might be a good idea to create a new *general* topic for tools and techniques to flatten warped chips, i.e. not just baking, and not just inlaid chips.

I'll start this topic with a photo and description of the clamp I use, and the processes I've had success using (some with heat, some without) on both hot-stamped and inlaid chips. I hope others will share their ideas, experiences, and recommendations, too!


Pictured below is a Bessey model LHS10 Poker Chip Clamp:

image.jpg

If you look closely, you'll note that this particular unit was mistakenly labeled "Wood Screw Clamp", which is probably why is was still on the shelf at Home Depot. My experienced eyes immediately recognized it for what it really was - a Poker Chip Clamp - so I snatched it up right away!

As you can see, I put a couple of barrels of chips in the clamp just for perspective prior to taking the photo. The thickness of the wood bars is 40 mm - perfect for 39 mm diameter chips. The space between the two metal screws is 80 mm - perfect to fit two barrels of chips. Unlike ratchet type clamps (including caulk guns), the screws on this clamp allow you to apply pressure smoothly and gradually. Screws also give you CONSISTENT pressure from batch to batch, which is important if you expect to have consistent results!

The other reason I strongly prefer this clamp to others is that the pressure is applied to the chips SQUARELY. The other ratchet type clamps and caulk guns I tried don't quite apply the pressure perpendicular to the chip face, i.e. they're a little cock-eyed.

Also note that I covered the exposed metal screws (between the wood bars) with tape to prevent cutting/scraping the edges of the poker chips. You'll want to do the same.

This clamp works GREAT for flattening poker chips. I highly recommend it.

I'm also fortunate to have a high quality oven with a reasonably accurate thermostat, whose settings go all the way down to 100F. As others have recommended, I separate the warped clay chips with blank ceramic chips in the clamp. In all my work so far, I've flattened 20 clay chips at a time - that's two barrels in the clamps, with each barrel consisting of 10 clay chips sandwiched by 11 ceramic chips. If you try flattening more than 20 clay chips at a time (you CAN fit more in this clamp), you'll likely have to adjust the times that I've listed below (you'll probably need MORE time).

For warped Paulson chips, I typically go 15-20 minutes at 120F. (From experience, I strongly recommend you don't go higher than 130F.) I then remove the clamped chips from the oven and place them on the kitchen counter (NOT in the refrigerator!) to allow them to cool SLOWLY to room temperature. I usually wait about an hour for cooling. Gently tightening the screws during the cooling process is often necessary for best results, as the chips contract while they cool, and you want to maintain pressure on the chips to ensure that they cool FLAT. This process has consistently worked amazingly well for me on both hot-stamped and inlaid chips.

For warped ASM chips, don't even put them in the oven. Really. Just clamp them and leave them overnight. ASM chips are like Play-Doh compared to Paulsons. I found that if you use any heat at all on an ASM chips for even 15 minutes, the chips become squashed, and the chip faces suffer minor damage (flattening of cross hatching, etc.). I've had limited success flattening warped ASM chips by clamping overnight. The lightly warped chips and spinners tend to come out pretty good, but some of the really badly warped chips never get flat enough for me. Your mileage may vary.


One thing I'd like to do to make this process a little easier next time is to order some 40 mm diameter ceramic blanks. When you use standard 39 mm blanks, you have to be very careful to get the ceramics and clays aligned perfectly so that you apply pressure evenly over the entire face of the clay chips.


Good luck! I hope that helps. And as others have warned, be sure to test your process on old chips that you don't care too much about!
 

BGinGA

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Excellent, ski. Only thing I'd add is that I strongly recommend NEVER clamping chips directly to each other when using any kind of heat (even the hot car or summer porch approaches). Always use ceramic chip spacers between clay chips, otherwise the mold impressions on adjacent chips can be 'filled' or 'transferred' from chip to chip. Using flat ceramic chip spacers prevents this.

And using a holding rack when applying the clamp will auto-align the barrel of chips with ceramic spacers.
 

ski_ex5

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Excellent, ski. Only thing I'd add is that I strongly recommend NEVER clamping chips directly to each other when using any kind of heat (even the hot car or summer porch approaches). Always use ceramic chip spacers between clay chips, otherwise the mold impressions on adjacent chips can be 'filled' or 'transferred' from chip to chip. Using flat ceramic chip spacers prevents this.
Thanks, and I agree, I should have stressed that point more than I did. Should have taken photos of chips sandwiched between spacers, too! I REALLY wish I'd taken before/after photos of some of the chips I've straightened. I was especially happy that the clamp worked so well on my hot-stamped "Casino Miami" 50¢ fracs, several of which were warped medium bad. Many others were slightly warped, as seems to be relatively common with hot-stamped chips.

And using a holding rack when applying the clamp will auto-align the barrel of chips with ceramic spacers.
Good idea. I'm intrigued... do you mean you somehow just use a standard acrylic/plastic rack to hold the chips in place while you clamp them? I'm not sure I could do that with this wood clamp. However, given the 40 mm by 80 mm space in the clamp, it's not too hard to do, anyway - I put everything flat on a marble counter top, and it's usually not too tough. Actually, just using some index cards (or old playing cards!) as aligning spacers while clamping the chips would probably help, too.
 

BGinGA

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I'm intrigued... do you mean you somehow just use a standard acrylic/plastic rack to hold the chips in place while you clamp them? I'm not sure I could do that with this wood clamp.

There was a thread on big blue where somebody (k9dr?) rigged up a wooden 'holding station' for clamping chips. I'm in the middle of compiling several of those baking threads into a single re-post here, and will probably just post it here once it's finished.
 

tigon

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What are some other options for flattening hotstamped chips if your oven temperature won't go that low? I have some hotstamped quarters that have a fair amount of spinners.

Potential heating devices: hair dryer, infrared space heater, old toaster oven that supposedly heats as low as 150F.
 
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links_slayer

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What are some other options for flattening hotstamped chips if your oven temperature won't go that low? I have some hotstamped quarters that have a fair amount of spinners.

Potential heating devices: hair dryer, infrared space heater, old toaster oven that supposedly heats as low as 150F.

You could buy a digital thermometer and crack the oven door open and adjust the temperature setting on the oven until you can maintain 150ºF.
 

Poker Zombie

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If you have an attic, or even an automobile - and can wait for summer, you should be able to reach 120[SUP]o[/SUP]F. Just make sure you have a meat thermometer - I would prefer the one that has an alarm if the temp goes too high.
 

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I like the write up and the use of the Jorgensen clamp... err I mean chip clamp. The only area I would like to discuss is the tightening of the clamp after removing from the oven. I have found that this will squish the chip slightly, deforming the mold design and rounding the rolling edge. My mindset is the clamp should be initially tight enough to flatten the chip, the heat is simply applied to relax the internal stresses in the chip. As it cools, the clamp prevents the warping from coming back.

Though my experience does come from 170F temperatures.
 

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Next time I go to HD I will ask the greeter (usually the manager at my local store) what isle the Bessey model LHS10 Poker Chip Clamp is in. :cool: See if he points me to the correct area.
 

ski_ex5

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Though my experience does come from 170F temperatures.

Repeating myself, but for Paulsons... 170F = too hot. 150F = too hot. Just my experience.

For ASMs... room temperature = almost too hot.

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Next time I go to HD I will ask the greeter (usually the manager at my local store) what isle the Bessey model LHS10 Poker Chip Clamp is in. :cool: See if he points me to the correct area.

You'll probably be disappointed, but to be fair, you can't expect a single Home Depot employee to be knowledgeable in all aspects of home and chip improvement.
 

Tommy

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Thanks for the screenshot for my upcoming "How To Use The Multi-Quote" button feature post. :cool:
 

tigon

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After finding most of my spinners, it seems the vast majority of them are nearly new chips. You can feel the concave side right away when you pick them up. This is probably from the hotstamp. Would just getting them into play flatten them out somewhat?
 

ski_ex5

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After finding most of my spinners, it seems the vast majority of them are nearly new chips. You can feel the concave side right away when you pick them up. This is probably from the hotstamp. Would just getting them into play flatten them out somewhat?

If they're ASM, yes.

If they're Paulson, almost certainly not.

Don't forget to use blank white ceramic spacers between each of your chips, or you may ruin those nice new chips.

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Thanks for the screenshot for my upcoming "How To Use The Multi-Quote" button feature post. :cool:

You're welcome.
 

links_slayer

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After finding most of my spinners, it seems the vast majority of them are nearly new chips. You can feel the concave side right away when you pick them up. This is probably from the hotstamp. Would just getting them into play flatten them out somewhat?

In my experience (YMMV, certainly) hot-stamped spinners are often caused by the extra chip material displaced during stamping (I think this is called flashing?) rising higher than the other areas of the chip's surface as opposed to actual warping. If this is the case you can scrape the extra material with an exacto knife or something similar. It could easily be a combination of the two issues. Just my 2¢.
 

ski_ex5

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In my experience (YMMV, certainly) hot-stamped spinners are often caused by the extra chip material displaced during stamping (I think this is called flashing?) rising higher than the other areas of the chip's surface as opposed to actual warping. If this is the case you can scrape the extra material with an exacto knife or something similar. It could easily be a combination of the two issues. Just my 2¢.

Excellent point. I haven't come across too many cases of excessive flashing on hot-stamped casino chips, but I have seen a few, and the X-Acto knife is a great idea.

Somewhat related, I HAVE noticed a general tendency for hot-stamped chips to be *slightly* warped relative to chips with inlays. I suppose it's due to heat from the hot-stamp being applied unevenly to the face of the chip.
 

BGinGA

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I suspect that it's due to the heat being applied to the chip on both sides in rapid succession. The flip side hot-stamp is being made on a chip that is already softened from the first side stamping, causing the thinner chip center to become concave on the second stamping.

This also explains why warping is less of a problem with aftermarket hot-stamped chips, since those chips are typically stamped at a much slower rate (and many stampers only do one side at a time for the entire lot, before finishing off the second side).

In addition, ASM/CPC chips are both harder and are manufactured at a much higher temperature than either Paulson or BCC chips -- making them less susceptible to significant softening from the lower heat levels induced by hot-stamping.
 

Milo013

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One question . . . not having any ceramic blanks lying around, I wonder if you could simply use parchment paper, between the warped chips? Perhaps even a combination of parchment paper and 40 mm metal washers? Or would the heat retention in the metal be problematic? Have not had to deal with this issue (yet), so I thought I would get ahead of the curve.
 

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Before getting some ceramic blanks from Palm, I looked into large steel washers. They just aren't flat enough. You really need to controlled flat surface between each chip. Without it, the stack of chips will not be flat, they will be consistently warped.
 

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Do they have to be blanks, or just ceramic chips? I thought I saw a picture of someone using chips from a ceramic set they had.
 

Milo013

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I am going to guess that dyed ceramics might "bleed" when heated? Thanks for the info. with respect to the metal washers idea.
 

BGinGA

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Or pm me. I bought a rack on eBay, and easily have about three-four times as many as I'll ever need.
 

ChaosRock

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Great post as always Ski!! I have done quite a lot of baking and used the same method with great success, although I ended up ruining some ASM a couple of years ago... I flattened hot stamped without any issues and I also used printed ceramics between clays and there was no transfer of color whatsoever, but I would procede cautiously...

Now one question: I have some ceramics that came convex... If the whole rack is facing the same side, it stack like brick... However, if you alternate orientations every other chip, the stack is terribly wobbly... It must have been a bad batch of blanks is my guess... Any chance of flattening ceramics? Can I go up in temp? If anyone has any insights, it's appreciated...

Paulo-
 

BGinGA

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I have some ceramics that came convex... If the whole rack is facing the same side, it stack like brick... However, if you alternate orientations every other chip, the stack is terribly wobbly... It must have been a bad batch of blanks is my guess... Any chance of flattening ceramics? Can I go up in temp? If anyone has any insights, it's appreciated...

Try torching a spare chip with a direct flame. If it doesn't melt/burn, then zero chance of flattening it. You can't make a rock flat....

However, if it DOES melt (or burn), then it's possible that the physical characteristics may be altered using heat. You may be able to flatten it using a high enough temperature, although it may also require quite a bit of pressure while heated to do so.
 

ChaosRock

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Try torching a spare chip with a direct flame. If it doesn't melt/burn, then zero chance of flattening it. You can't make a rock flat....

However, if it DOES melt (or burn), then it's possible that the physical characteristics may be altered using heat. You may be able to flatten it using a high enough temperature, although it may also require quite a bit of pressure while heated to do so.

Thanks BG! It makes sense... I tried regular temp and although the chips flattened under pressure, once they went back to room temp they were back at their convex self... Those chips are actually custom 44mm bounty chips so there's no reason to stack them high, it is just a matter of both ocd and the fact that if their are not facing the same side, it's hard to rack them...

I'll try higher temp, maybe around 250 or so with a few chips and see what happens... I'll post the result here although this is the first time I've seen ceramics like that...

Thanks again man...
 

ski_ex5

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Paulo, it's been a while, so I'd have to do a little research, but I seem to remember that ceramic is baked at quite a high temperature, so I'd expect it would be difficult to flatten your ceramic chips. BG Dave's comments and suggestions are valid - as always!

A question, though... when you made your first attempt to flatten your ceramics, did you let them cool slowly to room temp, or did you throw them in the refrigerator like most people seem to do? If you didn't do the slow cooling thing, I highly recommend it, checking periodically to keep the clamp snug as the chips cool over the course of about an hour.
 

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I also recall that "ceramic" chips aren't really ceramic. Just a very hard thermoplastic. There should be a temperature whereupon the internal stresses relax. Keeping it clamped should do the trick. The key is to find some spacers that relax at a higher temp. Actual ceramic... Or precision flat steel.
 

ChaosRock

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Hey Ski! No, I did not throw them in the fridge or ice box as some people do... I prefer the chips to get back to room temp slowly as I don't want them to be 'shocked'... Do that with clays and did that with those ceramics... What i did not do though was to tighten the clamp as they were resting... I can definitely try that... I will try a combination of higher temperature and tighten the clamps once out of the oven... I think I can easily go 250F or even more... Let's see...

As I wrote, it's not that big of a deal as they are bounty chips but if they can be flattened, why not right?

Thanks again Ski!!!


Paulo, it's been a while, so I'd have to do a little research, but I seem to remember that ceramic is baked at quite a high temperature, so I'd expect it would be difficult to flatten your ceramic chips. BG Dave's comments and suggestions are valid - as always!

A question, though... when you made your first attempt to flatten your ceramics, did you let them cool slowly to room temp, or did you throw them in the refrigerator like most people seem to do? If you didn't do the slow cooling thing, I highly recommend it, checking periodically to keep the clamp snug as the chips cool over the course of about an hour.

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I also recall that "ceramic" chips aren't really ceramic. Just a very hard thermoplastic. There should be a temperature whereupon the internal stresses relax. Keeping it clamped should do the trick. The key is to find some spacers that relax at a higher temp. Actual ceramic... Or precision flat steel.

That's what I am counting on Shaggy... Now for spacer, I did not use any for the ceramics... The reason is that they are uniformly convex... What I did was to have one chip up, one down, one up, one down, so forth... In that way the two 'spinning' sides of two chips were flatting each other... Does that make sense? I'll try to take some picks later to illustrate better... Maybe using spacer would help also...
 
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