Varnish Everything!

Every X-wing player will notice wear and tear showing on dials, asteroids and templates, even after a short time of use.  When I started using Blue Tack (a hack I learned from Remi) one of the faces of my old and beaten up asteroids finally had enough and peeled off. It wasn’t a big deal as I glued it back, but the incident got me thinking how to protect the cardboard playing pieces.

It was time for me to Varnish everything!

The first thing I did was varnish my dials. Some of them have become pretty worn out as seen in the picture below.

20140702_161950 (small)

The two dials that saw the most wear and tear for me were my Tie Advanced and Falcon dials. I was surprised at how worn out my Advanced dial was after looking at it. I had forgotten how I loved to run Vader in Wave 2 with Soontir and Turr. I can’t wait to run Vader again with Advanced Targeting!

Popping off the connector that holds the dial can be tricky. It’s best to slide a knife in tight and pry upwards.

20140630_094912 (cropped)20140630_094958 (cropped)I had previously cut some thin plastic and wedged it between the two parts of the dial to protect the maneuver face.

20140630_095040 (cropped)I’m not sure how necessary it is, but it’s an idea for you OCD types out there.

I then proceeded to Varnish my dials using Varnish for furniture, easily available at any hardware store.

20140629_203215 (smaller)While varnishing my dials, I also decided to varnish a set of card templates. It wasn’t necessary as I have a bunch of acrylic ones but I wanted to see how they’d turn out.

I would paint a side, let it dry and then paint the other side. I gave them about 3 coats of varnish. The end result was great. Everything felt firm and had a nice protective shine before I put the dials back together.

20140629_220146 (cropped) 20140629_220218 (cropped) 20140629_220250aaa

After varnishing the dials, I decided to varnish the asteroids as well.

One thing I noticed when I did my dials was that they sometimes stuck to the surface they were drying on. It was a rookie mistake on my part as carpenters and painters use these little pyramids to keep stuff from sticking when it’s wet.

IMG_2306 (Small)

Using those pyramids for every asteroid wouldn’t work, but the principle was sound so I pulled out some old spare framing hardware I had lying about.

20141129_173844 smaller You can find these in any hardware store, just go to the section that sells the framing hardware and framing nails.

Using these guys made my life easier. Nothing stuck and I varnished all my asteroids, including some left over dials.


Now all the cardboard playing pieces should be protected more or less for life. The blue tack/gommette I put on the asteroids during game play doesn’t stick to the paper anymore either. All in all I’m very happy with how it turned out.


6 thoughts on “Varnish Everything!”

  1. Great idea! I’m totally doing that. It’s funny too because I met this guy named John at a recent tournament who had some really cool X-Wing hacks. One of them was to use highlighter to color his ship base plates. In order to keep the highlighter on he said he coded the base plates after, I think with varnish.

  2. I gave this a try and I’m really liking the results. I think I’m part Giger alien because my dials seem to be fading much quicker than those belonging to others so I assume I excrete acid of some kind.

    I’ve done a few dials for X-Wing and Warhammer Conquest and they look great. I’ve also started doing my Imperial Assault tiles.

    One tip for dials… assemble them first and then varnish them. I varnished one and then assembled it afterwards and the minor amount of bending that occurs caused the varnish to crack. I’d suggest pushing through the plastic middle peg through both halves so the shape of the dials around the hole is formed for the way it will be once it’s fully assembled.

  3. That Giger Alien bit made me laugh Waps! Let me know how the Imperial Assault tiles turn out.

    I would not recommend assembling the dials and then varnishing them as they will most definitely stick together and you’ll have a hell of a time spinning the dial.

    If the cardboard is bending on the dials, that means you are applying too much varnish. If it is cracking, that means you are “gooping” it on there and it cracks when drying. I had zero warping with the asteroids, rulers and dials. Do multiple coats, and keep those coats thin! Use a paint brush and gently brush it on. Better five thin coats than two thick ones. Worst case buy a couple cans of spray varnish, but that will be much more expensive to do vs varnish in a paint jar.

    The only thing you might have to do is clean out the donut hole with an olfa knife as some varnish in there will make the plastic plug too snug.

    1. C’mon, Grish. Give me SOME credit. I didn’t varnish the dials assembled! What I meant was I assembled them first, took them apart, and then varnished them. The centre peg makes indentations in the cardboard so when I put it in for the first time on varnished components it cracked the varnish. I found that, by assembling them un-varnished and taking them apart, they fit together better once varnished.

      I definitely applied the varnish a little too thick on my first few dials. They look fine but I had to carve out the middle a lot more to get the peg to fit so the darn things would turn! I applied my lessons learned to my new Scum & Villainy dials and they all look great and didn’t have the same issue.

      I just finished varnishing my last Imperial Assault tiles today and they look great. As you said, it takes time to be patient and apply the multiple thin coats but I think it’s totally worth it. Now that this project is pretty much complete the happiest person is my wife as she HATES the smell of the turpentine I used to clean my brush!

      1. Ha, sorry Waps! I totally should have given you more credit 😀

        You’re right that there will be varnish in the donut hole and if not aware of the problem, the dials will be hard to turn. Glad you found a way around that. I still need to go at the dials with a knife before I assemble them, even if it’s just a little touch.

        You know, the fact you varnished your Imperial Assault Tiles is making me think of varnishing mine. An OCD countdown is beginning in my brain…

Leave a Reply