In Hayao Miyazaki's breathtaking film Spirited Away, these tokens are used by employees of a magical bathhouse to signal that a customer's bath needs filling.
They are honestly kind of minor in terms of the movie and plot, but I really love the aesthetic and decided I wanted one, despite not knowing what exactly I would do with it once I had it.
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Step 1: Materials
Keep in mind, just because I used these materials doesn't mean they are the only materials that one could use. You can do it! Improvise!
- 1/4" plywood
- acrylic craft paint (Folk Art brand, 938 Licorice and 957 Burgundy colors)
- paint brushes
- band saw
- drill press
- spray on lacquer (Rustoleum brand)
Step 2: Design
Before you build anything, it's usually a good idea to have a concept of what exactly it is you are going to build. In this case, I used the film itself as my reference and made visual documentation of all the bath tokens i saw. To tell the truth, i really just eyeballed the proportions onscreen as 1:3, making my real-life bath token 2x6".
It is... it is just a rectangle. So. Draw a rectangle.
Step 3: Cutting
Cut out the rectangle. I used a bandsaw for this.
Once you cut out the shape you want, sand the edges to get rid of burrs and shakiness in the cut (you can do this by putting the sandpaper down on a flat surface and then rubbing the flat edge of the rectangle on it). I also chose to round off corners and edges.
Step 4: Making the Hole
The bath tokens in the movie have a small hole near the top where they are clipped to ribbons.
To make this hole I used a combination of drill press, Dremel, and hand carving tools.
I used the drill press to drill three main holes, then the Dremel and carving knife to connect the holes into a single wide one and smooth out the edges. You should also sand the edges and inside of those hole by rolling up a piece of sandpaper or tearing off a bit small enough to fit in there.
Using the drill (which I only did with one of the two bath tokens i have made) made the hole-cutting to go faster, but it caused the wood to splinter on the bottom where the drill exited the wood. To prevent this you could either just use the Dremel, or when drilling drill only halfway through and then turn the piece over and complete the hole entering from the other side.
Step 5: Painting
With a ruler and pencil I drew out the design first, and then began painting. I used two coats of each color, drying them with a blow drier in between. I painted a coat of burgundy, dried it, a coat of licorice, dried it, and then repeated.
I used a smaller brush for the black (licorice if you please), and made sure to do black as the final color so that when i painted the red (burgundy) before, I didn't have to worry about keeping the edges clean.
Step 6: Finishing
I used Rustoleum spray-on lacquer as a finish, once the paint was dry. Whatever product you use should have its own instructions for how to apply, dry times, etc. that would be better than anything I could tell you here.
- If you use spray-on, don't hold it too close to the bath token. String the token up in a well-ventilated area (important!) and apply light coats; I did not do this, so mine ended up with drips.
- Be patient. I know it's boring waiting for paint to dry. Still, trying to touch it before it dries fully leaves finger prints even in clear lacquer, so just leave it alone until time's up!
I also attached a small ribbon through the hole to have something to hang it by.
Step 7: Done!
You can now use your bath token to awkwardly befriend protagonists, waste copious amounts of the "best herbal formula", or even start your own bathhouse of the spirits.
Or you could probably hang it from a doorknob, or your rear view mirror or something. If that's what you're into.