An Inexpensive & Accurate Way to Count Capsules
Years ago in the bulk herb retail business, I decided to start selling empty capsules. Buy in bulk, count some capsules, package them, and ship ’em out. It would be easy! I would sell in bags of 100 or 500 and I wanted my counting method to be accurate.
I lined up Dixie cups in rows of 10 and would put 10 capsules in each cup. This method works great when you have A LOT of distractions around you. If you can’t go to the count of ten without a child calling your name or a text coming in, then the cup method is a godsend. If you lose count, it’s so easy to count to 10 again for that cup. Imagine you’re up to like 88 and you lose count, how frustrating! After this happens a few times, you’ll never enjoy the process of counting capsules again. Thank you cup method!
But There Was Still Counting Involved, There Had to be a Better Way
Counting capsules is time consuming. Repeating the process multiple times is even worse! At one point, I even looked into capsule counting machines to try and reduce the monotony. They range from $20 for the paddle type, to thousands of dollars for gigantic stainless steel machines. At that point in my career, spending money was not an option, I had to figure something out that could be accurate and easy to use, so I came up with the drinking straw method. Basically, you glue parallel straws to a tray to use as guardrails, to separate rows of capsules, making counting quick and easy.
When complete, all I had to do was dump a large handful of capsules onto the tray, wiggle it back and forth a little, and slide the unused capsules back into their bag. No more counting, but just a little multiplication. 11 capsules in a row x 9 rows equals 99 capsules in my tray. Then I would pour them into ziplock-type bags with a few extra capsules for good luck and send them out to my customers. Packaged beautifully, of course!
Your tray size will vary depending on the box you use to make it, so I’m not going to tell you how many capsules you’ll be able to count with your counting tray. The bigger the box, the more straws you can fit. The longer the straws, the more capsules you’ll fit in a row. The more rows, yada yada yada, you get the idea.
For longer straws, just butt your straws up against each other, aligning them end-to-end. There’s really no limit to the amounts of capsules you could count by adjusting the width and depth of your tray.
On to the tutorial….
Choosing Your Tray
My very first capsule counting tray was actually made using an upside down, small, lightweight, wooden Ikea drawer, 12″ x 18″. I hot glued the drinking straws down, after some trial and error with capsule width tests. It turned out to work perfectly! I used it for months, then I decided to just sell larger quantities of capsules and switched to different methods entirely.
Cardboard works great and is super easy to work with.
Banker’s box lids are actually perfect. They have a nice lip/edge around them so when you shake your capsules, they stay on the tray. They are usually always smooth on the inside. You NEED a flat surface for this to work, so the capsules can freely glide and slide down the rows to neatly line up for counting and multiplying.
Other Materials You Could Use
If you can’t find a banker’s box lid, the lid from a case of copy paper will work as a quick substitute. The lid from those snap together file boxes works too. Some storage containers in your home might come with a rectangular or square lid with a good edge around it. Often, after you glue your straws down to the lid, you can keep it stored on whatever container it came from when not in use. I love space-saving ideas!
If you’re still struggling for a good tray idea, how about a shirt box and/or its lid? Like the kind that you get around Christmas time from the stores for gift wrapping.
Keep the Sides Narrow, But Not Too Low
If the sides are too high, they interfere with any hand-arranging/fixing you may need to do to the capsules, making it much harder to work inside. If the sides are too low, the capsules will tumble off the sides as you wiggle the tray back and forth to settle them in place.
For Goldilocks to have her box just right, she decided to make it herself: