32: Laser Engraved Beads

I find particular amusement that 52 Lasers is considered a “stunt blog.”  Stunt blogs have a goal to meet in a certain period of time.  An excellent example of a stunt blog that has helped the world is The Uniform Project, where the author wears the same uniform every day for a year.  Another good one that I get a lot of crock pot recipes from is Crockpot 365.

Our stunt is a laser project once a week for a year.  While we aren’t setting out to change the world (who knows, that may happen), we are using the blog to make projects that have popped into our heads and then never did anything with.  To that end, it is so satisfying to be doing a project that I’ve been planning for this day since we first got our laser: sticking beads under the beam.

From top to bottom: Agate, shell, wood, larvikite, and glazed ceramic

From top to bottom: Agate, shell, wood, larvikite, and glazed ceramic

I have been slowly collecting flat beads over the past few years in a variety of materials for just this purpose, so we had agate (stone), larvikite (stone), wood, shell and glazed ceramic beads to experiment with.  I decided to keep it simple by using the same patterns on each, one vector and one raster.

Vector engraving, to me, is like a stroke of a pen.  It’s a single, simple path for a laser to follow.  Raster is like if you drew a circle and filled it in.  Raster takes much longer because the area it covers is more involved.  (this is a very simplified explanation, based on how I understand it; it you’d like more, check out this thread.)

All the templates

All the templates

The beads are in their templates; you can see how the depths varied.

The beads are in their templates; you can see how the depths varied.

To wrangle beads in a laser I made a template, which Ryan explored back in Week 30.  Beads in these materials are mostly handmade, so the measurements are variable.  Not all of them fit in nicely with my “average” sized hole – the shell beads in particular sat just above.  But even if they floated above the template helped me know I got the pattern in the correct place at least.

Vector engraved beads

Vector engraved beads

Vector pattern: The agate and the larvikite are very very hard.  Because of the thinness and faintness of the lines, the effect was subtle, and almost non existent on the larvikite because of the non-homogeneous background.  The wood performed beautifully under the vector cut, as did the shell.  The shell did loose a little of the luster and felt a little more chalky than the unlasered counterparts.  On the glazed beads, the pattern was practically invisible.

Rastered set of beads

Rastered set of beads

Raster Pattern: The agate is probably my favorite of this group.  The rastered areas are just a lighter, dustier shade and perfect.  The larvikite raster engraved so lightly we flipped it over and blasted it with more power.  It did create a slightly deeper etch, but it wasn’t totally satisfactory.  The pattern on the heavily grained wood was just distracting.  The shell turned out lovely, but there was a piece that splintered off one.  My guess that was caused by the laser heating up the bead and it was a weaker spot.  Un-lasered shell beads are often broken too, so I think it might be a material you have to expect a percentage of loss.  The glazed pottery reacted better to the raster than the vector, and the pattern is visible.

These beads were enhanced with various colors of Rubnbuff.

These beads were enhanced with various colors of Rubnbuff.

On the less satisfactory experiments I decided to add a little Rubnbuff to try and make the engraved parts pop.  The agate would have none of it and the paste didn’t stick, even in the lines.  On the larvikite, it worked beautifully on the vector lines (and the one crack I didn’t notice, whoops) but looked messy on the raster.  That could be a symptom of the pattern chosen, though.  And adding gold to the glazed beads made a world of difference to that vector and added a level of class.

This really does reaffirm that wood is my favorite material in a laser, but I’m interested to try other things with shell!

Edit: I did list a few of these beads in my supply shop, Beadeux

Shell beads in template

Shell beads in template

The shell beads also shows tome singeing, but it wiped away easily.

The shell beads also shows tome singeing, but it wiped away easily.

The shell beads were the exact color of the background!  This photo shows breakage of both an engraved and unengraved bead

The shell beads were the exact color of the background! This photo shows breakage of both an engraved and unengraved bead

Shell beads, vector on the left, raster on the right

Shell beads, vector on the left, raster on the right.  The material got sooty, and that is why the cut areas are darker.

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