Tag Archives: Apple

60: Tech Engraving

The notebook before we put it under the laser.
The notebook before we put it under the laser.

My first tech engraving experiment was quite a few years ago, when Brenn asked me to engrave his new Macbook with a geometric pattern.  It turned out great, but I haven’t really had the opportunity to carve things into technology since.  That’s why I was thrilled when a local friend, Reddy, asked me if I could laser engrave an illustration into his own Macbook.

Brenn's LaptopWhile Brenn’s design from a few years ago was dense, complicated, and meant to hide cosmetic damage on the lid of the laptop (which it wasn’t that successful at) the finished illustration for Reddy’s laptop was a clean line drawing that left much of the lid clear. This was a huge relief as the macbook measurements had changed and I was hoping to avoid having to design tightly around the apple at the center again.

The way light reacts to the engraved areas makes it difficult to photograph.
The way light reacts to the engraved areas makes it difficult to photograph.

The actual process of engraving the aluminum surface is interesting because it doesn’t matter how much power I fire at it (up to my maximum forty watts), it will only lightly mark the surface. Running a finger along the surface after the engraving is done and you can hardly feel the lines. Even more interesting is how light reacts: the engraved portions of the surface will either appear darker or lighter than the untouched surface  depending on the angle of the light source you’re near.

The engraving is so light that you can barely feel it.
The engraving is so light that you can barely feel it.

The tech engraving I’ve done so far has been raster engraving; I wonder if vector line patterns would engrave any differently. Conveniently, another local friend—Mark—has dropped off several left-over pieces of various Apple products for me to test engrave, so I have some more experimenting to do!

38: Earbud Card

The bamboo was finely sanded and oiled, and feels great in hand.
The bamboo was finely sanded and oiled, and feels great in hand.

Several weeks ago, Jennifer and I were on a vacation. We hopped on an Amtrak train and traveled, slowly, from Aurora to Seattle. Since we were going the long way—via Denver and Sacramento, and later St. Paul—we both made sure to carry along a pair of headphones for those moments when we just couldn’t stand to hear each other anymore. (I’m just kidding, Jen, I love you!)

We've all dealt with at least one of these.
We’ve all dealt with at least one of these.

The thing is, no matter when or where I pulled out my earbuds, this is what they looked like. Especially on a pair of headphones that is coated in the kind of tacky rubber Apple uses, there’s nothing like a tiny tight ball of tangled wire to sour any planned podcast play. More than once during that trip, I told myself I’d use my laser to cut a solution to this mess. Thankfully, I didn’t have to invent the wheel.

The bamboo card sans headphones.
The bamboo card sans headphones.

Plenty of people out there have  made their own headphone wranglement devices. Quite a few of them are cut or engraved with lasers, too! Fellow makers, like Brett Beauregard, paved the way and wrote about their own experiences solving their wire tangles, and Brett was kind enough to share the vector data for his own solution: a wire wrangler that doubles as a  business card!

The front face is etched with a generic musical note clipart.
The front face is etched with a generic musical note clipart.
The back is a little messier than the front thanks to the cord being a smidge too long.
The back is a little messier than the front thanks to the cord being a smidge too long.

With very little modification and a simple musical note clipart for interest’s sake, the card shape was run through the laser and came out great. The ear buds themselves fit well in their circular spaces and the notches around the edges hold the TRS connector in place. My headphone cord was a hair longer than would fit perfectly on the card I cut, so a future card would have slightly different grooves to adjust the wrap length.

I sanded down the edges for once!
I sanded down the edges for once!

This time I spent some extra care finishing the wood. I sanded in three passes, using the finest sandpaper I have handy for the final pass, and even made sure to sand the edges of the card.  I don’t normally do this because it’s a huge pain as pieces get more complicated, but a simple rounded rectangle is no trouble and I really wanted a clean look all the way around. Some of the internal edges were too narrow to reach with my sanding block, so they were just cleaned up so they wouldn’t leave marks on the wire.

I couldn't sand it all away, though.
I couldn’t sand it all away, though.

Some natural oil finished the job, giving the piece a much healthier look, and that’s that! I’m certainly thrilled not to have to deal with that tiny wadded up ball of angst anymore!