Tag Archives: black acrylic

97: Utilitarian Fridge Shelf

The empty fridge, absent a long lost shelf.
The empty fridge, absent a long lost shelf.

As I’ve written about before, even when there’s not much creativity involved, the laser platform allows for all sorts of functional usefulness. In this case, local friend Brenn once again provides a fun project: replacing a lost wire shelf in his mini fridge.

We measured the space and cut a prototype out of cardboard. It’s a good thing we did; we overlooked a small gap of extra space on the left side where a key on the shelf would slot in, so the second cardboard prototype (pictured) had the key built into the side.

The second cardboard prototype added a small key on the end to fit the space better.
The second cardboard prototype added a small key on the end to fit the space better.

The cardboard also helped Brenn and I realize that the initial material we’d chosen wouldn’t be thick enough for the space. Thankfully, I do keep some 1/4″ thick acrylic around, but unfortunately the only color I had on hand was black.

A snug fit, allowing Brenn to better utilize what little space is inside.
A snug fit, allowing Brenn to better utilize what little space is inside.

Still, with the shape measured twice and cut thrice, the final black shelf fit in just fine! We discussed cutting out a “grill” of holes in the center of the acrylic to make it look a little more at home, but the extra time spent cutting that entirely decorative element would have increased the price too much for such a simple project.

Brenn hasn’t had the fridge set back up long enough for us to know whether the frigid temperature is going to be an issue with the acrylic, but I don’t foresee any issues!

A close up of the keyed shelf edge.
A close up of the keyed shelf edge.

78: X-COM Shield

Owing partial thanks to the awesomeness of fluorescent green material, I put together a custom piece for a client this week that blended appreciation for two things: the X-COM series of science fiction video games and the real world United States Army Special Forces. We decided on a parody of the X-COM shield design, cast in green in reference to the green berets, and featuring a popular Special Forces motto in place of the shield’s original vigilo confido.

The first prototype made it clear that glue on the front acrylic was unacceptable.
The first prototype made it clear that glue on the front acrylic was unacceptable.

Because the design was made with two pieces of acrylic in mind, I had to determine the best way to attach the pieces.  On my first small prototype, I tried simply putting a few dabs of super glue in the corners of the piece, hoping that it would dry clear. Unfortunately, the uneven splotches of glue were readily visible from most angles and killed the fluorescent green effect in many cases.  It wasn’t going to work out.

The "pokes" are most visible in this prototype.
The “pokes” are most visible in this prototype.

I made a second prototype, again only a couple of inches tall, to test out a post solution. I would cut small holes into the layers, and then cut matching posts out of 1/4″ black acrylic. The uneven laser width when cutting thicker materials meant that the posts acted kind of like nails, with a slightly larger diameter on one side. I also played around with using single-point laser bursts—I called them pokes—to create a neat depth effect on the spherical grid design. Because imperfections of any kind glow in the fluorescent material, these “pokes” became connecting posts that met with the grid and traveled through the thickness of the material. It produced a pretty cool, albeit slightly messy result on the prototype.

You can barely make out the top of each poke, but the lines beneath are invisible.
You can barely make out the top of each poke, but the lines beneath are invisible.

Once I had the post thickness figured out, I laid out the final 9″ by 12″ piece. I included the poke technique, which didn’t turn out very visible due to how large the surface engraving was in comparison to the tiny lines the pokes produced. I also used repeated inset paths to create a depth effect on the typography and the three stars featured in the design. While the posts fit snugly in to the front surface, they were too small for the black acrylic in the back. A little glue there, where it wouldn’t be visible through green acrylic in the front, was just fine.

The engraved portions cast a shadow on the back layer.
The engraved portions cast a shadow on the back layer.

While the poke technique didn’t really come into its own with the finished, piece, it’s something I will be experimenting with more in the future. Every other facet, especially the awesome shadow the engraving casts on the back acrylic, turned out great!

The full piece, cut from two layers of acrylic.
The full piece, cut from two layers of acrylic.
The bottom post, one of five that hold the acrylic layers together.
The bottom post, one of five that hold the acrylic layers together.
The stars were engraved via repeated inset paths, creating an illusion of depth.
The stars were engraved via repeated inset paths, creating an illusion of depth.
A close-up shows the "rotary-style" engraving process used on the text.
A close-up shows the “rotary-style” engraving process used on the text.

76: Membership Cards

The membership card fits nicely with other ID and credit cards.
The membership card fits nicely with other ID and credit cards.

Not too long ago, I discovered that an order of acrylic stock from a few months ago included some incorrect materials. I mistakenly ordered some 1/32″ thick acrylic without adhesive, when the order was for stock to make self-adhesive frame labels.

While I was wondering whether to go to the trouble of seeking a correction on a months-old order, Jennifer suggested that the material may be useful for another project she had in mind: membership cards for Aurora Historical Society lifetime members. The material I’d accidentally ordered without adhesive was the perfect thickness for the project, so I researched the proper size for a membership card (It’s 3 3/8″ by 2 1/8″) and got designing.

Jennifer wanted to feature some Aurora history in the design of the card, and asked me to consider Thomas Edie Hill’s amazing hand-drawn scroll work as seen in his Manual of Social and Business Forms. Here’s what Jennifer had to say:

Professor Thomas E. Hill was a teacher, a newspaper publisher and two term mayor of Aurora, IL. He also was the author of Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms, regarded by many as the preeminent etiquette book of the age. The many editions of the book are quite amazing, from describing the perfect way to act in a nuanced Victorian culture, to the amazing illustrations. I really can’t say it better than this glowing recommendation from the Aurora Blade Newspaper:
“Every page of Hill’s Album is a model of typography and originality, each differing from the other in mechanical construction and each succeeding leaf a surprise from an artistic standpoint. The question one asks instinctively is how can a man conceive so many elegant designs? The contents of the book, however, are what prove its most forcible recommendation. The name of the author of this valuable work, Hon. Thomas E. Hill, is in itself enough to recommend it to all. Our readers are advised to examine the book carefully when they have the opportunity.”

One example of Hill's typography and illustration skills.
One example of Hill’s typography and illustration skills.

I laid out the information necessary for the card, including signatures for the President and Executive Director of the society. I then chose one of Thomas Hill’s headers to trace in Illustrator and transplanted one of his signatures from another piece to properly give credit on the card design. Once finished, I started engraving on one of the color combinations we had available in the 1/32″ material.

Inverting this kind of illustration didn't work so well.
Inverting this kind of illustration didn’t work so well.

Black over silver turned out terribly, mostly thanks to how badly the design disagreed with being inverted. Furthermore, the smooth, glossy surface was a fingerprint magnet. The design turned out much better on the second material, brushed silver over black.

The 1/32" acrylic was the best thickness for the job.
The 1/32″ acrylic was the best thickness for the job.

While I didn’t engrave any more tests for this entry, I expect I’ll try a few more color combinations; the brushed silver is a nice look, but the fine engraving can be hard to read at certain angles. Naturally, the final material choice will be up to the client!

48: Simple Wallet

This wallet is comprised of two pieces of acrylic and a thick rubber band.
This wallet is comprised of two pieces of acrylic and a thick rubber band.

Recently, an old friend got in touch and said he wanted to get a new wallet.  Brenn wasn’t interested in the same flap of leather or cloth that we’ve all been using for a few decades. Instead, he was interested in a simple flat wallet similar to something seen online. Simple and flat are things I regularly enjoy making with the laser, so we took his existing design ideas and iterated quite a few times to determine how best to make a wallet out of two pieces of material and a rubber band nicked from Etsy credit card reader promotional material.

We went through several prototypes.
We went through several prototypes.

We started with 1/8″ thick bamboo and later 1/16″ bamboo. The thicker bamboo was just a little too much overall thickness for the style Brenn was looking for.  We adjusted the upper “manila folder tab” several times to make it easier for fingers to reach the credit cards nested inside.  We knew there would be a rubber band holding the two sides together, so we added some engraved text that would go underneath the rubber band with extra details about the owner in case the wallet got lost and his ID wasn’t present.

Small circuitry design by request: Brenn loves his PCB!
Small circuitry design by request: Brenn loves his PCB!

The biggest change while iterating happened when he on a whim asked if the design would change much if made from acrylic rather than bamboo.  We immediately recognized the functional value of the change: his credit cards had much less friction against their container and were easier to remove from the acrylic version.  While it didn’t have the same renewable appeal that bamboo brings, the easier use sealed the deal.

The wallet isn't very thick, at least relative to the leather block I'm hauling!
The wallet isn’t very thick, at least relative to the leather block I’m hauling!

I’m giving him a few weeks to play with his new wallet.  If things work out for him, I could see myself ditching the giant leather wallet that has been denting my right cheek for years.  Sorry for making you a guinea pig, Brenn!

Four cards fit nicely, but a fifth would add some appreciated snugness.
Four cards fit nicely, but a fifth would add some appreciated snugness.