Tag Archives: Earthbound

89: More Laserable Magnet

I’ve talked about this particular kind of laserable magnet before, but for this week’s project, I took the same magnet material and determined whether I could use it as a replacement for the strip of magnet material I normally use for my set of dialog boxes.

The current strip solution (top) and the proposed replacement.
The current strip solution (top) and the proposed replacement.

I currently use a 1/2″ strip magnet stored in rolls for this type of product, and while it does the job well, I appreciated the reduced overall thickness and cleaner lines I discovered during the shaped magnets project.  But there were three other things to consider before I could revamp the Earthbound and Final Fantasy dialog boxes with the new magnet type: efficacy, material cost, and processing time.

The reduced thickness of the new magnet material (bottom) looked great.
The reduced thickness of the new magnet material (bottom) looked great.

Since we’re talking about magnets, it’s important to make sure they can hold themselves (and hopefully several other things) securely against the surface you’ve stuck them to. One example of a magnet that doesn’t hold up is the inkjet magnet material I used for some full color Megaman Robot Master icons I made a while back. While they looked great, just one of those magnets couldn’t hold a single thing beyond itself—the magnet simply wasn’t powerful enough. (Thankfully, those magnets were at least strong enough to hold themselves up.) In this case, the laser cut magnet material, when cut to the full size of the Earthbound dialog box, was able to match the two inches of strip magnet I use in holding power, so I was glad not to have to worry about that.

While the laserable magnet ended up costing more per magnet than the strip magnets I use, I wasn’t interested in adjusting prices to accommodate this change. Because of this, the convenience of laser cutting perfectly shaped magnets would have to outweigh that additional cost.

Unfortunately, while it was certainly more convenient to tell the laser to cut hundreds of magnets rather than doing it by hand with a precision blade, the introduced clean-up step was so time consuming and unpleasant that there was no way this was going to be a viable upgrade without significantly increasing the price of the product, which wasn’t on the table.

This magnet soot, appropriately, stuck to everything.
This magnet soot, appropriately, stuck to everything.

The problem lies in the way this magnet material dissolves when cut away with the laser. It leaves a fine gritty dust of magnet material that was easy enough to clean off of the black acrylic used in the aforementioned shaped magnet project. With the white base acrylic used in both the Earthbound and Final Fantasy dialog boxes, though, this grainy magnet soot was almost impossible to clean away without damaging the surface of the dialog box. Even with isopropyl (and perhaps in part because of isopropyl) I was unable to clean the finished pieces without either staining the white exposed acrylic or seriously scuffing the black cap layer.

My first cut tests were done with the magnet already affixed to the acrylic, but I even considered cutting the magnets separately and then affixing them to the acrylic pieces after both were clean. This added yet another step to the process and, sadly, didn’t mitigate the unreal amount of time spent trying to wash away all of the grime produced when processing the material.

This laserable adhesive magnet sheet really neat product, and it allows me to create some really neat special magnetic pieces, but the time and care that goes into making sure the clean-up process doesn’t damage the final piece means that I just can’t consider them for the standard line of dialog box magnets at Pixelaser. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more laserable magnet options in the future (and if you know of any, please do share!) but for now, our stalwart magnet strips will continue to do the heavy lifting. Sweet fresh feel!

 

67: Rubber Stamps

Sample stamps Jen lent me to compare to the laser-made versions.
Sample stamps Jen lent me to compare to the laser-made versions.

When we first purchased our laser, I poured over the instruction manual, reading every page regardless of how little of it I understood at the time. One of the many modes and features I read about but didn’t really grasp was Rubber Stamp Mode. The name was clear enough, but the description of the mode confirmed that I could process certain kinds of rubber with the laser to create rubber stamps. Years have passed since then, but this week, I finally picked up some appropriate rubber to give my own stamp making a shot!

Early prototypes were 1" tall, far larger than necessary.
Early prototypes were 1″ tall, far larger than necessary.

I decided on two designs, the logo for Pixelaser and the SMAAAASH!! icon from Earthbound. I prepared both in Illustrator and mirrored and inverted the designs so that the stamps would work as expected.  There’s actually a feature in Rubber Stamp Mode that will do this automatically, but it ridiculously considered the entire engraving table’s surface as an area to invert, and it was prepared to spend literally seven hours uselessly firing at it.  Maybe it’s a bug? In any case, doing those steps manually was brief. The laser software handled the rest, intelligently creating a beveled surface around the letters to prevent them from shifting when the rubber meets the paper. The end result reminds me a lot of the 3D mode I explored last year.

The stamps desperately needed to be cleaned after processing.
The stamps desperately needed to be cleaned after processing.

When I ordered the “low-odor rubber,” I also picked up two traditional stamp handles with space for 2″ by 1″ stamp rubbers. Because of this, when I first set out to design my stamps, I created them in the same aspect ratio. This was despite that both designs I wanted to use were less than a half inch tall when two inches wide. This caused issues where the blank area of the stamp would take on ink and then transfer it to the paper—you can see it in the examples below as a black frame around the stamped word. I solved this issue first by significantly lowering the speed of engraving (from 30% speed to 10% speed) and then by reducing the vertical size of the stamp.  It didn’t occur to me until then that I didn’t actually have to cover the entire surface that the stamp handle afforded me.

Final stamp designs before being applied to the handles.
Final stamp designs before being applied to the handles.

Despite some ink coverage issues partially owed to using an ink pad from some untold years ago, I’m thrilled with the result.  I hope Jennifer won’t mind me SMAAAASH!!ing things around the house now.

Plenty of stamp tests. The frames on some of the words are due to shallow engraving and too much white space.
Plenty of stamp tests. The frames on some of the words are due to shallow engraving and too much white space.

16: Etched Storage Boxes

These small plastic dialog boxes—featuring quotes from classic games like Final Fantasy VI and Earthbound—are some of the products I sell on Etsy, available as magnets or pins. They’re tiny, and while they stack nicely it gets a little unruly when I have stacks of dialog boxes just sitting around my workbench. So, this week, I decided to solve the issue by laser-cutting a small plastic footer to fit inside some of Jennifer’s jewelry gift boxes. She donated one of her boxes a while back just to keep the dialog boxes from being stored out in the open, but it was still difficult to find out whether I had the right dialog box handy when necessary.

The Earthbound dialog box storage has two columns, handy for dividing standard texts from Mr. Saturn texts.
The Earthbound dialog box storage has two columns, handy for dividing standard texts from Mr. Saturn texts.

I designed the footers so that they would fit snugly in the bottom of the jewelry box (which has had its fuzzy cotton interior removed). Measuring the slat dimensions was as easy as measuring the existing dialog boxes and providing a little extra space so that they wouldn’t fit too tightly or be scratched by the new plastic. An early 1/16″ thick prototype didn’t hold the dialog box blanks as firmly as I’d like, but I really did want some give so I could easily flick through the product. Once I settled on a better material—1/8″ black acrylic with no cap—I cut one footer out with two columns for Earthbound dialog boxes and one single-column piece for the longer Final Fantasy VI dialog boxes. The results fit very nicely in the repurposed jewelry boxes.

The Final Fantasy VI dialog boxes fit lengthwise, with room for only one column.
The Final Fantasy VI dialog boxes fit lengthwise, with room for only one column.
The lids have been etched with an example of the contents within.
The lids have been etched with an example of the contents within.

For a bit of extra fun, I laser-etched the box lids with one of the main dialog boxes from each series. I was hoping that the lid material would etch away to the white underneath, but the brown cardboard color has a homemade appeal to it.

Eventually, I’ll be stealing more of Jennifer’s dialog boxes so I can separate out the Earthbound dialog boxes from their Mr. Saturn counterparts. Hopefully she won’t miss them! In the meantime, I’m just going to keep shaking the Earthbound box back and forth, because the shuffle sounds great!

If you’re interested in the dialog boxes, check out their section on my Abecediary store on Etsy! They’re available as magnets or pins, and I’ll even put whatever quote you’d like on them, so long as it fits!