Tag Archives: engraved

09: Etched Yoga Blocks at Aurora Yoga Center

The etched pieces look fantastic in the pile!
The etched pieces look fantastic in the pile!

It’s almost been a full year since I first walked into the Aurora Yoga Center and took my first yoga class with Jeff Manning.  And, as a laser cutter, a year since I spied the lovely handmade wooden yoga blocks in the studio and thought “I could etch those!”  Fast forward to 2014; a new year for new ventures.  I was thinking about projects for 52 Lasers, and Jeff and Lisa (his wife and owner of Nido Art Studio) were launching their own blog and an on-line shop for their popular Yoga Bones t-shirts.  Perfect time for a collaboration – and I finally got to etch those blocks!

Blocks in action!  Looking nice and balanced.
Blocks in action! Looking nice and balanced.

Yoga blocks, along with other types of props, are important in the practice of Iyengar Yoga (which has heavily influenced Jeff’s teaching style).  The Iyengar method emphasizes detail, precision and alignment in the poses which can be difficult for beginners.  The props help by minimizing strain and, more than once, have kept me balanced enough to not topple over.  They are a yoga necessity for me!

Thanks to the T-shirts, the Yoga Bones designs were already in a file format we could use on the laser cutter (win!).  Working with the Warrior II pose and the Yoga Bones Logo, we deeply etched the wooden blocks.  They were a nice soft wood, pine I think, and the the laser took to them beautifully.  The deep etch created a nice burn.  If more color was needed, the lines could easily be finished with rub ‘n’ buff, or some other sort of color fill.

Close up of the etch
Close up of the etch – The top “Yoga Bones” was more lightly etched, and didn’t have the same effect.
Close up of the dither effect
Close up of the dither effect – click to see it better.

One of the passes was accidentally cut with CMYK values instead of RGB, which created an interesting dithering effect.  The rule of thumb is that CMYK refers to inks and is best for printed materials, and RGB is based on light and best for screen and web.  CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and K is a black (which actually stands for “Key.”)  Black can be made from mixing C, M and Y, but it’s cheaper to just use a black ink.  But 100% K, or black, does not produce a true, saturated black, and, because it only uses one of the 4 channels of color, the laser interprets it as a half tone.  If you look closely at the photo, you can see  dither marks.  RGB, or Red, Green and Blue, produces a solid black when all are set to zero – none of the channels are adding any color.  It is a solid and true black, and because all channels are set of “0”, it is easily read by the laser cutter.  (This is my interpretation of Ryan’s explanation with a little help from the web.  Clear as mud?)

Don't be like this guy - keep your arms and legs attached and go to yoga!
Don’t be like this guy – keep your arms and legs attached and go to yoga!
Blocks in Action!
Blocks in Action!  Thanks Jeff!
A comparison reverse MDF etch
A comparison reverse MDF etch
Since I had the files, I figures trying out a pair of earrings with the logo wouldn't hurt...Contact Jeff @ Yoga Bones if you are interested in a pair!
Since I had the files, I couldn’t resist making a pair of stud earrings with the logo. Contact Jeff @ Yoga Bones if you are interested in a pair!

08: 3D Etching

This week I decided to give 3D etching another shot. I have just once before played around with the 3D settings available on our laser, but I haven’t really explored the process until now.

Normally, the laser interprets shades of grey by preparing a halftone map and etching that at whatever singular power I have set. With the 3D feature enabled, the firmware will adjust the power of the laser depending on the darkness of the grey: white is ignored, black is etched at your selected power. Because of this, all you really need is a depth map and you can 3D etch straight away.Just remember: white is shallow and black is deep!

ABCD 3D
The Abecediary logo with the core etched away

Back when I first tried it out, I just used some sample depth maps available in Google’s image search, but this time I created my own typography-themed art. I had to use Photoshop to create some raster effects to create the sloping edges I wanted because there isn’t an easy way to create shape-burst gradients in Illustrator, but this wasn’t a problem because, while the laser won’t cut anything that isn’t proper vector data, it’ll etch even raster graphics with impunity.

ABCD Layout
The blurry edges are where the 3D happens.

I often use the simple Abecediary logo as a sample design when testing new materials. Even though the white melamine-coated MDF I used wasn’t a new material to me, I felt it appropriate, so I created a black version with a white inner glow. The thin red line is the vector cut that created the final shape of the letters after I hollowed out the core. Because I etched five passes at a fairly strong power, the finished piece had too steep a slope; you can hardly see that it was a slope and not just a really deep etch, but it’s there! I swear!

Etaoin in MDF
The whole piece; the depth is hard to capture without appropriate lighting.
Etaoin in MDF
The slight lip on the edge was made by skipping a few lighter levels of grey.

The second piece, ETAOIN SHRDLU, was based on a fun part of newspaper lore and set in Colonna. It was etched opposite the ABCD: the letters were left untouched while the outer space was etched away. I chose a thicker gradient stroke so that the slope would be gentler. I also only etched the bitmap four times. The contrast between the white letters and the resulting grain of the MDF’s innards is profound. It almost looks like the letters are sitting in a bed of sand that has settled over years.

Etaoin in Black
The black acrylic Shrdlu is a little hard to read without the right light reflected!

The final piece was cut from quarter-inch black acrylic. For fun, I created an offset path so that the letters would be cut out more tightly than the MDF version’s square border. Even with six passes at full power (and half-speed) the etch didn’t quite reach half-way through the material.  The result is a little hard to read (maybe I should have used a capped material!) but certainly looks neat.

Etaoin in MDF
The slight lip on the edge was made by skipping a few lighter levels of grey.

The amount of passes necessary to create a good 3D look takes a lot of time, but there’s a whole lot more that can be done than just beveling the edges of pretty type faces. I’ll definitely be playing more with the 3D mode as we go on.

Etaoin in MDF
The sand blows away, revealing pure white type!