Tag Archives: Nintendo

19: Fire Flower Vase

My first attempt at etching glass was a hint of things to come.
My first attempt at etching glass was a hint of things to come.

“Well, that didn’t work,” ended my first foray into laser etching glass. I tried to create a design similar to the mesmerizing microscopic pattern found on the back of the Nexus 4 smartphone, this time on the glass back of a spare iPhone 4 that my nephew graciously donated for the cause. The resulting pattern was too big and the laser settings weren’t appropriate, making each vector line look more like a coincidentally straight shatter line rather than the light-reflecting divot I’d intended. I’ve shied away from etching glass since, and after this week’s project, I’ve realized I’ve still got a lot to learn!

Make sure to level the surface you want to etch!
Make sure to level the surface you want to etch!

While I’m doing general graphic design at Eagle Engraving in St. Charles, IL, my coworker and fellow laser ninja Monica is often etching all sorts of designs into glass. I’ve been envious lately of her knack for making designs spring forth from glass, and while I don’t yet have the rotary attachment necessary to etch round objects—like pilsner glasses—I did have a square vase conveniently made of mostly flat glass. Because the sides of the vase were tapered, I had to prop up the bottom side so that the surface was parallel to the laser plane. I ended up using a box of dialog boxes and a handy level to double-check my work.

The two designs chosen for etching were, perhaps, too many shades of gray.
The two designs chosen for etching are another sign of my Nintendo upbringing.
The lightest halftone didn't etch consistently. It almost looks like frost.
The lightest halftone didn’t etch consistently. It almost looks like frost.

The first etch was cut with the default raster etch density (5) and the grayscaled art above. I went with full power and full speed just to see how it would turn out, and the lightest halftone didn’t play well with mostly flat glass, only mostly etching. Apart from that, this turned out to be the single best contrast out of the set of four etches I made. The second etch, at maximum density, was overkill; the raster lines were so close together that wiping down the surface flaked away a lot of the glass, as shown below.

Etch glass at too high a density and much of it will chip and flake away.
Etch glass at too high an Image Density and much of it will chip and flake away.

 

The lower image density didn't help prevent chipping. Maybe the halftone was too dark.
The lower image density didn’t help prevent chipping. Maybe the halftone was too dark.

My third fire flower was etched at a lower image density. While this prevented chipping, some tinkering with the halftone patterns resulted in even more chipping in a much more widespread way. While the contrast was improved from etch two and nearly as good as etch one, the damaged areas really stand out. Who can guess where many of these tiny glass slivers are?

I had to cut at least one Super Mario World flower.  I settled on the default image density again after the tweaked results were poor, and while he’s still hard to see thanks to haphazardly adjusted gray levels, you can still see how much more personality he has. That just won’t do—he’ll only last another game or two, anyway.

Look at that smug bastard.
Look at that smug bastard.

I might have to table glass etching again for a while; I was unable to achieve satisfactory results on this particular piece. Still, I’ve since had a chat with laser ninja Monica, about her own tricks for getting better results on glass, so you can be sure you’ll be reading more about it here in the future!

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!

10: Tiny Things

A few weeks ago, I was planning to visit an artist friend of mine and wanted to bring something laser-made to show off. I settled on some very small, very fine etched-wood versions of some of his recent grayscale artings. Making the art look good on the surface was tricky, and while I had a feeling this would lead into a 52lasers project, I didn’t get pictures before I left.

Tiny wooden Bookman and Gotham vie for attention!
Tiny wooden Bookman and Gotham vie for attention!
I used this amazing loupe (thank you, Mom!) to inspect the finished pieces.
I used this amazing loupe (thank you, Mom!) to inspect the finished pieces.

Oh well! This week, I decided to give micro engraving another try! As part of Abecediary (game and typography stuff!) I have several square alphabet designs made; they are highly detailed shapes that proved to be great initial tests. The feature I really wanted to test with this project was the highest available Image Density as described in the Laser Interface+ software. While I usually etch things at an entirely respectable setting of 5, cranking it up to 7 offers a much higher amount of lines per inch. It takes much more time and is often overkill unless you’re etching incredibly fine detail into small things. Funny, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do!

Nice view! You can see how the etch ran counter to the woodgrain.
Nice view! You can see how the etch ran counter to the woodgrain.

While it’s hard to see in the wooden pieces (cut from the same lightly finished wood I cut the Triforce lapel pins from), the few abecediaries that were cut out of acrylic gave away an issue that I didn’t even realize until I took some nearly-macro photographs. If you don’t have an appropriate Universal Tuning setting, your etched lines will look interlaced. This happens because every line etched leftward is slightly off from every line etched rightward. This issue manifests as slightly zigzaggy vertical lines in designs, and when the setting is really off, you can end up with design elements that look like they’ve been duplicated side-to-side, almost certainly ruining the designer’s original intent.

The four miniature abecediaries all stacked up nice.
The four miniature abecediaries all stacked up nice.
You can see how the laser cut outline dug into the C a little bit.
You can see how the laser cut outline dug into the C a little bit.

Another mishap eagle eyes will spot is the incorrect kerf adjustment. I regularly create an offset path of about .05″ in order to account for the laser’s width. For these positively tiny applications the laser’s width is relatively much more significant, and I can see now that there should have been more space offset so that the outline cut didn’t dig into the letters as much, especially compared to the tighter inside etching.

This Mario is tiny! He's only about 4mm across.
This Mario is tiny! He’s only about 4mm across.

I’m a Nintendo kid at heart, and while the SNES still holds the top spot in “greatest video game consoles ever” for me, the NES is where I spent my single-digits, and it’s easily my nostalgia weak point. I’ve got quite a few NES-related things planned out for future projects, but for this micro-engraving job, I took a few cartridge scans—only edited to black and white and contrast adjustments—and shrank them down to under an inch wide.  One trace-job later for the outer cut and I had my very own tiny little Game Paks.

A row of SMB3 copies. I feel like I'm in a rental store again.
A row of SMB3 copies. I feel like I’m in a rental store again.

These were difficult. The halftone feature of my laser hardware got sloppy when I maxed out the density and used a grayscale photograph to etch from. In the first attempt, not photographed, the rubbing alcohol I use to clean lasered materials ate away what was left of the black cap immediately, leaving me with a tiny little pure-white copy of Super Mario Bros. 3. Several additional cuts at various universal tuning settings gave me many copies of that game, but there was another material that Jennifer really wanted me to use for a tiny NES cart.

Three different Legends of Zelda.
Three different Legends of Zelda.

Thus, micro Zelda was born! The messiness of the etching is unfortunate, and I had to adjust the relative brightness of certain elements quite a few times to get results that vaguely resembled the original cartridge. Still, these are so much fun to look at with a nice shiny light nearby that I feel I’m going to have to revisit the miniature Zelda cartridge after I can spend some real design time on one rather than using a Google Image-sourced cartridge scan.

My understanding of the limitations of the 2.0 laser lens suggests I could invest in a collimator and a High Power Density Focusing Optics lens to get better fine etching results. Maybe some day!

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