As part of a custom order of Ingress badges, I recently had a chance to revisit kiss cutting. I’d played with the process a few times before but not on 52lasers projects.
Kiss Cutting is one of the most popular methods for creating pressure-sensitive labels. During the kiss-cutting process, the perimeter of each label is cut by a sharp metal die or laser beam…but the cut does not penetrate the label’s backing material (liner). – Formax Printing
In this run, the client and I opted to use thin self-adhesive acrylic stickers to allow for adjustable agent levels, saving on badge reprints when agent levels change. Each badge was to receive its own accompanying sticker sheet with options for sixteen levels. Because it’d be just plain silly to have that many separate stickers to keep track of, using a kiss cut to carve stickers out on a rectangular sheet made a lot of sense.
With our 40w laser, I cut the sheets out of the LaserLights material at full power and 80% speed. The octagonal stickers themselves were kiss-cut at 35% power at full speed. It took a little nudging of the numbers to end up at that point; earlier kiss cutting attempts weren’t cutting all the way through the adhesive transfer paper but they were still scoring it enough to make removing stickers tricky.
While the stickers turned out great and will perform their function admirably, the aesthetic clash between silver foil/black stickers on fluorescent transparent green acrylic is stronger than we’d like, so future runs are likely to utilize a different adjustable level solution.
Recently, a potential client handed me a nice thick piece of finished hardwood and asked me to see how it looked when laser engraved. The goal is to create a higher quality look than the simple ink stamp he had used for these barrel-shaped plaques previously.
I prepared some engraving tests on the back surface with several power and speed settings to determine how much power the wood needed to get past the stain. As it turned out, no matter how much power I pushed at it, the deep stained grain made the logo and company name illegible. It was a perfect opportunity to try out some color fill paint that Jennifer and I have had for a short while but hadn’t used yet.
I previously used some acrylic paint to fill in an engraved picture frame, but the way the acrylic paint attached itself to the transfer tape made pulling the tape away into a meticulous, time consuming affair. We even needed to touch some areas up after removing the tape because the paint had come with it! Thankfully, this new color fill paint was made specifically to work in tandem with laser engraving. While it’s primarily made to be used to fill engravings on acrylic, my material was a grainy wood. Because I wanted to avoid paint sticking inside that grain, I put down transfer tape before engraving.
I ran two tests, one for a “titanium white” color fill and one with standard black. While the white was immediately and clearly visible, that also meant that some tiny bits of paint that got into the grain underneath the transfer tape were also very noticeable. I could probably prevent that by putting down a clear coat first, but I’d have to make sure to get a clear fill material that wouldn’t adhere to the transfer tape like the acrylic paint used on the aforementioned frame.
The black test is a little harder to read on the already dark wood, but any leaks into the grain were also undetectable and the black filled engraving more closely matched the client’s previous ink stamp design.
The lacing card activity idea has been in my back pocket since probably the start of the blog, thanks to Rebecca at Hugs Are Fun, who is totally a pro at the whole mom thing. She knew that lacing cards were a great toddler activity that can keep little hands busy. And busy is what I needed last weekend, when I was road tripping with a toddler (and her parents, thank goodness!)
I was not her only source of entertainment, but little Z is a busy 2 year old girl that would be trapped in her car seat for 3 + hours as we drove to pick blueberries in Michigan. The lacing cards were easy to whip up with some of my preexisting designs. Most commercially available ones seemed to trace around a known shape, so I chose to make a cloud outline and a square with her initial on it. Around the edge are 1/4 circular holes, the same size as a standard paper punch.
To shake things up, I also scaled up the rectangle cross stitch pendant, and made the holes big enough to accommodate a shoe lace. This way Z could stitch designs if desired, rather than just tracing.
I will admit, I may have played with them more than Z did, but they were a hit. Apparently lacing cards are a thing every toddler knows these days, so no instructions were needed. And Z’s mom really liked the multi-holed option, for even more creative play.
This week we decided to tackle a nagging question: what is the best way to hang laser cut signs? If you come to my house, you’ll see a lot of most blank walls – hanging things is not my specialty. Hanging laser cut pieces adds another layer of difficulty – they are generally 1/4 inch thick or less. Hardware all seems to require screws, and there aren’t very many screws or nails smaller than 1/4″. If you did find them, are they secure enough? I just wasn’t confident in that.
We decided to consult with a professional this week, Tim Frederick of If These Walls Could Talk. We’ve worked with Tim on several occasions, and they do great work! And he totally let us come in and pick his brain for a couple of hours, so that’s always high marks.
D-Ring Hangers or Strap Hangers
These little guys are the first thing that Tim popped out of his hardware bins. Generally, D rings are used on framed pieces to hold wire strung between, but in the case of the Abecediary we brought with, a wire would have interrupted the design. In cases like that, you hand the D rings straight on 2 screws on the wall.
To attach D Ring hangers, you really can’t use the screws provided – they are too thick for the wood. As I mentioned before, our laser can only cut 1/4″ deep. Luckily the signs are relatively lightweight, so simply adhering the two parts together with adhesive will work! Tim suggested two part epoxy, the kind that you mix before using (you can see examples by Loctite here). Wood can expand and contract, depending on the atmosphere around it. Epoxy will hold strong, yet still be flexible enough to allow the wood to do its thing. Super glues, while strong, are not flexible. I can attest to this fact; every time I glued on hardware with superglue, it popped off eventually.
Tim also mentioned that there are smaller D ring hangers than pictured here – they just don’t stock them at If These Walls Can Talk. Smaller ones would be good for the “K” area of more intricate pieces – the strap is a little long on the ones they had in shop. A work around would be to put the second D ring in a bit on a larger section, but still level wit the first one. This works because it’s hanging on two nails; it doesn’t need to balance on one.
Ledges or Plugs
I’m not sure if this hanging technique has a name, but the idea is that you add a plug of wood on the back that has a small cut-away to catch the head of the nail in the wall. It’ s like a little ledge to hang from. The extra thickness gives a big advantage: you can use a longer screw. The ledge effectively doubled the thickness of the piece. Of course, glue would still work too. Both would make it twice as secure!
If you do use the ledge method, you should counteract the thickness at the bottom with rubber bumpers, which you can get at any hardware store.
So, hopefully this is helpful to other laser cutters out there! These methods are classy alternatives to simply hanging it on a bare nail. Maybe this will convince me to get a few more things up on the wall!