It’s the big 2-0! Jennifer worked on some leather a while back, but when our dear friend Brenn needed an elegant way to attach one of his new key fob to some spare keys, I volunteered to try my own hand at some fairly riveting work.
It didn’t take long to determine the leather to use based on the size of the opening available. I didn’t spend much time doing preliminary measurements, so you can see from the iterations that both length and rivet hole placement changed often. While I wasn’t ready to rivet with the first three pieces, I had better luck with hole placement on the fourth. Unfortunately, I discovered that you can hammer a rivet too hard and it got crushed at an unpleasant angle. Thankfully, the final strap had better luck with the hammer..
I was determined to etch “Brenn’s Spare” on the leather, but the etched surface was hard to see. Thankfully, when I cleaned and conditioned the leather (mostly to get rid of smelly laser scorched edges) some of the rub brightened up the letters significantly. I hope they retain some of that brightness over time.
The trickiest part of this project was entirely due to my disinterest in doing some measurements beforehand. I just grabbed a piece of leather, decided on four inches to start, and went nuts. I was thrilled to discover that I had enough space to fit some nicely laid text on instead of trying to squeeze it in. I was also lucky that it only took five tiny bits of leather to get it right. Now finished, I’m left wondering if Brenn’s main set of keys can feel envy. Perhaps they should be given the custom treatment, too!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
It’s probably a little strange to save this for the second week, but things just worked out that way!
At some point during the technical setup for 52 Lasers, I decided that I’d have to put together a logo of some kind; leaving the site’s name as a tiny text field just wasn’t going to fly. I settled on a condensed House Gothic fairly early on for its simple, tall letters. In tried-and-true quick logo fashion, I knocked out the second word and called it a day.
Once I realized that I wanted to cut a physical version of the logo for photography, I made some alterations to the letter forms to keep the R and A counters from being troublesome, and cut the whole thing out of 1/4″ thick transparent acrylic. As an added measure, I cut an additional rectangle around the outside of the piece, knocking out the knock out and making a nice template for aligning the loose acrylic pieces.
In addition to the photography accompanying this post, I shot several new photos to use as headers. All of the headers are brand new, and I wholly expect to make several more as time goes on. With the template made, I can introduce the logo to strange new worlds and snap some shots while I’m at it!
I think the best thing about this acrylic is how higher PPI settings will melt the edge as the laser passes, creating the mostly smooth (and entirely unburnt) sides of each character. PPI, or Pulses Per Inch, tell the laser how many times it should fire for each lateral inch it travels. Low settings like 150 can result in a perforated look—this can be used to functionally perforate thinner materials. Higher settings, like the maximum of 1,000 used in this project, overlap a lot of the heat. You can see this effect in most of the included photography and even some of the new headers.
I cut my laser teeth on baby names. For my great nephew Anthony, the word TOOTIE was carved out of some oak ply. A large stroke of unetched material held the letters together, and the resulting block of text is sturdy enough to stand on its own.
The second nameplate was for Ella Lyn Baldwin, a great niece. Her entire name was to be used, so I chose some lean type. The etch was reversed, leaving the long letters standing atop their shadowy stroke. Some feet were added so that the piece could stand on its own despite the middle name descender. The result reminds me of a locomotive. Ella Lyn’s nameplate was mounted on the wall above her door, but her new brother Christian’s door was sadly unadorned. So for the first week of 2014, I set out to fix that.
His name, set in Buckingham, was wrapped in some sourced Celtic knot corners and carved into a narrow plank of salvaged wood. The wood is unique in its batch because it’s already been finished, and a light cleaning with a multi-surface cleaner brought an amazing shine to the letters, especially compared to the etched surface.
The prototype stopped there, but I wanted to experiment with some wax metallic finishing paste that we’ve had lying around for a while. I coated the unetched surface in black marker first, and then wore that away slightly with some isopropyl to leave a faint purple hue. It’s very difficult to see in the pictures.
Apply sparingly with finger or soft cloth.
Naturally, this particular instruction on the paste tube wasn’t followed. Despite my best intentions, a great many gobs were left on my cloth and I still haven’t been able to get all of the grey off of my fingers. The result looks great, though!
I really enjoyed how the marker only partially wore away with isopropyl; it’s hard to see in the images, but the letter surface has a cloudy texture to its sheen. I’ll certainly be playing with this material and the Rub ‘n Buff a bit more.