Tag Archives: wood

104: One Word Affirmation

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions – sometimes I can be too much of a perfectionist to have it work in my favor.  Instead, I come up with a one word affirmation for the new year ahead.

I know it sounds a little hippy dippy, but a one word affirmation is designed to be a positive statement that shapes your actions during the new year.  In December, I contemplate the year that has gone by and think about the type of year I want ahead.  I pick one, easy to remember word that will prompt me to act and have the year and experiences I want.  And because it isn’t a full statement with a measurable goal that I can either fail at or finish (ie I want to visit Mercury or I want to become a breatharian)  I can use the affirmation to take advantage of opportunities throughout the year that I might not even dream of in December.  (Please let it be noted I’m not going to attempt either of the resolution examples above.)

This blog is about laser cutting, so how does this not-quite a New Years resolution post fit in?  I’m showing you how I created the laser cut file to put my affirmation on the wall. Disclaimer – I’m not the trained graphic designer, Ryan is.  This is my novice way, but it gets the job done!

My word for 2016 is “Go” which is a little simplistic, so I’ve picked a second word to do the process with as well – Shine.

  1. Pick your font and word!
    Pick your font and word!
    The stroke is a slightly different color here so you can see it
    The stroke is a slightly different color here so you can see it

    Type the word you want in a program that makes files readable by your laser.  I used Adobe Illustrator, version CC2015.  Choose a font – I have used Archer for “Shine” and Plantagenet Cherokee for “Go.” Check if you like the bold versions of the fonts you chose – bold gives you a little more meat to the letters to make more solid connection when smushing them together.  If bold is not enough, you can stroke the letters to add weight.

  2. I also made the "S" bigger to help balance it.
    I also made the “S” bigger to help balance it.

    Bring the letters together so they touch.  This can be done a couple different ways.  The easiest is to reduce the tracking between the letters.  Just like you can change the size of letters individually, you can also change the tracking between letters.  This worked really well with the word “Shine” because the serifs are so prominent.  For the word “Go,” I didn’t reduce tracking, but instead put the letters on different layers so I could move them more freely.  Because of the baseline isn’t obvious since g and o are so rounded, I decided to move the o down slightly to nestle it in the the valley of the g – creating visual interest and increasing stability of the final project.

  3. First Expansion
    First Expansion
    Second expansion
    Second expansion

    Expand the appearance of the type so the word is no longer type, but instead considered an object by the program.  In Illustrator, “Expand” is an option under “Object.”  Because the word is slightly stroked, I found I had to expand the appearance twice – the first time expanded the fill and the object, the second expansion gave me the option to include the stroke properly.  Once expanded, it gives you lots of different layers.

    Step 3 - Unite
    Step 4 – Unite
  4. Step 4 - Outline of the united word.
    Step 4 – Outline of the united word.

    Unite the expanded layers using the “unite” option under the pathfinder menu.  At this point you should have a unified word.  You’ll notice I don’t – there is a pesky dot to the i in “shine”.  Because it is not attached, it’s easy to just move down.  When it’s overlapped enough, unite the elements to make it one.

  5. Resize your vector to final print size.

    Step 5 - The pattern is overlaid, and because the engraving is rastered, I masked it. Saves on laser time.
    Step 6 – The pattern is overlaid, and because the engraving is rastered, I masked it. Saves on laser time.  Also, don’t judge my illustrator layout.  I’m a newbie.
  6. This step is optional, but it fun to jazz up your words – I overlaid a pattern on the word “Go”.  It’s a raster pattern and will engrave over top.  This effect is pretty on wood, and looks awesome when engraving through a painted layer, like we did in Week 56: Decorated Clothes Pins.  (If you are curious, the design is one I won from Designious – it’s part of seamless pattern pack number 23).
  7. Make sure your design is print ready by setting the colors and line widths as specified by your laser cutter.  Save in a laser friendly format such as .ai or .eps.
  8. Cut and admire your unique finished project!  And have a fantastic year!

goshine (9 of 9)

The painted wood was masked, to protect it from soot and over burn. I really liked the effect of the transfer tape, which allowed some of the color to come through. The tiny bits of tape left made a fun texture. I wouldn't suggest doing this for high use objects (the tape comes off easily), but this it just going on the wall.
The painted wood was masked, to protect it from soot and over burn. I really liked the effect of the transfer tape, which allowed some of the color to come through. The tiny bits of tape left made a fun texture. I wouldn’t suggest doing this for high use objects (the tape comes off easily), but this it just going on the wall.
Perhaps a good resolution for me would be measure twice, cut once - they I wouldn't have the word for slightly off the end of my piece of wood!
Perhaps a good resolution for me would be measure twice, cut once – then I wouldn’t have miscalculated and the word would have fit on my piece of wood!

 

103: Halftoning Wood

This week I had a challenge that I’ve been dreading for a while now: recreating a greyscale image on a wood surface. While engraving a black and white design results in impressive, high-contrast finished pieces, any images with a wide variety of values can end up looking muddy if you don’t properly determine how the laser’s halftoning process affects the greys in the image in question.

The complete memorial plaque.
The complete memorial plaque.

For this project—a memorial plaque for a family member who recently passed on—I was using a picture of a lighthouse overlooking a beach paired with one of his enduring quotes. While the text itself was easy black-on-white engraving, the photograph was a full color piece that I had to do some editing on before it could be ready for the laser.

The first engrave test on scrap material had nearly no contrast between greys.
The first engrave test on scrap material had nearly no contrast between greys.

I’ve had more luck with a smaller amount of grey shades than with a fine gradient, so I used a posterize command to reduce the shades down to three or four (including black and white). That was easy enough, but the tones had too much contrast at first, resulting in most of the greys looking all but identical to black on the wood. A few level adjustments brought most of the greys near the center of the spectrum, which proved after several more test cuts be the right level of contrast for this particular wood.

The final test engrave, smaller than the others to save space, shows a good contrast.
The final test engrave, smaller than the others to save space, shows a good contrast.
The layout shows how narrow and toward the center of the grey spectrum the photo engraving needed to be.
The layout shows how narrow and toward the center of the grey spectrum the photo engraving needed to be.

That’s one of the trickier bits, too: different woods produce different results. This wood is unfinished, and will darken to some degree no matter how much power you throw at it, but some finished woods can actually lighten in color with lower power engraves before burning into the wood with higher settings. Even another unfinished piece of wood from a different type or batch could engrave lighter or darker than the results here. You’ll want to have tight control over the source (and thus consistency) of your material, otherwise you’ll have to fuss with grey levels regularly or suffer through inconsistent engraving quality on the finished product.

A closeup to show off the halftone pattern through various shades of grey.
A closeup to show off the halftone pattern through various shades of grey.
Engrave too far into this particular wood stock and you'll reach the next ply, significantly altering the look. A neat effect if you can control it!
Engrave too far into this particular wood stock and you’ll reach the next ply, significantly lightening the surface. A neat effect, if you can control it!

98: Breaking the Interlock

One of the projects I’ve been working on this week involves some pieces of wood that are far bigger than my laser bed allows. While I’m not finished with the project yet, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the front door on my VLS 4.60 laser and a fairly simple trick to defeat their magnetic interlocks in cases where you have to engrave something too long for the laser bed.  First, here’s some quick information about the project.

Here are some screenshots of the original box.
Here are some screenshots of the original box.

Those big long wooden pieces are for a custom frame design (by If These Walls Could Talk; check ’em out!)  meant to fit a picture of the Leg Lamp from A Christmas Story. The test piece given allowed me to perform a handful of engraving tests to determine how best to replicate the fragile (it must be Italian!) label on the Leg Lamp’s box.

Several engraving tests have convinced me that I need some spray paint.
Several engraving tests have convinced me that I need some spray paint.

One immediate issue was that the surface of the wooden frame pieces was darker than the inner wood, so even engraving at a high power and low speed to char the wood resulted in text that wasn’t appreciably darker than the wood, while the source material was black spray paint on lighter wood.

Color fill seeped under the masking paper too easily, so spray paint is my next test.
Color fill seeped under the masking paper too easily, so spray paint is my next test.

I then tried some paint fill, but the strong texture of the wood meant that my transfer paper wouldn’t prevent the color fill paint from seeping. My next step will be to try a light spray paint over another paper masked engraving; it should more closely approximate the look featured in the film.

The three edges of the frame I am to engrave. One is a tight squeeze, and two more won't fit at all without leaving the front door open.
The three edges of the frame I am to engrave. One is a tight squeeze, and two more won’t fit at all without leaving the front door open.

But the biggest trick here was figuring out how to fit those larger pieces of wood into the laser. When we were first looking into buying the laser, another laser owner mentioned how the front door interlocks could be defeated to allow people to engrave larger items—like boat oars—if necessary. I never heard from him how to do so and the manual doesn’t mention it at all. Doing this is considered a potential safety hazard, too, for quite a few reasons. The manual explains the following:

DO NOT OPERATE THE LASER SYSTEM IF ANY SAFETY FEATURES HAVE BEEN MODIFIED, DISABLED OR REMOVED. This may lead to accidental exposure to invisible CO2 laser radiation which may cause severe eye damage and/or severe burns to your skin.

The left interlock magnet, tricked by a badge magnet.
The left interlock magnet, tricked by a badge magnet.

With that in mind, defeating the magnet interlock is something you do at your own risk. Do your best not to look at the laser or stick any body parts in there. Also recognize that the exhaust system will be compromised to a certain degree as it’s no longer a closed system.

The right interlock magnet and some of the wood sticking out of the front door.
The right interlock magnet and some of the wood sticking out of the front door.

The front door is held by one magnet on each side, and there is a sensor behind each magnet that detects whether the matching magnet built into the door is present. While some of my weaker magnets weren’t able to trick the sensors, a pair of stronger badge magnets, positioned just right, were able to convince the machine that the front door was closed. My counterfeit badge magnets were attracted to certain parts of the laser body’s magnets, and when I let them slide into where they wanted to go, the sensor could no longer pick them up, so I had to arrange them sticking out (as shown in the pictures) in a very specific position. With this in mind, be very careful when processing your long materials, as nudging the magnet just a tiny bit can cause the laser to realize the door is open and stop the job immediately. For all the trouble that might cause, I’m certainly glad it’s designed to shut jobs down if the doors are opened mid-process.

I hope to write a follow-up post about this project once the frame is built around the Leg Lamp picture; I haven’t even seen the piece it’ll frame yet! Until then, have fun engraving longer materials, but be very cautious when breaking your laser’s interlocks.

95: Fabric Covered Wood

Some familiar designs and solid pieces to show off the patterning
Some familiar designs and solid pieces to show off the patterning

A few weeks ago, during Week 92: Laser Cut Appliques to be exact, I came across the intriguing fact on the Heat N Bond website that it works to adhere fabric to wood.  Cue wheels spinning!

All the fun fabrics
All the fun fabrics

Most of my jewelry design is done in silhouette, without  a lot of detail other than in the outline.  This really allows the materials to shine, but every once in awhile it’s fun to jazz it up with a surface, like we did with the alcohol inks way back in Week 13.  I picked out a few favorites from my every-growing stash of fabric, focusing on ones with smaller designs or close patches of color to work with small or intricate designs.

Neatly attached to to wood with Ultra Heat N Bond
Neatly attached to to wood with Ultra Heat N Bond

Attaching the fabric with Heat and Bond was really easy – all you need is an iron.  (If you’ve neverworked with it before, check out the video from Heat n Bond’s website.) I ironed it to 3mm bamboo, probably my favorite material of all time.

Check out those edges!  Nice, neat and smooth.
Check out those edges! Nice, neat and smooth.

Cutting was simple – we didn’t even adjust the settings from bare wood.  The edges were tidy, and only one piece out of the whole lot had any fray.  One thing I would have done differently, though, is I should have taped the fabric side.  On the lighter fabric, a little bit of soot did make it a little dingy.

Finished pieces next to the original fabric.  There was a little bit of soot transfer, but this would have probably been alleviated by taping the fabric side before cutting
Finished pieces next to the original fabric. There was a little bit of soot transfer, but this would have probably been alleviated by taping the fabric side before cutting.  On the piece to the right, you can see the extent of the fray – one loose thread.
Stress Test!
Stress Test!
fabriconwood (8 of 13)
Lightly engraved fabric.

The adhesion was pretty solid, but not infallible – the fabric can come off, but it took some pretty intense scraping with pliers to get up the corner.

We also did a quick test on engraved fabric – I would probably try to engrave deeper to get through the fabric next time.

The results are fun, and applicable in so many ways.  Think about how fun it would be to make fabric covered tangrams, quilt blocks,  names for a kids room, or unique jewelry.

Finished Jewelry
Finished Jewelry