Tag Archives: Zelda

82: Pop-Up Card

The card when closed. What could be inside?
The card when closed. What could be inside?

Whenever I see a papercraft project online that involves a lot of precise x-acto blade cutting, a part of my brain usually reserved for laying out SNES SimCity towns activates and taunts me, “Oooh, you could do this hour long cut in like one minute! You should totally make one of these!”

When you open it, the heart lifts up out of the chest.
When you open it, the heart lifts up out of the chest.

This totally happened again when I discovered this pixel heart paper pop-up card from a few years ago. I knew I wanted to do a Zelda heart, like many other crafty folks have done, but I opted for the SNES A Link to the Past entry over the NES original.

Thanks to the vector sleuthing work of those X-ACTO wielding warriors before me, setting up the cut and score lines was a much simpler task than if I had to figure the shape out myself. I spent much more time aligning two sides of the design to create an opening chest similar to “yetanothrs” neat Zelda project. When you open the card, the lid lifts up and the heart “rises up” out of the chest. It’s a subtle effect, but totally worth the extra time spent getting the alignment between the outside and the inside right.

What am I even doing this is so silly. #zelda #lasercut

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I then spent a silly amount of time figuring out how to time a quick Instagram video to a looped MP3 on a computer across the room. Silly, but the nostalgia still gets me!

A close-up of the laser cut pixel edges and the laser scored bendy bits.
A close-up of the laser cut pixel edges and the laser scored bendy bits.
The back of the card. One part brandy and two parts sappy.
The back of the card. One part brandy and two parts sappy.

22: Hylian Inlay

I think you picked the most ambitious first time trying to inlay project ever,” wrote Jen, fairly certain that I’d bitten off more than I could chew.  While I could already tell by then that l I was in for a lot of delicate work, I reassured her of my expert mastication and went back to peeling tiny bits of plastic off of tiny bits of plastic.

“Nutters.” was her final judgment anyway. Now, that I can’t really disagree with, even if the direction of this week’s project was entirely her fault.

The mirror, before.
The mirror, before.

Once upon a time, local friend and fellow video game nutter Caitlin saw my lasery doings and donated a small plain mirror with a giant plain wood frame—something IKEA-made, surely—suspecting that it would eventually be a great laser canvas.  While this was years ago and the mirror has been sitting patiently at the side of my desk since then, she turned out right!

A prototype of the inlay idea, permanently branding the mirror's back with another favorite series.
A prototype of the inlay idea, permanently branding the mirror’s back with another favorite series.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to do with the mirror, but I knew I’d eventually be giving the piece back to Caitlin, so I wanted to make sure it was something she’d totally dig. Earthbound came to mind first, and I spent a fair amount of time unsure of how to best represent the series etched into a mirror. It was around this time that I decided against etching the mirror itself; while I already know not to etch the front surface of the mirror (thanks, Monica!) I just wasn’t comfortable etching the back surface without any scrap to test on first.

Before I settled on inlays, I experimented with 3D printing on the mirror frame.
Before I settled on inlays, I experimented with 3D printing on the mirror frame.

Obviously I had plenty of wood surface to test on—the back of the frame—so I went to town with some ABCD etch depth tests and later a 3D print featuring art by the immensely talented Sires J. Black. It wasn’t until I etched the Earthbound logo with a really deep outline stroke that I realized an inlay was possible. You can see the first inlay test there, using “brushed aluminum” acrylic.  I still couldn’t decide on how exactly to represent Earthbound on the frame, so I ended up stalled. Battle background graphics weren’t nearly as interesting when not in motion, and character sprites really needed better than one color representation.

The design was based on the limited edition Zelda 3DS.
The design was based on the limited edition Zelda 3DS.

“I was thinking about Zelda. Caitlin has that Zelda-branded Wii U gamepad,” offered Jen, “and you’ve still got the Triforce eagle design files.” It was a revelation. While the gamepad’s decorative borders weren’t as interesting as I’d hoped, I rediscovered the awesome design used on a limited edition 3DS. A later discovery on Reddit sealed the deal: Reddit user ProjectOxide had already vectorized the design from the 3DS and was offering to share the data freely. A few layout adjustments to accomodate the mirror’s aspect ratio and we were good to go.

The etch left a deep groove for an inlay, but a light etch also filled the instrument borders.
The etch left a deep groove for an inlay, but a light etch also filled the instrument borders.
Some of the etched areas needed to be filed down a little farther, especially seams.
Some of the etched areas needed to be filed down a little farther, especially seams.

I etched deeply for all of the outlines, and in the spaces marked with orange on the above layout I gently etched the wood surface to give it a slightly darker appearance. The idea was to give the impression that it was a different, richer wood also inlaid between the faux metal inlay. The depth was almost perfect, but there were a few spaces, particularly the seams between each side of the wooden frame, where the depth wasn’t deep enough and needed some tender loving gouging. I filed away which bits needed filing and then it was on to cutting the “metal.”

I laid out the inlay pieces to fit on the material I had.
I laid out the inlay pieces to fit on the material I had. Yes, I cut extra Triforces!

It had to be gold, obviously. I had most of a sheet of flexible, thin acrylic with a brushed gold foil cap. It even had an adhesive back pre-applied! I took the deep etch vectors from the frame layout and positioned them so that they’d fit on my cramped gold sheet and made sure to give them a slight stroke offset so that the laser width wouldn’t cut the pieces too small. I also rotated a few pieces so that the brushed look would be a little more random, but that ended up nearly invisible on the final piece.

Nearly impossible to see, the brush strokes on the faux-gold cap radiate out from the triforce.
Nearly impossible to see, the brush strokes on the faux-gold cap radiate out from the triforce.

Because of the way the vector data was traced, every single cut was unique; even though two ocarinas, two harps, and many little filigrees looked mostly the same, they wouldn’t fit in their twin’s holes, so I had to be meticulous in keeping track of which piece of inlay was meant for which etch. It made for some very slow work.

The tiniest pieces of inlay were so small that half a dozen of them fell

Placed in direct sunlight, the acrylic inlay is convincingly blinding.
Placed in direct sunlight, the acrylic inlay is convincingly blinding.

into the honeycomb support system and were, essentially, lost. I eventually had to cut duplicates and carefully fish them out of the blank material to make sure every deeply-etched spot on the wood frame was filled with gold. Because I gave the inlay vector path a slight offset, the cut pieces fit snugly—sometimes too snugly—in their grooves. One piece of inlay actually cracked in two places while being hammered, but they’re very difficult to see.  I had to use a tiny rubber mallet to hammer most of them in place, and then I used a brayer to aid in flatness. While most of the material is flush with the wood frame, there are enough rough spots that I wish I would have etched just a little more deeply.

With the final piece complete, all I had left to do was break out the camera and the sun and head to fancy photography town. The piece is presently hanging out post-shoot in my photography box, but its final resting home is sure to be near other similarly Zelda-themed hardware. Thankfully, I’ll always have all of these super-sexy shots of the finished piece to admire.

The full mirror is about 20" square. That's a pretty big project!
The full mirror is about 20″ square. That’s a pretty big project!

 

The darkened instrument background shows up more clearly when the inlay is lit up by reflected light.
The darkened instrument background shows up more clearly when the inlay is lit up by reflected light.

 

 

This image reminds me of A Link Between Worlds. I wonder why.
This image reminds me of A Link Between Worlds. I wonder why.

 

Hyrulian Inlay (11 of 15)

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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