154: License Plate Frame

Back in early January, some unfortunate circumstances surrounding my previous vehicle meant I’d need to buy a new car. This would be the first time I’ve personally owned a vehicle, having coasted on loaners for over a decade. Since this was my first vehicle, it was also my first title registration and license plate. I never paid any attention to details like license plate frames on my previous vehicles, but I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to add a little personalization to my plate once it arrived. I took care of the paperwork, paid the fees, and settled in to wait almost two months. In the meantime, a cardboard temporary plate have to suffice.

The cardboard temporary plate has seen better days

Fast forward to late February and the replacement plates arrived. While I would like to share the shiny red lettering, in the interest of privacy i’ve used Photoshop’s “Content-Aware Fill” feature to mask the actual license plate number. I’ve not spent much time with that feature in the past so it was pretty amusing to see how well it could handle having very little sampling space to draw from. For fun’s sake I’ve left all of the little artifacts from that process in place in the photography.

I used the fresh plates and a slim plate frame I picked up as a template for measurement, and engraved and cut a prototype out of chipboard. The design I went for is a quote from the opening of Super Metroid, a SNES game from 1994. You might recognize the quote from the sticker I made for the front of my router; in this case I’ll get to share Samus Aran’s ominous prologue with far more people out there on the road.

The last metroid is in captivity.

The galaxy is at peace.

The chipboard prototype

The measurements were almost completely spot-on; I just needed to increase the distance between the two mounting holes about 1/16th of an inch. Once that task was complete, I reprinted using some brushed silver/black microsurfaced plastic. In this case, I used the higher quality UV-stable foil-capped material because I knew it would be getting a bit more of a beating on the back of a car. Since most of the surface would be engraved away, leaving just the letters in shiny silver, I increased the engraving texture setting to 100% to give the surface a more randomized, less processed look.

In the finished plastic piece, the texture setting (and perhaps a little too much engraving power, 35%) overpowered a halftoned outline on the letters. In the final piece only the letters themselves remain. If I ever reprint—certainly a possibility given the beating it’ll take—I would just lighten the color of the outline so that the resulting halftone is more open, leaving more of the silver surface.

The plastic plate frame, ready to mount

Another problem popped up during mounting. The back license plate on this vehicle has four mount points, but the two bottom points are small rubber grommets that are meant to fit in the lower mounting holes on the plate and plate frame. These grommets don’t have a lip, which means they won’t latch onto either the plate or the frame, they just fill the space. Since they weren’t actually useful for mounting, I thought I would just cover them up with the lower half of the quote.

The light outline on the type was engraved too deeply, making it effectively invisible

I must have thought that the rubber grommet had a lower profile than it did; they hold the plate frame out almost half an inch from the plate itself. There doesn’t seem to be a way to remove the grommets without destroying them, but the alignment of the plate is spot-on. On a reprint, I’d try harder to adjust the bottom line of the quote to leave room for small holes for those rubber tips to rest in, but for now I’ve left the gap as-is.

Rubber grommets are more of a problem than anticipated

It’s satisfying to finally be rid of the old, ailing cardboard temporary plate. Especially with a personalized plate frame in its place. I just wonder how many folks will read it and wonder what on earth a Metroid is.

Project Gallery

One thought on “154: License Plate Frame


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.