168: Mother’s Day Plaque

As Ryan alluded to a couple posts ago, there is a new baby in our household that is taking up a whole lot of our time, mental energy, and space in our phone photo roll. This is the first post I’ve been able to wrap my head around doing this year so far! If I would have had the energy and a proper editorial calendar, this post would have been in time for Mother’s Day, rather than “it’s in the same month so it counts, right?” Let’s just say this is an inspirational jump start on 2022’s Mother’s Day.

Plaque prototype, with plenty of mistakes!

I realized somewhere along the line that I had footprints from when she was born, but no handprints. So my first Mother’s Day request was to record the size of her hands and feet, and make it pretty to look at. The first step was to get her hand and foot prints. The most logical thing to so would be get an ink pad, right? Or at least one of those nice inkless ones so there wouldn’t be such a mess to clean up. We didn’t go the easy route, of course, though I would consider it for the future. Those inkless pads wouldn’t have been as cheap, but would probably be easier for both the capture, and the digitizing.

What did we do instead? Tried to use a scanner. We are currently borrowing a scanner for a family history archiving project, so we thought, let’s just hold her down to that! Throw a blanket over top so the light doesn’t hit her in the face and we’ll be good to go! Nice thing about this approach is that the images are true to size. The bad thing about it is that there is a lag as the scanner captures the image – it’s not instantaneous. This was fine for her feet (yes, we totally just stood our 4 month on on the scanner bed – lightly!) but she’s pretty sensitive to what her hands are doing. She didn’t like not being able to move them or laying them flat, especially when the scanner started whirring. After about 3 attempts, baby’s patience was gone.

Our second method was more successful – we just pulled out a piece of clear acrylic to put her hand on and snapped a quick photo from the opposite side! She didn’t have as much time to curl those little fingers back up. One drawback to this method is that the images aren’t true to size, so you need measure your kid’s hand to size it correctly when it’s digitized.

To get the foot scan and hand pictures ready for engraving, Ryan ran them though the “Photocopy” Filter Gallery plugin in Adobe Photoshop, and then tediously used the white and black brushes to clean up the lines. The feet were relatively easy because we threw a black blanket on the scanner, but the hand pictures took more work to look right. Lesson learned: when photographing trough clear acrylic, make sure your background is solid, and preferably dark – it makes the automated process for converting the image much more smooth. Once he got the high contrast version of the prints where he wanted them, Ryan moved them over to Adobe Illustrator and did a simple image trace on it.

I will confess that my first thought was to design a sort of double sided ornament with hands on one side and feet on on the other, but that was before I really realized how big her hands are. The ornament would have had to be 6 inches wide to accommodate! That’s just too big for something to dangle. So between baby juggling, Ryan and I put together a more elongated plaque design. I really like the vertical arrangement; this will look very nice on a gallery wall with the millions of pictures we take of her every day.

For those of you who want to know technical details, we used walnut plywood for this project, and the design was engraved at 80% power and 100% speed on our 45 watt laser. The white is regular acrylic paint and we used the transfer tape paint-fill technique we first explored way back in Project 27 (more details there). To finish it off, we oiled it with mineral oil. If you have ever worked with walnut before, you know it can look a little drab – oiling it is what really makes it pop.

Looking at it with a critical eye, there was a tiny bit of paint seepage on the line, which did not sand away as well as I would have liked. But this was already a bad cut, as it got too close to the edge of the bed and nipped off the points on the left side. That was a rookie mistake I’ll blame on baby brain. We will make another when we have a little more time. Other things we’ll do next time: engrave it just a touch deeper, and give it 2 coats of paint. There are always tweaks to make a better finished product for the future, so prototype and give yourself enough time to play!

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