Making Decorations

Once you have the appropriate graphic for the special occasion, you can make it into a nice acrylic etched or laser cut decoration. Here’s an example of how to do that using inkscape software and the Full Spectrum Laser at Workshop88.

Find or make the graphic

The first step is to find the right black and white clipart for your project. Assuming you are not an artist and don’t create by hand what you need.

Convert (JPG, PNG) image to SVG

  • Once you have the graphic, import the image into Inkscape and select the image. (Click on the image and there should be arrows at all the edges like shown.) This is an important step.

Then from the menu select Path->Trace Bitmap.

  • Change settings on Trace Bitmap window to 2 colors, grays, smooth, stack and remove background.

Note the items underlined in red.

You should see the picture in the update window. If you don’t see the image on the right, start over and try again. Save the image as Optimized SVG. When you see the image in the update window, (give it a minute, watch the status bar) select the image (on top) again and move it to the side and then delete the duplicate picture underneath. Then move the image back to the center. Now you have the traced bitmap that can be saved as an .SVG file type.

That is your SVG image that will outline the letters and give you something to raster. The acrylic example below was done using raster settings only. For effect (and suggested by a member), light was shined through the side of the acrylic to make the image glow.

Acrylic (Clear) Material


Laser etch acrylic with your favorite scene and/or holiday greeting

Wood (Thin)

Or the wood version if you prefer.

Raster and Vector

When laser cutting, you learn the difference between raster and vector. The image was rastered first. Raster: Fast sweeps of the laser eye, over the wood to lightly etch away and burn the wood. And then vector (solid burn) just the outline of the letters to give it that extra stand out – outline. And the entire object cut along the edge with a hole for hanging on a hook. I prefer rounded edges for my projects so there are no sharp corners. And a hole for hanging the decoration. This image was well suited for that style.

Control of the Laser Instructions

In order to get the vector to outline just the letters, while in the Full Spectrum Laser software, Retina Engrave, you need to change the color of the letters. Then provide instructions for just that color. I made the word Thanksgiving in Yellow, just so that it was a color other than black.

This allows you to control the vector attributes for just the parts you select. Notice in the blue circle, the color yellow will only pass over once and the other colors red and black are set to 0 (zero) so that the laser will not vector those colors at all.

Whenever using the laser cutter, consult the document on workshop88.com Menu Item W88 Docs->Laser cutter to get guidance for settings. Always do a small test on practice material first. NOTE: Using the laser cutter REQUIRES training/certification of members, PRIOR to use.

Stop by on Thursday evening to talk about your project ideas and to see what is going on at the Workshop88 makerspace.

Making custom awards

Custom award made at Workshop 88.

One of our members, Mark Frost, recently made up some custom awards for a group at his church. Here’s what he had to say about this project:

Every summer for 30+ years some guys from church have been doing a golf trip. I’ve been going for the last 15years or so and have recently taken over the “hardware” aspect. In previous years we would order engraves plaques, mugs, glasses, embroidered towels, etc. But this year I figured I’d take production “in-house”. I grabbed the church and resort logos, threw the text on top and engraved squares I cut from a 2’x2′ MDF board from HD

Mark Frost via slack.com

This is a really great example of the kinds of projects that our members are able to create quickly at Workshop 88! What could you make with a laser cutter/engraver?

Adventures in vacuum repair

When using the Shop-Vac the other day I noticed all the dust I was sucking up was being blown out the back of the vacuum… all over me.  Intrigued and filthy, I decided to investigate…

I emptied the vacuum and took the filter outside to knock as much dust and crud off of it as I could.  I employed the standard method of smacking it on the building and quickly twisting it back and forth in the breeze being careful to stay upwind so as not to breathe the fine and disgusting particles liberated.

When replacing the filter I immediately found the problem, or more accurately I didn’t find a key part of the vacuum cleaner.  The filter retainer was missing.  Without it, whatever the vacuum sucks up can shoot through the open bottom of the filter through the impeller and get blown all over me.  Fabricating a quick replacement from parts on hand took no time at all.  Sure, I could have bought the replacement part for $9 and had it next day from Amazon, but where is the fun in that?

I found a suitable scrap of 1/4″ acrylic onto which I traced the inner and outer diameters of the filter.

Using a jigsaw with a coarse blade I cut just outside the outer diameter.  Cutting acrylic or polycarbonate with a jigsaw (or CNC) can be tricky, friction heats the blade and the chips can weld the opening closed behind the cut as pictured here.  This piece was easily broken away with my hand, but I’ve had polycarbonate heal itself apparently stronger than the uncut material when cutting too fast without any coolant or compressed air to clear the chips.

Using a ruler and pen I measured and marked the center of the diameter along several angles.  Using the hammer and punch, I punched the mark for drilling (the dimple allows the drill to center more accurately).  This level of precision was not necessary but I find striking things with a hammer fun and habits like punching before drilling are good to reinforce.

I clamped the burgeoning new cover in the vise and drilled the center hole.  The bolt hardware is the ubiquitous 1/4″-20 (1/4 inch diameter, 20 threads per inch, super common stuff), so I’m going to drill the hole a little larger, 3/8″ to make it easy to slide on and off.  I don’t want to drill a hole that large to start with in the acrylic because it will catch a lot and cause chipping or cracking, so I started with a smaller 1/8″ drill and worked up through a couple sizes.

Now I need to install a mounting rod in the bottom of the vacuum cleaner.  Marking the center of the bottom of the vacuum cleaner filter holder was even easier.  I just connected the lines between the edges of retaining tabs on the outer edge.  This plastic is thin and soft enough to drill directly with the 1/4″ bit.

Then I installed the filter holder pin by putting a 4″ 1/4″-20 bolt through a lock washer, then a fender washer then fed it through the hole from behind (from the vacuum cleaner side) to stick out the bottom.  I followed that with another fender washer, a lock washer and a nut.  The fender washers sandwich the plastic to spread out any load and prevent cracking around the hole.  The lock washers keep the nuts tight even under the vibration of the running Shop-Vac.

The filter slides over the outside, and the cover slides over the bolt to seal it in place.  Another fender washer, lock washer, and convenient wingnut secure the assembly with a good tight seal.

At this point the filter replacement was functional but by no means done.  Workshop88 is a makerspace, and that means nothing is done unless you’ve used the laser or a 3D printer, so Christine engraved the lid.

IMG_5309

Voila!

I could have easily ordered the appropriate replacement and had the fresh new part the next morning, but by creating one myself I get the satisfaction of a job well done, and I was able to vacuum up the acrylic chips from the jigsaw and drill right away.

D. Scott Williamson
Compulsively Creative

 

 

We’re Hackerspace Passport Ready!

PageWstamp3788Thanks to the laser cutter, we now have an official rubber stamp, and we’re ready to provide Workshop88 visit chops to all our visitors with Maker Passports!  OK, as soon as one shows up.

Stamp3787But we now have the capability to make our own precision rubber stamps!  Rubber stamps.  Yeah, like in the paper-based olden days.  Well, I thought it was cool.

Some more details here.

Lots of lasers!

Originals0701Mark Edmonson recently donated a big box of pretty high quality used battery powered laser levels to us.  They’re in various states, from apparently completely functional to rather dead.

Each one contains 5 diode lasers, as well as some other parts.  There are fairly complete teardown notes and pictures here.

Parts0769Here are the parts I salvaged from one.

Thanks, Mark!