Tag Archives: materials

Laser cutter designs

Laser-engraved hardwood sign

This is a sign I made for craft fairs—it’s a nice heavy block of reclaimed hardwood, thick enough to stand up on its own, and it proved very eye-catching indeed. Commercial laser-cutting is very expensive (I’ve been quoted £1 a minute) but London Hackspace own their own laser-cutter, and £3 an hour covers maintenance, electricity, and replacement laser tubes. I shaped the wooden block by hand, squaring it off with a chisel and smoothing it with a knife & sandpaper. The text is all digital; the font is True Golden from Scriptorium Fontworks, based on William Morris’s Golden Type, while the E is done in Roughwork, reverse engineered from True Golden capitals to show construction lines. Since I’m a big William Morris fan, these are perfect for my purposes… and if only True Golden had proper double-quotes, it would be wonderful overall, but the left double quote is backwards. (This doesn’t match Kelmscott Press originals; I went to check specially. It’s entirely inexplicable.) I did all the designs in Inkscape (free open source vector graphics programme, much recommended) and from there they load straight into the computer which controls the laser cutter.

Laser-cut jewellery blanks 1

I’ve been making jewellery blanks with a scalpel so far, but that means I can’t do curves or complex shapes with small cutouts reliably. The laser cutter, on the other hand, can cut anything it likes quickly and precisely. These shapes are done in MDF, which lacks the romance of paper but was sitting right there in the offcut bin. Since the offcut bin also had a nice chunk of 10mm perspex in, I decided to try re-running a couple of the text designs on that for comparison. As you can see, they all turned out perfectly readable, though with the perspex of course it depends on the light and the viewing angle. I’m looking forward to experimenting with painting all these blanks—part of the reason for this experiment was to see if I could engrave text that would still be legible once painted. Given the shallowness of the engraving (sort of necessary on this scale, if I wasn’t to set the whole thing on fire) I’m a little dubious, but we can see.

Laser-cut text 1

Paper jewellery

Black & silver choker with D-ring

Sounds like a silly idea, but it’s actually a really good material—tough, lightweight, and durable. That black & silver choker is made from Fabriano Tiziano pastel paper, folded & laminated, and then very thoroughly varnished. It ends up very like thin leather, but it’s entirely vegan. (Not all papers are; most art paper uses animal gelatin for sizing. Fabriano use acrylic sizing, though.)

Malachite choker with D-ring I’d made a couple of these already, without having had the time, or a model, to show them off properly, but these two were done (and put into my intermittent prototype giveaway bonanza) as an experiment to see whether I could attach a D-ring to the underside in a secure and decorative fashion. The answer, it turns out, is “yes”—the knot at the back isn’t going to be proof against a hard tug, if any of my customers were prone to do such things, but even if I’d put a buckle in the D-ring and strap would still be quite strong enough.

Black & silver pendants I’ve also been making more of these pendants—they’re artist’s mountboard with a ribbon loop, very light (barely a gram each) and rather tough. The design is Roberson liquid metal ink, done with a No. 6 italic nib.


Quick post to mention another good materials source.

Falkiner’s (formally Shepherds Bookbinder Ltd) on Southampton Row (near Holborn) – specialist bookbinding supplies. Good paper in large quantities, thin leather of just about any description (including stingray, parrot fish, perch, and cane toad skins), and Useful Tools. They also sell good-quality lightfast pigment ink calligraphy pens, too.

They do leather scraps & offcuts at £3.50 for 100g, and they aren’t stingy about what goes into the offcut box either – I picked up some very nice pieces.

Trafalgar Square, redux

Further to my post on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, something else occurred to me when I walked past on my way from Waterloo to Charing Cross Road on Friday – having sculptures which are explicitly designed to be temporary means artists have a much wider choice of materials. Model for a Hotel 2007 is made from coloured glass (the artist wanted Perspex; it proved technically impossible) and it must be quite a nightmare to maintain, to keep looking nice. Having to do that more or less forever is a daunting prospect.

Also, the proposed Gormley sculpture would be even less feasible.


Quick post to note down where I’ve been getting things from – mostly, Atlantis Art in Whitechapel, and Intaglio Printmaker in Southwark. The latter is a bit of a trek to get to, especially in a London summer, but it’s worth it. For those of you (most of you) outside London, both places do mail order of course.

On my first trip to Intaglio, I picked up a set of cheap Japanese carving tools (hangito, kentonmi, sankakuto, and two komasuki); some water-based ink for relief printing (oil-based is a bit more traditional, but I hate working with oil-based materials unless I have to); some battleship lino and a couple of pieces of katsura (gorgeous sexy Japanese softwood, carves wonderfully); a small roller; and a few large sheets of Velin Arches paper. This made a perfectly adequate set of equipment for kitchen-table printing, though I had to use the back of a large spoon as a baren. (A proper baren, and some of their carving vinyl, were top of the list on my return visit.)

Prices: a piece of lino six inches square is £1.70, and the vinyl is £2.05 for a piece 200mm x 300mm. (That’s what I did this on.)
The katsura (10mm deep) is £4.81 for the same 200mm x 300mm, or £1.35 for six inches by four – that’s what this is on.

I’m currently lusting after more paper, but I want to use up more of what I’ve got first. I also have some gorgeous-textured handmade Indian paper, in various colours, that I want to try printing onto – I just need to finish carving the block I started the other day. When my finger recovers a bit.