How I Used A Laser Cutter to Make Wedding Presents

In 2017, I was invited to (and attended) four weddings. Rather than simply buy something off of their registry, I decided to get creative. I decided to use a laser cutter to engrave in wood the comments people had left on their Facebook engagement announcement! All of my work was done at the original Tech Shop, which filed for bankruptcy shortly before the fourth wedding (I got the fourth wedding’s bride and groom got a lovely gift off of their registry). Both the new Tech Shop and Noisebridge currently have laser cutters which could be used for this project.

Materials:

  • Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF – This one, from Home Depot, works great, but be sure to have someone at Home Depot cut the board for you so that your piece of MDF will fit on the bed of the laser cutter you’re using. Unless you’re using the laser cutter at Noisebridge, which can fit 51″ x 35″ x 8″, so the board I linked to would fit without first cutting it).
  • A Laser Cutter (the more power, the better).
  • Tape (some people like using tape to prevent burning. Personally, I got by without it).

Basic Design Process

Because I don’t own any fancy design software, I’ve learned to do most of my design work using PowerPoint. I know, it’s a little weird. For these projects, I started by customizing the PowerPoint slide size to match the size of the MDF I would be engraving. Next, I zoomed in on the Facebook announcement in my browser such that the announcement filled the width of the page. Next, I took screenshots. Section by section, I took a screenshot of a set of comments and then pasted them into my PowerPoint slide. When I had the design all set on my PowerPoint slide, I exported the slide to a TIFF with the largest width and height I could convince PowerPoint to export (note: different releases of PowerPoint will allow different densities. It’s worth experimenting with different files types (.tiff, .jpeg, etc), and even different releases of PowerPoint if you have access to them).

The Result

Enjoy!

Wedding #1: February

At the original tech shop, you could only reserve a laser cutter for two hours at a time. That may sound like plenty of time, but if you have no idea how much power you’ll need for your project or how fast you can get away with setting the engraver, you’ll likely need more than two hours to even just figure out those settings. Unfortunately, I didn’t make notes about the final settings I picked, but this is how the final product turned out (I redacted the names):

IMG_3984.PNG

Wedding #2: April

In February, I was working full-time as an attorney. By April, I was not. This meant that I had more time to devote to perfecting this project. The final product for the April Wedding came out so well that the wedding planner asked what I charge for these. I probably put in a total of 10 hours, between getting the settings right and babysitting the final engraving and then the final cutting (I didn’t cut out the final product for the February wedding). I intentionally uploaded a low quality photo to protect my friends’ privacy, but the final product was actually quite crisp.

IMG_3983

Wedding #3: July

This couple was so popular (lots of Facebook comments) that I had to alter the design in order to fit all of the comments onto a reasonably sized piece of MDF. Again, I intentionally uploaded a blurry copy to protect my friends’ privacy, but the final product was actually quite crisp.

IMG_5062

Final Comments

I realize I gave you no technical instructions for how to recreate my results. That’s why I’m not publishing this on instructables. (Here is an example that will get you going in the right direction – note that if you use thin enough MDF, you can cut the coasters out using the laser cutter rather than a separate tool).

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