A colleague/friend of mine got her first solo apartment was lamenting that she was needed a bunch of household necessities, including a napkin holder. Since she hadn’t been in a while, I suggested suggested she could make her own at Nova Labs. Annoyed, she told me to make her one; I thought the best gift was one she’d regret asking for…
The first thoughts included some messy clipart faces (think Garbage Pail Kids stickers), but I quickly settled on some nice type and alliteration.
The design. Font is Avenir Next Ultra Light
Edge view of the napkin holder
The design for the napkin holder itself was whipped up in Illustrator using a simple tabbed box type design.
Production happened using the laser cutter at Nova Labs.
Cutting the first napkin holder on Mongo, Nova Labs’ 100w CO2 laser cutter.
Before pulling the parts out of the laser cutter.
Parts after a light sanding on the downdraft sanding table.
A less vulgar version was created for a neighbor who commented on Facebook that they wanted one, but would have to wait 10 years before their kids could be exposed to the original!
The Nova Labs Kickstarter campaign ended successfully back in early 2015. One of the higher backer levels was for the backers’ name on a wall in the space, but we also planned on sending them a plaque.
I didn’t expect that someone would put 4 mounting standoffs on their wall, so I thought that something more like a paperweight for the backer’s desk or bookcase would be better.
At the fall 2015 Adobe MAX conference, a booth for Universal Laser allowed attendees to make wooden stamp blocks using Adobe’s Creative Cloud Shared Libraries to get files from workstations to the folks running the laser. As the exhibition floor was shutting down they were handing out the remaining cubes, so I grabbed a few of the blanks to play with at home. I thought the 2″ cubes could be a good format for the backer reward.
Not wanting to settle on the first material idea I had, I also ordered a clear acrylic cube to test on.
In the end the acrylic seemed way too ‘corporate gift’ looking, with the birch wood being way warmer, especially after giving the final pieces a coat of tung oil.
Setup and production
Cubes in the Laser Cut software
Test cube and production cubes waiting for engraving (note the numbers on each face so I could keep track of order and “this end up” orientation).
First pass on the production run.
The key to engraving these easily was setting up a row of seven 2″ squares that were lightly cut into a sacrificial material. The blocks were then put on these lines ensuring accurate placement of each faces’ design.
Fortunately the position of “home” doesn’t change as you adjust the Z-height (you need to do the light guide cut with the laser focused on the paper or foamcore, and then drop the bed down to accommodate the height of the block.)
Masking tape was used to reduce the discoloration of the wood due to smoke from the engrave, but I’m not sure if it was worth the time needed to remove all of the tiny counters of the text, vs sanding with a belt or disk sander.
Tape off of the wood cube, but still on the acrylic.
As it was, the wood cubes were still sanded down after removing the tape. They were eventually finished with tung oil after doing a few tests with other finishes such as varnish and shellac.
We recently built a playground in the backyard (expect a separate post with some time-lapse photography we took during the process), but we had to make one modification to the plans; One of two slides was omitted since it would have required us to extend the new retaining wall further than we really wanted to deal with, and it was already plenty of work…
Fast forward to the ‘finished’ playground, and we had a big hole where the slide should have attached. Not good considering the platform height was 5′ and the kids are still little.
We discussed several options for covering the opening, but most were just too boring sounding. I had my mind set on laser engraving a clear acrylic ‘window’ and mounting it in some sort of frame. Eventually my wife said something about space (I’m not even sure what exactly anymore), but I was soon looking at Wikipedia for information on the Voyager spacecrafts, launched in 1977, and their Gold Records.
I’m glad I found the tongue and groove cedar planks at Loews as it made it really easy to mount the acrylic panel. Hopefully the rest of the photos and captions speak for themselves.
Overall, an interesting and nerdy addition to the playground, and hopefully one that the kids will appreciate someday (my initial explanation of ‘there is a copy of this on the FURTHEST HUMAN THING FROM EARTH’ was met with puzzled looks).
Lastly, here’s a quick video showing the start of the engraving process on Nova Labs’ laser cutter: