Vulgar Napkin Holders

Vulgar Napkin Holders

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 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.

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!

Engraved cube Kickstarter backer gifts

Engraved cube Kickstarter backer gifts

Backer Gifts

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.

The Cube

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

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.

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.

Sign for the laser cutter room

Sign for the laser cutter room

In a shared space like Nova Labs, it is important to leave things better than you found them (you should read the listserv thread this past week about the router table being left messy).

The laser room suffers its fair share of mess, so I made a reminder sign for the wall above the workstation.

If it reminds even a few people to vacuum up their little dot cutout debris or gets them to put back the key, I guess it will be worth it.


Slotted Christmas Ornament test

Finished Christmas ornament
Finished and assembled Christmas ornament

Last year our team made (well, I made, but the team hosted the decorating party) slot-together Christmas trees for our internal clients.

We wanted to see if there was something else to make them in 2015, so we brainstormed over email. Someone presented a sketch of a Christmas ornament shaped item, and knowing I can whip out this sort of thing I went ahead and made the prototype. Plus, I hadn’t actually cut anything from this particular shade of red 1/8″ acrylic, so it was a good test.

In the end we didn’t do anything because of heavy workload in December, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

Oh, and I hope the Brand folks at work don’t see sad Inky made from the scrap cutouts. It is definitely not on-brand!


Better base for Stomp Rocket

Stomp Rocket with a beefy launch towerStomp Rockets for Christmas!

And the Stomp Rockets have lights to boot! Pretty awesome if it weren’t so cold outside…

One problem with the set is that the base is pretty flimsy. It would move all over the place as they used it, and it was hard to keep the rocket pointed more-or-less straight up.

Having no there really pressing projects to work on, I whipped up an Apollo era looking launch tower for the Stomp Rocket launcher/tube assembly.


You bet. When I showed the pictures at work someone commented “do your kids realize that most dads don’t do this sort of thing for toys?” Of course they don’t, but it’s fun for me so I do it anyway.

Everything was laser cut. Material was some 1/4″ MDF, but it cut really easily. The base was another piece of 1/4″MDF, but it was wayyyy different and required multiple passes, and had a ton of charring on the edge. I cleaned that edge up on a belt sander.

The basic shape came from the BoxMaker site, and the pattern was created in Illustrator.

Boeing 747 toy

Boeing 747 toy

747 laser cut modelMy daughter had asked about making a plane at “your workshop” (aka Nova Labs) and I thought I’d test one method before I brought her along.

This Boeing 747 model started from a vector 3-view drawing I found online. I cleaned it up in Illustrator and prepared cutouts for 5mm wood.

Cut on the laser cutter at Nova Labs.

Definitely less than an hour start to finish.

I think the next try will be to make something a little more 3d by layering pieces of material (I can then get the relative position of the wings and horizontal stabilizer in the right place).

747 laser cut model

747 laser cut model

Room signs for kids

Room signs for kids

Painted sign - EleanorEvery kid needs a sign on his or her door, and while they are little, might as well make it cute (since there will be “Parents, Stay Out!” signs soon enough).

These are actually the second round of room signs – at our old place, and with one kid, we made a similar sign with the same decals. But now with two kids, I decided to make two brand new copies…

A scan of the dragon fly wallpaper decals was traced in Illustrator and each shape was incorporated into the background. Text was added, naturally. Check out a PDF of the file here: Room_signs

Cutting was performed on the laser cutter at Nova Labs, out of 1/8″ hard board.

I primed the pieces with white spray paint, and mom did the painting (including glitter spray paint) with some “help.” 🙂