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Picture of Engraving Text on Pencils
My son keeps losing pencils at school. Whether this is through his generous nature, where he loans them to friends and forgets to get them back, or simply his (hereditary) absent-mindedness, is unclear. Either way, we though it would be a good idea to engrave his name on a big batch of pencils so that if he leaves them somewhere, they'll (hopefully) be returned.

You could also use this to engrave any sort of (thin) bitmap image such as a logo onto pencils. It would probably work for pens as well, assuming that the material was "laser safe."

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Step 1: Requirements

Consumables:
3/16" wood (or other material suitable for making the jig)
Pencils

Equipment:
Epilog Helix Laser Cutter

Software:
CorelDraw 5

Files:
PencilJigAndEngraving.cdr (this file contains both a jig layer and a text layer)

Step 2: Cut out the Jig

Picture of Cut out the Jig
CorelDraw_Jig.png
LaserSettings_Jig.png
Since we want this to be a reproducible process, the first step is to make a jig. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. The idea is to be able to consistently align the pencils on the laser. 

I used 3/16" paneling that I had laying around. Thickness is only important if you want to completely re-use the template file attached. Otherwise, you'll have to make the pieces so that they lock together.

Use the attached file to cut out your pieces. The jig holds 30 pencils. The jig is on its own layer (Jig) in the CorelDraw file. Remember to turn off printing for the text layer when you're cutting the jig. Spacing for each pencil is 1/2" (on center).

Depending on your material, you may need different settings. Here is what I used:
Text/Raster Settings:
  Speed: 60%
  Power: 90%
  DPI: 300
Vector Settings:
  Speed: 20%
  Power: 90%
  Frequency: 500

Notes:
The pencils that I used were hexagonal, so I notched the template with three sides. This helps to hold the pencils flat.
I numbered the notches to make it easier to align, especially if you're only doing a few pencils (such as for a test run).
The CDR file has two layers, one for the jig (Jig) and the second for the text (Text)

Step 3: Assemble the Jig

Picture of Assemble the Jig
Jig_Oblique.png
Jig_Overhead.png
Putting the jig together should be fairly straightforward. You can glue it if you want, but the pieces should lock together tightly enough for light-duty work.

What is important is that the end pieces (Jig Left & Jig Right) are aligned flush with the top and bottom pieces. This is so that the measurements line up correctly and your text hits the pencils in the right spot.

Notes:
I noticed that my jig started to warp shortly after I cut it. This isn't critical, if the warping isn't significant. The very important part is that the left end of the jig is aligned flush with the top and bottom.

Step 4: Set Up Your Text

Picture of Set Up Your Text
As mentioned previously, the center of the notches in the jig are 1/2" part. The CDR file has guidelines spaced the same. 

Enter your text into CorelDraw and rotate it -90° (270°) so that it's vertical, with the left side of the text at the top.
Place the top of the text about 1/2" from the top of the page.
Duplicate the text as many times as you'd like (up to 30).
Make sure each line of text is spaced on one of the guide lines (1/2"). I found that point sizes above 12pt tended to overflow the flat part of the hexagonal pencils. This didn't turn out to be a big concern, as the laser doesn't lose focus enough to cause problems with the text engraving.

Step 5: Prepare the Jig and Pencils

Picture of Prepare the Jig and Pencils
PencilsOverhead.png
Place the assembled jig in the laser. the left edge should be flush with the left side of the cutting area. Make sure that the jig remains square and that the left side remains flush. 

Place one pencil in each of the notches, with the surface you wish to engrave facing up. For best results, make sure that the upward-facing surface is one of the flat sides of the pencil.
Place the pencils so that the lower edge of the metal band (that holds the eraser to the wood) aligns with the top of the laser cutting area.

As you can see, my jig was warped a little bit, but aligning the metal band with the top edge of the cutting area mitigates this.

Step 6: Engrave the Pencils

Picture of Engrave the Pencils
LaserSettings_Pencils.png
Make sure to turn off the jig printing!

Tip: Rotate the pencils so that any "pre-printed" text is on the bottom.

Make sure you re-focus the laser. Since your pencils are raised off the bed of the laser, you want to use the surface of the pencil when setting the focus. Depending on the look you're trying to get, you may need to experiment with the laser engraving settings. I used the following raster settings (and turned off the vector settings):
  Speed: 60%
  Power: 90%
  DPI: 300

Step 7: Summary

This little project should take less than an hour to complete. Materials are cheap! You can use some scrap wood for the jig, and I picked up a box of 60 pencils for under $5.

I made it at TechShop!
Visit TechShop at www.techshop.ws
fgoodmanjr1 year ago
I missed the part about how you actually engraved the pencils...what kind of and where do you get a laser?
instructoturtle (author)  fgoodmanjr1 year ago
I'm using an Epilog 60-watt Laser at TechShop. I used the following settings: 300 DPI, 50% speed, 90% power.
kde leon32 years ago
love it! :) thank you