During this instructable I will walk through the instructions of for the US Air Force emblem, although I use the same method for each service.
After deciding which service emblem to use, I had to find a good picture of it. Because military service emblems are free use, you can find them pretty much any where, but you need to find one that is large enough and clear. The best picture use with the laser engraver is a black and white vector graphic. I found my service emblems at http://www.defense.gov/multimedia/web_graphics/ , here there is all the services and the esp. graphics are perfect.
Step 1: Making the graphic into a laserable image
First, I set the work area up in millimeters, because the software does not work in standard measurements only metric. After setting the 4-inch work area you the next step is to import the graphic. Now, because the graphic is quit larger then the 4 inch area, I have to use the mouse wheel to scroll out. Once the graphic is center and filling the entire screen and I can see the whole graphic I click on it to highlight it and then chose handle from the top menu bar, then “Bitmap handle”, this is where I will get the outline drawing of the graphic.
Once the window is open for “bitmap Handle” I set the resolution to where I want it (1000 dpi) this allows for a sharp line with little straight edges on the curves. Next I click on the option “Get Outline”. After a second the outline is then overlaid on the original graphic, clicking OK to close the window and taking me back to the main screen where I can edit and fix any imperfections in the software trace of the graphic. Usually I will spend a couple of hours fixing lines and straightening line to allow for a perfect image.
To change the line or fix them, I use the tool that allows me to move the nodes of the lines around, this is what actually changes the shape or length of a line. Because this software is not the best such as CorelDraw it does not make a perfect outline, so I need to spend the time to ensure a good clean image and cut.
Because there are three layers of this graphic and also three colors, I need to separate out the parts that will be cut on the different shades of wood.
For example in this emblem the base is the darker wood stained with cabernet colored, the second layer is for the lettering and is of a medium color stained with golden oak. Finally is the third layer consisting of the accent pieces (stars, outer and inner circle and eagle and shield) will be used with a natural wood color.
The wood being used here is stained 1/8” craft plywood. I used this because it allows for a good strong finished product, which does not warp after being stained because of the thinness of the wood.