Introduction: Laser Cut Kiki's Delivery Service Sign
Kiki's Delivery Service is a stunning coming-of-age film that I hold very dear to my heart, since I used to watch it a lot as a wee child. It was written and directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli in 1989. It tells the story of a young witch named Kiki who moves to a new town and starts a delivery service using her flying abilities. She lives in a bakery, and there's a cute sign made of bread in the bakery's window with Japanese text on it. As a birthday gift for my friend Addie, who also loves this film, I decided to make this sign for her out of laser cut plywood, but replaced the Japanese text with "Addie's Delivery Service".
Step 1: Materials
Laser cutter (I used a Universal Systems laser cutter)
1/8-inch thick plywood sheet (at least 12" x 15")
String (I used twisted white nylon string)
Step 2: Download the Files
To create the vector file for laser cutting, I used Adobe Photoshop to trace the image (which was a screenshot from the movie) with the Paintbrush tool, then imported that image to Adobe Illustrator to convert it into a vector.
I've included an Adobe Illustrator vector file that you can use with your laser cutter. I've also attached a PDF and PSD file for you as well.
In the Illustrator file, the black lines are where the image should be raster etched into the wood, and the red strokes signify where the sign's outline should be cut out of the wood. The red and black lines are separated into two different layers so that you can easily make adjustments. Make sure you change the stroke widths of the red lines according to your laser cutter's instructions so that it knows to cut them out instead of rastering. (For my laser cutter, the stroke width needs to be 0.001 pt wide for it to cut. In the file provided, however, I changed the stroke width to 4 pt so that you can see it when you download it.)
Since I made the sign for my friend Addie, the text on my sign reads "Addie's Delivery Service". You can replace this text with any text of your choice. I wrote mine by hand in Photoshop and then converted it into a vector file in Illustrator, but a much easier option is to just use a font directly in Illustrator.
Step 3: Laser Cut
I used a Universal Systems laser cutter to raster and cut the design out of the 1/8" plywood. This process took a surprisingly long amount of time because there was so much rastering, which is a lot slower than vector cutting. The whole laser cutting job took about 40 minutes.
Step 4: To Sand or Not to Sand
Originally I planned to sand the wooden pieces, because I usually don't like the smoke stains that give laser cut wood a slightly burnt color on the edges. But then I realized that the smoke stains actually give the wood a nice golden brown color and bread-like texture similar to Kiki's actual bread sign in the film! Also, the smoke stains only appear on one side of each line, kind of like air brushed shading in an illustration of an object. So, I decided not to sand it after all. Ah, serendipity at its finest.
If you like the sanded aesthetic better though, go ahead and sand.
Step 5: Tie the String
Cut one piece of string, around 12 inches long, and tie each end to the two holes at the top of the large wreath with a square knot. Then cut two short pieces of string, around 5 inches long. Taking one piece, tie one end to one of holes on top of the small piece labeled "Kiki's Delivery Service" and tie the other end of the string to the respective hole at the bottom of the large wreath. Do the same with the other short string on the other side.
I used a white nylon twisted string, which frays easily but melts with high heat. So, I used a lighter to gently melt the ends of the string so that my knots don't get loose.
Ta-da! You're done! Now go hang your new sign, and then take a break and watch Kiki's Delivery Service to reward yourself after all that hard work.
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