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For my Instructables I made a laser cut Grateful Dead sign. I am making this sign for my personal project in my engineering class at my school. The reason I choose to make a Grateful Dead sign is because I am making it for a friend of mine who loves jam bands. The base of the sign is made out of mahogany wood and the skull symbol is laser engraved into it. I soldered red LED’s into the sign to add color.

Step 1: Materials Needed

Before starting your project you need to gather all your materials. You will need

  • Red and/or Blue LED's
  • Mahogany wood
  • Access To A Laser Engraver
  • Wood Glue
  • Copper Tape
  • Soldering Iron
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • 9 Volt battery
  • Wire

Step 2: Make Your Design and Test It

My first step to making my sign was creating the design on Adobe Illustrator so I could engrave it into the wood. To get the Grateful Dead symbol I searched for Grateful Dead logo vectors and found one on the internet. I saved it to my computer and then was able to open it up on Illustrator. On Illustrator I could then edit the picture and drag shapes out from the inside. I took the colored parts out of the skull with intentions on cutting those out of acrylic to glue back on over my laser cut design but due to time constraints I could't do it. After you have removed the colored parts, make sure that your vector is solid black so the laser knows where to engrave. Then I drew six 10mm holes out for my LED's to be placed into. Make sure your holes are all lined up and centered to where you want them. Depending on the thickness of your boards, the laser will not cut all the way through them but will make little holes so you know exactly where to drill. Make sure you test your design on scrap wood to make sure everything works so you do not waste material.

Step 3: Assemble Your Frame

To make my frame I used two pieces of Mahogany wood and glued them together to make my sign 12"x11". I put my wood pieces through the planer and jointed to make the top of the wood smooth, and on side perfectly flat. I then ran them through a table saw to make them each 5 1/2" wide. Using wood glue, I bonded them together and clamped them and let it set for 24 hours. After unclasping them, I ran them through the planer again to make them perfectly even on top and bottom. Then using the Miter saw, I cut the board to 12".

Step 4: Cut Out Your Design

After I tested my design and my board was squared and ready to go, I engraved in my design. On the engraver, set your board up in the proper place and set the laser to the center of the board. Gently mark the center of the board with a pencil and then you can move the point of the laser with the arrow keys on your keyboard. On the lasers program, change the settings to fit the materials you used and then you can start engraving. On mine, I used 1/2" thick mahogany wood. Engraving this design took me about 20 minutes. Once it was finished engraving, I used the drill press to cut out my six holes for my LED's. The laser marked exactly where I was supposed to drill so this saved a lot of time instead of marking it all out. Using a 27/64" drill bit, I drilled my holes out for the 10mm LED's and they fit perfectly.

Step 5: Wiring Your LED's

To power my LED's I used a 9 volt battery connected to a 330 Ohm resistor. I used copper tape to connect my 6 LED's in a parallel circuit. I connected the positive side on my battery to my resistor then to the positive side of my copper tape. Then off the negative side of my battery I connected a switch, then the switch went to the negative piece of copper tape. I used wire to bridge the positive pieces of tape together and negative pieces together. I used only red LED's but if you are making it, you can do every other LED blue so you match the Grateful Deads colors.

Step 6: LED's Continued

I used Velcro to hold my battery onto the board so it was not pulling on the wires

Step 7: Extras

I am going to add onto my sign and make some little improvements. Due to time and materials I couldn't do everything I wanted to before my deadline. If I could improve my project I would use wood with a better grain and also stain it with a nice darker stain. If staining, make sure you stain it after engraving it, the laser will not work properly with stain on it. I tried having blue LED's in mine but they wouldn't light up correctly because the ones I had required a different voltage then the reds and I would have had to change my whole circuit and resistor. The last thing I would do is cut out red and blue acrylic pieces to fit into the skull of the symbol to add more wow factor.

Step 8:

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