Introduction: Laser Cut Living Hinge Christmas Cards
These Christmas cards were inspired by Snijlab's living hinge design: our hackspace received a couple of copies of their folding wood booklets and I thought that the design could be adapted to make a unique card.
The design is an adaptation of their horizontal folding wood booklet, and features a paper insert for writing your message on.
Step 1: What You'll Need
- Laser cutter
- A4 sheets of 3mm laser plywood (one sheet for each card and one for testing)
- Scotch wool / fine grain sandpaper
- White spirit
- Wood stain
- Thin tip paintbrush
- Sponge, brush or cloth for applying wood stain and wax
- Wax polish
- A6 sheets of cream paper (one for each card)
- Punch tool
- Brown leather cord (40cm for each card)
- Cream envelopes
Step 2: Design Your Card
I modified the original living hinge design to be slightly larger than the A6 card inserts, and removed the notch as the card won't need to be held closed after it's taken out of the envelope.
I hand-drew two different robot designs to go on the front of the cards, scanned these into my computer and modified them slightly in Illustrator before importing them into the card design.
For the design to cut properly, the hinges and the outside edge of the card should be separate colours so the hinges can be cut first.
I've attached my designs, but Snijlab's original living hinge design is available to download from Thingiverse and there are also plenty of other modifications online if you want to create your own card design from scratch.
Step 3: Cut and Engrave the Cards
Cut the hinge and outline of the cards:
These are the settings I used on a 40W Full Spectrum Engineering Deluxe Hobby Laser on 15 milliamps power:
- 30% speed, 100% power, 1 pass
When cutting plywood, try to cut the design in one pass - after the first pass the cut is charred which makes it tougher to cut through again, so running repeat passes will cause more charring around the edges of the cut.
Run some test cuts with these settings to make sure the cut is passing completely through the plywood, and adjust the settings to suit your laser cutter if necessary.
Import your design into your laser-cutting software, and set the hinge layer to cut first and the outer line layer second (set the number of passes for the front of the card design to 0 so that it isn't cut). This is so the card doesn't shift after the outline is cut, which could cause the hinge to not cut properly.
After the design is cut be careful not to move the plywood sheet or laser cutter head so that the engraving in the next step is properly lined up with the rest of the card.
Engrave the design on the cards:
Laser cutter settings:
- 100% speed, 100% power on 15 milliamps
Set your laser cutter to engrave and start it engraving the design on the front of the card.
When the engraving's finished, take the card out of the laser and check the back to make sure all of the cuts have passed clearly through. If any of them haven't, cut through the rest of the plywood with a scalpel or stanley knife so that the hinge doesn't crack when you close the card.
Step 4: Apply Wood Stain and Wax
Prepare the cards for staining:
Sand down both sides of the cards using super fine grit sandpaper or scotch wool. Take special care to sand down the edges and the hinge.
Rub both sides of the cards with white spirit to remove all dirt and sawdust, and dry with a clean cloth.
Stain the cards:
I created three different coloured cards using three shades of Colron Wood Dye: Georgian Median Oak (light brown), Deep Mahogany (reddish brown) and Indian Rosewood (dark brown).
Cover your work surface with a protective cloth and use a sponge, brush or lint-free cloth to apply woodstain to both sides of the card. I used Colron Lint-Free Craftman's Cloths.
Apply the woodstain using long, even strokes in the same direction to ensure an even finish. You might want to test your woodstain on the spare piece of plywood beforehand to see how much stain you want to apply: you can apply multiple coats to achieve a darker or more intense finish.
Use a fine-tipped paintbrush to apply woodstain to the engraved areas of the card. The stain will appear slightly darker on the engraved areas because the inner wood is exposed by the engraving process.
Leave the woodstain to dry according to the instructions on the bottle, preferably overnight.
Finish off the cards with a very light sanding with fine grit sandpaper or scotch wool, then apply a layer of wax with a lint-free cloth. I used Fiddes & Son's Supreme Wax Polish.
Wipe off any excess wax with kitchen towel, and leave to dry according to the instructions on the tin.
Step 5: Bind the Cards Closed
The living hinge design will naturally want to spring open, which isn't ideal for a greeting card. You can train the wood to naturally stay closed using water and heat.
Bind the cards closed and slightly wet the hinges with clean water. Place the cards on top of a radiator overnight - when you take them off the next morning they shouldn't be so inclined to spring open!
Step 6: Add the Paper Insert
Prepare the paper insert by folding a sheet of A6 paper in half. Use a punch tool to punch a hole at the top and bottom of the crease, about a centimeter away from each edge.
Thread a length of cord through the holes in the paper insert (see photo for how this should look).
Place the paper insert into the card, and tie the ends of the cord together on the outside of the card. The knot should sit on top of the living hinge and should hold the insert firmly in place.
Write your message, pop it in an envelope and you're done!