This is my first instructable - so any feedback and tips to make future instructables better would be very appreciated!

This is also my first project at the TechShop.  I had limited time to spend their prior to the holidays, but wanted to make something, however small just to get started.

Here's the genesis of the project: we decided to make christmas gifts for our parents rather than buy them something this year and since i had just taken the class on laser cutting and etching at the TechShop i was eager to put that to use to make something.  At the same time i randomly came across these little wooden plates at Daiso for $1.50 each and figured that i could etch something meaningful on them to create a custom gift. 

The first task was to find something meaningful to etch.  After trolling the web for ideas and inspiration and anchored on having a quote and image on each plate. I happened to have a book with a compilation of quotes from my in-laws, so picking some quotes from that was easy and meaningful.  I also know that they low plants, and started searching for images of plants/trees and came across these incredible fractal tree illustrations on www.rgbstock.com. These were free to use for non-commercial use and detailed fractal nature of the illustration is excellent to demonstrate the preciseness of laser-etching!

Step 1: Testing the Laser Cutter

Now to actually test the etching!

First i had to compose the unique images + quote combination for each plate.  I did this is Adobe Illustrator and created three layers (tip from of the more seasoned users at the TechShop):
Layer 1: Outline Box - just a box to the exact measurement of the plate
Layer 2: Image - select tree image
Layer 3: Text - selected text

TIP: Create your illustrations in layers where possible. allows you to burn over sections as needed.

Some reasons why this was useful:
- having the box outline helped with the test prints to see if the laser cutter was misaligned (happens often)
- the out outline also helped visually see exactly where to place the image and quote, rather than a larger page
- it turned out that i burned the images once, but the text twice, so the layering made that dead simple

Next was to play with the settings for the Laser Cutter.

I found a piece of plywood from the scrap bin (excellent source of material) and got to work. I tested for a couple of things:
- alignment/placement of plate/illustration
- power and speed for etching for both the image and the text
- font types

After a first pass at Speed/Power at 60/60, i thought i wanted to etch a little deeper and bumped it up to 60/65.

Once satisfied with both the text and image, i tested on one of the plate (I bought an extra one for testing). 

First learning: the type of wood you use REALLY MATTERS!  what came out with beautiful detail on the scrap plywood came out less detailed on the plate.  Also the text was too light to be seen. 

Tried a few things with the text. I tried  a few different fonts (and good feedback from anyone in the shop that day) and also (per a tip) burnt the text twice.   After some testing i decided to stay with the original font choice and burn the text twice.

TIP: when selecting wood, go for the finest/smoothest grain.
This is great! I love that you showed all the tests! It is such a pain sometimes trying to get just the right settings :)
Thanks! I need to get back in the shop and play around with more stuff
How can i get a Laser Cutter?
Not sure, but that's why i love the TechShop - i get access to one for the price of monthly membership! where are you located - TechShop is only in a few locations yet, but they are expanding rapidly!
I like that you used a different plant design to accompany each quote. Are these meant to be decorative wall hangings?
i wasn't quite sure what to do with them - hence the question mark around the 'server plates'. they were about 4x6 inches, so i figured they could be coaster of sorts... since i bought six blank plates/coasters, i figured should customize each one. so i picked six quotes from a book that my in-laws had compiled at some point and found six plant designs (could have been anything, but they love plants) to match. i may do this project again with better wood and different designs - maybe different scenes from San Francisco?
I'm so impressed by (a) the gorgeous fractal designs and (b) how well it did come out despite the wood grain issues. Nicely done!

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