Introduction: Lasered Dragonfly and Flower Clock (with Epic Detail)
Using the laser to get a LOT of artistic detail. Made it at techshop!
Step 1: Subject Matter
First, I decided I wanted to make a fancy clock, after tossing around a few ideas I decided on this image. It is a Japanese woodblock print by Hokusai. I happened to already have this black and white outline of it ^_^ There are a variety of colored versions of this, depending on who was printing it at the time I guess. This colored one I include here was my favorite I found, and I based my own coloring on it.
Step 2: Materials and Supplies
-1/8" thick maple board
-1/8" teal blue acrylic
-8 pieces 2mm cubic zirconia
-acrylic gloss medium
-krylon gold paint pen
-priority mail stickers
-sand paper (I used 400 mostly)
-rag for polishing (not a paper towel!)
-corrugated card board
-paint brush for gesso and acrylic medium
-paint brush for details
-acrylic solvent needle applicator bottle
-2mm stone setting bur (optional?)
-dremel/flex shaft (optional)
Step 3: Basic Layout
I decided on a two part face, because I wanted bright color AND the look of natural wood.
A 5" diameter wooden circle with a 1" wide outer colored acrylic ring. The acrylic part of the face has an inner diameter of 5" and an outer diameter of 7".
I printed out my image on paper in a few different sizes in order to help me decide on scale, as well as to figure out the size I wanted for for the clock in general.
I decided to take full advantage of the laser and have my image flow from one material seamlessly to another. Something that would be ridiculously hard to do by hand.
Step 4: Arranging the Numbers and Dots
Clocks that have no numbers or are unnecessarily hard to read drive me nuts, so I was very attentive to making this an easy to read clock.
I used corel draw for my layout (photoshop to make the image nice and monochomatic).
I added a 6" circle to help me center my numbers and dots. I then drew a straight vertical line and got it perfectly centered, a horizontal line bisecting all my circles. (I forgot the tricky way to do this). I then copied and pasted the line, then rotated it 30 degrees. Because 360 degrees in a circle, 12 points on the clock, 360 divided by 12 is 30! Then I copied my new line which goes from 1 across to 7, pasted and rotated this one another 30 degrees. I repeated that until I had the six lines you see above.
I picked out the font Georgia size 72. Careful to not have the numbers in a overly sized text box. This way I can take the number by its center and stick it to the appropriate line intersection.
I planned to deeply lase the numbers so that I can inlay wood veneer that will be flush with the surrounding acrylic. For this, the numbers on the clock face need to have a .5 pen tool outline. This makes a perfect fit for numbers vector cut out from the same size 72 font numbers!
The dots are 2mm. Placed the same as placing the numbers, I grab one by the center, and match it to an intersection, copy and repeat.
For the very center tiny circle, after some trial and error, I found that .33" is the perfect size to vector cut out. It leaves just a little wiggle room to fit the clock mechanism through.
(By the way, I have the image as black and white as possible, I don't deal with any grayscale/gradiant at all in this project.)
Step 5: Cutting the Veneer Numbers
These are my hairline numbers . Notice... I haven't arranged them in the most material conservative manner, if the numbers are rotated in different ways, their wood grain doesn't match. And I am totally bothered by that!
Step 6: Lasing the Wooden Part of the Clock Face
My adobe illustrator is about ten years old, so I don't know if illustrator has this or not nowadays.... but my corel draw has pages! So I can draw a whole book, easily worked on in a single file.
My main image with all the guidelines I leave on it's own page. I copy everything to a new page, and remove the guide lines I don't want to print. I can't really be bothered to edit the bitmap, but I also don't want to print twice as much image area than necessary... so I ended up laying a multi-part white mask over everything I didn't want to print.
Since my original work is safe on the first page, I went ahead and deleted some numbers and stuff, and careful that the outer outline is either gone or not hairline. The hairlines will get vector cut even if they are behind something and invisible. (I have learned the hard way.) At the same time making sure the two circles, the tiny inner one and outer one are still hairlines. Once I got it how I liked it, I grouped it all together to make sure no little bits got lost.
The material I used was a 1/8" thick cherry wood board.
Step 7: Cutting the Acrylic
As for prepping my file, I did the same as with the wood. I copied my original image from my first page onto its own page. Then covered up or deleted areas that I didn't want to print on the acrylic.
I used 1/8" thick teal acrylic that was available for purchase at TechShop.
I played around with the settings quite a bit before finding a cut that was just the right depth for my wood veneer. So if you used wood veneer that has a backing, this setting may not cut deep enough.
I also cut out a 6" acrylic circle with a 3" hole in the middle, as support for the wood part of the face and the 3" is just right for the clock mechanism.
Step 8: Veneer Numbers
I know mounted veneer is sold, but what I used was unmounted. Thus, it was a little wavy and very fragile.
I tried mounting it a few different ways, the issue I ran into was a happy medium between something rigid enough to hold the veneer flat and flexible enough to allow me to unmount the veneer after lasing the numbers out. I tried gluing the veneer directly to cardboard with a glue stick, thinking I could dissolve the paper and glue with water... but the water warped the veneer, and it would no longer fit in its home. I think this could be effective if you sealed the veneer first before gluing it to the cardboard, but I haven't tried this.
I finally succeeded by gluing the veneer with a glue stick to sticker paper. I used those priority labels from the post office. I then glued those two things to cardboard, and then secured the edges with painters tape.
I made sure the wood grain on the numbers would line up with the grain on the wood part of the face =)
Step 9: Everything Is Cut Out!
Now I have the wood center, the acrylic outer ring, the acrylic circular support ring and a variety of numbers cut from veneer.
I sanded the wood face thoroughly to remove any laser smoke. I also sanded the numbers just a tiny bit to get rid of a tiny bit of singeing that was apparent.
I polished the haze off of the acrylic. I got this awesome bottle of acrylic polish from an acrylic sheet supplier. It removed all of cloudiness like a dream! However, a cloth rag is necessary. I initially tried paper towels and got bits of paper towel stuck everywhere in my design, which was not helpful. I was then careful to use only water to get polish out of the design, anything else (ie the toothbrush I tried) just puts marks back onto the acrylic =(
Step 10: Gesso for the Wood Center
After sanding the wood and wiping off all the dust (be careful, water may warp the wood), I painted clear gesso in all the areas I intended to paint. You could paint the whole surface I guess? But the gesso has a gross sandy texture, which the paint covers up. Also the slight color change made painting easier. I could tell if an area was background or a leaf instantly when I started painting.
Step 11: Gold Outlines for the Acrylic
So, I suppose I could have left the protective covering on the acrylic, etched it, colored in the etched parts, then peeled away the covering and the excess paint.... but I didnt.
After polishing the acrylic I used a krylon gold paint pen to get gold paint into all of the floral and dragonfly design. Since I had other plans for the numbers and dots, I left them alone. I then took a rubbing alcohol soaked tissue and carefully wiped away the excess paint. The reaction between the alcohol and the paint turned the remaining paint more brown than gold... =/ But it still looked awesome, so whatever.
Step 12: Sealing the Veneer Numbers
I carefully separate the numbers I need for my clock from this sheet. I made lots of extras in case I break any...
With the sticker backing, the numbers are pretty easily removed from the cardboard. Though they now have sticker backs. I think if I had better sticker paper I would be set... but for this project I also try to remove as much of the sticker paper as possible.
They are crazy fragile, but I did still sand them a little to get off any apparent burn marks, though this would probably be most easily done before taking the number from its stabilizing backing...
Then I used my acrylic medium to seal one side of each number and then set it aside to dry. Putting the sealer on only one side caused the pieces to curl up a little. But after they were dry and I painted the other side, they flattened back out. I gave each number two coats and each side.
I used two part epoxy to glue the numbers into their homes. I mixed up a small amount of the epoxy on some scrap paper with a q-tip or a tooth pick. I then used either a q-tip or a tooth pick (as appropriate) to apply the freshly mixed epoxy to the backs of the numbers. Then swiftly jammed the numbers into their homes. A few of the numbers still had a little tiny bit of wave to them, I tautly pulled painters tape across them so that the epoxy would end up holding them in flat after they dried.
Step 13: Inlaying the CZs
Since I do a lot of silver smithing I have lots of gemstones lying around. I decided on 2mm cubic zirconium, they are NOT expensive, they cost 13 cents each, so I spent way more on glue for the project than I did on gemstones.
The 2mm hole I cut ended up being slightly too small for the stones, which is just fine, I made them fit exactly with a setting bur. You could probably get the hole just right with the laser... But, this bur cost about $2 and works just perfectly. I happen to own a very wonderful tabletop foredom flex shaft which is what I used... but since you are only removing a small amount of material, just twisting the bur into the holes by hand will work. This will clear out the holes of any solidified laser fumes that are clogging the way, let you make the hole just the right depth, and start a small hole in the center bottom of the lasered hole to guide the bottom point of the stone to be perfectly centered. With a glittery stone like a CZ or real diamond, it is really obvious when the stone is set at a funny angle because they don't glitter right.
Once I drilled out all my holes I stuck the stones all in to make sure their depths matched. I checked their height by holding the acrylic up perpendiculary right in front of my face and by running my fingers over each stone to feel that each didn't stick out more than another.
Then I put a little E6000 into one hole at a time. This glue had a nice long working time and cleaned up easily in the time I took trying to figure out what I was doing.
Step 14: Welding the Acrylic
This was actually my first time welding acrylic... so correct me if I've done something terrible.
My can of solvent was extremely hard to get into, I had to smash a hole through the metal covering (after removing the lid) with a hammer and scissors. I used my needle applicator bottle like an eyedropper. I squeezed air out of the bottle and dipped the needle tip in through the hole in my can of solvent. Slowly a small amount of solvent was drawn into the bottle.
The alignment of the front and back acrylic parts doesn't matter unless the back has something on it. And I happened to have engraved a note onto the back because the clock was made as a gift. So I lined up the two pieces with the engraving lined up correctly and used a dry erase pen to draw a line on the sides (the 1/8" thick sides), like a notch mark, so that I could match the two pieces up in a hurry. Because the solvent is VERY fast acting.
I dripped solvent from my needle bottle in drops around the outer area of the bottom ring and then quickly aligned and laid down the upper acrylic ring. It ended up matching preeetty well. I would like it nudged maybe 1/32" or 1/64" a few directions... but it is ok. I then did something way easier, which was to run the needle around the inside seam of the two pieces. Seriously sealing the heck out of the two pieces.
Step 15: Painting Time!
So, not counting the time I spent on the computer or at the laser, I spent about 10 hours painting and putting these parts together. Most of that time was painting. I also alternated, while something on the acrylic section was drying I would work on the wood section, and vice versa.
I admit it, I used oil paint without thinking, which means in a year I have to get this clock back and properly seal it... =/ Acrylic is probably the paint you want to be using for this.
This is just a slide show of my painting progress. I had intended originally for translucency... but mistakes were made. So the paint job is mostly opaque. When I was done I hit it with a temporary oil paint varnish. Though for acrylic, you will want clear acrylic medium, polyurathane, or some similar type of sealer. I didn't seal or do anything to the back, because half the back is going to be glued to acrylic, I want the glue stuck to the wood itself and not the sealer. (And the other half is mostly going to be covered by clock mechanism.)
Step 16: Wood + Acrylic
So, with my two acrylic parts welded together and the upper part with number inlay, CZ inlay and gold paint inlay. And with my wood face fancily painted and appropriately sealed I can finally join these last two parts. I joined the two using epoxy.
I didn't work out how to give two laser cut out pieces a tight fit, so there was some loose space when I set the wood center in the acrylic circle. I prepared four 2" long scraps of paper, about 1/2" wide then folded them in half to use as spacers, so the wooden center would be nice and centered.
I mixed up some epoxy on a piece of scrap paper, then use a q-tip to wipe a ring along the outside back of the wood center and along the inside of the recess in my acrylic (though this was WAY too much it turned out, use sparingly). I then placed the wood in its final home and quickly got the image alignment correct and stuffed the bits of scrap paper in the gap at 12, 3, 6, and 9 and made sure the wood really was centered and aligned just right.
I put some strips of cardboard across the face so I could safely clamp the wood and acrylic.... this is when I found out I had used way too much epoxy and it came oozing out everywhere and I was frantically wiping it away with my fingers trying not to spread it around... Eventually I had to just walk away, no one would be looking at it from 3" away... so I let it dry a few days. Pay attention to the dry time as indicated on your epoxy.
(Also one of both of these materials wasn't a proper 1/8" thick, the wood is a little thicker than the acrylic... it turned out fine for this project I think, but it will needed to be accounted for in some project eventually...)
Step 17: Clock Mechanism
So, I didn't actually put the mechanism on. I bought the mechanism and the hands before I knew what kind of clock I would be making. The hands were much too short and just didn't go. So I checked out my local horologist, and he hooked me up. He had a variety of hands and sold me, what he insisted, was a far superior mechanism, and installed it for me. The main thing I learned was that the mechanism is held on by tension, from a tightened bolt on the clock shaft. It is not glued on, which makes sense if you needed to fix any separate part of the clock. The guy was very serious also that the hands be kept safe, because if they bend at all, they could touch each other or the clock face. And if the hands are fumbled in any way then the clock will fail at keeping time, that is fail at being a clock.
So, now it's a clock!