I've found that interesting party invitations are rare and provide a great sense of anticipation for guests.
For this one, I sent out a wrist band to each guest to match my "Industrial" theme.
What you see here is a 3"x8" leather wristband with snaps, pop riveted to aluminum diamond plate on top.
I'll be honest in that, if you don't have a workshop such as TechShop nearby, some of these steps will get much harder.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Laser: I used a 40W FSL 5th gen 20"x12" hobby laser http://fslaser.com/products/lasers/hobby-lasers/n... Almost any laser over a few watts that can handle 3"x8" work piece could do this.
- Powder coating gun and bay. https://www.powderbuythepound.com/ can sell you the powder and/or the gun, but make sure you have a place to hang it that you can electrify. Don't powdercoat without proper safety training.
- Metal sheer. I used something identical to this http://metal.baileighindustrial.com/hydraulic-she... but you could probably use tin snips if you had a lot of time.
- Pop rivet gun. Don't get one of the $10 ones. Get one of the ~$20 ones. You'll feel the difference and your work will be easier and faster. http://www.homedepot.com/p/Stanley-Right-Angle-Ma...
- Hole punch. I used something like this http://www.interplantsales.com/images/220/325.jpg at Techshop. As long as your punch can go through aluminum and leather at the same time, you're fine. You could likely use a drill press for this.
- 3'x3' diamond plate http://www.homedepot.com/p/MD-Building-Products-36...
- Black powder coat https://www.powderbuythepound.com/BLACK_MATTE_TUSC...
- Pop rivets http://www.homedepot.com/p/Stanley-120-Piece-Rive...
- Leather cuffs: I bought these from here, but you could easily make them and add snaps if you had more time. If I was doing it again, I'd also order them at least 3"x9" instead because many of my guests had issues putting on the small wristbands.
Step 2: Powder Coat
- Punch a couple of small holes in two adjacent corners of the diamond plate sheet.
- Powder coat the aluminum on one side per normal powder coating protocols.
- Bake per instructions on the powder coat you're using.
- Aluminum cools incredibly quickly so you'll be able to work with it <5 minutes after pulling it from the oven.
Step 3: Cut to Size
You'll want your pieces to fit easily inside the leather so keep a margin. I cut before etching partly because the cutter was in the same place as the powder coat and partly because I didn't want to have to align my cuts to the etched pieces.
- Set the metal cutter to 1.5".
- Cut strips until you have enough depending on how many invites you're making.
- Set the metal cutter to 2.5" or however long you want to suit your design.
- Cut the small pieces. You can slide several strips into the sheer at the same time to make this faster.
Step 4: Etch
You'll want to etch before punching holes because you won't be able to get perfectly consistently-aligned punches. This means that each metal piece will perfectly match one and only one leather piece when you want to assemble them.
Part of these instructions will be based on the laser you're using. If you have a tiny bed that handles one at a time, you can obviously skip the alignment parts.
- Design your art. I have a logo for my parties that's a nordic bind-rune. In this invite, I wanted to follow my "Industrial" theme and tweak my logo to match. I took that design and found some vector pipes that I could use to make the right shape.
- Copy your art to a grid of X by Y depending on the size of your laser bed. With my laser bed of 20"x12", providing abound a 1" border (recommended for FSL*!!) and using my 1.5" x 2.5" pieces, I could lase 7 by 7 at a time.
- Get your alignment correct and test power and speed. This is highly dependent on your laser and your own experience. With my 40W laser, I used 100% speed and 100% power for etching aluminum. Given the gradient I wanted here, I should have used less power.
For the leather pieces, the procedure is the same. I used a high power and lower speed to etch deeply because the leather I was using was very thick.
*Tip for FSL users: Printing a file with many vectors as a raster can often screw up the art. I group and flatten my vectors to one large bitmap at 500dpi just before printing. I'd use 1000 if I was going to lase at 1000. Remember to offset for the lack of white space.
Step 5: Punch Holes
Since I expect these to be worn, at most, exactly once, I just started mounting the sharp aluminum to the leather. If I'd had more time and expected these to be worn more, I'd have trimmed the aluminum corners to curves and possibly even buffed them smooth with a soft dremel bit. You'd want to do that before punching.
- Align a piece of leather with one piece of cut and etched aluminum.
- Punch 4 holes, one on each corner, leaving enough material to hold it in place and not rip. I used margins of ~1/4". I also aligned my punches (roughly) to match up to the spaces between the numbers on the back. Keep an eye on your art on both sides since the rivets will be visible on both sides.
- Keep them together. I can't stress this enough. After they're punched, keep them in stacks with the aluminum piece that was punched with its leather piece. See the stacks in the picture.
Step 6: Pop Rivet
- Load the pop rivet gun
- Push the rivet through the leather and metal from the back of the leather
- Pump the gun until the rivet pops off (usually twice)
I wanted to use screw-on spikes for this and even got them, but the screws were too short to get a grip on the threads after going through the leather and diamond plate.
Step 7: Shipping
One issue with sending invitations is shipping and this was no exception. I ended up buying boxes from a shipping place and taping them closed with clear packaging tape, then printing and sticking on the address labels. Make sure you leave enough room for the stamp. When you want to ship something that's either an unusual size, shape or weight, normal stamps don't cut it. There are several options and I'll go through a few including what I eventually actually chose.
- Fail: USPS.com allows you to upload a contact list and it will create address labels with postage for you. This sounds cool until you run across two insane limitations. You can only use it for Priority Mail, not First Class Mail. This doubles the cost and, since we're talking about shipping things mostly locally (these are party invitations, after all), the extra speed is useless. They also only let you choose 30 addresses at once to print. You can create multiple orders with 30 addresses each, but it gets annoying.
- Fail: Stamps.com pretends to allow printing first class stamps, but once you sign up (which has a fairly hidden monthly fee if you don't cancel right away), that option is nowhere to be seen. You also have to call and go through a long phone tree to cancel and confirm that you want to cancel ~5 times.
- Maybe: For the future, I'm going to buy a postal scale and just print the types of stamps I want at home. It's an investment, but it seems like it will be worth it in the long run for the sake of convenience if using one will allow me to print First Class stamps instead of just Priority Mail stamps.
- Success: I printed out all of my address labels and stuck them on the boxes, taped them shut and went to the post office. I could have waited for them to open, waited in line and had a clerk print me out the dozens of odd-value stamps as I've done before. Instead, this time I used the automated machine to print out dozens of odd-value stamps, which was a pain because it will only let you print out 6 at a time for some unknown reason.