Introduction: How to Make Laser-cut Jewelry for Valentine's Day

This Instructable shows you how to make some personalized laser cut jewelery using Ponoko - maybe for your Valentine ;) . If you've never worked with a laser-cutter or have only used a vector art package once or twice before, then this guide is for you.

After a previous Instructable on making a laser-cut lamp, I realised it was important to create clearer step-by-step guides. As long as you've got a computer that can run a vector software package you'll be able to achieve some very cool results.

If you prefer to skip the Instructable and just get making, feel free to download the .eps files I've already created.

Let me know how you get on!

Step 1: Stuff You'll Need

You'll only need a few things for this Instructable:

A steady hand
Ponoko Inkscape templates

Chain or Leather for the necklace
Earring hooks
Jump Rings
Ink and Paint Brush
A rag

Step 2: Sketch Some Ideas

The first thing I did was sit down with a pencil and some paper and sketch a few ideas that were floating around my head. I just tried a few different forms for a pendant necklace and I am thinking of engraving a pattern onto them.

At this stage I have a vague idea of the materials that I want to use. I'm thinking of white or clear acrylic and rubbing ink into the engraving details so that they stand out a bit more.

Step 3: Finding Images for Engraving Effects

For the engraving on my pendant I was thinking of using a butterfly shape and tiling it over the entire shape. I Google Image searched butterfly and some great images showed up for engraving.

Good images to look out for have simple shapes and outlines. They also have nice clean backgrounds. This will help make things easier :)

Save the image or images in a folder on your computer. You'll be using these later.

Step 4: Download and Open Inkscape

If you haven't already got Inkscape installed, head on over to and download the latest version of Inkscape for your computer. Inkscape is great, not only is it free to use, it will work on Windows, Mac OS X, and most flavors of Linux.

Once you've downloaded the Inkscape application, follow the installation steps.

Once you've installed it, open up Inkscape so it's ready for the next step...

Step 5: Download and Open Ponoko Inkscape Starter Kit

You're now ready to download and open the Ponoko starter kit for Inkscape .

Once you've downloaded the starter kit, you'll see there are 3 Ponoko templates to choose from.

Open the P1.svg Ponoko template. (You can double click on the file or use the menu options inside Inkscape (File > Open) and then find the file P1.svg from there.)

You'll see an orange box with the words 'safe area' when you open the P1.svg. For these decorations you'll be working work with the smallest material size available - the P1. Its dimensions are 7.1 x 7.1 inches or 181 x 181 mm.

If you're interested, you'll find the starter kit includes the Ponoko making guide which contains all sorts of helpful information about designing and making with Ponoko.

Step 6: Tracing Sketches

After doing some sketches for the shape of the pendants etc, I decided to just go with a simple rectangle shape with slightly rounded corners.

I used the Inkscape rectangle tool where I could create a rectangle shape with rounded corners. It also allowed me to add dimensions to the rectangle and set the radius for the corners which was great.

Step 7: Adding a Hole

In this step I need to create a hole so that the Pendant can be hung from a chain.

I start by creating some guides so I know that I will be getting the hole in the middle of the shape. I click and hold at the side of the screen on the page rulers. I then drag guides out and position them roughly where i want them. I double click on the guide and a dialog box opens that allows me to edit the value so i can define exactly where they are. I enter the value to the nearest 10. I then reposition the rectangle so it snaps to the guides.

(You can edit your guide properties by going to File:Document Properties and adjust the snap sensitivity)

I create a 3mm circle which will be the hole in the Pendant. I drag another guide onto the screen. This guide is to centre the hole. I know the circle is 3mm so I set the dimensions for the guide 1.5mm off the center of the rectangle. This way when i position the circle on the guide it will be in the middle of the rectangle.

I drag another guide which I set 2mm down from the top of the rectangle and then reposition the circle so it is on the guides.

Zoom out and group the circle and the rectangle.

Step 8: Tracing the Butterfly

In this step, I'll show you how to trace over the image to create the shape of the butterflies.

Some of the terms I use may be unfamiliar, especially if you haven't used Inkscape before - but do not worry!

The video shows you what to do so you'll get to see what the terms mean. If you do want to become more familiar with some of the terms and concepts of vector graphic software, you can check out Inkscape's help manual.

Set up your drawing area
Use the magnifying glass to zoom in on part of the image.

Draw a rough shape
Select the pen tool and draw a rough outline over the top of the image.

I did this by drawing points along the outline of your image. I hold down the mouse button and and transform each point into bezier curves by dragging the handles that appear on each side. In the video, you'll see how I use these handles to edit the curves of the butterfly.

Refine your shape
With the shape roughly traced, go through and edit each bezier so the curve matches the curves of the butterfly.

Finishing your Shape
At this point it's easier to see how your finished butterfly will look if you remove the imported image from your drawing area. You can then make any additional tweaks.

Step 9: Tiling to Create a Pattern

Now I am going to create a pattern using the outline of the butterfly that I have just created.

Firstly I shrink the butterfly down. If you hold down 'ctrl' when you drag the corners, the butterfly will scale while keeping the width and height proportions the same. I then align the butterfly with a guide line so that i can create my pattern in a straight line.

I copy and paste the butterfly onto the page and rotate it 90 degrees. If you hold 'Ctrl" again it will rotate and snap to the common degree increments. I scale it so the width of the second butterfly is the same as the height of the first butterfly. I drag another guide onto the page to help me with this. I then position it where i think it will be good.

I paste another butterfly the same as the first onto the page and position it. I then copy and paste the second butterfly. I then rotate it 180 degrees and position it. I now have a series of 4 butterflies which will be the basis for my pattern.

I copy and paste the series of 4 and position it next to the first. I then copy and paste all 8 and line up along the guide lines. Now that i have the top line complete I group them all.

I copy and paste the top line. I use another guide as the reference for the left hand side and another i position in the middle of the top left butterfly. I am going to offset the pattern so this will help me do this.

Step 10: Changing Line Colors and Widths

To make sure the laser-cutter cuts and engraves the right bits of the decoration, you'll need to change the colors and widths of the lines you've already drawn. To change the colors and widths you'll use the 'Fill and Stroke' dialog box which you open from the 'Object' menu.

Give the butterfly pattern an engraving color
Select the butterfly grouping with the pointer tool. Change the stroke color to Magenta (RGB, 255, 0, 255) and set the line width to 0.003mm.This tells our laser-cutter to engrave lightly into the surface.

Cutting out the Pendant
We can now tell the laser-cutter what parts we want to completely cut-out. Cutting lines need to be set to a stroke color of blue (RGB, 0, 0, 255). Set the line width to 0.003mm.

When you change the cutting lines to 0.003mm you may not be able to see them on your screen anymore. Don't worry, they are still there - if you zoom in you'll be able to see them.

Finally, group all your shapes together. To do this, select the outline of the bell, the hanging hole and the twinkle, then group them together (go to menu option: "Object > Group").

Step 11: Arrange on P1.svg

I arranged some pieces so they fit on a the P1 sized material. I'm going to make a few extras and vary aspects of the engraving so I can see how each of the different engraving options affects the result.

I'm trying both raster and vector engraving to see how each turns out.

For the raster engraving I have removed the stroke from the butterflies and then filled them with grey (RGB, 128, 128, 128). This tells our laser-cutter to engrave a medium depth into the surface.

Step 12: Creating a Ponoko-ready .eps File

Currently, Ponoko only accepts .eps files.

This means changing your P1.svg to a P1.eps. In Inkscape, this is an easy task.

Choose "Save As..." from the "File" menu. A dialog box appears (see image below). Change the name to "Jewelery". Now choose "Encapsulated Postscript (*.eps)." from the drop-down list.

Now click "Save". When the "Output" panel appears make sure the "Convert texts to paths" tickbox is ticked, then click "OK".

Step 13: Uploading .eps Files to Ponoko

Your files are ready to now upload to Ponoko!

1. If you've already got a MyPonoko account - then log in . If not, sign up for an account.

2. Once in MyPonoko, click on "Make a new design" in the side bar. When the page loads, click on "Add a new design."

3. To upload your files click on "Select a design" and then choose or browse for your design file on your computer.

4. If you want to upload more than one design file, click the "Select a design" button and repeat step 3 as necessary.

5. If you have any trouble uploading your file, head over to the forum.

6. Click "Done"

Note: Leave MyPonoko open, you'll need it open for the next few steps.

The images below show this process in detail.

Step 14: Choosing Materials

It's time to choose a material.

While still in MyPonoko, click on the "Show me the material catalog first" button or follow this link.

By browsing through the Ponoko materials catalog you can compare materials and decide which is best for you.

Because these designs are simple 2D shapes they can be made from almost any material in the Ponoko catalog.

I decided to use White Acrylic so the Ink, when rubbed into the engraving, will contrast nicely and look good.

Note: Remember to leave MyPonoko open, you'll need it open for the next few steps.

Step 15: Adding Materials to Your .eps Files

Once you've made a choice, select your material for each file.

Go back to your MyPonoko account and click the "Yes" button under the 'Would you like to add materials now?" question.

You'll then need to choose from the drop-down list.

I chose:
> Type: Plastic
> Color: Acrylic - White
> Thickness: 0.12 inches
> Sheet size: 7.1 inches wide x 7.1 inches long

If you measure in mm:
> Type: Plastic
> Color: Acrylic - White
> Thickness: 3.0mm
> Sheet size: 181 mm long x 181mm wide

To confirm your material choice, click the "Add this material" button.

Note: Leave MyPonoko open, you'll need it open for one final step :)

Step 16: Make Your Jewellery

The final step in MyPonoko is to make your jewelry.

Click the "Make it" button to start making.

The first screen confirms the details of your order as well as showing the costs so far. Click "Step 2" and then follow the making steps:

1. Add shipping address
2. Add billing address
3. Review and confirm
4. Add payment details
5. And we're done.

Now you just have to wait for your laser-cut parts to be delivered!

Step 17: Laser-cutting...

So what happens between the time you make your order to when your parcel leaves PonokoHQ? A few people asked how the laser-cutter works its magic, see my previous instructable to see a video of the laser cutter in action.

Step 18: Inking the Engraving

The laser cut parts will come with a paper backing on them. It is a good idea to leave it on to keep the back as clean as possible.

Cover the laser cut part in ink. Use circular brush strokes to work it into the engraving.

Using the rag, wipe of the excess. Some ink should stay in the engraving and the rest should wipe off easily. Sometimes it may take a few goes to work the ink in to a suitable level.

Step 19: Adding Jump Rings and Earring Hooks

Firstly make sure all backing paper is removed from the laser cut parts before attaching any of the jump rings.

Using the pliers, separate the ends of the jump ring so you can feed it through the hole.

Thread the Earring Hook onto the Jump ring as well taking care to face the start of the hook to the back of the earring.

Close the jump ring back up with the pliers. You may find that you need to tweak the earring hook so that it sits correctly.

And now? Wrap them up in a small present box complete with ribbon, and give them to your significant other on Valentine's Day!

If you'd like download the .eps files I created with these designs. It also has some images of the jewelery made from some other materials and some different types of engraving.