Introduction: Laser Cut Leather Bracelet: RENT the Musical

About: Architect, Urban Designer, all-round tinkerer of odds and ends. Small solutions for big city living. Dreaming of lands faraway where garages are big enough to build a workshop in, or lakes are there for taking…

What does one wear to the Gala Night party of a rock musical? Leather, of course!

Oh wait, I don't own anything leather. But I did get an invitation to the opening of a new production of RENT, the musical by Jonathan Larson. So with less than an hour to spare, I whipped up this simple laser cut bracelet to up my grungy rock star game.

Step 1: Laser Cutting the Logo

This is a quick instructable for a quick make, so I'll just give the top notes and not a full run-down of how to use a laser cutter and CAD programs. There's a good Laser Cutting class on instructables for that!

For the design:

  • Search for the image you want on Google Image Search. Look for something with well defined edges, such as this one in red & white.
  • Import into a vector program such as Inkscape (I hear it is free and does a great job). I just use the software that came with my laser cutter: Cut2D. It does a great job finding the edges of shapes from raster images and converting them to vector lines.
  • Clean up the vectors with your chosen software. Good practices are to simplify the lines to reduce cut time, make sure all vectors are closed. Also I had to join all the parts of the logo into a single piece.
  • Make sure any cut-out lettering has connectors for any inside pieces, like a stencil. For this logo, it is already designed as a stencil, so no problems there.
  • Add on two side tabs with slots, which the leather strap can tie to.

Laser cutting:

  • As always, do a test cut for each new material to see how powerful the laser has to be to engrave, and to cut through.
  • For my 4W Emblaser cutter, I could engrave the leather at 4W 50% at 40mm/s; and cut cleanly through at 4W 100% 10mm/s with 3 passes. YMMV
  • I used scrap cardboard as an underlay for the leather as I do not have a honeycomb base.
  • Do a test engraving of the boundary of the object onto the scrap cardboard. This helps get the positioning spot-on.
  • Fit the leather onto the scrap cardboard, following the engraved boundary. Hold in place with masking tape.
  • Run the cut software.

Yum, smells like a barbeque! Be sure to ventilate and wear safety goggles.

Step 2: Clean Off the Soot and Slot in the Strap

Laser cut edges are sooty! I used masking tape to wipe off as much of the soot as possible from the edges of the cut leather. I didn't manage to get it all off, and the bracelet still left carbon smudges on my wrist.

I've read that a toothbrush with abrasive cleaner can help with getting the soot off laser cut wood pieces, but I'm not sure if that would work with leather.

For the strap:

I laser cut a strap with two arrow-head tabs at the ends (see photo) that would slot in to the tabs of the logo. This kinda worked, but it was fiddly and difficult to put on with one hand. Also, if this were a piece that was meant to be taken on and off often, the arrow-heads would likely wear out quite quickly.

Step 3: Redo the Strap... and Wear It!

I ended up cutting 2 straps of leather instead, and just tying them on to the main logo with a simple overhand knot on each side. I think this fits the grungy look better, anyway!

To put it on, just tie the two leather straps together under your wrist in a square knot, and you're done! Match with grungy jeans and graphic tee under a hipster jacket... and off to the Gala we go!

Post Script: The singed leather added a definite burnt aroma to the entire evening. Sometimes the smell added something to the grungy New York East Village setting. At other times the smell was so sharp that I had to sit with my wrist under my leg! Note to self: Next time leave at least a day for the smell to dissipate, preferably in a jar of Baking Soda.

Tandy Leather Contest 2016

Participated in the
Tandy Leather Contest 2016