Introduction: Personalized Utility Knives Using a Laser

Have a problem with people stealing your utility knives?  Why not personalize them!  This may not stop someone from stealing them, but at least they might feel guilty about it later.

I made these personalized utility knives at the TechShop in Menlo Park, CA!

If you are working at TechShop, it is very important to ask a Dream Consultant if your material will be safe to cut/etch on a laser.  The TechShop laser cutters cannot cut/etch metal, but they can etch anodized aluminum or coated metals.  If you want to etch a coated metal, you should still ask a DC if the coating is OK to etch.

Step 1: Wrap the Knife in Painter's Tape

The first step is to make sure the knife is clean; it's really best to have a brand new knife.  I wrapped the knives completely in painter's tape, making sure there were not parts showing.  I used extra tape to make a tab at the top, this made it easier to hang them up to paint later.

Step 2: Laser Fun!

To use the laser cutters at TechShop, I first had to take and pass the Laser Cutting and Etching SBU.   I learned that their lasers cannot cut/etch metal, but that coated metals are OK to etch.  The utility knives I had are coated in paint, and I made sure to ask a Dream Consultant if the material was safe for laser etching before I tried anything.

I recently took the Advanced Laser class, and the Laser Rotary Assistant workshop at the TechShop in Menlo Park.  The instructor (Robert Slack) is fantastic, and really knows his stuff!  Both classes were extremely helpful for this project.  The white jig in the 4th picture, is the Laser Rotary Assistant (which you make yourself if you take the workshop), which was designed for quick rotary projects by Mr. Slack!  The idea is that you can use the Assistant instead of the full Rotary Attachment, as long as you don't need to etch the full diameter of your material.  The full Rotary Attachment rotates your object while the laser etches, the Rotary Assistant does not rotate your object, instead it is a cradle for it.

The Rotary Assistant was perfect because I did not want the knives to wobble around on the raster tray.  I used the raster tray because it creates a very nice flat surface, and I was not vector cutting at all.  I placed the Assistant on the tray, and used the laser pointer to line up the jig correctly (see photos).  Once one side was aligned, I would put magnets around the Assistant to keep that in place.  

I focused to the flattest part of the knife, and then the laser did the rest!

Step 3: Painting

Last but not least, I used black enamel spray paint to fill in the letters because I wanted them to stand out.  I used the tabs (from the extra tape), to hang the knives up in the finishing room, and then I spray painted them!  

Step 4: Finished Product

Here is the finished product!