Intro: Custom [Portal] Coasters @ TechShop
Purpose: Spice up your place and impress your friends
Tools: Vinyl Cutter
Materials: ceramic or glass tiles, vinyl, felt feets, and protective clear coat (optional)
Do you have better taste than the generic big box stores? Do you have particular ideas, and can't find what you really want? Are you all around an awesome individual? Well if you answered yes to any of these questions (especially that last one), then this project is for you! Customize even the smallest details in your living room to what ever strikes your fancy, and the added bonus... it's cheap!
That's right, for less than $1.00 per coaster, you can make anything you want. And at that price you can make multiple sets to switch out depending on who's coming to dinner.
Step 1: Preparation
The materials are super easy to come by. Since I'm at TechShop all the time, I picked up a foot of vinyl from the front. For everything else, hit up your local hardware store.
The tricky part might be getting the files ready. Either create your own design from scratch or find your favorite movie, band, game, artist or other picture on that wonderful internet. Black and white will be best, so if you need to adjust levels and do some editing, hit up Photoshop or pixlr.com. Convert the images into vectors through Adobe Illustrator's “Live Trace” function or CorelDraw's “Outline Trace”. Export the vector file as EPS (or whatever file extension your vinyl cutter prefers).
Step 2: Vinyl
Assuming your file preparation is solid and clean, this step is the easiest. Let the machine to the work, weed out the parts you don't want, affix the transfer paper and cut into individual squares. As a helpful design tip, avoid full bleed style decals. I made sure to leave a little extra space around the outer border because while I have a good optical sensor, my dexterity isn't perfect.
Step 3: To the Tile!
Put the vinyl on the tile!
Since I was using off the shelf ceramic tile, it's intended purpose is slightly different, and as a result the back is left unfinished. The gentleman at the store suggested applying a latex coat across the back for the felt feet to have better adhesion. I figured while I was at it to try a clear coat across the top as well to protect the vinyl. This part might be entirely unnecessary, but since it was a gift I opted to experiment... for science.
Stick the felt on!
Step 4: This Is the End for You
Looks great and my friend was excited. The best part? If one breaks due to unruly guests, or if the vinyl starts to peal off I can make a replacement quickly, easily, and cheaply – no problem!
Reminder: Gifts are awesome, but if you plan to sell products make sure you have permission from the original artist.
For more resources, tools, and training, head over to TechShop!
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