This was a birthday present for a friend of mine. He's in Biochemistry, so I thought this gift was very fitting for him! Fortunately his name could be spelled using the elements from the periodic table, but this will not be true for every name or phrase because there are only so many one letter and two letter combinations in the periodic table.
- Birch plywood (I used 1/8 inch)
- [Optional] Glue
- [Optional] Wood stain
- [Optional] Wood finish
- Access to a laser cutter
- A CAD program to create your name tag in (I used Rhino 3D)
- [Optional] Clamp
- [Optional] Brush
Step 1: Pick Your Name and Design the Name Tag
Unfortunately, not all names or phrases can be spelled using the periodic table of elements. There are workarounds if you can't spell a name outright, like de-emphasizing letters in elements (if an element has two letters, making the second one smaller), or using fake elements (like Mythril if you need just an M). But having a name that can be spelled outright is the simplest. You can search on the internet for websites that will help you find out if a name can be spelled using the periodic table of elements, and you can also find tricks for getting a name to work.
Designing the Name Tag:
I won't go into too much detail about programs, file types, or line colors for laser cutters, but this article does a good job going over the basics. Just make sure the software you are using can save to a file type that your laser cutter can read, and the line colors you use in the drawing are correct. A couple examples of programs that work are Rhino 3D (which I used) and Adobe Illustrator.
I originally made each "element box" of my name tag 4 inches in height and 3.5 inches in width (but later scaled all my dimensions to about 80% what I designed them at). For the font, I used Arial, and the font sizes (relative to my original element box height) are:
- 0.443 inches and bold for the element number in the top left
- 1.21 inches and bold for the element symbol in the center
- 0.322 inches for the full element name
- 0.322 inches for the atomic mass
I outlined the name tag in red (to cut it), filled all of the letter shapes (black for raster etching), and outlined all of the letters in blue (for vector etching) to provide a slightly crisper result. I also made the line dividing each periodic element blue so it would engrave but not completely cut (which red would do).
Note: If you plan on adding wood stain to this, I found that a single blue line becomes hard to see after staining. I would recommend making that thicker if you want the line to come through in the end.
Step 2: Laser Cutting
Having access to a laser cutter will likely be a difficult step for many people. I have access to a laser cutter through my school's makerspace. You might be able to find a makerspace near you, and that is a good place to look for access to laser cutters.
Because the plywood I used was only an 1/8 in thick, I cut a second rectangular piece the same dimensions to glue to the back of the name tag to make it thicker. I also cut a test piece for use in deciding which wood stain to use.
The finished piece is shown above. If you don't want to stain, finish, or glue, you're done!
Step 3: [Optional] Gluing, Staining, and Finishing
If you also cut a rectangular piece to make the name tag thicker, the next step will be gluing it. The glue I used was Gorilla Glue (which is what I had available, there are probably better glues for this purpose). After applying the glue, I clamped the two pieces together (using scrap piece between the clap and name tag so as to not dent the name tag) and let sit for a couple hours.
I had two stains available to me and wasn't sure which one I wanted to use, so I applied the stain to a test piece to see which one I liked more. I found I liked the lighter stain better, so went with that. In general, I would recommend going with a lighter stain, because that makes it easier to see the letters. I used only one coating of the stain.
After letting the stain dry for a day, I put on the finish. I used a polycrylic finish, and applied two coatings to the name tag.
And you're done! Thank you for reading my Instructable.