Lasercut Tree Ring Coasters




About: Vera Shur has a background in architecture, with special focus on exhibition and furniture design. Her investigations focus on the unexpected qualities of everyday materials and the back-and-forth of digital...

Working at an architecture office, you can amass lots of small samples of various materials. It's a time-honored tradition to put a mug on top of one and call it a coaster, but that would make for a very short instructable. I chose to personalize mine and make then less sample-y by laser-etching tree ring patterns into the surface. The result looks almost like a delicate porcelain casting.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

You only need 3 things for this project: Corian samples, the scrubby green side of a sponge, and a laser cutter.

To get the Corian samples, you can either raid an architect's material library or order the samples through Dupont's website. (Hint: if you check the box that asks if they're for a commercial project, they're free....). There's a lot of different samples to choose from, but I went with the ones that are just solid colors. Most of the options have "stone" particles in them and I can't vouch for how those will perform in the laser cutter. I chose various shades of white, but I think the etching will show up much better on darker colors.

Step 2: Designing the Patterns

I have a beautiful book called Woodcut, which catalogs the wood prints of Bryan Nash Gill. I turned the prints of tree rings from the book into raster files for laser cutting. If you want to do this with your own images, the process is pretty straight forward:

1. Bring the image into Photoshop.

2. Crop the image to the size of the sample, which in this case is 4x4". Make sure you keep it at high resolution to maintain the detail.

3. Make the file black and white. I also inverted the image to make the tree rings black, but this is optional and depends on what part of the image you want etched.

4. Go to Image>Adjustments>Posterize, and set your levels to 2. Everything that's black will be etched.

Step 3: Prep and Laser Etch

Using the green side of a sponge, scrub off anything printed on the samples.

Do a test on the laser cutter before etching your final piece, to make sure that the position on the laser bed is accurate.

I used a 75 watt laser cutter, and for settings I used power: 75% and speed: 90%.



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7 Discussions

Konrad B

4 years ago on Introduction

well, this is as close to dark solid that I had, one inverted and one not, black probably would be better and I'll look for some the next time I'm raiding the scrape bin at the cabinet shop. While it is kind of cool, I believe I will be using white, which I have a lot of. Thanks for the idea,

1 reply
Konrad B

4 years ago on Introduction

I have found that if your nice to the folks at the custom counter top shop, that they will give you copious amounts of scrapes that will work for this and tons of other Corian projects? Thanks, this will get made today!

1 reply

4 years ago on Introduction

Can you give us a real measurement for speed, in mm/s for example.

90% speed doesn't help anyone with a different machine.

Looks great, I'd love to duplicate this on a tile.

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

If you have a different laser cutter, I'd recommend doing some tests to figure out the best settings before etching the tiles. For reference, at 90% speed on the machine I used, it took about 7 minutes to etch a single 4"x4" tile at 300 DPI. Not sure how that translates to distance/time.