In this 'Instructable' I will be going through the steps to make a leather filigree cuff with the aid of TechShop's laser cutter.
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Step 1: Tools and Materials
Laser Cutter- The TechShop location I used has a "Trotec Speedy 300". Before using the shop equipment each member is required to take some basic training on each machine. I found this class to provide me with everything I needed to do my first project.
Software- The Trotec Speedy 300 accepts either Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw files. I chose to use CorelDraw. TechShop also provides use their computer labs to create these files if you do not have these rather expensive programs.
Leather Working Tools- I have purchased all of my leather working hand tools over the years from Tandy Leather. They offer very sturdy tools at reasonable prices. For this project you will need: leather scissors, 2 punches (to match the size of your rivets and the size of your snaps), a basic snap setter set, a hammer, and a small stone slab,
scrap of cardboard- about 1' x 1' (from a recycle bin)
leather- about 6"x 12", (extra is always good in case there is a mistake and something needs to be re-cut) (I got mine at Tandy Leather)
leather dye- color of your choice (also purchased at Tandy Leather)
latex gloves- (from Lowes)
12 rivets- (I got these from Tandy Leather but there are also quite a few websites that sell rivets/snaps/etc. in bulk for less than Tandy)
2 snaps-(same as above)
Step 2: The Design
I sketched out the design on paper first based on some pictures I took a few years ago of the Alhambra. I then scanned that in as a base image and traced over it using CorelDraw. I only traced the upper left quadrant and then used the software to mirror it horizontally and vertically so that the final image would be symmetrical There are many very good tutorials for basic CorelDraw functions and Corel provides a 30 day free trial as well. There are also computers available at TechShop for this step.
The key to remember is that any line denoted as "hairline" and RGB red will be a cut line, and everything else will be etched to a depth based on it's value. Lighter colors will be etched shallowly, and darker colors will be etched deeply. For this project we will not be using the etching function.
photo 1- CorelDraw-the vertical tool bar on the left gives you several line type options, and if you double click on the colored square in the lower right corner a dialog box will appear that allows you to select a color and line weight.
photo 2- Dialog box- Remember for a "cut" line choose red & hairline
photo 3- part of my image
Step 3: Sending It to the Laser
To send your image to the laser you just have to print and select the laser as your printer. When you hit print it will send your file to a program called "JobControl". How to use job control and what settings to enter is what most of the class at TechShop is about. But here are some reminders:
Make sure your material is lined up with the laser and the image is lined up with the crosshairs on the computer- so you don't cut outside of the material.
Make sure your tray is at the correct depth from the laser.
Make sure your material code is set to the correct power, speed, Hz, and # of passes. A basic cheat sheet is provided as a jumping off point.
To laser hit the play button!
photo 1- print screen from Corel
photo 2- the far right icon is the icon for JobControl and it will flash once it has received your job.
photo 3- make sure cross hairs are aligned with your image
photo 4- this is the materials dialog box, it will be covered extensively in class.
photo 5- play button
Step 4: Experiment! the Fun Part!
When I first sketched out my design It was a little larger than I wanted so I scaled it down in Corel, therefore I no longer knew if it would still be a good size for this cuff. I also didn't know if I had gotten all my lines right or if a huge chunk in the middle would just fall out, so I decided to do a test in cardboard.
I put in my settings for cardboard as my material and hit play.
photo 1- laser doing its thing- definitely the most exciting part! It is very quick and sparks a bit as it goes :-)
photo 2- laser is done
photo 3- outside of the machine
photo 4- how the two pieces will go together in the end
I found I liked the size, hooray, moving on to testing leather.
Leather is much denser than cardboard, obviously, so I wanted to do several tests to make sure the laser would go all the way through. I started with a small circle, reset all my materials specs to leather and realigned everything in the machine.
***LEATHER TIP- it likes to curl if it gets too dry and hot from the laser, lightly dampen it ahead of time to avoid this***
The first time it didn't cut all the way through so I increased the power and decreased the speed. The second time it went through like a champ. I also wanted to check a sample of filigree to make sure these settings would work for it as well. Most of the pieces came out but a couple hung in there so I added an extra full laser pass to the settings.
photo 5- test circles
photo 6- back of test circles- you can see that the first attempt didn't go through
photo 7- filigree test
photo 8- filigree test back
The time has come... to try it on the real piece.
Luckily with all the prep, my final cut went very smoothly.
photo 9- laser in progress
photo 10- laser done
photo 11- outside machine
photo 12- poking out all the little scraps
photo 13- how they will go together when done
Step 5: Rivets and Snaps
Since this cuff has to curve into a fairly tight circle it is important to work on a surface you can wrap the edge of the leather around as you go. The leather I used was thick enough (1/8 inch) that if I riveted it flat the under layer would buckle when the cuff was put on.
I first widened the holes on the outer layer with a punch to fit my rivets. I could have also made these holes larger at the design phase and had the laser take care of this. I did not put any holes in the filigree because I wanted to judge their spacing as I curved the material in this phase.
I started at the center and worked out in pairs.
The first pair I was able to do flat. Then I ever so slightly curved my piece and punched through the already existing hole in the outer layer through to the under layer for the the next set, and so on.
photo 1- widening holes
photo 2- one center rivet
photo 3- back of center rivets
photo 4- curving the piece as I worked outwards
photo 5- curving the piece as I worked outwards
First I punched the holes for the snaps.
Snaps are a little more tricky than rivets but not by much. Each one has 4 pieces. I used glove snaps. Your snap setter should come with info on what type of snap it sets and a diagram to go with.
photo 6- snap holes
photo 7- glove snap diagram
photo 8- corresponding snap parts
photo 9- I always like to do a test to make sure they're a snug fit in the thickness of leather I'm using, and double check my dyslexia before I put them in the final piece upside down. ;-)
photo 10- setting snap
Fully functioning cuff. Yay!
photo 11- top view un-dyed
photo 12- underside un-dyed
Step 6: Final Touch- Dye
It is also common to dye your leather pieces before you add the hardware (rivets etc.) so they stay nice and shiny. This piece, however, is part of a Persian steam punk collection I'm working on so I wanted to dull them a bit anyways.
Leather dye, like most dyes, is very potent. You always want to be in a well ventilated area because the fumes are quite strong. I usually have to work outside but since I was at ProShop for this project I was able to use the vented spray paint area.
Also, be sure to wear latex gloves, dye can be very bad for you when absorbed through the skin.
photo 1- paint station
photo 2- pre-dye
photo 3- post-dye
photo 4- final piece
photo 5- final piece
photo 6- final piece
I made this at ProShop!