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Laser Cut Layered Wood Awards

Updated: Mar 30

Last year Trivium won a couple of awards! We worked hard on Ghost Patrol and we are so thrilled that people like it. The award logos look great on our website. But, wouldn't it be nice to have physical awards to display on site? Well let's make 'em!



These are made out of layers of dyed and then laser-cut plywood. If you want to make your own, or make other stuff in this style, here's how we did it!


Tools and Supplies

  • A laser cutter (we used one at a nearby maker space)

  • Some plywood. I used inexpensive 2.7mm underlayment from Home Depot

  • Laser-safe white paint, like acrylic paint - check the MSDS for combustion products

  • Wood dyes. I used the Primary Color sampler kit of TransTint liquid dyes.

  • Laser-safe adhesive masking. I like this 12" wide roll of medium tack transfer tape (note that vinyl tape can release toxic fumes when heated with a laser)

  • Rubber squeegee, utility knife

  • Wood glue, small paintbrush, clamps

  • Spray varnish, such as Deft

  • UV-protectant, such as Krylon 1337


Design


The TERPECA folks were kind enough to share the vector version of their logo. Escape Rumors didn't have a vector form of the logo, so I just traced vectors over the bitmap. The general goal was to make a design where each piece of wood is just a single color, so the wood could be dyed/painted before cutting it. The designs of the logos implied some depth and layering already, so I tried to draw that out in the design. In one place in the TERPECA logo I needed to add an extra spacer disc to allow the ribbon to overlap the banner


After making the logos into layers, and making sure no shapes in the same layer overlapped, I duplicated the whole design, and dragged like-colored pieces together into separate pages. For text, I did not move the letters around to save space. Instead I cut a shape around the negative space, for use in the glue-up.


Here are the files, ready to go

TERPECA-svg
.zip
Download ZIP • 41KB
AU2020-svg
.zip
Download ZIP • 22KB

I then noted the size areas I'd need for each color, added a few inches on each side, and figured out how to best fit those onto the pieces of plywood I had.


Wood Preparation


I already had some plywood on hand, cut into convenient-to-wrangle sized pieces. I used some little condiment cups to mix and dilute the wood dye, and tested color blends on a scrap sheet of plywood. Finally I used paper towels to sponge in the areas I needed with the designated colors. I also painted one sheet with a couple layers white paint.


It's worth mentioning that the wood dye soaks in like a stain, but, unlike a stain, does not seal or protect the wood at all. This actually makes it a little better for gluing. It's also chemically simpler, which makes it less prone to emitting toxic fumes when heated with a laser.


Cutting


To reduce scorch marks on the wood, I covered the whole surface with a paper-based transfer tape (vinyl backed tape can release toxic fumes when heated). I generally use a silk screen style squeegee to get full contact and adhesion. I then cut each of the different colors. For the text I wound up having to make a few extras of the smaller pieces - the dots for the i's and the apostrophe tended to fall through the honeycomb, so I made some extra. Peeling the masking off is quite satisfying.


Despite the masking, some of the thinner white letters were a bit discolored - I dealt with those later.


Gluing


I glued the layers together in a few steps. I used wood glue, clamping and waiting as needed. For fiddly design elements like text, I clamped the previously cut negative space to the piece, and used it as a stencil, brushing a little glue on the back of each letter, and carefully placing it in the appropriate hole. Going light on the glue is important for this step, to avoid gluing the stencil down with excess.


Touch Up and Finishing


This is when I touched up the discolored white surfaces, with a fine paint brush. After that dried, I applied the finishing coats: Two coats of satin-finish Deft, a coat of UV archival Krylon, and two more coats of Deft (allowing each to dry before the next, of course).


The Deft protects the wood (remember, the dye offers no real protection), and also deepens the color a little. The Trivium Games lobby gets a lot of afternoon sunlight, and the UV coat will help protect the colors from fading.


And that's it! I plan to use this approach for a number of other signs. It's a little bit of work, but the results look great!


Please comment if this is interesting, or if you use this process to make your own things!

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