More than one way to create with light

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While not strictly photography, per se, I have nevertheless been busy lately making things with light, just light of a different kind. One of the many very cool things at TechShop, the shared workspace I found after moving to Tempe, are the laser cutting machines. Probably not coincidentally, the lasers are the first thing one sees when touring the facility, and as soon as I saw them I was all “take my money”. (And then I saw the 3D printers, the CNC routers known as ShopBots, an entire section devoted to electronics and Arduinos, and all the other fantastic toys machinery to make things with.)

The first thing we had to do was take a training class, in which we etched and cut our own leather patches. Kari was particularly proud of hers.

The first thing we had to do was take a training class, in which we etched and cut our own leather patches. Kari was particularly proud of hers.

After the initial training class, to make sure you know how to use the software and the machine and be relatively sure you aren’t going to injure anyone, you’re free to basically do whatever you want, 24/7. (Although the lasers are so popular that you have to reserve time, in a 2-hour-max chunk, sometimes well in advance.)

Of course I promptly caught something on fire. Those who know me from my undergraduate days will not be surprised.

Of course I promptly caught something on fire. Those who know me from my undergraduate days will not be surprised. Turns out the default setting of “0.1” on a scale of 0-100 for speed was a bit off – for this material I ended up around “60” instead. Yikes.

I alternated between real projects and goofing off experimenting.

I pretty quickly got into my "let's stick everything I can think of in the laser cutter" phase, including my afternoon snack.

I pretty quickly got into my “let’s stick everything I can think of in the laser cutter” phase, including Kari’s afternoon snack.

One of my first projects was to make coasters out of cork, which sent me into a hell of trying to source material that was just right. I scoured the entire east valley of Phoenix for cork sheet, even at one point cleaning out the entire inventory at area Michael’s stores.

Aperture coasters. Yes, each one is different, ranging from f/2.8 to f/16. Functional AND educational!

Aperture coasters. Yes, each one is different, ranging from f/2.8 to f/16. Functional AND educational!

For the ShopBot training class we each got a very neat and VERY sharp router bit to keep. Naturally mine needed a custom laser-cut box to carry it in safely.

For the ShopBot training class we each got a very neat and VERY sharp router bit to keep. Naturally mine needed a custom laser-cut box to carry it in safely. With my website, just for good measure. You know, in case I lose it. Check out those snazzy leather hinges and that hasp!

Laser cut racks for alternative process / historical process chemistry bottle storage and transport.

Laser cut racks for alternative process / historical process chemistry bottle storage and transport.

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Not gonna spend money on an iPhone stand when I can make one myself with the laser!

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These are gonna be big on Etsy some day.

At one point I even made a hanging soap dish for the shower. It only took me a few hours spread over a few days, but it was totally worth it to save that $5 at Walmart.

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The Dawson Time watch stand.

Since my old watch finally died I got one of those nifty new smart watches (a Pebble) that tells time and tells me how well I slept and that I’m being a lazy ass and only walked 4000 steps today. Unfortunately, though, it has to be charged every few days. Of course that means I need a laser-cut stand to rest it on while charging!

(Naturally I also laser-cut the plastic protective film I keep on the watch face to keep me from scratching it.)

Laser cut bokeh!

Laser cut bokeh!

At some point my friend Jonathan was messing around with shaped bokeh, so I tried making him some custom shapes to use, including one with his name lasered out.

Journals for the Garofano kids for Christmas. Leather covered journals from Walmart. Gabby's elephant is from a photo I made in Nepal in 2007. Kari suggested an Owl for McKenna, so I worked with type for her name and then found a cute owl online. Kiara's design is an outline of her during a kick competition in 2013. I made Anthony's design from scratch based on a soccer ball idea.

Journals for the Garofano kids for Christmas. Leather covered journals from the store, then custom engraved. Gabby’s elephant is from a photo I made in Nepal in 2007. Kari suggested an Owl for McKenna, so I worked with type for her name and then found a cute owl online. Kiara’s design is an outline of her during a kick competition in 2013. I made Anthony’s design from scratch based on a soccer ball idea.

As is typical for me going back to junior high, a lot of Christmas presents this year were whatever I had recently learned how to make – for 2015 everyone got something laser cut / etched!

Update from a year later: I’ve since made many projects on the laser cutter: a new darkbox for tintypes, new soles for my sandals, and I’ve even branched out into sculpture.

One Response to More than one way to create with light

  1. Pingback: The Nomadic Frog Blog » Archive » Portable Darkroom Version 2

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