I’ve been looking for an excuse to try out Ponoko for a couple of years.
Recently I was clearing out a box of old stuff and found a neat piece of kiwi history – an old cardboard flag handed out at a street parade held in 1987 to welcome home the losing (as in “you’re a loser get off the stage”) America’s Cup team. The reason I had kept this all these years is not really relevant to this story. What’s important is that on the back there is a stylised moko design, which I’ve always thought was choice, and that gave me an idea…
I started with a hi-resolution scan of the flag. You can see it’s gone a bit yellow over time and there are a few creases which showed up as marks:
I loaded this into Aviary, and converted it to a vector format. I was pleasantly surprised how well this worked out of the box – there were a couple of rough edges that needed to be tidied up, and the connection between the eyes and eyebrows were a bit of a mess, but otherwise it was pretty much good to go:
My first attempts to upload this as a design to Ponoko didn’t work at all – it just came through as an empty design file with no edges for the laser to cut. After a bit of frustrated messing around, I eventually enlisted some professional help – James from BandIt imported the file I had into Adobe Illustrator and tweaked the colours and thickness of lines a bit, to produce something like this:
That worked a treat. I selected a material – frosted white acrylic – and clicked “Make It”. A few dollars and a week or so later the package arrived, still smelling of fresh laser cut plastic:
I scored a frame and some coloured card from an art shop, and got gluing:
Unfortunately my choice of material had let me down – the translucency of the acrylic was not opaque enough to stop the glue showing through as dark blobs, and the red backing card made it look like he had a bad case of the measles:
So, back to the drawing board. I tried two different materials for the second iteration – white acrylic (not translucent this time) and also technoply beech:
Both worked out well. The plastic suits the frame a little better, I think. But my favourite is the the wood – the sides are burnt by the laser cutting and as a result have a nice darker colour, and the grain makes it look more organic:
Overall I was pretty impressed with the Ponoko process.
It’s definitely satisfying to make something, no matter how much of a novice you are (I am!)
I’m keen to share this design file on Ponoko, if others are interested, but I have no idea what the copyright on this design is (if anybody does please let me know). So, for now, if you’d like one of these for your own wall send me an email and I’ll see what I can do.
- The hardest part is finding a design worth making :-)
- If you’re not a designer you may want to have one on hand to help you out with wrangling the different file formats if required.
- Be prepared to take a few attempts to get your design made well – although “well” will be variable depending on how much of a perfectionist you are (I am!)
- Selecting the correct material is important, and it’s hard to know exactly what the result will be until you see it.
- Small pieces and small kids don’t mix (note the missing eyes in two of the three final versions I made – asking a 5 year old to mind the bits while you glue is not recommended!)
- Be prepared to look at things quite differently, once you realise that you can make anything you can draw.
Give it a go – you might be surprised how crafty you can be.
Some iPhone wallpapers I made from the same base design file:
(click to download full size versions)