Ponoko Moko

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.

My tips:

  • 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)

13 thoughts on “Ponoko Moko”

  1. Nice write up, Rowan. We’ve used Ponoko a couple times and I’m also trying to find other reasons to do so again. It’s quite exciting creating something on the computer and then getting the physical thing in the post a week or so later.

  2. Ooooooh. I totally LOVE the framed white on red version.

    What about for a lazy arse like me? Where can I just buy that?!

    But if you’re not about to start a micro-biz selling the finished product, I’d love to get the files to make this myself.

  3. In theory, given it has a (R) symbol a search here http://www.iponz.govt.nz/cms/trade-marks/banner_template/IPTM should find it.

    I tried searches for America’s Cup and “53.1.1 Moko (tatooing)” but….

    Scratch that, I just found it. :)

    Excuse the crappy links but according to http://www.iponz.govt.nz/pls/web/DBSIPFOTS.display_formats_form?p_access_no=A5CF6D92A2E2EA2527E04E180C103AA6&p_tm_descriptors=Y the NZ-specific Vienna Device Descriptor information says “See also 2.1.1, 2.1.25, 2.3.1, 2.3.25” for Mokos which is where I found it. (In case that link doesn’t work, this also specifies how to search: http://www.iponz.govt.nz/cms/trade-marks/how-to-check-for-existing/guide-to-online-searching-of-the-trade-mark-register/appendix-four-vienna-descriptor-overview )

    The 3 references (Trademark numbers 156593, 156599 & 156610) I found are marked “Cancelled/Declared Invalid/Revoked/Abandoned”.

    I’ve uploaded a PDF with the relevant records to http://stuff.rancidbacon.com/misc/americas_cup_1987_moko_trademark.pdf since there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to link.

    The contact is listed as http://www.baldwins.com/

    I’m quite impressed the online search worked at all even if the interface is clunky. I’m sure a librarian could’ve found it faster but, you know, not bad for an amateur. :)

    I’ve no idea how the copyright/trademark side of things interacts though. Of course the fact that we’re even having this conversation about a 25 year-old unused design…raises some questions about the system.

    On the other hand browsing through the other marks is quite interesting and somewhat nostalgic.

  4. Actually, if you search for “CUP CHALLENGE LTD” there’s some more variations but they all appear to be in the same state.

    1. Awesome – thanks for doing the leg work on that! :-)

      It’s a shame the details don’t specify the name of the original designer, just the company that owned the rights.

  5. Nice. And impressive that you are allowed to use a craft knife without supervision. Wish I was.

    Shapeways… wow. Pity I’ve committed to not gathering any more trinkets.

  6. Very nice work… I like the addition of a frame and the use of different colors to complete the piece!

    Jon @ WoodMarvels.com

  7. Awesome- love reading throught the process for a first-time Ponoko user…. since I haven’t even got that far.

    (Quick btw: the iphone images- there is no link to the final for the moko-green-white image)

  8. Hey glad it came out good Rowan. Hopefully we can do something with the other one :) (which I sneakily uploaded to Epic.net.nz by the way!)

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