Ponoko is a very cool service from New Zealand that takes your designs and laser cuts them on demand into a variety of materials like acrylic, felt, wood, and cardboard. I decided to try out the service with some images from public domain books available on the web to make a variety of acrylic jewelry, keychains, and hair sticks (hey, hair sticks are infinitely useful. You can poke people with them in addition to keeping your hair tied back).
I downloaded their templates for Inkscape, a free vector graphics program that creates .svg files. Then I found a public domain book called Rambles of an Archaeologist Among Old Books and in Old Places by Frederick William Fairholt that had beautiful engravings of old jewelry designs, including a fascinating little Memento Mori ring that I thought would do quite nicely for Halloween.
I figured since I was paying for a full sheet of acrylic, I should probably cram it full of stuff. Plus, it gave me a chance to test the different engraving thicknesses as well as the exactness of sizing – ring sizes are precise to the millimeter, so I created three versions of the Memento Mori ring in ladies’ size 4, 5 and 6 to test. Then I added some images from L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series because I thought it would be super cool to have an Oz ornament hanging from our Christmas tree this year.
I uploaded my designs to my Ponoko account, then chose my materials – in this case, white frosted acrylic. The interface of the Ponoko site just makes this process that much more fun. I finalized my order, then sat back to wait for the results.
I certainly wasn’t disappointed! The package showed up five days after my order was completed, and I was very very happy with what arrived – everything was exactly as I’d specified, even the mistake I made on the Oz ornament was fully intact. I quickly tried on the rings, then checked them against a sizing chart, and they were perfect. The engravings are a bit difficult to see on the material I chose, but I brushed India ink over one of the rings to “antique” it and it looks awesome.
Now my head is full of ideas for truly 3D creations, like picture frames and puzzles and lampshades. They’ve added a variety of new materials in the last week, like bamboo, and they have a GREAT blog with links to designers experimenting with laser cutters and custom manufactory.
Since I used public domain images for my designs, I made the .svg files I created available under the same (non) license, so you can download them for free at Ponoko and do whatever you like with them. If you make something with Ponoko, let me know, I’d love to see your work!