The Laser Cutter

Using the laser cutter is nothing new to me, using it a lot in my DT classes in high school really allowed for a great exploration and refinement of ideas. But the problem was a lack of freedom and trust, because I was young, and for some reason they didn’t trust me to use the high powered laser machine that can cut through nearly anything. And this resulted in a very narrow approach to its use and outcomes.

Anyway here I am in university years later, and the laser technology hasn’t changed all that much, but one thing has, the trust to allow me to work independently with it. And so with this trust comes a flurry of ideas and new ways to think about things. Its a very weird thing you start looking around you and so many everyday things appear to use this laser technology, it provides a refined concise way of working that can help achieve accurate and repeatable results each time, so nothing feels out of your reach. Once I received my induction to the laser cutter, I started to think about what I could do with it, and I decided it would be nice to raster (or etch) a design onto one of my journals. So I worked over the weekend to produce a design and laser cut onto the leather on monday. The results were a very crisp, albeit slightly wonky design, and the burnt leather smelt like an old mans back hair, but I was pleased, and I felt like the permanence of the design made it all the more gratifying, almost akin to tattooing.

Jornal laser image

Incorporating the laser cutter into my project lead to me exploring a few ideas, one of these ideas was edge lighting. And in that how I could use a piece of raster cut clear acrylic to refract an LED’s light to enhance its design.

breadborardThis lead to me learning about how to wire up an LED with a resistor and batteries on a breadboard. It was certainly useful to already be learning about this in my constellation class.

What was achieved was a very bright and well lit design, if I were to improve I would like to sandblast the edges of the acrylic, to further enhance the lighting on the edge of the piece.

Shameless self promotion

Shameless self promotion

a good example of this would be here:

Next was a dilemma I’d been having for a while as I was researching for my medal project I came upon the problem: How can I colour in a design on clear acrylic with ink? how can I achieve clean black lines? I could use lithography, but thats imprecise and a nearly impossible process the smaller you go.

So the answer finally came, when I had a brief workshop induction in the print room, I was shown many different ways in how printing can be utilised, and what I discovered was there was indeed a technique for what I wanted to achieve.

It involved raster etching a design onto the acrylic and then scraping a thick acrylic or oil based ink across with a piece of card. You would then lightly rub plaster skrim over the top, to remove the ink out of the negative areas.

What I was left with was an overwhelming success! what was most incredible about this technique was the ink created different shades based on the depth of the cut by the laser. leading to a really accurate and rather beautiful interpretation of the design.

The design I chose was a line drawing from artist Alex Konahin. I altered the image a little so it would laser a bit clearer, but it was just so phenomenally detailed, I couldn’t resist.

genuinely can't stop staring at this.

genuinely can’t stop staring at this.

So these first couple of tests have gone really well, I have been helping friends use the laser and learning about how there designs work to. I know that I will learn to use the laser in more unique ways as I explore further.


Forging Workshop

I really want to manipulate and get to know a material. Never does something reward you quite like heating and then hitting it repeatedly with a big hammer. The permanence of the result and the power your feel from manipulating hot metal, is a very compelling feeling.

Before I took part in the workshop I had a keen interest in the process of how metal is used and how blacksmiths work. It started when wanted to create a metal rose for my girlfriend I looked into how I could do it, and even emailed a blacksmith for some advice, he was nice enough to draw out a basic template for me, though I never made the rose in the end this little foray made an impression and I stayed interested.

I found a few videos on youtube that really captured my interest. Tony Swatton a blacksmith with a 30 year pedigree, forging for films and TV releases a weekly video of him making a weapon from gaming, pop culture or fiction. Each build appears to challenge him and are very different from the last build. The original designs of these weapons were never intended to be real or functional, so its interesting to watch a professional try and realise them as functional pieces. Some of the techniques he employs such as damascus steel forging and chemical etching really show what you can do with metal and its exciting to see the broad scope of there applications.

My first experience with forging outlined that the process was a lot more about patience and effort than how many times you hit the metal with the hammer. There was a lot of understanding where to hit the metal to loosen or strain a specific part to make it bend a certain way, your experience can entirely depend on the materials tolerance of your treatment of it. Although I made a few mistakes that were correctable, I certainly could see that there would have been a point of no return and the piece would have been ruined.

Im looking to do some more forging for my future projects and keep the process firmly in mind for my next designs.

The Forging workshop


The first thing we did was cut off a piece of steel bar, then heat up the forge. If I recall the forge can be heated to 900 – 1400 degrees. We would allow for the steal to go white hot. positioning of the bar in the forge was key for the section we wanted to bend.


Using the Horn section of the anvil, we hammered the bar around it and started to create a fold, which we then refined on the face of the anvil to create a loop. it was interesting to learn how each section of the anvil has its own particular uses for manipulating metal.


The final step was twisting the metal, such a surreal feeling to actually twist metal. we would heat specific ares of the bar by making sure the correct section of the bar was getting the heat from the hottest part of the forge. Whilst the bar was hot the end of the bar was secured in the clamp and using the new loop we made on the horn we began to twist the bar to create these swirl patterns, it was important to keep the bar straight so constant adjustment was required.


Swattons website:

This was a nice introduction to forging, interesting to see how the metal feels to mould. I was given a handbook to further have a look at some techniques, there is one or two I am keen to try.

Magic Mirrors

Whilst researching ideas for my medal, I came across a concept known as magic mirrors. What they appeared to be were mirrors with a design on one side and a reflective mirror surface on the other side. But wait! theres more! the mirrors when light is shined upon them cast an image. This image usually contradicts the design on the other side and further more was used as a form of concealment. This concealed image was only to be known and recognised should the user choose to see it. So in other words you would have to know of it if you wish to find it. What this speaks of, is rebellion or an innate form of anarchy. this idea that you would have to conceal your personal belief out of fear of punishment or death, speaks of the changing of times and how the seeds of a western belief system such as Christianity can take root, and further grow in a country with pre established beliefs like japan or china.

What I love about this is that the archaic method of producing these mirrors is through sheer graft and technical skill. I saw this technique demonstrated in a documentary I watched, where they polished the back of the mirror with a sword and smooth stones repeatedly for months, to slowly reveal the reflective image.

what I also discovered in the documentary was this early mirror technology, paved the way for technology such as silicon wafers used for things such as solar panels etc. all pioneered in japan

I think this is fascinating and a clever concept to look further into for my medal idea. Maybe I could raster etch a design on the back of a mirror or piece of mirrored acrylic so that it would reflect when light would be shined on it.



BAMS Research Russian Olympic Medal


What first came to mind upon being told about this project was an article I had seen a few months backon It was about the new Russians winter olympic medals. now admittedly my interest in the Russian olympics is pretty small, in other words not an iota of. But what brought my attention to this article was a particular word in the headline.


say no more, I’m yours.

Its not often you would see the word meteorite and olympics in the same sentence, so that was rather enticing. What I was to discover was that some of the medals would incorporate the meteorite into the metal of the medal. Now thats just cool! full stop.

A material that has come from space only to land in your hands is a very encapsulating thing, it makes the universe feel a little bit smaller, and us a teeny bit bigger, how wonderful it is to hold something that can draw those kind of feelings out (I do say all this having never actually held the thing, but I have many times, in my dreams)


What this medal provides for me is a basic idea of aesthetic and design principal that I want to transfer into my own design, what really stands out to me about this medal, are the clean lines, fine detailing and most of all its use of negative space. How these seemingly random assorted patchwork shapes inside provide this elegance and also playfulness. They remind me of these patterns called Zentangles my girlfriend used to draw. I also feel that being able to caress the different textures and materials in your hand makes the act of simply holding the medal feel almost like a journey or an adventure for the fingers. This little object in your hand suddenly becomes so much more than a medal, it can tell a story.


London 3D Print Show

So apparently 3D printers are becoming a rather big deal.

I attended the 3D print show in London and saw some interesting applications for 3D printing.



I saw some amazing applications for 3D printing in the medical field, things like custom fit casts and even “bio 3D printing”. Using 3D printers for medical purposes is something I think we will only see more of.


3D printed designs for the fashion industry, crazy outlandish shapes, that were printed and are wearable.


Certainly a different approach, its a good display of the versatility of 3D printing.IMG_0936

These feathers which were some kind of shoulder mount, were really beautifully printed.

IMG_0928The sheer scale of this Batman statue is really impressive.


IMG_0930One of the most extraordinary things I saw was that this company was printing wood.. yes I said wood! Though I’m sceptical of its integrity that is a very interesting and new way of producing complex wooden shapes.

I had a really good time here I liked seeing some of the ways 3D printing can be used in industries such as film, special effects and medicine. I think this is early days and the things we will be able to print in our own homes will only get better.