Circamade and Lasers
Making things ourselves is one of our core values. It is the journey of taking our designs from idea to pen and paper to something you can wear that makes all of this so much fun. One of the most advanced steps is our use of lasers to cut and etch our handmade wooden accessories.
These tools are more than just a fancy version of that red dot you use to play with cats. These are industrial strength lasers, with the more powerful ones capable of cutting through sheets of steel like butter.
Wood is relatively easy to cut through, so we dial the power back. Otherwise it has a tendency to burn, and while the fire department is just a few blocks away we like to craft our wood tie clips and wood cufflinks without the sound of sirens here in San Francisco.
Our first foray into the laser cutting world involved $400 and a visit to eBay.
But as they say: you get what you pay for. We endured many days of electrical issues and sub-par engraving, but we proved to ourselves that lasers were the best way to make quality, consistent cuts and designs. So we upgraded. Right now we use both Epilog and Universal brand lasers, which are some of the most popular and dependable in the world. We also backed a campaign on Kickstarter for the Glowforge, a professional grade laser that you can put on your desk at home.
The two settings that make the largest difference in a job are the speed and the power. It’s a fine line keeping the speed up to get jobs done more quickly, because you need a slower speed and higher power to cut cleanly through the wood. Trial and error tends to work better than science in nailing these settings down, which is often the case for handcrafted goods.
Laser cutting and engraving tends to come in two forms: raster engraving and vector cutting.
You can think of raster engraving as like an inkjet printer or a 3D extrusion machine: it goes left-to-right, moves down slightly, goes left-to-right again, and so on. Except instead of shooting out ink, it shoots out a laser. This is how we engrave a 2D surface into the wood. Vector cutting follows a line (it can be straight or curved, like in a circle), and allows for the intricate cuts and designs you see in some pieces.At the end of a job, the smell of burnt wood reminds us of a fun night spent by the campfire. And sometimes if your box has been packed just right, you can get a whiff of it as well.