Turning Inspiration Into Profits: Making & Selling Jewelry Online

A Practicing Architect Turns Into Product Designer & Jewelry Maker At GioGio Design

GioGio Design Laser Cut Metal Leafy Pendant Earrings

Artists can find inspiration anywhere. For some, nature is the calling that frees the mind. For others, a stroll through a bustling city can stimulate the imagination. But can inspiration be found in something as simple as a cabinet?

For Jessica Giovachino, co-founder of GioGio Design, LLC, the answer is “Absolutely!”

As a practicing architect, Jessica frequently works with cabinet-making shops to design built-in cabinetry and furniture for clients as a part of her residential architectural projects. She became familiar with preparing CAD drawings of individual parts that were then cut out with a CNC machine in the shop. Going through this process sparked her imagination.

“I began to think of how I could use this process to create my own home accessory designs from wood,’ she says. “And my line of jewelry came about as I realized I could apply these same design and production methods on a much smaller scale.”

Finding Inspiration

As a product designer, Jessica brings her architectural background to the jewelry and home accessories she sells online. The goal is to offer a unique and fresh line that features alternative materials combined with elegant, clean design.

“Nature and architecture are my main inspirations,” Jessica explains. “I like to start with a traditional design or form, and then simplify and streamline it. Because of this approach, my pieces integrate well into both traditional and modern aesthetics.”

Designing GioGio Jewelry

With her architectural background, it’s no surprise that Jessica looks to her favorite architects—from Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry—and their buildings for inspiration. She also is drawn to Moorish and Celtic shapes in her jewelry designs because of the intricate patterns.

Jessica balances out these linear and geometric influences by also looking to nature for insight. “Natural motifs have been present in jewelry design for ages,” she says. “I think flowers, leaves, etc. appeal to most people because they reflect the beauty of the world around us.”

She also uses a variety of materials to incorporate the architectural and the natural themes she explores. “I love making jewelry from steel, wood and leather,” Jessica says. “These alternative materials appeal to trendy customers looking for something different and unique.”

With the “Reflection,” “Mirror Image” and “Interlocking Circles” pendants, the bamboo softens the crisp lines while also giving an organic feel to the necklaces.

GioGio Design Laser Cut Bamboo Circle Necklaces

These earrings and pendants have the softness of a flower juxtaposed with the rigidity of the geometric shape and stainless steel material to create a balanced aesthetic.

GioGio Design Laser Cut Floral Metal Jewelery

Jessica’s designs also tap into the spiritual and eclectic with “Wings,” “Primitive” and “Wish” motifs.

GioGio Design Laser Cut Metal Jewelery

Creating GioGio Design Home Accessories

With all the competition in the home accessories market, Jessica knew she had to do something different to get noticed and successfully sell online.

“I do not use any metal fasteners in my work,” she explains. “All of my home accessories are made of individual pieces that slot together. Putting them together like a 3D puzzle is part of the fun and playfulness of my designs. This also allows me to ship them flat-packed, and it is great for storage.”

You can see this design aesthetic in the Equinox Tea Light Holder, which showcases a lively reinterpretation of a classic form.

GioGio Design Laser Cut Bamboo Candle Holder

The Sushi Boards feature a raised base, etched geometric designs and scalloped edges to make them a stand out at any dinner party.

GioGio Design Laser Cut Bamboo Sushi Boards

Moving From Ideation To Finished Product

What’s the creative process like for Jessica? “First, I collect ideas in my head; inspiration can spring from many places,” she explains. “Then I sketch to develop or refine an idea. These can be very loose and abstract. I definitely make a lot of hand sketches before I start to design.”

Once the initial forms are clear, Jessica turns to the computer to translate these into patterns that can be laser cut. “Designing on a computer using AutoCAD is my most comfortable way to work,” she says. “Laser cutting is a natural extension of this process because the drawings directly tell the laser cutting machine what to do. And I love that laser cutting gives a darkened edge that provides contrast and is also smooth without the need for further sanding.”

Working With Laser Cutting And Ponoko

When Jessica first began GioGio Design, she was looking for a local laser cutting service when she found Ponoko during an internet search. “With the ability to upload drawings directly from my computer, I realized the need for a local shop was not necessary,” she says. “I love that Ponoko provides the materials and cutting all in one service/location. Not having to source materials myself and arrange for them to be shipped to a shop gives me more time to concentrate on the creative side of my business.”

Jessica was also drawn to Ponoko because of the materials library. “All of the work that went into sourcing and stocking this large variety of materials is a definite value,” she says. “Using Ponoko has helped me refine my design and manufacturing process. It has also helped me develop and fine-tune my product lines.”

For the metal jewelry product line, Jessica is able to take advantage of Ponoko’s Photochemical Machining (PCM) to control production costs and boost profits. With this service, there’s one price set price per sheet for materials and making. This means she can maximize output by fitting as many pieces on the sheet, thus reducing her cost per piece.

Making Into The Future

What does the future bring to Jessica and GioGio Design? “Our mission is to make things we would want to have in our own homes,” she says. “Why should the things we use every day be boring? We think people should surround themselves with creatively designed, cool and smart products that are both functional and fun. Life is more interesting when we are inspired by the things we see around us every day.”

She also sees laser cutting an essential creative tool for makers and designers because it can not only speed up the creative/creation process but also spark new ideas.

“I encourage all types of artists and makers to try it and think of unique ways to incorporate this technology into their work,” she says. “The intersection of technology and traditional craft is an exciting new direction for the artisan community.”


3 Reasons Why You’ll Love Laser Cut Bamboo Veneer

New Material In USA Catalog: Premium Veneer Bamboo MDF

Premium Veneer Bamboo MDF Laser Cut Trivet

Unless you’re a giant panda, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about bamboo. But as a maker, bamboo should be a top choice.

It’s a versatile material for designing laser cut jewelry, tableware, electronics enclosures, conference badges, signage, book covers and point of sale displays. And with the high-grade appearance of our new bamboo veneer sheets, you can create a luxe line of wares worthy of celebrity buzz.

Three Reasons To Love Premium Veneer Bamboo MDF

If you haven’t laser cut bamboo veneer, you’re in for a treat. Here’s why you’ll love it.

Premium Veneer Bamboo MDF Laser Cut Plant Trivet


  1. In the USA catalog, most woods for laser cutting are unfinished. While this raw wood is beautiful, there are subtle differences and imperfections due to the natural features of wood. With premium veneer bamboo MDF, the sheet is has a MDF core with real bamboo wood laminate on each side, which is then sanded smooth and clear coated for a striking, and consistent, finish.
  2. Premium veneer bamboo MDF offers a more consistent thickness and hardness, and it is less likely to be warped than other plywood bamboo. Since lasers focus light to cut, variations in the surface can amplify warping effects and impact the sharpness of the cut. By using this kind of bamboo veneer, you get more consistent laser cut results, which is important if you are selling the items you make and need no variance between pieces.
  1. This premium veneer bamboo MDF is 3.5mm thick, so it has more significant weight than the traditional 2.7mm bamboo. Plus it’s more cost effective than the 6.7mm three-ply bamboo while still having a substantial feel.

How Makers Are Using Bamboo

Need some inspiration on what you can laser cut with premium veneer bamboo MDF? Check out how these makers have used bamboo and then develop your own designs with this new material.

Incorporate modern geometric patterns into laser cut jewelry like Etsy seller LHDUCK.Laser Cut Bamboo Geometric Earrings From LHDUCK

Create a keepsake save-the-date wedding card like Etsy seller TheCraftySmiths.

Design a fun broach using woodland creatures like Etsy seller UponATree.

Laser Cut Bamboo Fox Broach From UponATree

Now Available: Premium Veneer Bamboo MDF

Premium Veneered MDF has a high-grade appearance and is consistent in thickness. It laser cuts with a dark edge, and engraving does not go through to the MDF.

Premium Veneer Bamboo MDF Sheet

Learn more about Premium Veneer Bamboo MDF and get a Sample.

Maker Tip: With the extra lacquer on the finish of this material, area engraving alone can be quite light. For best results, use line or combined engraving (as shown in the sample above).

What Will You Laser Cut With Premium Veneer Bamboo MDF?

Bamboo’s prominent grain and warm hues make it stand out from a myriad of other plywoods and timber laminates. And with the consistency this premium veneer MDF offers, your designs will have a gorgeous, professional finish.

Premium Veneer Bamboo MDF Laser Cut Leaves

Are you ready to make with the new material? We’d love to hear your project ideas. Tell us all about them by leaving a comment below!


6 Tinted Acrylic Jewelry Ideas For Spring

New Materials In USA Catalog: Green Tinted & Yellow Tinted Acrylics

Laser Cut Green And Yellow Tinted Acrylic Leaves

Acrylics are a classic material for laser cutting because they cut well and consistently. They deal well with the heat of the laser and engrave to a nice frosty finish.

While classics like black and white acrylics never go out of style, sometimes you want something different. A bit unusual. Fresh. Like spring.

Comedian Robin Williams said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’” So whether your party is casual or classy, freshen up your look with these six must-have jewelry trends in our two newest materials: Green Tinted & Yellow Tinted Acrylics.

Don’t wait until spring has sprung. Get inspired and start planning your next laser cutting projects with these design ideas:

Green Tinted Acrylic On Etsy

How are Etsy sellers using green tinted acrylic in their shops? Check out this laser cut flower that was based on an original drawing from JoCheungIllustration.

Laser Cut Green Tinted Acrylic Flower Necklace From JoCheungIllustration

You don’t need to be a wizard to tap into the appeal of emeralds. Etsy seller DigitalHandmade created an acrylic solitaire emerald ring for the ultimate geek engagement ring.

Laser Cut Green Tinted Acrylic Rings From DigitalHandmade

Etsy seller FoxyFunk tapped into the mythology of the Green Arrow—a vigilante superhero who fights crime using archery, martial arts and technology—when creating this laser cut acrylic necklace.

Laser Cut Green Tinted Acrylic Arrow Necklace From FoxyFunk

Now Available: Green Tinted Acrylic Sheet

Play with light and add a sense of depth to your designs using this deep green plastic sheet. Darker than many of our tinted acrylics, this green tint gives you options if the desired result isn’t a completely opaque finish.

Green Tinted Acrylic Sheet

Learn more about Green Tinted Acrylic and get this Green Tinted Acrylic Sample.

Yellow Tinted Acrylic On Etsy

Yellow tinted acrylic is also hot on Etsy. Just check out these designs.

Etsy seller LeeMoDesigns used a detailed geometric pattern for laser cutting these modular origami inspired earrings.

Laser Cut Yellow Tinted Acrylic Origami Earrings From LeeMoDesigns

If the emerald solitaire ring above isn’t your thing, Etsy seller DigitalHandmade has you covered with this laser cut acrylic solitaire amber ring.

Laser Cut Yellow Tinted Acrylic Rings From DigitalHandmade

Add a tropical flair to any ensemble no matter what time of year with this laser cut pineapple necklace from Etsy seller KitschBitchJewellery.

Laser Cut Yellow Tinted Acrylic Pineapple Necklace From KitschBitchJewellery

Now Available: Yellow Tinted Acrylic Sheet

A touch more transparent than the green tinted acrylic, use the yellow tinted plastic sheet for designs that can be completely see-through. In addition to jewelry, this new material would work well in a lighting project to create a really warm glow.

Yellow Tinted Acrylic Sheet

Learn more about Yellow Tinted Acrylic and get this Yellow Tinted Acrylic Sample.

What Will You Laser Cut With Tinted Acrylic?

While green and yellow tinted acrylics are great for spring, these colors can really be used in any season to add a fresh pop of color. And don’t think that jewelry is the only thing to be made from these tints. They would look great with electronic enclosures, tableware, conference badges, signage, book covers and point of sale displays.

What ideas do you have for making with these new materials? Share your ideas in the comments below!


Opposites Attract: Creating Contrast With White On Black Acrylic

New Material In NZ Catalog: Two-Color Acrylic Sheets

Laser Cut White On Black Acrylic Rings

Color trends change with the seasons, the latest runway fashions and what Pantone says is the color of the year. But what’s one color combo that’s always in style: Black and white.

Black and white is a study in contrast. It can connote modern or retro. Elegant or casual. Sophisticated or whimsical.

Beyond style designations, black and white is more than a study in contrast. It is contrast.

By definition, black is the absence of light. Black absorbs light without reflecting any of the rays composing it. And at the other end of the spectrum is white. It reflects all rays completely and diffusely. They’re perfect opposites. Maybe that’s why we’re so attracted to them.

Contrast: Premier Principle Of Design

In addition to alignment, balance, proximity and repetition, contrast is one of the key principles of design. It is important to any design for three reasons:

  • Contrast Grabs Attention
  • Contrast Organizes Information
  • Contrast Creates Focus

American cinematographer Conrad Hall said, “Contrast is what makes photography interesting.” Agreed. But that interest isn’t limited to photos. Contrast is critical for successful designs in print, online and especially for laser cutting.

Get Inspired: What You Can Make With White On Black Acrylic

Using color is one of the easiest ways to create contrast. In the past, makers would have to painstakingly hand paint details onto jewelry and other small parts to get a striking contrast. But since the introduction of two-color acrylic sheets, you can now achieve a much sharper finish with waaaay less work.

Check out these laser cut acrylic rings we made. The intricate engraving really showcases the contrast in the double-layer acrylic.

Laser Cut White On Black Acrylic Rings

Typography also works incredibly well on two-layer acrylic, especially when ambigram logos are present because they look really cool when laser engraved. Use this white on black acrylic for signage, name tags, event badges, jewelry, holiday decorations and front panels for electronics enclosures. And since it is less expensive and laser cuts quicker, two-color acrylic sheets are a great alternative to using metal sheets.

Laser Cut White On Black Acrylic Price Tag

When designing for two-color acrylics, think beyond the contrast of the substrate. Also include contrast in typography (traditional vs. modern; serif vs. sans serif), lines (thick vs. thin; straight vs. curved) and shapes (big vs. small; geometric vs. organic) to create the most interest and impact.

Benefits Of Two-Color Acrylics

Because the top layer is engraved away, the bottom layer of the acrylic sheet is revealed. This results in excellent readability because the precision of the laser cutting gives the illusion that the graphic and lettering work is printed. Thus, this white on black acrylic is ideal for products that need text or graphics along with the unique shape achieved with laser cutting.

Compared to printed paper products that seem more disposable, two-color acrylics offer more permanence and longevity. Cardstock is 0.3mm where this white on black acrylic is 1.6mm thick—a massive difference compared to paper—so use two-color acrylic sheets as an upgrade to standard printing for a more robust product to make an impact.

Two-color acrylics are also manufactured with a UV-resistant additive. So while there will naturally be some fading with extended sun exposure, these acrylics hold up much better in UV light, making them quite durable for signage applications.

Finally, this material is Microsurfaced Impact Modified Acrylics. This means it contains a small amount of polymer that is similar to rubber to give the acrylic extra strength and flexibility. As a result, two-color acrylic sheets are slightly more flexible and melt a bit more during cutting than standard acrylic sheets. This ability to be bent makes two-color acrylics particularly suitable for trophy plates.

Now Available: White On Black Acrylic Sheets

With the addition of white on black acrylic, there are now four two-color acrylic sheets in the NZ Catalog.

White On Black Acrylic Sheets

Learn more about White On Black Acrylic and get this Two-Color Acrylic Sample.

Maker Tip: When designing for this material, make sure the small details for cutting are a bit bigger than they would normally be constructed on standard acrylics. Also keep in mind that the top layer is very thin so the underlying substrate is sometimes visible along the cut line as well. This is most noticeable in corners or angles of designs, so prepare files accordingly.

Get Talking: What Will You Laser Cut With White On Black Acrylic?

However you want to create contrast—with color, typography or graphics—two-color acrylics take your designs from ordinary to extraordinary. How will you use white on black acrylic? Share your ideas for an upcoming project in the comment box and let us know what you can’t wait to make!


Spirograph-Inspired Maker Blasts Kickstarter Goals By 224%, Then 544%

How To Use Crowdfunding To Get Customers & Raise Money For Your Next Laser Cutting Project

Spirograph Inspired Wild Gears

Could a free toy in a package of candy change the trajectory of your life? For Aaron Bleackley, it did.

It all started one day in early 2013 when one of his coworkers got a tiny geometric drawing toy when purchasing some candy. They passed it around the office and played with it. Never having a Spirograph® set as a kid, Aaron was enthralled.

This kind of drawing toy works using simple gear interaction. Just place a gear in a larger ring and use a pen to rotate the gear around the inside of the ring. The result: A multitude of interesting geometric patterns can be created.

That night, he bought a Spirograph kit. Throughout the next several weeks, he purchased several more geared drawing toys and spent his evenings admiring the beautiful designs that he made with them.

Eventually he became frustrated, however. There was a lack of variety of design options. He wanted more pieces. The plastic from which the pieces were made was fragile and imprecise. And the gears often slipped and hopped out of the rings.

“I scoured the internet for a really good Spirograph but didn’t find anything to satisfy me,” Aaron says. “So I concluded that I would have to make my own.”

Beginning Wild Gears

Once he made the decision to make something himself, he had to figure out manufacturing. He found Ponoko and decided upon laser cutting because of the supreme precision it offers. “This is critical because you want crisp gear teeth that work smoothly with minimal slip or play,” Aaron explains. “This means that the design will come back to where it started, precisely and repeatedly.”

Spirograph Inspired Wild Gears In Use

In addition to functional benefits, Aaron was also interested in laser cutting because he could prototype a wide selection of designs, test them and make changes through numerous iterations without having to order large quantities—keeping his budget in check. Manufacturing on demand would also allow him to have products made at the time customers place an order. Thus, he could offer a variety of designs without needing inventory.

Aaron decided on clear acrylic as the substrate so the artist can see exactly how the design is proceeding. He didn’t want opaque or colorful gears that would hide part of the design during drawing.

Next, Aaron delved into the underlying math to create the geared drawing set of his dreams. To create the pieces each set would require, he began learning how to use vector graphic design software. It took about a week to finish the first prototype design, which would later become the Compact Gear Set, and he sent it off for production.

“When it arrived, I was ecstatic!” he says. “So much of what I had worked to achieve had gone exactly as I’d hoped. My gear set was wonderful to play with, but I immediately saw ways that I wanted to improve it.”

In addition to some structural upgrades, Aaron also wanted a much bigger set of gears. At this point, he recognized this project could get expensive rather quickly because he was actually doing iterative prototyping on a whole product line.

“With this realization, I started investigating Kickstarter so that I could share my joy of math and shapes with other people,” he says. “If I was really lucky, I figured that I’d cover some or all of my prototype costs.”

Launching Wild Gears Kickstarter 1.0

Aaron says the Kickstarter campaign was challenging to put together. He had to learn how to make promotional videos, take great product photos, write interesting descriptions of fairly technical things and plan for international logistics.

While learning how to market the project properly to attract backers, he was also continuing to build gears that could do more and more. In addition to traditional circular gears in various sizes, he created triangle-, square- and hexagon-shaped pieces to increase the designs that can be drawn.

Spirograph Inspired Wild Gears Shapes

He also used new design technology that allows for the creation of shapes that would otherwise be impossible to generate using conventional gear and pen methods. By adjusting the configuration of the pen holes, the artist could not only make the traditional designs that cross each other at acute angles but also figures with parallel patterns—which was totally new.

“The ability to generate both types of designs widens the range of possible art with stunning effect,” Aaron says. “I have not encountered another gear set with this unique design feature.”

Because his gear set offered far more than what was available at retail with traditional Spirograph sets, his backers responded. The funding goal was set at $1,200, which he blasted past with $3,889 raised.

“It went better than I dared hope,” Aaron admits. “Because it funded at more than 200% of its goal, this allowed me to test and develop a wider selection of Wild Gears designs. The campaign concluded on time and on budget, with products being sent to backers in nine countries on four continents.”

During the next two years, Aaron maintained a small web presence at wildgears.com and sold Wild Gears to anyone dedicated and determined enough to find them. “But by that time, I’d found enough things about the gear sets that I wanted to improve, correct or add that it was time to make a full revision,” he says.

Time to make again.

Relaunching Wild Gears Kickstarter 2.0

In the fall of 2015, Aaron went back to Kickstarter for Wild Gears 2.0 to fund a redesign and expansion of his Spirograph-inspired gear sets. In this campaign, he was able to increase the strength of the gears, improve the parallel lines functionality, complete a general design overhaul and drop the price.

“The redesigned gear sets were priced to be 20% less expensive,” he says. “These savings came from a combination of techniques that I learned to reduce laser cutting costs as well as lower base fabrication costs.”

This time, Aaron set an initial funding goal of $1,500 with three stretch goals of $2,500, $3,000 and $4,000. He once again smashed his goals and raised $9,622.

“My previous Kickstarter experience helped me make a much better campaign the second time through with clearer communication and better visuals,” he says. “It was a smashing success, funding at 544% of the goal, once again allowing me to make some stretch design goals.”

Continuing Wild Gears Into The Future

After two successful Kickstarter campaigns, Wild Gears has developed into a robust product line with multiple sets of drawing tools.

Spirograph Inspired Wild Gears Full Page Gear Set

The Compact Gear Set and Full Page Gear Set (shown above) are the foundational sets. While they are designed to stand on their own merits and provide a full and fun experience, they can be combined with additional gear sets to more deeply explore specific themes.

The Plentiful Gear Set is the next set of gears that would have gone into the Full Page gear set if there was more space.

The Enormous Gear Set adds gears and rings of up to 15” diameter for really huge designs. Ones larger than 36” are possible.

The Strange Shapes Gear Set contains many non-circular gears: Triangle, squares, pentagons, heptagons, dog bone shape and big clover.

The Modular Gear Set is made of puzzle pieces that snap together to make curly twisty weird shapes for the gears to be used with.

The Hoops Gear Set is a series of nested rings on a small sized sheet designed to give as many large rings in as small a space as possible.

All of the Wild Gear sets are available for purchase in the Ponoko Showroom.

Throughout the course of testing the new Full Page and Compact Gear Sets, Aaron found several new ways of using the gears to make designs. He published this photo tutorial so artists could add these options to their repertoire.

Aaron has also launched a YouTube channel to help artists reach the full potential of their Wild Gears sets. Currently there are 20 tutorials on how to create designs from the most basic shapes to more complicated patterns such as this parallel lines piece.

What makes Wild Gears so appealing is the simplicity of the design and how easy it is for people of all ages to use them to create beautiful pieces of art. Children can use them to create basic shapes while adults can dive deeper into their creativity and draw more complicated and integrated pieces.

Spirograph Inspired Wild Gears Completed Drawings

“Wild Gears provide boundless creative opportunity that appeals to everyone from children to retired mathematics professors and all the spaces in between,” Aaron says. “There is a beauty and peace to using these gears and watching the shapes they make unfold beneath your hands.”


Tapping Into $22 Billon Craft Brew Market With Design

Eight Seven Central Has Won Business—And Awards—With Its Innovative Custom Beer Tap Handles

Eight Seven Central Custom Beer Tap Handles

Craft brewing is a $22.3 billion industry, according to the Brewers Association, with more than 24 million barrels of beer produced and served annually across America in 2,397 microbreweries, 1,650 brewpubs and 178 regional craft breweries. In fact, the number of breweries increased 15% in 2015 (most recent stats available at press time).

Part science, part art, craft brewing has taken the U.S. by storm and now makes up 12% of the overall beer industry market share. What’s cool about the scene is that most of the beers are made my small individual brewers who come into the business because of their love for the product.

Because these operations are small, especially when compared to the Budweiser’s and Coors’ of the world, they don’t have hefty marketing budgets to get their brews noticed. And with the influx of new beers on the market, the competition to make one brew stand out from all the others is fierce.

Part of the marketing of a new beer is through name and imagery, which can be displayed on the actual tap handle. That’s where great design mixed with smart marketing comes in.

Tapping A New Market

Des Moines, Iowa-based Eight Seven Central isn’t your typical design studio. Nor it is a typical screen printer. They have found a way to combine award-winning design work and hand-crafted screen printing to produce unique brand identities, digital media and print materials for a broad range of clients—from young startups to influential commercial and cultural organizations.

This imaginative thinking is what brought Eight Seven Central to Ponoko in 2015 when a new brewery client challenged the company to develop custom beer tap handles for their line of brews.

“Our design work up to that point had been primarily two dimensional,” says Adam Ferry, Eight Seven Central lead designer. “Tap handles are much more dimensional than a poster or business card. We began to experiment with screen printing onto sections of wood. These turned out great, but those pieces of wood needed more. We looked into sandwiching the wood with pre-made panels to add even more dimension and contrast to the tap handles. We found Ponoko online and submitted some designs to see if we liked the output. Our client was thrilled with the results, and we’ve been producing that style of tap handle for almost two years now.”

To create all the personalized beer tap handles for Boone Valley Brewery Co., Eight Seven Central uses white melamine MDF face plates. There are now more than 100 of these out in the world.

The white face plates give consistency of design to all the tap handles while allowing for the customization of individual beer graphics on the cherry veneer MDF facing material. This inventive approach is getting noticed not only by consumers but also by critics.

The local American Advertising Federation honored the Boone Valley Brewing Co. Roxie Irish Red Tap Handle in the Countertop Display category for the white melamine MDF facing material on the handles.

Boone Valley Brewing Roxie Red Custom Beer Tap Handles

The Art Directors Association of Iowa awarded Best of Category for Distribution Assets for the Boone Valley’s white melamine MDF facing material as well as the cherry veneer MDF facing material on the Oktoberfest tap handle.

Boone Valley Brewing Oktoberfest Custom Beer Tap Handles

The Eight Seven Central designers took a different approach for the Boone Valley’s Ol’Griz tap handle, using clear acrylic to make a mold box for the hand-sculpted tap that includes a chest piece made from laser cut and etched hardboard. Both of these design features were also honored with the Art Directors of Iowa Best of Category for Distribution Assets as well as the Judge’s Choice Award.

Boone Valley Brewing Ol Griz Custom Beer Tap Handles

Branching Out Beyond Cool Beer Taps

Once Eight Seven Central got going with the custom beer tap handles, they started making other things with Ponoko such as coasters, forms for silicon molds, custom lighting components, ornaments and signage.

These holiday ornaments are made from laser cut birch, which is then silkscreened by hand to create the festive graphics.

Eight Seven Central Custom Laser Cut Christmas Ornaments

To create a one-of-a-kind sign for Moar Tacos, Eight Seven Central used an off-the-shelf lighting system and then retrofit it with laser cut acrylic panels. The back-lit floruo green masked with black gives it the company’s signature style.

Moar Tacos Custom Laser Cut Sign

Currently, Adam says they are proposing a design for wall tacker signs to advertise the Boone Valley Brewing Co. at pubs. Most tackers are made of embossed tin and require significant quantity when ordering them. Being able to create individual tackers from materials that tie into already established corporate branding gives Eight Seven Central an edge.

“Our design would be composed from layering mirror acrylics and white melamine MDF,” Adam explains. “We use the same white melamine MDF as the tap handles so that repeat of material makes sense. Tackers are meant to grab attention. If everyone’s tacker is tin and yours is multilayered mirror acrylic, then your brand has a good chance of standing out.”

Making Innovative Designs For The Future

“The problem all clients face is visibility, and we see Ponoko’s service offering as a way to augment the solutions we develop,” Adam says. “There are plenty of laser cutters out there with competent people running them, but I the reason we stick with Ponoko is that we didn’t have to experiment with materials or do extensive testing. The materials and how to cut/etch them is already spelled out.”

For anyone who wants to get into laser cutting projects, Adam says you must be clear on the design. “Sketch and mock up your ideas first,” he says. “You have to sell the concept before you can sell the product. If you’re using lasers just to say you used lasers, you may have missed the mark.”

Adam comes from a package design background and several of his team members had previous experience with laser cutting at the design college they attended. Being able to combine laser cutting with their design and screen printing services ended up being a natural fit.

“Sure there are other ways we could have gone about making things,” Adam says. “But automated precision using unexpected or even elevated materials is what inspires us for all of the projects we submit to Ponoko.”


Calling All Kickstarters: What Are You Making?

Let Us Know How You Use Ponoko For Your Crowdfunding Projects

Kickstarter Call For Submissions 2017

Hey Makers! We are about to hit a BIG milestone and need your help.

Are you currently or have you previously run a Kickstarter (or other crowdfunding) project using Ponoko to make your products? If so, we want to give you some free publicity by telling your story.

It’s super easy. Email service@ponoko.com with your Kickstarter URL.

That’s it. To be considered, the deadline for info is March 9.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to share your success story and get a little PR!


2017 Survey Results: You Spoke, We Listened

Building Our Annual Content Calendar With Your Requests

Reader Survey Opening 2017

A couple of weeks ago, we shared the top stories of 2016 and invited you to vote for the kind of content you wanted to read in 2017. The survey results are in:

Reader Survey Results 2017

As we complete our content plan for 2017, we’ll weight the coverage so your top three—new materials and what you can make with them, designing products for laser cutting and how to reduce your laser cutting costs—get ample attention while still offering a nice variety of articles for your reading pleasure.

Thanks so much for supporting the blog and responding to the survey. We hope you enjoy reading our posts as much as we enjoy writing them. And look for a new blog design that will launch this spring. We think you’re gonna love it!

21 Design Ideas Using 5 Materials Most People Don’t Know About

Fire Up Your Imagination For Your Next Laser Cutting Project With These Secret Weapon Materials

Secret Weapon Materials

Psssst! Want in on a little secret? There are five laser cutting materials most people don’t know about but are so super cool that they’ll become your secret weapon for making the most amazing laser cut creations. And if you sell your designs on Etsy or Kickstarter, it’s even more critical to add these materials to your arsenal so you can be different from your competitors.

Not being familiar with these hidden gems is understandable, really. The Ponoko Catalog is filled with a wide range of substrates, and we add even more new materials each month. So while classics like acrylic and wood might take up most of the spotlight, we’re going to show some love to our fave unsung heroes. We think you’ll love them, too.

Cardstock Sheets

1. Cardstock

Top Quality: Precision Details
Colors Available: Black, Ivory, Red

Intricately cut paper has a sophisticated beauty all its own. You could spend hours of your life painstakingly cutting paper by hand. But that’s way too much like work for us. Drafting up those little beauties electronically and having endless copies laser cut is so much more efficient—and fun.

Cardstock is super affordable and laser engraves really well, which is why it’s typically used for packaging, prototyping, architectural models, decorative arts, collages and crafting. Because it’s paper, its 100% recyclable and can be easily joined with glue or tape.

Maker Tip: Use a vector engraving line to create perfect fold lines.

See how these six makers are using cardstock in their laser cut products:

Need a personalized housewarming gift? Frame an ornately laser cut last name like this one from Etsy seller LuccaWorkshop between double pane glass. When it’s hung, the contrasting wall color shines through. Perfect for gifting to a loved one for a special occasion or adding to your family heirlooms to pass down for generations.

Laser cut cardstock name from LuccaWorkshop

Sometimes an off-the-shelf greeting card simply won’t do. Create a birthday keepsake like these laser cut cards from Etsy seller pogofandango that will be appreciated for years.

Laser cut cardstock greeting cards from pogofandango

Weddings are all about making memories. Start the fanfare with save-the-date cards like these from Etsy seller MakersCompany that guests will surely remember.

Laser cut cardstock wedding save-the-date cards from MakersCompany

Continue the laser cut theme beyond save-the-date cards to also include wedding invitations. These invites from Etsy seller from KatBluStudio feature Papel Picado, a Mexican folk art where cardstock is cut into elaborate designs. What was once only used as decoration can now be custom designed into wedding invitations.

Laser cut cardstock wedding invitation from KatBluStudio

Celebrate the happy couple with personalized laser cut cardstock lovebirds. Check out Etsy seller MayContainGlitterUK for inspiration.

Laser cut cardstock personalized lovebirds from MayContainGlitterUK

Stationary designers Cutture have a passion for design and architecture that can be seen in the bespoke pieces they create for events. The result is exquisite invitations that people wouldn’t want to say no to, plus table decorations and accessories that maintain that excitement throughout the event.

Laser cut cardstock invitations and table decorations from Cutture

Leather Sheets

2. Leather

Top Quality: Tactile Appeal
Colors Available: Auburn, Black, Dark Brown, Mocha, Natural Russet, Tan

If you think leather is just for footwear, luggage and handbags, think again. Leather is a versatile material for laser cutting and one that’s certainly underused. Working with leather requires skill but is incredibly satisfying, provided you have the right tools. In the last few years, laser cutting has become more and more prolific as a tool for manipulating leather. Now you’ll see it featured prominently in crafts, jewelry, wallets, cuffs, belts, placemats and coasters.

Maker Tip: Leather turns brown and powdery when engraved in large areas, so design products with line engraving to produce crisp results.

Get inspired to create laser cut leather products with examples from these four makers:

Contain business cards or other small items in style with laser cut leather cardholders. This one from Etsy seller StAnderswo features a geometric diamond pattern laser cut into the leather.

Laser cut leather business card holder from StAnderswo

Time spent with cats is never wasted. We couldn’t agree more. Whatever you’re passionate about, laser cut jewelry can showcase your message. See what we mean with this cat shaped necklace from Etsy seller ZoraDesign.

Laser cut leather cat shaped necklace from ZoraDesign

If you really want to make a statement with laser cut leather jewelry, check out this symmetrical art nouveau inspired statement necklace from Etsy seller ShopElenaDesigns. It’s wearable art.

Laser cut leather statement necklace from ShopElenaDesigns

Laser cut leather can also be turned into high fashion, as illustrated by this Louis Vuitton dress.

Laser cut leather dress from Louis Vuitton

Delrin Sheets

3. Delrin

Top Quality: Durability + Functionality
Colors Available: Black, White

Delrin may not have the same polish and shine as it’s acrylic cousins. But what it lacks in appearance, it more than makes up for in strength and durability.

It possesses high tensile strength, creep resistance and toughness. Delrin also exhibits low moisture absorption. It is chemically resistant to hydrocarbons, solvents and neutral chemicals. These properties along with its fatigue endurance make Delrin ideal for any application where durability is a must: Machine parts, drone components, hardware mounts, washers, gaskets, electronics enclosures, guitar picks and stencils.

Maker Tip: Engraving on Delrin doesn’t have as much contrast as acrylic, so use a combination of line and area engraving for the best results.

Need design ideas for making with this durable material? Check out this Hackaday post on how to make anything with using laser cut Delrin.

Laser cut Delrin from Hackaday

For musicians, these Delrin guitar picks from Reverb are easy to maneuver, have great dynamic control and are great sounding in the lower mid-range.

Delrin guitar picks from Reverb

In addition to its industrial and musical applications, use Delrin to custom laser cut bokeh filters for stunning photography shots. There is even a set in our showroom you can buy to achieve the beautiful aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image created by this lens.

Laser cut Delrin bokeh filter from Ponoko Showroom

Polarizing Film Sheets

4. Polarizing Film

Top Quality: Play With Light
Colors Available: Light Gray

Polarizing film is a super thin, 0.8mm light grey laminate material that has a polarized layer to reduce glare and reflection. It’s often used in the making of sunglasses and LCD screens, but its light blocking qualities are also often used in photography and for art installations.

How does polarizing film work? Christopher Frost Photography explains the effects in this tutorial:

You can also see how polarizing filters reduce glare and increase contrast to improve detail and color with this glass squid. The left image is photographed with a polarizing filter and the right image is without.

Glass squid from Wikipedia

Maker Tip: Polarizing film has low melting point and must be laser cut with special attention. Simple shapes work best as intricate details tend to melt and be lost. Because the sheet has a tendency to warp as it heats up during the laser cutting process, make sure to allow plenty of space in between the pieces.

For the practical maker, you could laser cut your own sunglasses like industrial designer Kris Pepper on Coroflot.

Laser cut sunglasses from Kris Pepper on Coroflot

For the artistic maker, get inspired by Swiss artist Pe Lang who designed this art installation using mini motors that rotate polarized film circles to create a mesmerizing effect.

Laser cut polarized film art installation from Pe Lang

Felt Sheets

5. Felt

Top Quality: Color Variety
Colors Available: Black, Blue, Bordeaux, Camouflage, Crystal Blue, Dark Gray, Fire, Gray, Lime, Magenta, Orange, Pink, Turquoise, White

Every spring, fluffy sheep are sheared of their woolen winter coats, some of which ends up being spun into felt. Our 100% merino wool felt is dense yet soft, durable, stable and non-fraying. It has a consistent texture that laser cuts beautifully and ages gracefully. The vibrant colors are non-toxic and UV-resistant, making felt ideal for jewelry, accessories and home décor.

Maker Tip: Felt can have a strong burnt wool smell after cutting, so it’s a good idea to laser cut any felt item well in advance of them being used. The smell dissipates with time, and you can speed up the process by cleaning the felt or leaving it in fresh air. Also, the edges scorch and turn brown, which is more noticeable on the lighter colors, so you’ll want to design with that in mind.

Get inspired by seeing how these six makers use felt to create their laser cut products:

Etsy seller AmysArtWear’s unique take on geometric shapes creates an eye-catching pattern radiating from a heart center with these laser cut felt earrings.

Laser cut felt earrings from AmysArtWear

By combining new craft methods with traditional materials, Etsy seller Madimooi makes the laser cut “Prosecco” necklace from two layers of contrasting colored felt.

Laser cut felt necklace from Madimooi

Etsy seller FeltLabel uses circles to design a distinctive geometric pattern for this statement necklace.

Laser cut felt necklace from FeltLabel

Protect surfaces and keep furniture safe from hot and cold plates or drinks with laser cut felt placemats. Etsy seller MetisDeco uses a diamond pattern for a simple and modern design that adds a hint of distinctive aesthetics to any dining table.

Laser cut felt placemats from MetisDeco

These felt lace wheel coasters from Etsy seller FeltLabel give any space an update with a fresh design suitable for all décor styles.

Laser cut felt coaster from FeltLabel

Retailer Irish Design Shop’s laser cut felt placemats have a geometric design that’s a bit of an optical illusion. Part honeycomb and part three-dimensional cube, these placemats are a practical yet interesting way to add color to a table setting.

Laser cut felt placemats from Irish Design Shop

How Will You Put These Secret Weapon Materials To Work?

Fire away! We’d love to hear your design ideas on how you have used these materials or what you’d love to make in the future. Share your plans in the comments below.

Got pics of your creations? We’d love to see them. Mention @Ponoko on Twitter or give us a shout on Facebook.

And if you’re ready to make, log in and get to work!


Ponoko Is Hiring A Shipping And Materials Manager

Another 32-Hour Work Week Role

Ponoko provides an online laser cutting & engraving service to turn your designs into custom made products faster and at less cost than ever before.

Instant online quoting and no order minimums mean our customers can go from idea to finished product as fast as next day. We think that’s pretty amazing.

At our Oakland factory of the future, our Shipping & Materials Manager helps deliver that amazing experience to our customers.


* You believe what we believe . . . That mass production is going digital.

* You value what we value.

* You have a deep desire to help makers create their own custom products. This will make it easy for you to smile, persevere and shine through the ups and downs our customers experience on their personal creative journeys, and the ups and downs we experience on ours.

You are:

* Passionate about quality, and it shows in your work.

* Hands on: not afraid to pick up a utility knife & tear into a fresh shipment of cardstock.

* An effective communicator who asks questions and gets clarification when needed.

* Comfortable with varying noise levels – whether it’s a 60w industrial laser or David Bowie.

* Experienced using apps, smartphones & web-based interfaces to get the job done.

* Familiar with, or interested in learning about all these materials.

* Happy with the consistency that comes with a routine, but comfortable identifying and acting on opportunities to improve your workflow.

* Someone who understands you get out of life what you put into it. And to change the world this means stepping forward and grabbing at responsibility.


You’ll be our part time Shipping & Materials Manager (32 hours per week). You’ll be the ultimate quality check before a customer’s product is shipped – the care & detail you put into this role will shape the first impression our customers have when unboxing their custom made products.

Your typical day includes the following:

* Managing the receipt of raw material deliveries and checking quality of all delivered stock.

* Cutting down sheets of raw material into laser-friendly sizes.

* Picking, labeling and sorting materials for upcoming orders.

* Identifying any low stocks of materials, packaging and supplies.

* Quality checking incoming orders from off site suppliers.

* Quality checking all outgoing orders.

* Securely packaging custom products for shipment.

* Shipping all orders.

* Communicating with shipping suppliers as needed.

* Identifying problems with and improving our workflows to delight customers.

* Attending 1 weekly delivery team discussion & 1 monthly full team discussion.


* Market salary.

* Unlimited paid time off.

* Employee rates on laser cutting your own stuff.

* Feeling that your work day makes a difference in other people’s creative lives.


Founded in 2007, we believe in a digital making future. A future where your products are made online and locally.

This belief drove the design of our online laser cutting service for makers. It’s made possible by our Personal Factory technology that connects your digital design tools to our digital making robots over the Internet.

Our service is the first to enable you to both make & sell your product designs online.

With an online catalog of 100+ materials, instant online quoting, no minimum order size, custom product delivery as fast as next day, an incredible 99% quality score with the other 1% re-made and re-shipped for free (no returns necessary), over 200,000 Personal Factory makers have produced more than 600,000 custom products online.

Recognised as a pioneering leader of the digital making industry, we have been featured in places like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, CNN Money, Inc. Magazine (cover), Forbes, Wired, Core77, TechCrunch, Makezine, MIT Technology Review, BBC News and The Economist.

We’re just at the beginning of a digital making future we’ve been working towards for 10 years, where our Personal Factory technology enables the seamless connection between your digital design software and our digital making robots over the Internet.

Your appointment will enable us to support our amazing customers as we continue to pioneer the digital making industry together.


Please send an email to dan dot devorkin @ ponoko dot com to introduce yourself, send your resume, and to answer these 3 questions:

1. Why do you want this role?

2. Why are you the best person for this role?

3. What gaps exist between what our needs are and your experience?

We’re looking forward to meeting you.

PS – see our Production Manager role open here.