This Instructable will guide you through all of the steps required to make a fully customizable laser cut wooden jewelry box! This jewelry box contains two fold-out wings complete with satin foam pads, three racks designed to hold a total of twelve rings/necklaces and two fold-out panels designed to hold two sets of earrings each. The box has various engravings and designs on it, as well as an inner felt lining which hides the burn marks from the laser cutter.
These instructions will serve as more of a guideline for others, as most people will want to add their own touch to their jewelry box and they may pick different designs to use. Nonetheless, all of the files needed to make this exact jewelry box are available for download at the bottom of the next step.
So follow me through this Instructable, find a laser cutter near you and create your own! Now let's get to work!
Step 1: Intro: Gallery
Before we get started, take a look at the photos in this step to get a better idea of the makeup of the jewelry box. This project is not too difficult as we will rely on the laser cutter to do the majority of the work for us. Once we have everything designed and cut out, we just need to assemble everything together with the proper hardware.
You will notice in the photos that there are a few small faults which I did not have time to fix and redo. For example, when I was applying the black felt to the base of the box, I forgot to empty out the remnants of the red felt from the flocking device. This of course caused the two colors to mix and the black felt on the base of the box has a bit of a reddish tint to it (back inside of the box; Noticeable in photos 5, 6 and 7). There are a few other small things, but all-in-all, the project turned out quite well.
All of the files required for this project can be downloaded in the zip file that is attached to this step.
Step 2: Preparation: Tools Needed
Before we start building this project, we will need to make sure that we have the following tools to be able to complete the jewelry box. Other than the laser cutter, the rest of the tools are pretty basic and easy to find.
I will be using a 5th Gen Laser w/ 90W upgrade from Full Spectrum Laser. The support from FSL along with the cutter itself has been fantastic, so before anyone asks, yes I would recommend this laser cutter. The upgraded tube makes a huge difference too. Nonetheless, just use whatever laser cutter you can get your hands on for this project!
As you can see, there aren't many tools that are needed for this project. The laser cutter pretty much does everything for us. ;)
Step 3: Preparation: Skills and Software Required
If you plan on customizing your own jewelry box, you will need some sort of vector software to handle the designs and send them to the laser cutter software. Other than that, this is quite basic and doesn't require a vast array of skills or software. The required software and skills are listed below.
Even if you do not possess the skills listed above, this is a good starting project to pick them up. So keep on reading!
Step 4: Preparation: Required Materials
Before we begin, we will need to acquire the necessary supplies and material to create this project. It's pretty easy to find all of the materials needed for this jewelry box, whether you find it online or locally. The plywood that I ended up using was pre-finished. This serves two purposes, first it saved me from having to sand and lacquer the material, second and more importantly, the wood does not scorch or burn around the cuts because the lacquer is covering it. Once each piece is cut, there will be a yellowish residue around each cut which is due to the lacquer getting burnt by the heat of the laser. I was able to take a wet baby-wipe and simply wipe away this yellowish residue resulting in a burn-free and still lacquered piece of wood. You will be able to see this in later steps in the photos. Here is a list of the materials required:
All of the jewelry that I purchased for the jewelry box was bought online and is cheap jewelry. There isn't anything in there that is real diamonds or gold, but I added it there just to provide a better visual of the completed project. Feel free to do the same or instead fill it with more expensive jewelry that is to your liking.
Step 5: Design: Creating The Box In Sketchup
The closed box has a finished size of 145mm wide by 245mm long and 75mm high. I came up with this size by deciding on the amount of jewelry that I wanted to fit into the box, how large the fold-out wings would be and how much clearance the fold-out panels under the lid would need in order to allow the box to close and still allow earrings to be stored between the panels and the top of the box.
I originally had the hinges for the wings inside the box with only the small back part of the hinge sticking out, but I ran into problems being able to secure the hinges tight enough with only 5mm of the plywood to sink the small screws into. On top of that, there are engravings on the outer side of the wings which meant I actually had much less than 5mm of thickness as some of the designs engrave halfway into the plywood.
I eventually scrapped that idea and then designed and cut out new side panels which had the hinges on the outside. The only reason that I could justify putting the hinges on the outside of the box was because I wasn't making a locking jewelry box. Even then, that part of the project still bugs me. ;)
Step 6: Design: Exporting The CAD Design To Inkscape
After we have the physical structure of the box designed in Sketchup, we need to somehow port the existing 3D model over to Inkscape in 2D parts. Seeing as the laser cutter is more or less a 2D cutting machine (3D engravings can be done), it doesn't really care about the thickness of the material that we are cutting. Once we port the 2D vector and raster data to the laser cutters software, we simply adjust the speed and power of the laser cutter to get the desired engraving depth or full cut through. For this step, we are just going to focus on getting the CAD files to our vector software.
First things first, to port the CAD data to an SVG (Inkscape) file we will need to download the sketchup-svg-outline-plugin for Sketchup. Click on that link and click on the download icon (arrow with a bar under it) at the top of the page. Once downloaded, you will need to install the plugin in Sketchup. The official RBZ plugin installation instructions are located here. As soon as you have everything set up and ready to go, perform the following steps to port the Sketchup data to Inkscape.
Sketchup To Inkscape
We are now ready to prepare the 2D vector data for the laser cutter, which we will do in the next step.
Step 7: Design: Organizing The Parts In Inkscape
Now that we have the master Inkscape file with all of the parts for the jewelry box in it, we need to separate the parts into single documents. I have already done this and saved the files in step #1 where they can be downloaded. There is a template file in the package which has a yellow border that is equal to the size of my laser cutters bed (500x300mm). Modify that to suit your laser cutter if you need it.
Instead of filling up full sheets of various parts and then cutting them out, I opted to cut out each section of the box separately. My files are as follows:
Back_Panels.svg: Contains the two back pieces of the jewelry box. Has pilot holes added for 1" brass hinge.
Bottom.svg: Contains the single bottom piece for the jewelry box. This piece has no engravings on it.
Front_Panels.svg: These pieces have engravings on both the upper portion of the lid and the front base of the jewelry box. These are the two pieces that make up the front of the box.
Hinged_Drawers.svg: These pieces make up the hinged drawers in the base of the jewelry box. They will be secured to the side pieces.
Inside_Wings.svg: These pieces have engravings on the back and a border glued on the front. They are in the inside of the lid and swing out.
Jewelry_Box.svg: This contains all of the parts together. This is the main file that has all parts of the jewelry box and is the file created from the sketchup-to-svg plugin.
Lid_Top.svg: This contains the top of the lid which will later be engraved. We will also have to engrave the underside of the lid later with the selected photo and the heart that surrounds the photo (more on that later).
Racks.svg: This file contains all three racks that are inside the bottom of the box. There is no etching on these and they are just simply cut out.
Rack_Back.svg: This piece is cut out of 1/32" basswood (any wood will work) and is glued to the back of the racks. This keeps the jewelry from falling through the shapes in the racks. Note that this file is not in the Sketchup CAD photos or the Inkscape parts file. I have added it to the main Sketchup file now though.
Sides.svg: Contains the three pieces to each side of the jewelry box. It already has pilot holes for the 3/4" antique brass hinges that I used. The pilot holes can be deleted or moved around by using the F2 command in Inkscape, that is if one is using a different hinge with different dimensions.
There are a few other files that I have not listed here and they are located in the Miscellaneous folder in the zip file. They are just small cut outs for foam pads and fabric (more on that later). Now let's move on to the engraving side of things!
Step 8: Design: Prepping Parts For Engraving
In this step I will show you the techniques that I used in Inkscape to turn a general image (monochrome images are easiest) into vector data that we can embed into the part that we want to engrave. Inkscape does all of the work for us with the "Trace Bitmap..." tool. After that we just clip the vectored image onto the face of our selected part. It's as easy as 1,2,3! I convert all of my monochrome images into vector data, however, you can choose to skip that step and just keep them as an image. With either format, they both will be getting rastered by the laser cutter anyways.
Converting an Image into Vector Data
Splitting the Image Across Multiple Parts
This process isn't very efficient and there is probably an easier way to do this in Inkscape, however, it gets the job done. Continue to do this for all of the parts of the jewelry box that you want to engrave on. I find this way easier and more accurate than trying to line up the image and part in the laser cutter software. Once you're done all of this, it's easy sailing. There is a zip file which contains all of the parts with their engravings available for download in step #1. You will notice in my files that the parts are a very light color. This allows me to filter out the border when I need to engrave the part. We only want the image to engrave, not the border surrounding the image. The border surrounding the image is the part itself that we will completely cut out.
Step 9: Design: Adjusting Parts For The Lasers Kerf
Now that we have put the engravings on the parts, we need to adjust the size of each part in regards to the kerf of your laser cutter. When the laser is vaporizing the wood and cutting out your part, it is actually cutting away a little of the material. Kerf size varies from laser cutter to laser cutter and is highly dependent on the type of material that you are laser cutting. If you do not know how to find the kerf of your laser, there are many tutorials online to help you out.
I cut my parts out with a kerf of 0.2mm and the tabs proved to be very tight together. I could have set it to .18mm and it probably would have been perfect. I use the technique outlined in this Instructable to compensate for the lasers kerf on my parts. I have quickly outlined the technique above with the use of photos. None of the files in this Instructable have been adjusted for the lasers kerf, as it is dependent on the laser cutter and materials that you are using. In otherwords, you will have to adjust each part with the measured kerf of your laser.
Step 10: Design: Photo Engraving
The last part of the design process is to prepare a photo so that it can be burned into the underside of the lid. We will make two files in this step, one file for the heart that surrounds the photo and the other file with the photo inside the heart. The reason that we need two different files is because we engrave the heart much deeper than the photo. This means that we will have to run two separate raster operations over the lid. It is crucial to make sure that everything stays lined up as we don't have much room for error. For now, all we will worry about is preparing the file!
For my jewelry box, I wanted to have a picture of my girlfriend and myself underneath the lid. This is the only part of my box that has engravings on the top and the bottom of the part. Parts like this are trickier to do, as we need to handle the piece after we finish engraving the top and still maintain the correct placement of the part to ensure that the bottom engraving is in the correct location on the part.
I am not going to go into to much detail on how to prepare a photo for engraving, as there are a lot of tutorials on how to do that floating around on the web already. For my photo, I cut out the background with the lasso tool, converted my image to greyscale and then tweaked the contrast settings. I then saved the photo under a different name so that I still had the original.
Follow the photos above, as they provide text and visual instructions in regards to prepping the heart and photo for engraving. We need to separate the images into two different files as the heart is engraved much deeper into the wood than the photo is. Therefore we need to have the part outline in each of the files so that we have a reference point when we engrave the wood in two separate operations.
Step 11: Construction: Cutting Out The Parts
Now that we have all of the design files ready to go, it's time to start engraving and cutting out the parts. Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures of the parts as they cut out, so I only have a few photos of random parts.
Open up RetinaEngrave or whatever software that your laser cutter operates with. Open up one of the design files, a good one to start with is the top lid. When you print the design file into the laser cutter, it will contain 3 vector colors. The black vector is created from the outline of the raster image, so we will turn this layer off as we do not want it to cut out. The yellow vector is for the border that surrounds the part and the raster image, and this too we do not want to cut out so we turn this layer off. The only layer that we need to cut out is the cyan layer, which contains the part outline. For my laser cutter, I run it at a speed of 80% and power at 100% to ensure a nice clean cut.
Before cutting the part out, we need to engrave the raster image first. This is pretty self explanatory, put a sheet of wood into the laser cutter, set the raster speed and power to your liking and begin engraving the part. I used 80% speed and 80% power for my raster operation.
After you have everything set up and operating as it needs to be, finish cutting out the rest of the parts (make sure to have painters tape over top of each rack that is cut out and save the inside shape cut outs for later). After you engrave the top of the lid and cut it out, you will need to re-align the position of the part. To do this, I laid a thin piece of cardboard (paper would work) in the laser cutter, taped it down and ran the vector cut for the part outline over top of it. I set the cutting power to a minimum, as I only wanted it to mark the cardboard and not burn through it. I then inserted the lid into the laser with the bottom facing up, so that I could engrave the heart into the underside of the lid. Before rastering the heart image onto the lid, I put painters tape across the bottom of the lid to protect the the wood from burning seeing as the bottom of the lid wasn't finished (had a clear-coat on it) like the top side was. I then lined the part up inside of the outline on the cardboard, taped it down and ran the laser cutter to engrave the part. My settings were 80% speed and 80% power for this.
After the heart was engraved, I immediately loaded up RetinaEngrave with my photo file which needed to be engraved inside of the heart. Take care not to move the laser head or the part inside of the cutter, otherwise the photo engraving will be off its mark and you will have to re-cut the part and do it all over again. Before running the photo engrave file, I removed the painters tape from the inside of the heart where the photo was to be engraved. I then changed my raster settings to engrave with a speed of 80% and power at 40%. You will need to test engrave scrap pieces to find the best photo engrave settings for your laser cutter (obviously do this prior to cutting out this part).
Now we're ready to start assembling the jewelry box!
Step 12: Construction: Assembling The Hinged Drawers
First, we will assemble the hinged drawers on the jewelry box. Gather all of the parts that you have cut out and organize all of the parts together. Attach the side pieces of the jewelry box together with a 3/4" antique hinge. There are already pilot holes for each screw, so just line up the hinge and secure it to the two pieces.
Next, attach the sides of the drawer to the main base. Each side should have a tab sticking out the back which will be used to secure the drawer to the hinged side. When you need to attach the front angled piece of the drawer, you will need to sand down each back corner in order for it to fit. Once you have each corner sanded down enough, add some carpenters glue to the piece and set it in place. I used a small dab of superglue on each part to help hold it in place while the wood glue dried.
Now add wood glue to the back end of the drawer and around the two tabs. Insert the drawer into the hinged side of the jewelry box and allow it to dry. Make sure that the drawer can move freely and then add a small wood stop on the outer beam of the drawer to limit its motion. Repeat this exact process for the other drawer.
Step 13: Construction: Flocking The Drawers
I wanted a to make the box look a little more professional, so I decided to add flock to certain parts of the jewelry box. It is really easy to do and I followed this youtube video to make sure that I did it right.
Cover up each portion of the drawer the you do not want to add flock too with painters tape. Get the color of glue that matches your flock and distribute it evenly across each portion of the drawer that you want to add flock too. Take the part and set it inside of an open box that is lined with a grocery bag to catch the excess flock, then fill up the flocking gun with flock and proceed to apply the flock to the drawer. Do not be afraid to use an excessive amount, as you can recover the unused flock from the plastic bag in the box.
Allow the flock a few hours to dry and then add black flocking to the uncovered parts of the side wall. Do this for both drawers.
Step 14: Construction: Assembling The Base
Before we assemble the base, we need to add flock to the three racks inside of the base. Take the three rack pieces and glue the backs on to them. Then apply red glue inside of each shape. Make sure that there is painters tape on top of each rack to prevent the red glue getting on the surface of the rack. Put them in the flocking box and apply red flock to each shape. Allow each rack to dry and then peel away the painters tape off of each surface.
Next, take the shape cut outs from each rack and place them back into the racks. these will protect the red flocked shapes from the black flock that we will be applying to the rest of the rack. Distribute black glue evenly across each rack, set the racks in the flocking box and apply flock to each rack. After doing the top, repeat the same process for the rest of the rack, fully coating it in flock. Remove each shape and that will be the finished rack.
Now, assemble and glue all sides of the base together except for one. For one of the hinged sides, just clip it into place as we will need to remove it later to add the racks into the base. Flock the inside of the base with black flock (or whatever color you prefer) and allow it to dry. Once it has cured, take a scalpel and make a small incision along the inside of the hinged side that you didn't glue to the base. You should now be able to remove this side from the base without disturbing the flock on the pieces (this is why you make an incision). Insert each of the racks into place and then clip the side piece back into place, gluing it to the base this time.
Attach the drawers back to each side of the base and this part of the project is complete!
Step 15: Construction: Assembling The Lid
Now it's time to assemble the lid. We're making great progress so far, but we've still got a little bit more to go! Dab wood glue into each slot on the lid. Do the same for the front, back and side pieces of the lid too. Snap all of the parts together and clamp them together until they dry. While the lid is drying, glue the borders onto each wing and allow those time to dry too. After the borders are secure on each wing, apply flocking glue to the inside of each wing and use blue flock as it will contrast against the black flock that we will be apply inside of the lid later.
Once the wings are ready to be assembled, attach two hinges to each wing. The exact location of the hinges do not matter, just try to space them evenly apart. Now take each wing, center it in the lid and secure them to their respective sides. Make sure to drill small pilot holes for each screw, otherwise you may crack the side pieces. If you want to stiffen up the hinges so that they can support the wings in any position, apply a dab of superglue into each hinge and continue opening and closing the wing until the glue dries. Make sure to keep moving the wing until it dries though, or you may glue the hinge in place for good.
I wanted to cover up the small burn marks inside of the lid but I needed to keep the center engraving visible. I decided to cut out an enlarged outline of the heart engraving in painters tape, cover the center engraving with it and flock the rest of the lid. This was the best of both worlds as I got to cover the small burn marks, while at the same time I kept the center engraving visible.
Download the vector file which contains the enlarged heart outline, set your laser cutter power settings really low and cut out the template. Apply the heart template over top of the engravings in the lid, trying to center it as best as you can. Then apply flocking glue to the rest of the inside of the lid and apply the black flock. Allow it to dry and remove the heart template that is covering the engravings. Re-attach the inside wings to the lid and we're done with the lid!
Step 16: Construction: Putting It All Together
This step is where all of the project comes together. Fold in the drawers on the base of the jewelry box and fold in the wings on the lid of the jewelry box. Set the lid on top of the base, line up the hinges with their respective pilot holes in the back and secure the hinges to the box. Now open up the jewelry box and fold out the drawer and hinges, ensuring that everything works as it should. Congrats, you're almost done this project!
We have a few more touch-ups to do though. First, we will want to add a foam pad inside of each drawer. This will allow us to store store earrings in the drawers. I tried to find a foam piece that was 12mm - 15mm (~1/2") thick but had no such luck. I was really running out of time as I had to have this done for my girlfriends birthday so I ended up settling for a chunk of foam that I found at Wal-Mart (the last piece there too!) and that's also where I picked up the blue satin fabric. Together, it cost about $15 for the materials. The foam that I had purchased was about 2" thick and I had to cut it down to half an inch, then trim it down to fit inside of the drawer (I actually used the laser cutter to cut it into the shape of the drawer).
After cutting out the foam pieces, I drew up a quick outline in Sketchup for the fabric. I put a piece of fabric in the laser cutter, turned the power way down (Speed: 100%, Power: 1%) and cut out the patterns. I was a little short with the patterns but decided to still use them as I only had a few hours to finish the jewelry box. The bottom of the foam pad looks pretty shotty but fortunately for me, it was hidden. Once I placed the foam pads into the drawers they actually looked quite nice.
You can refine this step and do it a little neater than I did or else just follow my exact steps to do it the same way. Either way, the outcome still looks good.
I decided to add neodymium magnets in the lid and the base of the jewelry box. This is completely optional, as the lid of the box will stay closed due to its weight without the magnets, but the magnets add a nice touch. This is easy to do, just drill two small holes that are a bit larger than the magnets, put the magnets in place and add a dab of superglue to them. Do this on the base and the lid, making sure that each magnet lines up with its partner when the lid is closed. Make sure that you install the magnets so that they attract each other and don't repel each other. After all, we do want the lid to close ;) Feel free to paint the magnets too if they stand out.
Step 17: Construction: Adding The Jewelry
The last thing that we need to do is add the jewelry. In order for us to add jewelry to the wings, we need to install some type of holders on them. I decided to place two seats of earrings in each wing, so I went to Michael's (the craft store) and found some silver-coated pins with holders. I then figured out how I wanted to lay out the earrings on the wings and I installed the holders. I used a rotary tool with a drill press to drill out the 1mm holes for the holders. If you figure out the layout of the wings prior to cutting out the parts, you could actually just have the laser cutter cut out the holes for you.
After you have set up the holders in the wings, re-attach the wings to the jewelry box and attach the earrings to the holders. You can then proceed to add jewelry to the three racks in the base of the jewelry box and then populate the foam pads with earrings. You have to take care that you don't place any jewelry that is really tall into the three racks as it will hit the drawers when they are folded in.
That's it! You're done. Thanks for checking out this Instructable!
Step 18: Conclusion: My Thoughts
This project turned out to be much more work than I had originally anticipated. There are a few small things here and there about this project that I would have liked to change but I just ran out of time. First off, I would have liked to make the jewelry box lockable, which would then mean re-arranging all of the hinges to be inside of the box. That would be no small task. Seeing as the wood is only 1/4" thick and a lot of parts are less than that due to the engravings, there is not a lot of room to play with. It would be difficult to secure the hinges perpendicular to the base, so that the screws are going into the thickness of the wood (does that make any sense?). Doing it this way, the screws holding the hinges wouldn't be accessible from the outside of the box, thus making it more secure if one was to put a lock on it.
The other thing that I messed up on was the photo engraving. I don't know why, but somehow the laser managed to get out of alignment between engraving the heart and the photo. I tried to guess the correct location but every time I re-ran the photo engraving operation I was still off. Finally, I just said to heck with it and let it go. It's off by 1mm or so but I didn't have time to engrave the top of a new piece, then cut it out, then line it up in the laser cutter upside down again, engrave the heart and then engrave the photo again. In the end, it still turned out alright and I let it slide.
All-in-all, I am happy with how the project turned out and more importantly, it was a great birthday gift to my girlfriend. Thanks for reading my Instructable and if you build your own, be sure to post pictures of it!
Step 19: Conclusion: References
Here are some links to information included in this project.
Kerf Adjustment In Inkscape
Making Tabbed Boxes
Cheap (Fake) Jewelry