Have you heard of FabLabs? Fabrication Laboratories. Definitely worth looking into if you find one near you. I’ve been frequenting one near me at the Baltimore County Community College. Truly patient people there who know the ins and outs of small scale prototyping.
Think high school wood shop on steroids. In a nutshell, it’s a large room with a bank of computers with Autocad, Corel Draw, etc. on one end and a couple of laser cutters, 3-D printer, and a ShopBot 3-D Router on the other end.
Safety goggles for all and a required $100 safety class to start. Using the machines used to be free, but now there’s a small fee – something in the neighborhood of $50 for 10 visits. Bring your own materials.
The sky’s the limit if you are thinking of making stamps out of photographs, your own stencils, or art shapes for your mixed media.
I wanted to actually make something on one of my visits – you know an actual make and take instead of just messing around. I participate in an ornament exchange at work. (about a dozen ladies; make 12 ornaments, get 12 gorgeous ornaments back).This year I did mine at the Fab Lab.
I made a series of graduated circle designs in Illustrator, brought the file to the Lab and touched it up in Corel Draw. Then I cut them out onto Davey board (bookbinder’s board) using the laser cutter.
The trick with the laser cutter is getting the settings just right. You can cut or etch on just about anything in one of those, but you have to get the laser power settings and the distance from the material just right, or there is a tendency to set things alight. (see the singeing in the first picture above – and that wasn’t the worst example.)
Not to worry – layers of gesso and paint will cover up the soot and smell.
Final layer of Tattered Angels glitter paint adds a nice layer of shimmer and shine.
Go to the FabWiki to find a list of Fab Labs. You might want to look around for maker spaces (google it) – depending on the focus they might also have cool shop tools you wish you had when you were in high school.