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McCarthy

Does anyone laser etch their patterns directly onto the leather?

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I was looking into getting one of those cheap 2.5 watt diode lasers to cut out watch straps and it seems like it would be more hassle than it's worth to deal with the soot. But what if you just etch a faint line? You could have an oversize cut line, a final trim line, stitching lines, hardware locations, positioning marks. 

I've never used a laser so I don't know if this is a dumb idea or a useful shortcut.

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There is an excellent pinned/sticky post about how to choose a laser for leather work in this very section.

 

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57 minutes ago, JHLeatherwood said:

There is an excellent pinned/sticky post about how to choose a laser for leather work in this very section.

 

No, there isn't, and that wasn't my question.

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Not a sticky but this thread has lots of good info about laser selection: 

A couple of mentions there about using the laser for engraving and the possibility of marking he back side rather than the front so the char marks don’t show on the final work.

I have no personal experience but would think it could be a great fit for watch straps or other small pieces in particular.

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1 hour ago, McCarthy said:

No, there isn't, and that wasn't my question.

My bad - I am SO sorry - it was at the top of the screen for me, and I thought it was stickied. Thanks Retswerb for linking to it.

 

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45 minutes ago, Retswerb said:

Not a sticky but this thread has lots of good info about laser selection: 

A couple of mentions there about using the laser for engraving and the possibility of marking he back side rather than the front so the char marks don’t show on the final work.

I have no personal experience but would think it could be a great fit for watch straps or other small pieces in particular.

I'm sure it can be done, but I'd like to know if anybody actually does it or has tried it and is it worth doing. I've seen plenty of people cutting and engraving leather but I haven't seen any instances of someone that uses a laser to mark the cutting lines instead of using a template. It seems like it would be more accurate than cutting out a piece of paper and tracing it onto the leather with a scratch awl, but on the other hand it might be more time consuming and frankly the soot is my biggest concern.

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4 hours ago, McCarthy said:

I'm sure it can be done, but I'd like to know if anybody actually does it or has tried it and is it worth doing. I've seen plenty of people cutting and engraving leather but I haven't seen any instances of someone that uses a laser to mark the cutting lines instead of using a template. It seems like it would be more accurate than cutting out a piece of paper and tracing it onto the leather with a scratch awl, but on the other hand it might be more time consuming and frankly the soot is my biggest concern.

It all comes down to the complexity of the design and what tools you have on hand to work with. It will do all those things onto the leather light enough to mark without burning in getting soot and such but unless you are doing a heap with designs on it may not be worth the time. For me I do most of my patterning in auto cad and previously I printed that onto cardstock and cut it out by hand  now I just get the laser to cut the card pattern out all in one operation and it does it a lot better than I can do by hand. To put it straight onto the leather with first cuts second cuts etc would not always be practicable due to the leather stretching around from first cuts and second cuts. If you had your stitch lines in place marked on your first cut piece they would not line up well possibly after you connect pieces then second cut. It could be done with cut out templates in the laser to hold in exact positioning but that would be a time waste if doing one off jobs. It is definitely worth having one for me as it saves a lot of time on patterning and can be great if you want to get into the designs as well.

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10 minutes ago, RockyAussie said:

It all comes down to the complexity of the design and what tools you have on hand to work with. It will do all those things onto the leather light enough to mark without burning in getting soot and such but unless you are doing a heap with designs on it may not be worth the time. For me I do most of my patterning in auto cad and previously I printed that onto cardstock and cut it out by hand  now I just get the laser to cut the card pattern out all in one operation and it does it a lot better than I can do by hand. To put it straight onto the leather with first cuts second cuts etc would not always be practicable due to the leather stretching around from first cuts and second cuts. If you had your stitch lines in place marked on your first cut piece they would not line up well possibly after you connect pieces then second cut. It could be done with cut out templates in the laser to hold in exact positioning but that would be a time waste if doing one off jobs. It is definitely worth having one for me as it saves a lot of time on patterning and can be great if you want to get into the designs as well.

Thanks, that's exactly what I needed to know. 

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On 9/23/2020 at 3:17 AM, McCarthy said:

I was looking into getting one of those cheap 2.5 watt diode lasers to cut out watch straps and it seems like it would be more hassle than it's worth to deal with the soot. But what if you just etch a faint line? You could have an oversize cut line, a final trim line, stitching lines, hardware locations, positioning marks. 

I've never used a laser so I don't know if this is a dumb idea or a useful shortcut.

Yes I did it once when I had to make quite a bunch of engraved keychain. Not only it was handy because it ensured the logoengraved was perfectly centered but also because the shape had only curves which are not easy to cut, even on a cardboard. Works well and would do it again if I have to cut the same piece multiple times.

 

image.png.319d5716b19cd5a8797360da86964264.png

Edited by vincentmakes

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You could "draw" templates with a laser, as RockieAussie says it is more efficient to cut out a template. Lasers will cut leather, but I have found them too messy. Best way is to use a clicker press to cut shapes and use the laser to engrave whatever design you want on the piece. Lasers are good for certain parts of the production process, cutting leather isnt one of them.

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5 hours ago, Lfrog said:

Lasers are good for certain parts of the production process, cutting leather isnt one of them.

I bought my laser with the sole purpose of cutting leather because I wanted my edges to be perfectly smooth, and to be able to manage the size and spacing of my lacing holes. I think that I have be successful. I think the issue is the size of the laser. Mine is a 100 watt CO2 laser. Although it does a fine job cutting, it does not do fine etching very well.

Finished-Bag.jpg

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1 hour ago, LatigoAmigo said:

I bought my laser with the sole purpose of cutting leather because I wanted my edges to be perfectly smooth, and to be able to manage the size and spacing of my lacing holes. I think that I have be successful. I think the issue is the size of the laser. Mine is a 100 watt CO2 laser. Although it does a fine job cutting, it does not do fine etching very well.

Finished-Bag.jpg

I have 120 watt lasers, its not a power issue, I can cut leather if I wish, but there are more efficient ways for our particular setup to cut leather.  Would you laser cut 500 circular coasters or click them out with a clicker press?

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4 hours ago, Lfrog said:

Would you laser cut 500 circular coasters or click them out with a clicker press?

The clicker will punch out the material probably faster than the laser could cut it, but that is only the first step of the job. The coasters I make are two layers sewn together with the top layer laser-engraved, so since the clicker will not engrave or punch the stitching holes, I will have to vote for the laser.

IMG_8471-sm.jpg

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If you have a laser with a large enough bed then the set up time would be small and you would be able to work on something else whilst the laser did its job cutting maybe 25 or more at a time depending on bed size and design size

A Clicker press would be a major investment whilst the laser probably far cheaper 100 watt 900x600 mm bed about £3000

Also simple to design one offs rather than investing in Knifes

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14 hours ago, LatigoAmigo said:

The clicker will punch out the material probably faster than the laser could cut it, but that is only the first step of the job. The coasters I make are two layers sewn together with the top layer laser-engraved, so since the clicker will not engrave or punch the stitching holes, I will have to vote for the laser.

IMG_8471-sm.jpg

Agree- plus the laser is a multifunction tool. I might do multiples of something- in fact I'd LIKE to, but not enough qty to get a clicker and dies. I'm currently struggling with getting a sewing machine vs laser first. Laser would be easier to make money in order to afford the sewing machine, but there's a used sewing machine nearby I have my eye on. I dunno. I also need to get better at designing with the laser. I can do everything but the stitch holes, honestly, but its so hard to get them spaced correctly. Any tips? Iv'e used Inkscape and Affinity Designer the most.

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3 minutes ago, AmyK said:

Any tips? Iv'e used Inkscape and Affinity Designer the most.

I've only used Adobe Illustrator, and it took me a while to figure out how to get the results I wanted. I know nothing of any other software. 

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I see a lot of talk about SOOT. If you have a good exhaust system and air assist This is not a problem.

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7 hours ago, olddogTim said:

I see a lot of talk about SOOT. If you have a good exhaust system and air assist This is not a problem.

So true... very important. But I have yet to figure out how to eliminate the "char" on the edges of where the laser slices through the leather. I've used various means to clean it up, but have never been able to avoid it.

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