Author Topic: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods  (Read 1041 times)

ianchia

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Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« on: April 10, 2018, 03:01:47 PM »
It's been a bit quiet on the Projects subforum... I'm curious what others have been up to, so I thought I'd bump this up a bit.

Autumn is here in Australia ... unlike some other folk, and it's time to harvest wisteria seedpods from my garden for more engraving. I've been occasionally making typographic engravings on curly wisteria seedpods for friends over the past year. It's a bit of a challenging fun, and stretches my design and typographic muscles a little. And it's a little bit of magic to hold and read the quote engraved on the insides of a little curly bit of wood.




Here's a little Instagram video showing more clearly how you need to twist the seedpod around and around to read it. (-;

https://www.instagram.com/p/BhZ7Xh8AifD/?taken-by=ianchia

Enjoy! (And I hope to see some projects from other folk...)

All the best,

- Ian
« Last Edit: April 10, 2018, 04:49:36 PM by ianchia »

ggallant571

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2018, 03:54:37 PM »
Made my day!! Now shows us some details of it being etched.
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ianchia

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2018, 04:11:25 PM »
@ggallant571 - It's a nifty magic trick isn't it? Thanks for the lovely comment.

Do you mean you want to see how it's done, or more info or pictures of the process or the actual engravings?  ;D

- Ian

ggallant571

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2018, 07:24:36 AM »
Primarily how it is done but some finished photos wouldn't hurt..
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Zax

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2018, 09:15:08 AM »
That's really cool, ingenious!

TBN

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2018, 03:41:50 PM »
So cool!!!
500mw A5 Mini Laser Engraving Machine from GearBest

ianchia

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2018, 05:28:32 PM »
Thanks for the lovely feedback all. Here's some pretty pictures to look at while I do a write up of the process. As you can guess from looking at these uncurled seedpods, there's no rotary axis involved. (-;

- Ian



















« Last Edit: April 11, 2018, 05:33:51 PM by ianchia »

kibodwin

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2018, 03:29:44 AM »
very nice result and a great idea... you could nearly make a wind chime out of them..
Ok, so you have flat ones you engrave, how do these get curly? I take it you engrave flat then
post process to curl them up?
=)
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ianchia

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2018, 08:56:24 PM »
Here's some background info/@HOWTO on the magic sauce behind these seedpods...

My home was built in 1887 and the wisteria that climbs our two storey balcony must be at least 50 years old. Some of the vines are thicker than my forearm. When the seedpods grow after the flowering period, they vary from the size of my little finger to longer than my index finger and are soft and bend easily. As they mature over summer to mid-autumn, they start to dry and harden and the bark on the seedpods become quite a dense layer of wood somewhat thinner than 2mm. Under the wood is a thick fibrous layer that grows at a diagonal to the bark and wood layer, and in the centre of the pod are the thick round seeds, a bit smaller than a US penny, surrounded by soft fleshy fibres.

If I harvest a young seedpod, it's too soft to engrave, but cuts fairly well (30 passes or so at 100mm/min), and I've experimented a little with cutting geometric 'stained glass' type patterns on them. Here's one that I've cut while still green in summer and dried on a sunny windowsill.





You can see from this image the shape of a unsplit seedpod, as yet un-curled.

During autumn, the seed pods turn from green to brown, and the bark starts flaking away from the surface. Here's where some of nature's own magic happens. Wisteria seedpods have evolved so that the two sides of the pod curl naturally, in opposite direction from the opposing face. When the pod dries sufficiently, the tension created by the grain of the wood in the bark and lower surface causes the pod to crack open with a loud audible pop. The seed is flung a few yards away from the plant by the force() and will hopefully germinate.

So now we have have curly dried seedpods. After some experimentation, I've discovered that if they're fully immersed in a jar of water for a couple of days, the water causes the pods to uncurl to their original flat(ish) state. They are never completely flat, because the big seeds cause deep concave indentations in the shell since the pod grows around them. The surface rises up and down by a few millimetres. (Luckily for us, the diode laser has a longish focal length.)

I scrape out the inner soft fleshy fibres that surround the seeds before I immerse the pods. Otherwise, it turns slimy in the water, and also prevent a consistent engraving surface. You also need to change the water daily if you don't want to pods to start fermenting. (-;

When the pods are sufficiently wet and flattened, you have a few hours to work with them before they start to dry out and start curling again, depending on the room temperature. I only recently worked out how to typeset the design so that the type fits more fully along the outline of each unique seedpod. Initially, I measured a rectangle that would fit into the seedpod with some narrow whitespace on the edges (eg. 60mm x 11mm). I'd put the seedpod back into the water, and work on a design in Adobe Illustrator, and export to 254dpi PNG to match the 0.1 resolution in T2Laser. When the design was completed, I'd dry the seedpod with some paper towel, tape the tip and end of the pod down to my work surface (I use masking tape onto a large ceramic tile), focus and check the bounding box fits within the seedpod and then engrave away. Because the engraving process involves air assist and a hot blinding laser, the seedpod starts drying as I'm engraving over 10 to 20min, so it's a fine balance between holding down the seedpod securely it doesn't move, and the time it takes before it will naturally start curling because it's drying out due to the engraving process. If I'm occasionally unlucky because the pod is too dry before I begin, it will buckle and curl during the engraving and move, spoiling the accuracy. I have about a 80% success rate.

I've recently worked out how to do more elaborate typography by scanning the seedpod once it's been flattened. Again, I dunk it back in the jar of water once I've scanned it, and then trace over the scan in Illustrator with the Pen tool to create a vector outline of the edges of the pod. I then typeset my design to fill as much of the pod as possible, create registration marks in the bottom left and top right corners, and export two files. A vector outline of the seedpod with registration marks, and a raster PNG at 254dpi with identical registration marks. I use the vector outline with the laser at power=1 to trace over the secured seedpod on the laser bed to ensure that my registration is perfect, and then I load the PNG image file (at the same identical size) and quickly check the registration, then engrave away. (A 2W TTL laser at around 1200 feed rate, with power at 255 is usually the trick, but not always. It really depends on how water saturated it is and how mature on the vine before harvesting. It's useful to make 3 to 5 pods of similar size in one batch because they've been water saturated for the same length of time - I might use the first one as calibration material unless I get super lucky and it engraves perfectly.) Using the newer scanned-then-typeset process though, each seedpod is individually and uniquely typeset, so I can't churn them out. If I went with the older, less prettier 'type-in-a-rectangular-box' method, I can usually resize them a bit to fit similar-ish pods and make a few at a time.

Once they're engraved, you can play with re-curling them. If you just leave them in a room, they'll curl naturally and give a half twist or more in a day. Over time, as they completely dry out, they'll curl more and more. Alternatively, you can pop them in an oven at 160 degrees celsius (320F) for 10 or so minutes, and they'll be totally dried out and extremely curly. (Or a inside a hot car dashboard for a few hours.) I've even tried clamping them in some flat aluminium bars with metal c-clamps and drying them over a heater or oven to control how much of a curl is created.

Phew. And that's the process behind the scenes. Now if you can source some mature wisteria seedpods or other interesting botanical material, you can use the above as a starting point on your own adventure. Have fun!

All the best,

- Ian
« Last Edit: April 13, 2018, 03:11:16 PM by ianchia »

Zax

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2018, 04:36:15 AM »
What a fantastic process, and great story. Thank you for sharing.

ggallant571

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2018, 06:21:05 AM »
Great write-up. We don't have wisteria around here but we do have lots of organic hodge-podge (to a non-botanist). Just started wondering about etching acorns (oak tree nuts) or chestnuts.

Problem with this site is that it stimulates more ideas than I have time to delve into.  ;)
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ianchia

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2018, 03:16:53 PM »
Just started wondering about etching acorns (oak tree nuts) or chestnuts.

Recently I saw in a market that someone was selling laser engraved "magic beans" with a single word on them, like "love" or "hope"... So much to try, so little time.  ;)

- Ian

ggallant571

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2018, 04:08:56 PM »
Just wait till I get a laser with 0.001mm resolution. I will etch my initials on individual grains of rice!!!!
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ianchia

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2018, 04:15:52 PM »
Just wait till I get a laser with 0.001mm resolution. I will etch my initials on individual grains of rice!!!!

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ianchia

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Re: Autumn is here... Engraved curly wisteria seedpods
« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2018, 05:10:36 PM »
Just wait till I get a laser with 0.001mm resolution. I will etch my initials on individual grains of rice!!!!

Huh. Well whaddayaknow...



I actually had to do it twice, because I dropped the first grain and couldn't find it on the floor. (-;

Vector engraved, feed rate 300, power 255, 2W TTL. Size of engraving is 2.8mm x 1.4mm. T2Laser.

Go for it @ggallant571, you can do it with your existing setup!

- Ian
« Last Edit: April 13, 2018, 05:13:07 PM by ianchia »