How to Create Jewelry in the MakerSpace

This post was written by Cat Almuete, a sophomore majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Game Engineering, & winner of the October 2021 MakerSpace Mini Grant.

For this project, I decided to prototype with creating jewelry using a variety of machines and non traditional mediums. During this prototyping, I created designs for earrings and necklaces. With this personal project, these pieces are now going to be Christmas gifts for the beautiful women in my life.

Inspiration for the Project

During this semester, one of my goals was to pursue a project of my own using the resources provided for us through the Makerspace. Outside of this, I also love making personalized presents for family and friends so as an engineer, with Christmas coming up, I thought that using these resources was a perfect way to apply my knowledge of machinery and softwares. With this in mind, I began to do more research on the different machines available, did training on the ones I found the most interesting, and attended workshops in the Design Lab. However, I was not able to attend the “Creating Jewelry with PCB Boards” workshop, so I set up a mentoring hour with one of the Graduate TAs, Florentina, and this is when I really began to brainstorm my own project. With this guidance and inspiration, I finally had a project of my own. 

Process, Materials Used, & Final Outcome

The mediums I settled on were a variety of colored 2×2 inch pieces of acrylic from Canal Plastics, as well as birch wood and PCB Boards from the Makerspace. These materials were used in the Epilog Laser Cutter and the Othermill which each utilized Adobe Illustrator as a design software. After training on the machines, the next step was to make myself comfortable using Illustrator by doing research, learning from peers, and practicing on my own with the different tools, from Image Trace to creating separate artboards. After a while, I became efficient with the program and ended up making over 20 different designs!

For my acrylic designs, I made sure to position it at the top 2×2 inches of the document in order to align with where I placed the piece. I also made sure not to pack too much into each piece because the positioning is not always perfect and can go outside of the space. I was able to make some fun and some traditional earrings from a snake and skull to simple vine engraved circles. I was also able to create matching heart earrings and name necklaces for me and my best friend, also named Cat! 

For the wooden designs, I had much more leeway because the piece was 12×12 inches, but I still placed the designs far apart enough from each other that they wouldn’t overlap. I created some beautiful engraved pieces and fitted geometric shapes.

Lastly, for my PCB Board designs on the Othermill, I found the process a bit more intricate because each part (outer cut, engravement, inner cutouts) had to be separated into different artboards on Illustrator. These parts were milled separately to create one piece because the Bantam Tools Software is not as intuitive in telling which parts should be cut or engraved. In the end, I made some unique pieces, such as one inspired by Demon Slayer, which were spray painted with gold and silver metallic colors.

Lessons Learned

Throughout prototyping, I ran into small problems for both machines such as the inner and outer cutouts of a design being too close and cutting into one another. I solved this by finding that the ideal distance between cuts has to be at least 0.05 inches.

Another observation I made specifically for the acrylic pieces is that the type of acrylic makes a great difference. For example, matte, opaque and mirrored acrylics come out a bit more flawed because I suspect that the power of the laser cutter burns through the surface layer, causing more cracks and imperfections. The translucent, glitter, and pearl acrylics had the best outcomes since the smoking in the back could be wiped off with isopropyl alcohol.

Overall, this project exhibited the endless possibilities of not only jewelry making, but the variety of ways in which you can utilize different machines and resources.

Next Steps with this Project

Using my knowledge from this project, I’d love to pursue this further by starting an Etsy shop outside of the Makerspace and through a Laser Cutting service provided in Manhattan! I’ve always wanted to start my own side business, whether it be big or just for family and friends, so I am grateful for having had the opportunity to learn about the process behind jewelry making and hopefully making the best out of it.

Learn more about the MakerSpace Mini Grant on our Funding page. To begin designing and prototyping your own project, please visit the MakerSpace Training and Reservations page to learn more about how you can utilize the MakerSpace. If you need advice or guidance for your project, visit the Mentoring page to reserve time with an expert!