With the introduction of the Glowforge Aura and the xTool M1, we finally have safe and (somewhat) affordable laser cutters geared to the home market.
So I am on a mission to create a variety of simple, accessible projects to get us started. This little luggage tag is the very first one!
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- Laser Cutter of Choice – (I like the xTool M1 over the Glowforge Aura. See why here.)
- Thin Leather – See the very important notes below.
- Leather Snaps
- 1/8″ Thick Plywood – You don’t need much, if you have scraps see if you can find a 2.5″ square.
- Luggage Tag Pattern
- (Optional) Design of Your Choice – I used this bumblebee from Creative Fabrica.
A Note about Leather
The tanning process introduces various compounds into leather, some of which do not laser cut well. For best results, you want “veg-tanned” leather, not “chrome-tanned.”
Chrome-tanned leather crumples and basically turns into bacon when cut, as I learned with my first attempts at this project:
There are also sources that say that when laser-cut, chrome-tanned leather releases dangerous fumes. Other sources say that the type of chromium used in the tanning process has changed in the last decade to a less-dangerous type, and that’s no longer an issue.
For more info, check out my post on laser cutting leather.
If you’re not sure if you have veg or chrome-tanned leather, if it’s colored and looks finished, it’s probably chrome-tanned. Veg-tanned is generally neutral in coloring and stiffer than chrome-tanned.
Also, if you’re not sure where to source leather, I recommend buying scraps off Etsy. “Scraps” are generally large enough for our little laser projects, and much cheaper than buying full pieces.
I’ve had good experiences with FrogjellyLeather for veg-tanned, although they were thicker pieces.
I also love the leather I got from UCMLeatherPillows, which was full of big pieces in a variety of colors, but it was all chrome-tanned which means I can only engrave it with the laser cutter. (AKA, I have to hand cut any cuts.)
I’ve yet to have a bad experience buying leather on Etsy though, so you might as well try whatever seller has the best prices when you’re buying.
DIY Luggage Tag
Step 1: Find the Right Settings
If you’ve already cut this leather before in your machine and know the right settings, awesome! Or maybe you’re using proofgrade leather and know the Glowforge settings will work – even better! Feel free to skip this step.
You can also skip this step if you’re only engraving your leather, not cutting. There is a much larger range of engraving settings that will work, and what Glowforge/xTool recommends for leather will be fine.
But if you’re cutting random scrap leather, you’ll need to take a moment to find the right settings.
This is pretty easy. Just place a piece of scrap leather in the machine, upload a circle or star shape into the software, and input the settings Glowforge/xTool recommends for that type of material.
For “Medium Natural Leather” on the Glowforge Aura, Glowforge recommends a power of 10 and a speed of 33. These are the settings that appear when you do a “proofgrade cut.”
So that’s where you start. If your shape cuts flawlessly, awesome, you’re good to go. If not, adjust the settings and retest until you have a good cut.
Step 2: Cut the leather pieces
Once you know your settings, you can cut the pattern out.
GRAB YOUR Luggage Tag SVG FILE
Because I was working with chrome-tanned leather, I had the machine engrave the entire pattern so that I had an outline to follow when I was doing my hand-cutting.
I used the “proofgrade cut” settings on the Glowforge Aura, which were a power of 4, a speed of 92, and 270 lines per inch.
Then I hand-cut the outline of the shape using a combination of a rotary cutter and scissors.
Step 3: Cut The Inner Tag
Upload the inner tag file to your software and add your information to the tag. I used the xTool for this, because I don’t have Glowforge Premium so I don’t have access to the text features in the Glowforge App.
If you have the Aura, but not premium, you’ll need to upload your file into another software (I use Adobe Illustrator, but I think Inkscape works as well) to add the text.
(One of the many reasons I recommend xTool, btw.)
1/8″ plywood settings is a lot more standard then leather, so I can give you some pretty close settings approximations for this cut, but you still might want to double check on scrap before making the cut.
Step 4: Add Leather Snaps
So I should preface this by saying that I am not a leather worker! If you’re intimidated by this part – don’t be.
I have never worked with snaps before, and managed this in under five minutes by following the instructions that came with my kit.
In summary, there are four parts to each snap, two for the “female” part, two for the “male.”
You punch a hole in the places each part of the snap will sit, so two holes per snap.
Then you line everything up and do some hammering with the cool metal base thing that’s provided, and you get a snap!
Isn’t it pretty?
Definitely an upgrade from the ripped Southwest tag I was using before. And I love the bumblebee!
If you like it too, make sure you grab the pattern so you can make your own!
See you next time!