Airbrushed Leather Bag

Aug 10, 2010

This is a job for a new client, Ponchaveli, a talented artist that does custom leather bags for his clients. These bags usually have tooled/molded leather and air brushed art.

SCM-Throw.jpgThe laser is primarily a binary tool. It can burn a dot into something, or not. In some materials, it can burn more or less and get a different appearance. And some allow you to visually distinguish between two dots that are very close together, while in others they will appear to be one dot.

SCM-Throw3.jpgLeather is an example of the latter (a “low resolution” material). So when I was given the image to the left and asked to etch it on leather, I didn’t think it would be possible. The client clarified that they didn’t want all the detail shown, and with a bit of work in Photoshop, I was able to simplify it considerably as you can see to the right.

IMG00240-20100519-1323.jpgSince each type of leather reacts differently in the laser, we requested a piece to do some testing on. It turned out that it’s Vegetable-tanned leather, one we had never used before. It’s unique in that it feels rubbery and marks extremely easily on the laser. Where normal leather uses 60% power, we found this marked well at less than 10% power.

IMG00280-20100607-1911.jpgUltimately we were able to transfer a workable image to the leather with a surprising amount of preserved detail. It’s not an image that would have been acceptable for direct use, but here it was intended to serve as a guide for airbrusing. The image to the right is the same piece after airbrushing. From there it was assembled into a bag.

IMG00318-20100701-0601.jpgThe final step was to cut the organizations initials out of the thick leather strap.  The strap was composed of several layers of leather so it was strong enough even after cutting the letters out three times over the length of the strap.

Cutting was challenging on something so thick. I used large spring clamps to secure it to a board for positioning in the laser. Then made two cut passes over it. Without unclamping (and thus losing alignment), I couldn’t tell if it had cut all the way through, so I carefully dug into it with a knife blade and was able to remove the top layer of leather. A few more passes with the laser and more digging got it mostly cut through. IMG00319-20100701-0602.jpgI still had to cleanup a few areas with a knife afterwards. But overall it turned out really well! I’m glad Ponchaveli provided photos to share, and he said there are many more projects on the list to collaborate on in the future.