Hi there, and welcome back to Farbulous Creations! I’m Ron and today we’re going to revisit one of the first projects videos I made for my channel, and that is the welcome mat I made for the front door of our house when we first moved in.
Now my approach to the project was a little… unconventional, especially for a laser enthusiast, in that I decided to make a plywood template, nail it straight down against the rug, and paint it manually with a brush and some black outdoor latex paint. Since I released that video, many people have asked me why I didn’t just laser directly on the rug, and I touched on it briefly in that video, but laser etching a rug is literally singeing the fibers of the rug, likely making them more prone to rubbing off.
Others have asked me to see the original rug now, a few years later, and up until a few months ago, I thought it still looked pretty good. However recently I’ve noticed the design looking… not so good. It appears as though after 2 years of using it, the paint has gotten squashed down and pancaked into the rug as we’ve walked on it and pressed our feet into it as we rub our shoes off before coming inside.
Combine that with the fact that the rug has gotten a little darker as it’s collected dirt over time and that the paint has gotten a little bit lighter as it bakes in the evening sun every night… even I have to admit it doesn’t look the greatest anymore and the fine text isn’t very readable.
So I decided to give the direct-to-rug approach a try and I’ll likely do yet another update video down the line. In addition to the direct-to-rug approach, I also had another idea involving paint that is far easier and faster than my original paint technique that should solve some of the issues with that technique as well. However, to be honest, I thought of this new painted technique before I had tried the direct-to-rug approach and – spoiler – I became pretty convinced of this technique, overall. I’ll still show you my new painting technique though in case you want to use it with a more vividly colored rug – something you couldn’t achieve with laser etching alone!
So with that, let’s jump on in!!
I’m not going to go over design too much in this video, as one of the benefits of laser etching a rug is you can literally put whatever you want on it. I’ll be using the same design as I used on the original rug, but without the “bridges” required for a wooden template. This design may seem a bit generic for a custom welcome mat, but what I didn’t touch on was that the fonts and styles I used in my design were the same ones a friend had used to design our wedding invitations for us when we got married. So while it may look like your standard welcome mat, it’s personalized to us in a subtle way that we loved.
Having not yet used my new laser for a coir rug, I needed a chance to test material settings. I decided to use a rug that the previous owners of our house had left behind, which we moved from the front door to the back door when I made the original rug. It was once quite vibrant in colors, but those colors have mostly faded away now so it’ll be a good sample to test on. Thank you for your service, old rug.
After doing lasering for awhile, you tend to get pretty good at guessing what settings you should use on a new material – and I got a bit lucky here, getting pretty close on the first try. The settings I tried first were 500 mm/s at 10% power. That looked pretty good, but it was a tad too deep, so I decided to defocus a little bit, rather than turn down the power.
When etching on fabrics or irregular surfaces like this, I’ve heard it’s best to etch out of focus so there’s less intense energy hitting the rug and over a larger point size. Think of putting the laser out of focus like using a fat-tipped Sharpie, where an in-focus laser would be a fine tip Sharpie.
So I proceeded to do a few additional tests with the same power and speed settings, but at different levels of focus. I did the next sample at one eighth of an inch out of focus, then lowered the bed that same amount two more times, giving me a sample that was one quarter of an inch out of focus and another that was three eighths of an inch out of focus.
I examined the various samples and rubbed at them a bit. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for while doing this, but one side effect of doing the out of focus technique is that it kind of “blurs” the edges of your design. In this case, the very tip of the Minnesota outline that is thin and juts up into Canada was pretty weak and seemed more affected by my rubbing than the rest of the design. The happy setting that balanced the pros and cons of in-focus and out-of-focus, where the MN point resisted rubbing, seemed to be one eighth of an inch – three millimeters for my metric friends.
So with that ideal setting figured out, I could move onto actually etching on the rug! The rug I used in my original video was from Home Depot and cost about $10, but I discovered that Ikea sells similar blank rugs for $5. You’ll see it later, but they’re actually a decent bit smaller than the original rug and it feels a bit small for the door to our house, so I’ll likely do another, larger rug soon, as the size difference bugs me a bit.
After placing it on the laser bed, focusing, then defocusing, and making sure the bounds of my design framed the rug perfectly, I could start the job!
[SPEED SETTINGS FOR NOVA-35 80]
I was quickly impressed with how good this direct-to-rug approach looked. The lines are nice and sharp, the coir material etches super nicely, and it was as the laser was wrapping up this rug that I began to find myself convinced of this approach over painting. I’ve heard of people applying a light clear coat to their laser etched rugs to give the singed fibers a little bit of lasting protection, so when the rug was done etching, I placed it in the back of my truck and sprayed the design with some shellac. An outdoor spar urethane would potentially be more appropriate to stand up to UV damage, but I think the point is to just coat the fibers enough to protect them a little more than normal.
So despite being mostly convinced of this direct-to-rug approach, I’m a man of science and I wanted to give my other experiment a try, so let’s move on to that rug now and we’ll compare the two at the end.
Now I admit that a painted rug is way more work, but my whole thought process with my rug from two years ago was that it would increase the longevity of the rug. After all, with a laser etched rug, if those singed fibers rub off, eventually so too will the design, so it begs to reason that having a painted design would last longer.
What I didn’t anticipate happening was what happened with my rug, where the paint got squished and flattened-out over time. And no doubt it was because of how heavily I applied it too, where I was literally forcing it down into the fibers. So for this new painted approach, I wanted to remove the wood template necessity, I wanted it to be able to use spray paint, and I wanted to do a single, lighter coat.
To pull that off, I started by applying a mask of painters tape over the entire rug, overlapping each layer of tape by a little bit. I did this all atop a piece of wood larger than the mat so that I could easily move it in and out of the laser without affecting the tape too much – the tape obviously doesn’t stick too well to a coarse, fibrous surface like that – but as long as it stayed mostly down, it would do its job later.
Once the tape was applied, I placed the whole board and rug combo platter into the bed of my laser and once again set up focus and alignment. Now on the etched rug, I ran a raster job, but for this, we’ll be running a vector job on relatively low power to just cut the design away through the tape. My first pass had the settings a little too low and some of the areas where the tape was doubled up didn’t cut through, so I had to go over them again, but apart from that it was fairly straight forward.
After the tape was cut, I could do my least favorite thing and weed the cut tape out of the pattern. This went fairly quick, as it wasn’t very adhered to the rug below. After that, I took the rug and backing board to the back of my truck and did a single, relatively light coat of black spray paint through the pattern. Since the tape didn’t have the best seal on the surface of the rug, I did my best to spray straight down, perpendicular to the rug, because any sideways angle coming from the paint can would result in large amounts of paint getting under the template.
I then let the paint dry for an hour or so before removing the tape. Removing the tape revealed that this technique worked as I’d hoped, but it wasn’t without its faults. Despite me spraying at a perpendicular angle, the design appears to have a “drop shadow” of sorts where it appears as though a very small amount of paint oversprayed underneath the tape. I don’t think this rug will suffer the same fate as my original rug with the paint getting squished over time, since I did such a light coat, but that likely means it will rub off easier too, perhaps like the rug the previous owners left behind.
So here are the two completed rugs, side by side. They both look nice, professional and polished, but for my money – and by money, I mean time – I think I’m convinced of the direct-to-rug approach. Not only is it faster to produce, but it doesn’t waste tape and you don’t have to worry about overspray like you do with paint. You could easily whip out a decent number of these in one day if you were selling them to customers. The only thing that time will tell is how long the design lasts. I think if you are going to sell these, it’s best to just set expectations that the design could fade over time, so that customers aren’t surprised or angry when or if it does.
So there you have it! It was fun to revisit this project with my own laser and quickly be able to produce these prototype rugs! Apologies to anyone who took the advice from my original video, as clearly it wasn’t the best long-term approach. I’m the type of person who loves to learn, and sometimes that means learning you were wrong when you find a better way to do things. So my bad. Clearly this is a better way to do a welcome mat on the laser.
I hope you learned something in this video and if you did, I sure would appreciate if you subscribed to my channel. I’ll have more laser etching experiments and project videos soon so be sure to stay tuned for that. Until then, cheers!