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How can this be?
It feels a little crazy to sit here on August first and write about a “back-to school” project. Where did the summer go? Oh yeah…nowhere, it’s about 107 here today and we still have our hottest summer month in front of us. But, I can’t hide from the reality that I will be back in my classroom starting Monday so I wanted to have something special to share with my new little nuggets. I teach second grade and I LOVE it!!! I have been teaching 2nd grade for most of my life and it is just one of the many things I am passionate about. Since I got the Glowforge this summer I cannot wait to share it with my class! My brain has been on overdrive with all the cool things we could do!
Time to do a Little Jig
I decided to start small with some custom, personalized pencils. I started by laying regular old yellow wooden pencils on the crumb tray and that worked fine for short sayings but I wanted basically a sentence telling them “Chad is ready to have a great year in the Berry Bakery”. (My classroom theme is a bakery because I like to share another one of my passions- cooking with my class every week.)
Freebie coming below…
Problem was I needed a way for the pencils to lay straight and not have the fan blow them slightly out of alignment. The solution was to make a simple jig. Proof Grade draft board was on hand so that is what I used. If I had had cardboard I would have tried that but at least I have a flat, easy to store jig that will last forever. After measuring my pencils I went into Inkscape and made matching size rectangles using a red line for cutting and saved it as a plain SVG. Next, I uploaded it into the Glowforge UI (user interface) and set it to work cutting all those little narrow pencil holding slots.
Tiny Text Needed
While I was still in the Inkscape program I also made tiny text boxes (actually I started with normal to large size text boxes since there is no point in driving myself crazy trying to read miniscule print and you can always assign the exact size easily after you are done needing to actually see the text).
Sizing and Placement
The text boxes were then sized to fit inside each rectangle so I would know what the exact size the text needed to be for proper alignment in the Glowforge as well as making the pencils look similar and consistent. I then typed my sentences (using the color blue for engrave) minus the children’s names and duplicated the text box for each child in my class. Then I went back and added a name to the beginning of each of those duplicated boxes/sentences. This was also saved as a plain SVG and uploaded into the GF UI.
Easy, Peasy, Right?
Time to press the “magic” button and watch the laser engrave a personalized pencil for each of my kiddos. My first run was on some cute bakery themed pencils all decked out with donuts and sprinkles. Turns out those cute designs are on printed plastic which you would think I would have realized given how that plastic coating jams up our classroom pencil sharpener every year!
Learn From Your Mistakes
Needless to say, they basically melted. Of course I shut off the GF after the very first sight of melty donut pencil. The search was on for colorful, painted wood pencils which I found on Amazon. Ticonderoga to the rescue! Is there a better pencil out there? This time the pencils engraved perfectly except with all those bright colors the engraving did not show up as much as it did on my old, trusty, yellow pencils. Two reasons for this were thinner paint and significantly bigger font due to way less words on my old faithful, boring, yellow pencils.
I Want More Than Cute, I Want Irresistible
Quickly, I conjured up some crafty teacher magic and decided to fill the engraving with Pearl Ex pigment powder mixed with some GLOW IN THE DARK pigment powder! It worked like a charm and I know my second graders are going to love testing out the “glow power” on these babies! Basically I mixed the powders 1:1 and used a stiff bristle paint brush to rub the powder mixture into the grooves left from the engraving. That was exactly the pop of fun I was looking for.
Next I decided they would need to be sealed since these would probably not last well in lots of hot little hands. I tested Mod Podge and MinWax Polycrylic spray. Both did well and kept the mica powder from being worn away. I liked using the spray best because it was quick and efficient and dried in about 2 minutes. They also didn’t look sealed which was a plus for this application.
So there you have one of my “Welcome Back” projects that helps ease us all back into the school routine.
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