We recently built boxes and planted a garden, so I wanted to create garden markers that would be colorful, fun, and easy to read. Bonus points if they didn’t take too long to make.
Extra bonus points if they were cartoons.
This was definitely a CNC job. And I knew I wanted them carved on acrylic, though I had never done so before and was a bit nervous about how it would work. After researching what other’s have done I went with a 1/16″ spiral upcut bit, which did a fine job.
There are not a lot of step by step instructions here, but I do have some pointers to make your carve go as smoothly as possible. I’ve tried to capture that all in the video, but will detail it here as well.
I do want to give a big shout out to Inventables, the sponsor of this project. The X-Carve is a terrific machine if you are getting into CNC work, and the Inventable’s community is terrific. You can find lots of free project ideas, such as this one, on their website. To access this project and it’s carve file, go here.
12×12 x 1/8″ acrylic sheets in green, red, purple, yellow, and orange
CA glue and accelerator
table or band saw to cut the stakes (optional)
A Note on Pricing
This project can become a bit pricey if you choose to purchase several colors of acrylic. One way I offset the cost was to carve more than one of each vegetable. If you purchase the acrylic from a local store the cost difference between say a 12×12 and a 12 x 24 is negligible, allowing for multiple sets of garden markers.
The file is all set up and ready to go in Easel for you. I found the most success with leaving the paper backing on the bottom side, and removing it from the acrylic on top, where the bit connects with the material. Doing so allowed the sticky backer to stay in place through the carve and made for easy removal at the end.
Begin by carving the main bodies that are set up as different workpieces by color. Use carpet tape rather than clamps to hold the carve in place. With these larger pieces there should not be a problem, but when you get to the smaller pieces on the green acrylic board be sure to tape liberally, focusing particularly on the spots with smaller carves. Do not use tabs on any of the pieces. Acrylic does not cut like wood, and will not necessarily snap where you want it.
Once all of the pieces have carved gently remove the acrylic from the X-Carve and remove the backing. I did a quick smooth of any rough edges using my spindle sander. Really, any sander should work for it, just be careful not to be aggressive with the sanding.
You will notice that all of the leafy sections of the plants carve twice – once on the color of the vegetable (or fruit), and again in green. Glue the leafy sections to the rest of the marker using CA glue and accelerator. (Apply the glue to one piece, spray accelerator on the other, and then joint them. Warning: It will dry in seconds, so place it well.)
The exception to this is the beet. You’ll glue the red parts on top of the leafy parts.
Step 4 (optional)
The sixth workpiece contains a layout for the clear plexiglass stakes to which the characters are glued. You can either choose to carve these on the CNC, or cut them out on a bandaw or tablesaw. Or skip this part entirely and glue the acrylic to wooden stakes.
The cool thing about the clear stakes is that in the right light they don’t show, making for a fun effect.
Carve time is 51 minutes if you choose to cut these using the CNC. It’s significantly less on the bandsaw. And less still with a wooden stake you don’t have to cut out.
The X-Carve handles the heavy lifting with these, so the finish process is super quick and simple. Also, the acrylic is nice and colorful, so unlike wood there is no need to paint or finish them in any way. And because a garden needs water, these are waterproof and you won’t need to worry about them decaying like wood.
These garden markers put a smile on our face every time we go out to the garden. They were a fun project to make, and I’m excited to share them. Many thanks to Inventables for sponsoring and making this and other projects available free on their site.