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I am attempting to make a hurricane lantern style candleholder that consists of a photo of the night sky, but where the stars are transparent so that the light can shine through while the black night sky remains opaque. I have tried printing a photo on a transparent acetate and wrapping that around a glass candleholder, but the black of the night sky doesn’t end up being opaque, so it ends up looking a bit washed out.

Example image of the night sky

I have considered using a cricut to make an opaque silhouette, where the stars are cutouts, but I don’t think that the cricut would be able to cut the number of stars needed, and make them sufficiently small (when I upload to the design space it oversimplifies it, so only the largest stars appear).

Ideally I would like something that:

  1. is heat resistant enough to withstand being in proximity to a candle.
  2. can be produced using a printer or cricut, I’d like to be able to make several hundred of these for an art installation, so want to avoid something that will take several hours per candleholder.
  3. (optional) is scratch resistant.

Any advice/thoughts would be appreciated.

2 Answers 2

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The Cameo Silhouette will cut metal foil, and I suspect the Cricut will perform in a similar manner. Metal foil will certainly be heat resistant and also quite opaque where needed. It's likely you'll have to paint the foil black before cutting.

Amazon has a wide selection of foils that I'll use as examples. The first one of note on the list is 12" wide, 30" long and 0.005" thick (0.127 mm) and may be the top choice for your project. There are 38 gauge sheet offerings, but that's 0.006"/0.152mm, slightly thicker. Another entry is a meter long, 100 mm wide and 0.03 mm thick, which may be easier to cut.

Cutting metal foil/sheet is going to create a dull blade, but the brass and aluminum offerings are going to be softer than the steel of the blade and may last a sufficient time for your purposes. You'll know when it's time to replace the blade when it tears instead of cutting.

If you aren't wedded to the idea of using the craft cutter, consider that one could hammer a series of nails into a suitable plank. Selecting various diameter nails would provide the variation of hole sizes required, and it would be important to drive them into the plank in such a manner that the protrusions are of uniform length. The support surface for the foil could be a softwood or a fairly hard foam, with the plank being shifted between foils to prevent the hole depth from becoming excessive.

Laser cutting metal = expensive to purchase, not all that cheap to farm out. My CO2 laser will not cut metal of any "thin-ness" and a fiber laser runs into the mid-to-high four digits.

My travels for more information leads me to leather punch sets with hole sizes from 1/8" to 1" depending on the set selected. Image from link:

punch set

If you're going to turn it into a mass production sort of build, more than one punch set installed in the plank would provide for some variation. I'd suggest a lever-type press rather than a hammer to apply the necessary cutting force. I can envision placing the plank, dropping the press, lifting the press, rotating the work piece to a different orientation and performing the sequence again.

I've worked in a print shop environment where the huge paper cutting blade performed its task with a piece of HDPE under the entire length. It provides for a solid cut and can take repeated cuts without replacement needed. End grain hard wood cutting boards may serve as well.

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  • Excellent idea, sounds like that would work perfectly— any idea what the lower limit on the size of the circles/punctures it could cut would be? I was planning on avoiding the Cricut because I think it can’t handle cutting the very small pixel sized stars. Maybe laser cutting metal would be an option.
    – Dugan
    Feb 14 at 0:47
  • Black coated foil exists. It's thicker than kitchen foil, so might be harder to machine cut, but I know it punches well. I believe it's used in theatrical applications (black foil tape definitely is) but I'm familiar with it from laser labs.
    – Chris H
    Feb 14 at 20:18
  • For the very smallest stars, a pinhole would do (literally pushing a pin into foil by hand, on a soft backing if you want it a bit bigger) that could be combined with punches or a cutting machine
    – Chris H
    Feb 14 at 20:20
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Printing with a black and white laser printer onto acetate would be worth a try, assuming you've currently used an inkjet or even a colour laser. It would also be a good idea to threshold the image first, or at the very least greyscale it and stretch the contrast so the black is dense black. This would be essential if using a colour laser printer, to avoid composite black.

Be sure to disable any toner saving or draft modes.

Of course laser acetate is different to inkjet acetate (uncoated and with a higher melting point).

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  • I thought I had some laser OHP film, but I've checked and I don't, only those for inkjet and handwriting
    – Chris H
    Feb 14 at 20:31

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