Destructor Fleet Designs

Arthur McBain is the owner of this one-man company that designs and produces laser cut and engraved goods. Many of my products are short lived or run in small quantities, however I am trying to put more items in stock for long term production, as I acquired my own laser cutter in 2016 and can do some work on demand rather than in batches.

Check out my store to see what is currently in stock. Some of my products are able to be customized right in my store but if you'd like to do more, read on below for details. If you're local I recommend buying my items, if available, from Adventures Underground. You save shipping costs and get it immediately.

DFD Store
Pile of Nectarine key fobs Pouet thing SceneSat rectangular key fob SceneSat square key fob Self-designed test pattern with cuts, engraving, and etching

Requesting Custom Work

Destructor Fleet Designs is quite happy to take on custom projects. I have done key fobs for websites and demoparties, badges, awards for competitions, and game pieces based on a client-provided design. I can create designs, if needed, but for more complex things it is better to have a design ready to go. Provided designs may need to be tweaked to get a better result.

This is unfortunately not my primary day job, so I may not be able to do very large orders (over hundreds of items). In addition I am also unable to do metalwork or casted items. If you have a small personal project, need a couple hundred promotional items, giveaways for your event, specialized or personalized items, then I may be the right place.

Contact Me

FAQ or, more appropriately, Frequently Given Answers

This is a collection of answers previously given in various places about my laser cutting work. Interspersed among these are also questions which may not have directly addressed before but probably should be. It is probably a good idea to read these before contacting me. To reveal answers, click the question itself.

If you have questions about my online store, please see the FAQ there.

If I live in or near Tri-Cities, WA, can I talk with you in person about custom work?

Certainly. I am generally more available in the evenings Monday to Wednesday and Fridays. I am also available on the weekends. Use the contact button above to propose a time and give a brief idea of what you want to talk about.

To those who live further away, I understand apps like Skype and Google Hangouts can enable face-to-face chat, but I'd rather not have to try to coordinate timezones and I don't like using those tools. Email should be sufficient, even if we have to do a lot of it. I apologize for seeming like a curmudgeon.

What is your lead time?

I need at least two to three weeks for production, in order to fit this into my schedule. Larger orders may need longer, depending on what all has to be done. I can cut it closer, but it is quite likely I will say no to prevent anxiety, stress, and because I want to make sure I get it done right without messing up work or my "life." After that, it depends on the destination. Destinations inside the US can take around a week. Outside the US I would budget three to four weeks for shipping and customs wrangling. (See the Shipping & Customs section for that last part.)

I am likely going to be unable to do projects which require painting during the late fall and winter, due to temperatures and not having a suitable heated location to use. I am still able to do paintless jobs and consult on prep work such as digital design, unpainted iterations, or discussions during this period of time. As temperatures tend to be fairly flexible about when they come and go, I would plan ahead to make sure requests are in with plenty of time to spare.

Probable lead time (US): 3-4 weeks

Probable lead time (World): 6-7 weeks

Larger projects or those with more details that may require one or more physical iterations should expect an increased lead time of at least a week per physical iteration. This depends on my schedule and how fast comments are sent back about the iteration.

What file formats do you accept?

SVG (preferably), EPS, and any vector file openable by Inkscape or CorelDRAW. I can also engrave bitmaps (PNG, JPG, etc.) as long as there is sufficient quality. I do not accept small, grainy, or artifacted images. Clean source material only. Large source images are preferred as it is easier to capture details.

I may also accept image formats for "oldskool" computers (C64, Atari, etc.) as long as I am able to convert it with the Linux utility programs I found to do so. I have had success with an LBM file which I hand-traced after conversion to PNG. Those with such files may prefer to handle conversion themselves before handing them over if they have a different preferred method.

What materials do you work with?

Short answer: Certain kinds of acrylic and [ply]wood, real (original) linoleum, agate, and some kinds of leather.

Long answer: Plywood is easiest to work with, but it is possible that some hardwood sheets if not too thick are also usable. I have not yet worked with any hardwood. I'd like to try some bamboo stuff some day.

As to acrylic, materials I can run are based on whether I think the MSDS indicates to me it is safe. Are you interested in something specific? I can order in the following:

Please bear in mind that my work so far has been in nominally 3mm thick (aka ⅛th") acrylic, as that seems to work well for a variety of tasks including tokens, badges, key fobs, and even awards. I would prefer to order in more of the same, as it may be hard to find projects to fit other thicknesses. Also be aware I will probably say no to choices outside of the links given above. Especially if it's polycarbonate.

I can also work with linoleum to make stamps, either pre-mounted on particle board or unmounted. Unmounted linoleum can be cut to any size or shape but mounted linoleum will be fit to the nearest size available from Blick where I obtain my linoleum. I cannot laser the modern material mistakenly known as linoleum made of vinyl/PVC.

I do not provide ink pads unless specifically asked and they are not a free. Designs taller than 1.75" (~4.4cm) or wider than ~2.75" (~7cm) need larger ink pads if you don't want to re-ink multiple times for each use. I recommend Ranger's archival ink pads for larger pads or if you need the ink to be more permanent. I would check your stores or local Amazon first. Anything larger than 4"x6" (~10x15cm) will warrant an ink roller as I've not found any oversized ink pads.

I have done small experiments involving a particular seller's bonded leather fobs and the results came out well. However bonded leather, by nature, can vary between manufacturers. Regardless of the kind of leather if the intent is to engrave it then it would be good to provide me with a sample I can test on before doing the full project. I can obtain suede/split or tanned leather.

I can also etch glass, but not cut it. Similarly I can etch aluminum but not cut it. The aluminum would need to have a matte finish or be coated (anodized). I do not engrave MacBooks, iPhones, or other similar devices due to the risks and potential expenses involved. Other metals like stainless steal and brass can be engraved but not cut with a special spray which turns the engraved areas black.

Do you engrave MacBooks, iPods, phones, and other devices or their cases?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: The easiest reason is that I don't have any recommendations for anyone to securely send me one of these devices or even returning one after finishing. It's also easy to blame me for mispackaging if it arrives to me damaged after its trip. Even if that is resolved, I cannot guarantee everything would go perfectly and I wouldn't accidentally screw up your device. I don't want to be on the hook for replacing a costly device, some of which may be irreplaceable if they contained unbacked up data or had some non-monetary value such as sentimental items. If you want more technical details, read on.

Many devices may use plastic for their shells and cases. I don't know what kind of plastic they are composed of, and they may not be safe for me to laser even with my current setup. Even if I could determine what was safe or not it would cost us both to send it to me, then have to send it back if I can't engrave it.

For metal, if the metal is matte like MacBooks, it is possible to etch that. You can find examples of this all over the web. I'll admit, they are pretty cool. However most devices aren't made completely of metal. Even the MacBook has a plastic Apple logo in the middle of the back. That would likely not stand up well to accidental passes by the laser.

Finally, misalignment is a real risk. It is awfully hard to align things vertically and horizontally so the design is perfect inside of an existing object you want to engrave. This is true regardless of whether it's an expensive MacBook or a cheap bonded leather fob. It would be too late to stop the process and fix the alignment by the time it would be apparent.

Until I feel confident I have solutions to all of these that aren't burdensome on both me and anyone wanting this done, please please don't ask me about performing this sort of service. The risks outweigh the rewards.

What do you cost?

It's hard to say, even generally. Large designs that are mostly empty space may cost less than smaller designs that are very intricate. Send me an email with a few details to allow me to ballpark your project. Bear in mind prices for pieces can go down a bit when running a sheet's worth of design[s] due to potential gained efficiency. Prices for multiples will likely have this already accounted for. All custom orders have a minimum cost of $10.

I charge based on complexity of the project. Project complexity is based on how many items need to be made, work needed to be done preparing items for lasering, work to finish an item after lasering, how long it takes to laser the items themselves, and how soon the items are needed. I may also charge for any design work required.* Therefore small and fast pre-designed items may cost less. Engraving will slow down the lasering process.

* I don't carefully track time spent reading and responding to emails or similar activities. That's not fun for anybody.

I charge 7¢ in² (2.54cm²) for acrylic based on area used and annexed by a design. If a portion of a sheet is rendered unusable for future work by a design, I will include that area in the material costs for that design. I do try to minimize such waste, however. If a specific sheet of acrylic is ordered in for a job, I still only charge as previously indicated if the requester is willing to allow future projects to use the same material. Buying the sheets outright can be done to reserve them specifically for use by that requester.

Plywood is charged similarly, except it starts at 3¢ in² (2.54cm²). Plywood cannot be reserved due to potential for warping the longer it is kept, even if stored properly, and due to ease of access in acquiring it locally.

Tax, GST, and VAT

If you live in the state of Washington, I am legally required to collect sales tax unless you do not intend to use any ordered items personally before selling it to other buyers (wholesale transaction). Due to the lack of sufficient physical presence outside of Washington I do not collect taxes for other states. However your state laws may require you to pay a use tax.

If you live outside the United States, I do not collect VAT or GST. You must pay all appropriate taxes as required by your local laws.

I've seen you give people free stuff before. How do I get free stuff?

I don't take requests for free stuff. My work involves activities above any laser time, such as material I have to buy, shipping (if required), assembly time, preparation for lasering, and probably more. My costs include at least those things. The items I've given out for free were because I wanted to. Those who respect me know I expect what I deem to be fair compensation for my work.

What payment methods do you accept?

PayPal or cash in person for deliveries to events I visit, such as Revision. I have given thought to setting up an invoicing system using Stripe, which can accept credit cards and, in theory, Bitcoin. However I've yet to do such a thing.

For in person arrangements cash is preferable, but I usually don't have change, so I can also accept cards by way of a PayPal Here card reader for my phone.

Do you take trades for payment?

Not so far. You're welcome to be the first to try, as long as you won't be a bother about it if I say no.

Shipping & Customs

I ship all packages via USPS because it is easy for me and has worked well enough so far. This is amenable to change upon request with support of a good reason.

I have two methods for sending packages with USPS: potentially faster, and regular. The first method has tracking, may get to the destination country in seven days but get stuck in customs, and costs more. The second method only has tracking in the US and to Canada, isn't as fast for large packages, is speedier for smaller items like padded envelopes, and costs less. It still may get caught in customs. In lieu of an explicit request, I will choose based on what I feel is appropriate for the items I am sending.

Every box sent outside of the US will have a customs form attached to it. I will not mark orders as a gift. I must mark them as merchandise. This is not negotiable. Packages I have sent because I wanted to, that were not requested by the recipient or paid for, are the only items I mark as gifts. I include a copy of the invoice for orders on the outside of the box with the customs form. Gifts will not have an invoice unless explicitly requested. I am willing to provide scans of my copies of the customs form[s].

Packages with sufficient cost or quantity of an item inside, gift or merchandise, will cause the destination country to hold it in customs. In the countries I know of so far it will take a few days before the recipient is notified that customs is holding on to their package. Please be aware.

If there are things I can do to make the customs process smoother, such as the correct words to use on customs forms, and other nuances I may not know about, please let me know. However I will not lie or purposely misdescribe items.

What if my package gets returned?

I have not yet had a package returned. All have been successfully delivered. However if a box is returned in the future, I will attempt to send it out again after I receive it. Any help toward doing things differently so delivery succeeds on the second attempt is much appreciated. I will have to consider on a case-by-case basis what to do for anything that is returned more than once.

Please be aware if I find out a box is returned because the recipient refused delivery for no reason or for reasons such as deciding the customs fee is too much, I will not directly attempt resending the package as indicated previously. I am not completely unreasonable, however, and may be able to work something out through discussion.

Resending a package to the same place with the same contents by the same method will not change the customs liability.