Fingernail Laser Etching

Scott let me know about Martin and Bre’s “new year’s project” on Make in which they use a 25W engraving laser to do a “fingernail etching” using a computer controlled plotter-type device with their hand restrained inside it during the procedure which took just a few frightening but painless seconds. Over time, the “calendar” will grow off of their fingernails — “instead of checking off boxes, we clip off our nails”.

Now, maybe like me you’re saying that’s not really body modification (any more than hairstyles or nail painting is)… But really, there’s no reason that this same method couldn’t be used to do a scarification project on skin as well… I’d just want to be very, very certain the machine was tuned to the right power level!!!


Photo by Bre.

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

36 thoughts on “Fingernail Laser Etching

  1. very interesty, great idea, i agree whit bucket of bunniees…infinit things can be done.

    ps: i wacth modify – the movie, download… i didnt buy… im sorry… great documentary !!!!

    where can i download more documentary like that one???? :/

  2. Is it possible to accurately calibrate the scale of the etching to the rate of nail growth? Do nails grow evenly or are they affected by certain biological factors?

    Regardless, I like this a lot.

  3. laser etching would be awesome to do on a larger scale somewhere on the body like the forearms, calves,etc

    Would definitely be a lot more precise then current methods used.

  4. i want to do that with a piece of pizza etched on my fingernail that way when i cut my nails it will look like its getting eatin.

  5. It looks like the right thumb caught a little skin on the 2008. I would like to know where one could go to get this done or if it has to be a DIY.

  6. I always enjoy Bre Pettis’ podcasts and I hope to see the next one about this. Nail growth is effected by how much “wear and tear” they go though eg. Your dominant hands fingernails grow faster then your other hand and your toe nails grow slower then your hands.

  7. Superawesome! :D I do wonder to what extent it can be used on flesh though, since people are not exactly flat :P

  8. This is awesome! I think I could benefit from one that says “Stop biting me” over and over on every nail. :)

  9. thinking of all the ugly and gross toenails I have seen here some people really should get “clean me” or “I need pedicure” on their nails. I guess I would get “I’m in a hurry” because my fingernails grow very fast.

  10. Awesome idea, but there are tons of issues with it being used for scarification. You’re limited by focus – the beam can only be focused on a flat surface (within ~1/8″) or a cylindricalish object with the right tools. Try “engraving” on a curved body surface like your arm and chances are you’ll be better off having someone do it the old way.

  11. that’s the greatest idea i’ve seen in a long time. from watching the video, i love how he finds holding his thumb in the hand-clamp hurts him more than actually having the laser go across his thumb :)

  12. I posted on my IAM 5 months ago about wanting to use a laser for a scarification/branding. Skin takes a bit higher temperature to burn than a fingernail does, so I was aiming for a 250-300mw laser with a specific focusing lens. Of course, without the money to buy or build said laser, I haven’t been able to try it yet. Should be pretty simple to make a physical stencil first to make sure you keep your lines straight and free-hand it.

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