Typographic Character Coasters

Typographic Coasters

A simple design project for font lovers: Single-character typographic coasters.

Cork set

We started this project looking at some of the interesting variations amongst common fonts. Blowing them up to this size lets you start to see those differences more clearly than usual. Cutting them out as tangible forms takes it a step further– you can feel the curves.

Also, they make pretty good coasters.

The coasters above were laser cut from 1/8″ thick cork. The fonts represented include Times New Roman, Gill Sans, Courier New Bold, Futura Bold Italic, and Miso. We picked characters that seemed appropriate for making into single-piece coasters, and scaled them to size, assuming a 3″ diameter glass could be placed on top. For the caret, that meant a larger font size than for the octothorpe.

Cutting by hand (octothorpe)

The 1/8″ cork sheets are from McMaster-Carr (9487K3), and are relatively inexpensive. They cut well with a hobby knife if you have a steady hand.

As we’ve mentioned before, these days it is straightforward to get parts laser cut for you. Local laser cutting shops are becoming more common and online services like Ponoko and Pololu make it easy to run small projects like these.

Plywood set

Here’s a larger set fabbed out of 6 mm hardwood plywood.

Clear coat

Besides plywood and cork, we also made coasters out of medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Both MDF and plywood are susceptible to moisture damage (an operational hazard for coasters!) so we sprayed them with a clear acrylic coating to make them water resistant.

MDF coasters

Here are the coasters cut from 6 mm MDF. Interestingly, this material darkened considerably from its “natural” color once we added the clear coat. Some chemistry going on here… not sure what.

Acrylic Set

Another set, laser cut out of 3 mm white acrylic.

Plywood Asterisk

Mmmmmmm…. Curvy.

9 thoughts on “Typographic Character Coasters

    1. We tried to make these without modifications to the original typeface, which gets a little awkward when working with anything that isn’t a simply-connected region of space. I’d love to do an interrobang, but it’s a hard one to build. :(

      Windell H. Oskay

  1. These coasters do look very cool, but seem to me they would fail as coasters since they’re all open and won’t catch condensation as it flows down the glass and keep it from reaching the surface. How are these in practice?

  2. I think these would make great ‘modern art’ in a funky pad.

    If you made them out of a light material, you could stick them to the wall with those double sided foam sticky things from 3M (sorry, too lazy to go look up their name!) – even stick fabric to the front to make different coloured ones.
    This way you could also do ones not suitables as coasters like ! ? and interrobang (which my budget character map doesn’t have!)

  3. the reason the MDF darkend after being coated with the acrylic was that it absorber the finish into it darking it. the same affect will happen if any liquid is applide to MDF.

    Long live the DOS operating system!

Comments are closed.