One of the first projects I did was to engrave a few pencils. It's pretty easy once you figure out the measurements, and you can rest the pencil along the top edge for alignment. But that only works reliably for flat-sided pencils, and engraving multiple pencils gets tedious quickly. So I decided to make my first jig. You can use this jig to engrave up to 24 pencils at once, either right- or left-handed. Thanks to my partner for pointing out that the first batch of pencils I made were "backwards" (I'm a lefty and expected to read the text from the top down).
Design the Jig
With a little research, I had some basic measurements that I used to create a pencil cutout outline in Affinity Designer. I exported this as an SVG file and imported that into xTool Creative Space. After some trial and error, I finalized a layout that allows for seating 24 pencils for engraving. I added some instructions, some openings for positioning pins when using on a honeycomb panel, and a small hole for hanging it.
Trim and Frame the Jig
I separated the jig project into two separate runs, each on its own canvas. The first run frames out and trims the board, cuts positioning pin openings, and cuts a hole for hanging your jig. Guides on the Framing canvas for pencil cuts are for reference only and are ignored.
I use a honeycomb panel, so I used the ridges on the bezel to carefully align my board. Place your plywood board at the top left corner of your honeycomb panel, aligning the top of the sheet with the top of the inside ridge of its frame. It may not fit squarely, depending on how perfectly your plywood was cut. Just make sure that one corner is snug against the left ridge while the top remains flat against the top ridge.
Use a little masking tape along the very top edge to keep your board flat and secure. When placing your magnetic material pins, align them sideways against the right edge of the plywood (see photos, above). You’re going to cut pretty close to the edges, and you don’t want to accidentally score your pins instead (as you can see I have done). Make sure they’re flat, and don’t let them extend off the edge of the honeycomb since the framing run will be cutting the bottom edge off your board.
If you're not using the honeycomb and riser, you'll need to very carefully align your board on the triangle prisms, perhaps aligning the top of those with the top line on the bottom plate. The key is to ensure that the board is straight.
Make the Pencil Cutouts
Once the framing run is complete, remove the bottom piece that should now be cut from the board. If you're using the honeycomb panel, this will allow the board to lie flat. Be careful not to bump or move the board at all. Again, if you're using the honeycomb, you can pry out the anchor holes and position your anchors in those holes. You’ll want to angle them up, down, or away from the middle so you don’t impede cutting out the pencil cutouts, and always ensure they’re lying flat (not angled up into the air) so the laser module doesn’t bump into them.
The cutout run is on the second canvas, and it takes a good while. If you don’t anticipate ever needing to engrave 24 pencils at once, you can cancel the job a little early. But let it run at least through the first 12 cutouts so you have the bordered one—you’ll use this one to auto-measure the height of your pencils.
Engrave Some Pencils!
This is the fun part. If you're not using a honeycomb panel, you can get rid of the prisms now. The jig is designed so the pencils sit flat on the surface, framed by each cutout. Just make sure the jig is positioned right at the top where you aligned it earlier to make it. And if you're making pencils for a left-handed person, you can flip the jig over so the eraser head cutouts are on the left. My pencils XCS file has canvases for both left- and right-handed engraving.
Now load up the tray with some pencils. If you're using commercial pencils with existing engraving, place the engraved side down. Round and hexagonal pencils should fit cleanly in the cutouts. Make sure you align the eraser end of the pencils flat against the edge. Regardless of how many pencils you're engraving, be sure to auto-measure the thickness with a pencil in the 12th (outlined) pencil cutout. That ensures your engraving is optimized for your specific pencils. If your M1's red laser dot doesn't appear on the 12th pencil, you may need to adjust the position of your jig.
In the Pencils.XCS file, you'll want to choose the appropriate (left- or right-handed) canvas. Then change the engraving you'd like on your pencils. The orange guides show you the engravable area. You may want to make sure they're properly aligned on your device by selecting and un-ignoring one, then running Framing. Adjust the jig or everything on the canvas as needed if it isn't aligned properly. It should be pretty exact if you're using the M1 riser base and honeycomb panel.
Once everything's all lined up, don't forget to set that guide back to Ignore!
The text engraving placeholder is set to an optimized font and size (7.5pt Helvetica), but feel free to experiment. Just keep it in the 2mm high guide. Once you like what you have. Use the Array function or copy and paste to duplicate and place them in the other guide areas. Center, left, or right-align all the text with all the guides to ensure they all line up properly.
I used the Walnut Plywood reference settings for my pencils, but again you may want to experiment and find the settings that work best for you.