Designing tricolor wood coasters

designing tricolored wood coasters

I recently finished up a few sets of tricolor wood coasters. I like how the design turned out and how the different colors of wood contrast with each other. 


Before I start a new project, I always do some research and sketching to get an idea of what my product will look like before I jump onto the computer. I like having design books around in hard copy so I can browse through them for inspiration. For this project, I looked at my Sol Lewitt, Eduardo Paolozzi, and Sottsass books. 

Sketches & Illustrator

I usually sketch very quickly and messily so I don't usually show my sketches but the main idea is to get a lot of ideas down on paper so I burn through the obvious ones. Once I have an idea that I like, I jump into Illustrator and start iterating digitally. I got this process method from an Aaron Draplin Skillshare class that I watched long ago.   

Iterating coaster designs in Illustrator

Once I have my design perfected, I use Illustrator to turn my design into shapes for the laser cutter to cut. Most laser cutters are super picky about lines so the design file has to be perfect. I also account for kerf if my pieces are going to be interlocking. 

Staining the wood

Next, I took some baltic birch and stained it in three different shades so it would look like I was using three different types of wood. That way, I didn't have to spend $$$ on buying expensive hardwoods. I used my method for staining wood with a water-based stain to get an even coat. I then finished the wood with a water-based varnish so it would be water resistant.

I also stained some bamboo a dark color to use for the back of the coasters. I took the time to stain the bamboo just in case some of it peaks out in the final product. It's the details that matter. 

staining wood with water-based stain

Gluing the cork

One of the best things about creating products is figuring out the best materials to use. I went through a lot of iterations figuring out how I would cover the bottom of my coasters. I tried fabric, Ultrasuede, and different thicknesses of cork. I ended up gluing a super thin cork sheet to my bamboo backs.

gluing cork backs on coasters

Cutting it up

Once the Illustrator files were ready to go and the wood was stained, I just needed to cut out the pieces on the laser cutter. I try to be as efficient as possible with my designs to get the most out of my materials. I also made sure to cut everything in the same grain direction so everything fits together perfectly. As always, I cover my materials with tape to avoid burn marks.

laser cutting coaster pieces

Gluing it all together

Once everything is cut, I just needed to glue the birch pieces to my bamboo/cork backings with a standard wood glue and place the coasters under books overnight dry.

gluing coasters


The final result

All in all, I'm really happy with how this coaster design turned out. They are now up in my store!

tricolored wood coasters