Making hat patches with Leatherette.
Leatherette Hat Patches
One of the things I really like to do for my business when I have extra time is to offer CO2 Laser engraved Leatherette hat patches. Unlike many other jobs i do with my laser or CNC, Leatherette hat patches take less work and are still a viable wanted product that the average person can’t do and the average big business charges a TON for.
What is a Leatherette?
Leatherette is a synthetic vinyl material that is made to look like leather. In that it is synthetic, it has some properties that most people agree are beneficial and thus worth not sticking with true leather.
- Easier to clean
- More flexible (easier to manipulate shapes)
- More versatile (more color and texture options)
- More durable (in most cases, Leatherette is much stronger than leather)
- Non Animal biproduct.
What is a Leatherette Hat Patch?
You are probably wondering why I broke that up into it’s own subparagraph! It’s simple, Leatherette as a whole is used in so many places, cars, couches, bags, etc. The Leatherette hat patch, is it’s own topic.
A Leatherette Hat Patch is really a cool thing. It comes in sheets, or in pre-cut sizes. I either buy mine from JDS Industries or Amazon, just depending on the quantity of purchase (if I am buying a lot JDS is the better option). It comes in tons of colors, brown, black, red, pink, teal and more. You can get the pre-cut patches with stitching, so it looks like the patch is stitched on the hat.
And one of the coolest things about Leatherette Hat Patches is that you can buy them two tone. The outside has a leather look and feel and the inside is a different color. Most of what I do is brown leather look with black engraving, but sometimes having something like silver writing can really make the patch POP!
The last major thing is that some Leatherette come with heat adhesive on the back! Customers can easily add heat and apply them to their own hat.
Overview of how I etch Leatherette?
A quick overview of the steps I take in cutting Leatherette Hat Patches:
- Select Patch Size
- Adjust Image on Software
- Measure the hat patch with calipers
- Set Etch Settings on Lightburn
- Prep Laser
- Run Test on Plywood
- Run Test Patch
- Clean the Patch
This is how I laser etch/engrave Leatherette hat patches.
First, you have to decide on the size of the patch. Because these are pre-made patches you have to make that consideration up front. A round design won’t work with an oval patch.
Next, you need an imaging software to convert the design into a usable format/shape/design for your client. Most of the time I have seen that clients will give you something close, but not exact for what you are doing. With a little manipulation, I use Adobe Illustrator, you can adjust the design to your needs. You can also sometimes just use Lightburn (or your laser interface software) to make these changes. Personal preference, the time I save using Illustrator is worth the effort.
Third, I exactly measure the hat patch to get the dimensions needed for the software. I use calipers because they are so precise. You also need to figure the dimensions of the “stitched” area of the patch. Obviously, you don’t want to laser etch the stitching.
As implied above you then move the file into Lightburn (or your laser interface software). Lightburn is where I exactly scale the file to the dimensions of the patch. Remember you want to use the dimension you measured INSIDE the stitching so as to not laser the stitch. I then place my laser etching settings into the software. See below for my settings. Remember, your laser will be different than mine based on power, lens and bulb life.
Moving on, I prep my laser. What does that mean? I turn it on, make sure the exhaust fan is running properly, make sure the coolant pump is pumping and check generally that it is set up for a flat engrave (I also etch Yeti cups so I have to remove my rotary device). I then set up my 1/8″ birch plywood and emplace the hold down magnets. Last I set the laser origin.
Time to go! I run a test with both a cut and the engrave on the plywood. My cut line, which you won’t use on the patch, is set to the exact OUTSIDE of the patch size. This causes you to have a tray for the patch to sit in. The engrave of the patch also give you an idea of the position and engrave burn. On the plywood it should be very light.
Run a test patch! Once you are here it is really just adjusting the settings as you see fit. If you want the patch darker or centered differently you just make that small change and run it again. Make sure you don’t move your template! If you do it will not line up right.
Last, I cleanthe Leatherette hat patch with a clean microfiber cloth and some 70% alcohol.
My laser Leatherette Hat Patch engraving settings
My primary CO2 Laser is an Omtech MF2028, with that being said, every lasers power is different. You should obviously do a test of your own machine, but here are my settings.
For the engraving:
Speed 155.00 at 12.50 power.
The cut out (only for template) is:
Speed 20.00 at 22.50 power.
Something to remember about your power opn a CO2 laser is that the “power” setting is the % power of the bulb. This is directly proportional to the life of your bulb! So if you cut at 80% all the time you will burn out your bulb much faster than you need to. #expertadvice
How I charge for Leatherette hat patches.
I am not going to get into the nitty gritty on how I charge for Leatherette hat patches, but I will give you a good idea of where I get my numbers. First, buying the patches allow for some simple math. If a package of patches has 50 in it, and you paid $X, then your expendables are X divided by 50. Round up to account for your small plywood test and bulb usage.
- Set-up fee (you may need this… if your client has 15 different designs you will burn all of your profit on the computer)
- Expendable cost
- My personal rate (my hourly rate I am willing to work for divided by the time per patch)
Take a look at Etsy and you will get an idea of others prices. Many Leatherette hat patch makers charge $4 to $8 per patch. Businesses often charge in the $20 dollar range. It’s ridiculous, which makes this valuable for the small laser shop maker.
Wrapping it up!
Have a great one!
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