Into to Fab- Acrylic Chinese Takeout Box

I wanted to fabricate something that could be useful for an apartment, but also a little cheeky. I have a fascination with  the history of American Chinese restaurant iconography, so I thought an iconic takeout container made out of an unexpected material could be interesting.

A pattern wasn’t too difficult to find online, and I was able to easily trace it with the pen tool in Illustrator. I traced half, duplicated it and reflected it horizontally to make sure it was symmetrical:

The “Enjoy” and “Thank You” were just silhouetted from the reference image and filled with black. I pasted the entire image into the printer template:

Then, I went to Canal Plastics to buy my material. I wanted simple, clear acrylic 1/8 inch thick.

Remembering the first pancake rule, I made a prototype out of card stock. It was simple enough. I was terrified that the acrylic was going to make this project a living nightmare for me. I began to rethink my choice…

I noted that the etching feature makes the card stock look sort of gilded which was an unexpected find.

I moved on to the acrylic, using the reference sheet to set my speed and power. It took three times with the laser cutter before it went all the way through the acrylic.

The etching came out pretty nice, I think!

Then came the tedious part- the bending. I cracked the first one in a matter of minutes. I even tried the band saw, sawing off the tabs of the pattern because I thought they’d be impossible to bend. My project seemed pretty doomed since I only had one other pattern cut out.  But, I kept on keepin’ on.

I started by bending in the tabs, because I know I’d need the most leverage for them. They also needed to bend in and out of the way in order for me to bend the sides up.

After some patient bending and re-bending, the sides came up relatively easily. The trick is to leave plenty of time for the acrylic to soften, but not so that it warps.

All of this took much longer than I thought. I’m talkin’ hours.

The most time-consuming challenge was to tighten where the tabs met the sides. I knew I could use acrylic glue, but I was hoping to preserve the transparency of the material so wanted to avoid glue if possible.

Lastly, I bent the top flaps out like an open takeout container. I used scrap wood to bend them around once the material was soft enough.

Here they are: the prototype, the first pancake, and the very very lucky second attempt.

The final piece!

 

Apologies for this weird color correction. I’m still learning how to light my work!

2 thoughts on “Into to Fab- Acrylic Chinese Takeout Box

  1. Ben Light says:

    Nice work. You mentioned you wanted the objects to be useful, what do you plan to use them for? Why clear acrylic? Why not white?
    Multiple bends can be challenging, good job.
    How long did you leave the acrylic on the bender before bending?

    1. Lauren Race says:

      Thanks! Answers:
      – jewelry box for a friend
      – clear because I wanted it to feel and look unexpected. White would be too similar to what we’re used to with this form. I also liked the idea of using the transparency to see the contents of the container.
      – I left it on for a good minute and a half, while trying to watch it pretty closely to avoid warping.
      – I also just tried some official documentation, but am hoping to get better!

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