Friday Diversion: Dirty Dishes

Friday Diversion: Dirty Dishes

The never-ending chore of dishes. (somber pause) What more needs to be said? My daughter actually prefers to clean out the cat liter boxes nightly over having to do dishes. Every now and again you pass the pile accumulating in the sink, and think to yourself that you should put those in the dishwasher. Is load in the dishwasher dirty, or clean? This project aims to answer that question.

This post was featured in the Thinking Closet's Winter and Spring Reader Showcase! Check out the post for more inspirational projects.

We recently moved. In our old house, the dishwasher had a light on the front that indicated that the dishes were clean. You knew with one glance. In our new house, the dishwasher has a similar light, but it is on top of the door, tucked under the counter. So you can never tell if the dishes in the washer are dirty or clean.


I have not fabricated anything in a while, so this seemed like something I could solve. I could put something with a magnet on the dishwasher to show if the dishes inside were dirty or clean. It could not have a magnet on both sides though - that would cover up the sign.

A little Pinterest for inspiration led me to this post on The Thinking Closet. Lauren had encountered a similar problem, and crafted up a slick little solution. The answer to my problem of not wanting to put magnets on both sides of the sign, was to make the sign a circle!

Thinking Closet Dishwasher Magnet


Lauren offers a free download of the cut file and printable. That is great if you are using a Silhouette cutter, but I am not. The Silhouette Studio software does not allow exporting to other formats either. Looks like I will have to recreate this bad boy myself. Thankfully, Lauren goes into enough detail in the post to know where to get the fonts and the clip art.

After downloading the assets, I recreated (roughly) Lauren's work in Adobe Illustrator. The "fork, knife and spoon" graphic Lauren used from Sweet Clip Art, while drawn using vector tooling, is offered as a bitmap PNG file. I used Illustrator's "Image Trace" to get it back to a vector format. Why vector? Because I am going to laser cut this bad boy!

My Adobe Illustrator version

When laser cutting, you have a wide breadth of materials to choose from. I have used acrylic (plastic), birch plywood, particle board, and even foam core board. Being in the kitchen however reminded me of the bamboo utensils. When etching acrylic, the results are pretty noticeable. When etching birch, the burnt wood really pops. I was not sure how bamboo would show up.

I used a 2.4mm thick sheet of bamboo. Thick enough to grab and pull off the dishwasher.

To address this, I made two versions of the design. One with the background etched out, and one with the wording and graphics etched out. I decided on a four inch diameter circle for the design (I think Lauren used 3.25 inches). After placing the design on a Ponoko template, I sent it off and waited eagerly for the result.

The Result

Bamboo turned out to be an interesting material to laser cut. The circle cut itself left the typical burn discoloration on the outer edge. The etching however was apparently not hot enough to leave and mark. Or perhaps Ponoko chose to put the design in a CNC machine? Here you can see the two side-by-side.

The two results side-by-side

There is a nice grain in the bamboo that I really like. If I were to do this again, I would choose a deeper etch for just a little more depth and pop of the design.

On the back of the bamboo, I used a thin magnetic sheet. To accomplish this, I traced the circle on the magnet sheet, and then cut about a quarter inch inside of that circle. Pull off the adhesive sheet, and slap it onto the back of the wood.

The finished product has been in place for about a week now, and is working really well. Thanks to Lauren for sharing her creative process. If you want to laser cut your own "dirty dishes sign" you can download the Ponoko-ready EPS file.