Toolbox: Business cards

Toolbox: Business cards

In the Make: Online Toolbox, we focus mainly on tools that fly under the radar of more conventional tool coverage: in-depth tool-making projects, strange or specialty tools unique to a trade or craft that can be useful elsewhere, tools and techniques you may not know about, but once you do, and incorporate them into your workflow, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. And, in the spirit of the times, we pay close attention to tools that you can get on the cheap, make yourself, or refurbish.

In the next few months, we’re going to be taking a more in-depth look at “Maker Business,” the how-tos of turning your DIY hobby into an actual business. One of the first “brand identity” pieces that anybody going into business needs is a calling card. I know so much of our business interface is electronic these days, but everybody still needs a card for convenient exchange when pressing the flesh. I personally love business cards. I’ve saved nearly every one I’ve ever been given. I have a massive collection, going back decades. It’s fun to go back through them and be reminded of the interactions that produced them, see the changing designs and typestyles, what people put on them (CompuServe and Prodigy accounts, USENET newsgroups!), etc.

Of course, the cards that get more attention, that stand out, are the ones that are truly unique and clever. In fact, I have a little display in my office with a number of the special cards covered below (Adafruit, EMS Labs, Tom Ward’s dot matrix card — and one of his flashlight cards from my demo of the same at Maker Faire Austin). As a maker, as someone who’s working in a domain that’s associated with innovative thinking, clever design, creative and new use of materials, embedded technologies, etc., a really stand-out card is almost expected. Today, there are so many options for cool cards you can make, materials you can use, cards of varying sizes and shapes; there’s really no reason to not have a card that creates a special first impression (and hopefully a card that the receiver will want to keep, display, show off to others, etc.) Here are some interesting card ideas, mainly ones we’ve featured here on MAKE before.

Do you have an innovative, unusual business card? Put it in the MAKE Flickr pool and tell us about it in the comments.


Here’s a card I bumped into yesterday, laser-etched onto large popsicle sticks. Lots of great possibilities here.

Business Cards – Laser Engraved Big Pop Sticks

Penny-shooting business card

Thingiverse user clide made this awesome folding business card that can be loaded with a “magazine” of 10 US pennies and will shoot them out one at a time under rubber-band power. — Sean Michael Ragan

Dot matrix business card

Tom Ward, whose work appears in The Best of Instructables, made this awesome “extreme business card.” It uses a matrix of 5×15 0603 LEDs driven by a PIC16F57 MCU. He says you can get the parts cost down to about $5 each in quantity. Not the kind of card you’d give out on street corners, but if you *really* want to impress somebody…

Dot Matrix Business Card — Gareth Branwyn

HOW TO – Make your own embossed business cards using acid etching

Bofthem writes –

Etch. Press. Print. Want to learn how to emboss paper for your own business cards? Create your own pattern on the computer, and etch it into a brass plate. I’ve wanted to make my own embossed business cards since I was handed a really incredible one at a fancy restaurant. I tried several methods of achieving the effect (photoemulsion, electrolytic etching) but ended up having the most success with a pretty simple and straightforward acid etch method similar to the one used in home printed circuit boards. I still have to work out a few kinks (such as flattening the paper after the emboss without distortion, or reorganizing the method to print before embossing) but I hope you can take something useful from my experiments, and apply it to your own projects.

HOW TO – Make your own embossed business cards using acid etching — Phillip Torrone

Adafruit’s business card makes art!


I’m a huge fan of business cards that DO stuff, that you can punch out, fold into usable tools, or make into monitor pets, desktop siege weapons, cards that you can use in a circuit, cards that contain data. So, I’m over the moon about ladyada’s new card, a laser-cut, punch-out “spirograph” art-machine.

Adafruit business cards – Laser cut SPIROGRAPH cards! — Gareth Branwyn

Business card AVR breakout boards – Version 1.1

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Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories released a new version of their AVR breakout board…

We’ve just released a new version of our super-handy business card sized target board for programming 28-pin AVR microcontrollers like the ATmega168 and ATmega328. These are just the thing for programming these chips through an ISP programmer like the USBtinyISP.

— Phillip Torrone

GreenCards – Cards that grow

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Sid sent in these business cards that grow, design your image, send it in, drop them in water and watch the alfalfa grow – Link & photos. — Phillip Torrone

[Here’s an old post from Collin, about Sean Ragan’s card, before we roped Sean into working for us. – Gareth]

Business card chem stencil


Another good item for the ever-growing “How to make a memorable business card” category:
Sean writes –

I work part time as an organic chemistry tutor. I designed this laser-cut business card to include a drawing template to help my students with one of the most difficult diagrams they must master in o-chem. Both the forward and the reverse image (obtained by flipping the card over) are useful.

For those wondering, the diagram or “chair” in question depicts a “saturated 6-membered molecular ring”. Hit up Sean’s site for more info – business card/drawing template page. — Collin Cunningham

Tells us about your business card in the comments.


In the Maker Shed:


The Best of Instructables Volume I
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The Instructables staff, the editors of MAKE, and the Instructables community itself put together this collection of the best food, home and garden, technology, science, and crafts how-to’s from the site. The Best of Instructables includes full-color photographs, complete step-by-step instructions, and tips, tricks, and build techniques you won’t find anywhere else. Over 300 pages!

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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