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How to Make “Money for Nothing” Using Scrap Materials From Lasercutting

laser cutting scraps

Money-saving lasercutting tips #2: How to make “money for nothing” from scrap materials

(This is part of a series of money-saving tips for lasercutting businesses and enthusiasts.) The previous article discussed why you should use your leftover sheets of lasercutting material. This follow-up article delves a bit more deeply into how you can use these scrap pieces more economically, and potentially make ‘money for nothing’ by inserting bonus shapes between the main shapes that you are going to cut. It includes a link to a free lasercutting vector file that contains examples of these bonus shapes.

(If you don’t want to bother reading the article you can just click the button below. It links straight to the free lasercutting file of sample ‘bonus’ shapes…)


In the current ‘austerity’ economy there is always an interest in make-do-and-mend activities. At the moment even the BBC are running a programme called “Money for Nothing”. In this programme, dustbin-diving cheapskates thrifty people find old objects and then take them to artists and craftspeople who then convert the items into something beautiful and/or useful.*

The tips below follow that notion, and demonstrate how you can hopefully turn some of your scrap materials into cash.


Getting more value from your lasercutter

Artists and crafters are rarely well-paid, and so always try to get the most value out of materials as possible. This article shows how to avoid the feelings of frustration and guilt that can come with ‘wasting’ materials … by using the leftover lasercutting materials to potentially gain some extra money. Win/win!

And as mentioned above, there is a free lasercutting vector file (PDF, SVG, or EPS) available. The file contains examples of extra items that can be inserted in between the main items you are cutting. That way you can use even very small sections of wood or acrylic to make useful products.

The idea is that your time is used more efficiently by cutting out (potentially) useful items straight away, rather than saving small weirdly-shaped bits of wood ‘just in case’.

And because you have used the scrap wood to cut out these (hopefully) useful items, your subconscious won’t give you a constant guilt-trip about wasting materials. So you can get on with doing other, more important lasercutting jobs instead.

Designing your own ‘bonus’ shapes

Below is a link to a free lasercutting vector file. It contains examples of popular shapes that can be used immediately. As mentioned in the previous article, I use this type of ‘bonus’/filler object all the time. When cutting family trees for example, these use large sections of wooden sheet – which then leave funny-shaped scrap pieces…

Wooden family trees leave strange shapes in the leftover wood
There’s plenty of space either side of the trunk to cut other objects!

…so rather than waste the leftover wood, I use my ready-made ‘bonus’ shapes to fill in the gaps. Shapes like numbers, letters, and hearts are always popular with other crafters, and so I might cut out a set of hearts and put them on Ebay or Etsy or Folksy. That way, the expensive lasercutting wood sheet material is then used to its full potential.

Have a think about items that you might be able to sell to other crafters, for example. Acrylic letters and numbers to use as card toppers? Little wooden hearts to use as table confetti or jewellery? Different sizes of circles that could be used by toymakers?


Conclusion

By having a file of pre-made popular designs, you can use your leftover wood/acrylic to potentially generate extra income. Instead of keeping weird little bits of wood ‘just in case’, you can make an immediate decision about what to do with the scrap wood, so that you produce far less waste and far more profit.

Challenge: think about small objects that might be useful to other crafters (or even to yourself) in future, and create a file of those shapes. Then the next time you do a cutting job that leaves gaps between the main objects, insert some of the ‘bonus’ shapes into those gaps and cut them out as you go along.

In the meantime, here is a link to a free file which contains examples of some of those bonus shapes:

Free lasercutting file
Examples of bonus lasercutting designs - free vector file

I hope you found this article useful. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to share them in the comments section or via the contact form.


*Fellow Guild of Makers member Bad Dog Designs has had several pieces featured on the “Money for Nothing” programme. Check out his amazing ‘nixie clocks‘, made from objects such as old radios and record players.

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