Following on from yesterday when I was excited to find my blog in the top 40 of laser cutting blogs, I have been checking out other blogs on the list and here is a digest of my own favourites (along with the country they are in, in case you are looking for laser cutting services):
Gypsy Soul Laser Cuts (USA) is a lovely blog, with regular updates and lots of craft ideas. They sell laser-cut craft items.
Dragon Powered (UK) has got laser cutting files for sale, to save you having to spend hours designing your own. The blog includes interesting and original information, and technical advice.
Nice Cuts (UK) provide a laser cutting service, and have ideas about how you can use laser cut designs for your own business. They also occasionally have guest bloggers, who share their own experiences of using a laser cutting service.
CUT-TEC (UK) are a laser cutting service and they create really varied laser cut items – including in metal.
Mekkit.com (UK) are another company who produce really varied laser cut products, and have some great photos of their work.
The Altered State (UK) have got at least one great big laser and can cut and etch reeeeally big items.
LaserSister (UK) That’s me! I provide a laser cutting and etching service, but the blog also has technical information about laser cutting, plus news and trends from the lasery world. And will shortly include links to cutting files.
MBJD Laser (USA) seem to pick a different font colour and overall style for every blog post, but I forgive them because they are real people and giving real news about their laser cutting service and products.
Laser Flair (UK) have a laser cutting service and look like they can etch metal and giant pieces of wood for you.
Dot Laser (UK) produce really nice-looking and varied work for clients.
Bespoke Laser UK also produce great looking products, and do an especially nice line in laser-etched bespoke rubber stamps.
LASERCUTIT (UK) have a laser cutting service, for wood, acrylic, paper and card.
Just Add Sharks (UK) have got an article on making a totally mind-blowing ‘phenakistiscope’.
CutLaserCut (UK) work with artists and other businesses to make some really original pieces.
Ponoko (USA, NZ) allow you to upload your artwork, get an instant quote, and then cut and ship the item on the same day. WOW.
Reddit (www) has a thriving laser cutting community and this is a great place to browse and/or ask questions. It does contain quite a bit of spam, but you can easily lose hours just browsing if you are really into laser cutting.
MLC (AUS) have a laser cutting service in Australia, and the blog includes latest trends and news from the lasery world.
Able Engraving (UK) have a traditional engraving service as well as laser engraving, and are experts in signs and awards.
Google News (www) chews up and spits out laser-related news for your information and delight.
(OK, there are only 19 in my current Top 20 list. But the Top 40 list only had 33, so I win!)
Disappointingly, there are only 33 websites on the list (I am currently number 30) – so it appears that at the moment if you have a laser cutting blog then you are automatically in the list. On the other hand, (1) I only moved to this website a few weeks ago, and (2) at least I’m actually on the list!
Guaranteed way to get a completely free vector image to use in your work 🙂
The previous article described how to use ready-made stock vector images for lasercutting work, but sometimes (depending on how the artist created the original image) it can still take several hours of ‘tweaking’ to make them suitable for your own project.
What if you already know the sort of design you want, and could draw it quickly by hand but you’re stuck with using a mouse or trackpad that doesn’t quite do the job? This article will show a quick way to create hand-drawn vector images for your lasercutting projects, that you know will be exactly right for your work because you created them. Plus they’re original and you don’t need to pay anyone for the rights to use them!
You will need:
Thick black pen (e.g. a Sharpie, or I just get cheap markers from Wilko)
Step 1: Use the thick black pen to draw your designs.
Step 2: Scan or photograph your hand-drawn image, and save it somewhere that you’ll be able to retrieve it from your drawing application.
Step 3: Open your drawing software and import the image (in CorelDraw use Ctrl + I, and in Illustrator I think it’s File > Place)
Step 4: Now you basically need to get the software to turn your photo (millions of pixels) into vectors (hundreds of coordinates), so you’ll be able to create a design that your laser can cut. In CorelDraw you can do this by selecting the image and then go to Bitmaps > Quick Trace. (In Illustrator it’s called Live Trace.) The software then simplifies blocks of colour and turns them into separate objects:
Step 5: (Optional) The software doesn’t always get the conversion exactly right, so you might end up with an object made up of a couple of layers of colour (in the case below, there is a solid black flower outline, with some grey petal shapes on top of it, instead of being made of thin black outlines). In CorelDraw it’s easy to ungroup the object (Ctrl + U), and then highlight the group of object (e.g. the flower in this case) and go into Arrange > Shaping > Back Minus Front.
Step 6: (Optional) If you want, you can copy shapes and/or move or re-size them until you have the design that you want.
Step 7: If you want to cut the shapes then make sure they have a thin or hairline-width outline, but if you just want to etch the shapes then they don’t need the thin outline:
Step 8: (Optional) If you have combined several shapes in one design, you may need to ‘weld’ them together before you cut them. The laser cutter will cut anything that has a thin outline, and so in the example above, the three flowers would be cut out separately. To make sure the laser sees all of the flowers as one design and not as individual objects to cut out, you can use the ‘weld’ function (in CorelDraw it’s Arrange > Shaping > Weld.)
Marquetry is the art of applying thin veneers of wood to another (usually also wood) surface, to create a design.
The method below is a fairly quick and ‘cheaty’ way to make marquetry-effect designs with a laser cutter.
Marquetry is the art of applying thin veneers of wood to another surface (usually also wood), to create a design.
The method below is a fairly quick and ‘cheaty’ way to make marquetry-effect designs with a laser cutter. I may write a post later on a different method, but in the meantime:
First you need at least two different types of wood, in different shades. One should be a very thin veneer-thickness wood (e.g. approx 1mm or 1/32in thick). The other should be at least twice as thick as the veneer wood (e.g. approx 2mm or 1/16in thick).
For example, your thicker piece could be a light birch wood, and the darker wood could be a special veneer wood.
The wood I used in this case comes from www.wood-supplies.com. I’m not 100% certain which wood I used, but I think it was a sheet of 1/8in thick mahogany and a strip of 1/32in thick boxwood:
Step 1: Create a design with whatever software you happen to use for your laser system (e.g. I use CorelDraw). I am making a simple flower design here, so I’m going to draw a basic flower with a circle ‘insert’ for the middle:
Note: As well as the design above, I also needed to design an ‘insert’ shape to put in the round hole above. So I duplicated the black circle and gave it an outline (see step 2 for illustration).
Step 2: Cut the insert shape from the veneer- thickness wood. (If it’s a very small piece, make sure you include a ‘sprue’ in the design, so it doesn’t drop through the cutting bed. For more info on creating sprues, please check out this article.)
Step 3: measure the thickness of the piece you just cut.
Step 4: (Optional) If you’re starting from scratch then etch a test piece first. Measure how deep the etching is, then adjust the power/speed settings as necessary. You need to etch just a little bit deeper than the depth of the thin (veneer wood) piece. This is to take into account the layer of glue that will be used. So if your measurement of the veneer wood piece was 1mm thick, then you need to etch the design into the thicker wood so that the etched design is approx 1.2mm deep.
If there is too much charring or the etching doesn’t go deep enough even on 100% power, you may need to etch the same design again on top of the first etching, but perhaps on a slightly lower power setting. (e.g. if your veneer is 1mm thick but the etching is only 0.7mm deep, then you can etch the same design again but using less power the second time, or the second etching will be too deep.) Tip: DO NOT MOVE the piece of wood when you are measuring it, because if you need to etch again to go deeper then you want to make sure the second etch goes in exactly the same place as the first etch.
Step 5: Etch the design (the small circle, in this example) into the thicker wood. As mentioned above, you need to etch very slightly deeper than the thickness of the thinner (veneer wood) piece, to take account of the glue later. So if your measurement of the veneer wood piece was 1mm thick, then you need to etch the design into the thicker wood so that the etched design is approx. 1.2mm deep. Tip: If you’re etching twice, DO NOT MOVE the piece of wood after the first etch, because the etched design will be out of position when the finished design is cut.
Step 6: Cut the outer shape (the flower shape, in this example) from the thicker wood. Again, my laser and wood will be different to yours so I haven’t given the power/speed settings here, but if you are cutting the thicker wood for the first time then try a test piece first.
Step 7: Apply a very thin layer of glue inside the etched design.
Step 8: Insert the thin veneer piece into the etched hole, and leave the glue to dry (time will depend on the glue manufacturer’s guidelines).
Step 9: Sand the surface of the marquetry piece so that the different woods are exactly level with each other and show no scorch marks from the laser.
That’s it! Hope you liked the article. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to share them in the comments section, or via the contact form.
How to fix common laser cutting problems: Add sprues to your designs…
What is a “sprue”, and why should I use them with my lasercutting designs?
Sprues are most commonly seen in injection-moulded plastic toys. For a fuller description check out the Wikipedia definition, but briefly:
In the image below they are the little links that connect the plastic toy components. They are created as part of the moulding process, but the useful secondary function of sprues is that they hold the components securely in position within a plastic frame, until you twist or cut the components out. So in the image below, you can see that the actual toy pieces are held safely in place until the user needs them, rather than the pieces just rattling around in a box or falling on the floor and getting lost.
In laser cutting projects, you often need to cut small pieces out of a light material such as paper, card, plastic or wood. But if they are smaller than the holes in the cutting bed of the laser machine, the pieces often fall through the holes and are lost as soon as they have been cut. Similarly if the machine blows or sucks air as part of the cutting process then very small pieces can just fly away.
So we need a way to cut the pieces, but to stop them falling down or blowing away. One solution is to include sprues in the cutting designs. (Generally speaking, they will be useful if the piece to be cut is less than 1cm squared, or if anything is being cut from a piece of paper.)
Sprues can be created very quickly and easily in most vector-based drawing software (e.g. Photoshop or CorelDraw). I happen to use CorelDraw, but the principles are the same for most other apps/programs:
Step 1: Make sure that you can edit curves and manipulate/add nodes on the cutting path of the design. (In CorelDraw it is the “Shape Tool” that allows you to do this.)
Note: If you can’t see any nodes to edit, you may need to convert the shape to curves first (e.g. by right-clicking the mouse and selecting “Convert to Curves”):
Step 2: Zoom in really close to the object (e.g. so that a 3mm line fills the whole screen), then add two new nodes as close to an existing node as you can manage:
Step 3: Select the middle node of the three nodes that are very close together, and then break the path of the curve. (e.g. by right-clicking and choosing “Break Apart”):
Step 4: That middle node should have broken in two, so take one of the two resulting nodes and drag it about half a millimetre outside the curve. Then do the same for the other new node. This creates a small break in the cutting line, so that when you the cut piece it should now remain fixed in place until you are ready to push or tear it from the material you were cutting.
Step 5: Push or pull the object out of the sheet of material that it is fixed in.
(You may need a knife or scissors to help cut it free, and then a file or a knife to cut away any extra material that is not required.)
That’s it! I hope you liked this article. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to share them in the comments section, or via the contact form.