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Laser cutter-a-go-go

Cindy Tonkin - July 3, 2015

For the last five days i have been geeking out with a laser cutter at Sturt Winter school.
I had high intentions of posting every day but here it is Friday and I’m posting one big post.
We began by making a wooden box. Then engraving it, both with the laser cutter.
By end of day 1 I was totally hooked.
Hardest part was making illustrator do my bidding.
I can see now how people could make a mock-up of a book by hand and then make a series of 150. If they have access to a laser cutter and can work illustrator it would be simple.
So here’s some stuff i made this week.  

  laser cut wooden box. laser engraved map of paris on perspex. The map came from the plan de paris I used when I lived there in 1988-9. You can see the original engraved wooden version sitting on the desk next to the box: it had a lot of grey, so the engraving was quite dark. Later I discovered the Trace Image setting on illustrator which made the map even better.  

  Had some memory problems with the illustrator file: when I lined up engraving and box cutting on the same file it didn’t work. So I engraved a full 90x30cm piece of wood.  Then I cut out the box. Here is the leftover sheet from which I later cut more circles and boxes.

  laser cut and engraved wooden box: the image came from the book of Historical and Curious maps I bought a while back.  

same box from the top (masking taped together because the glue was drying.  

  These circles and squares were cut from the leftover sections of the 90x30cm piece. I later drilled holes (using the laser cutter) in all of these circles. I’ll use them in a dogtag or as a book closure.  

  I laser cut segments of an e.e. cummings poem (maggie and millie and molly and may) from an old acrylic work on canvas paper. These letters are mostly from that. The squares are also from an old work. The cursive letter N was cut in wood.    

  Here’s the e.e. cummings poem fully cut out (i cut this 3 or 4 times). The full poem is here. The picture below is a different work, also laser cut. But because the acrylic paint is thicker in some parts the laser didn’t cut all the way through (I had to specify page thickness: I measured the periphery with calipers, but couldn’t do the inner parts). I’ll cut the letters out with a knife later.  

perspex box with letters cut out, later I engraved it with the tuileries map from the curious and interesting map book. Of course every box marked secrets contains important stuff…

Laser cut and engraved poem (segments of Henry Kendall’s Bellbirds). Page was then scored and cut into segments for a concertina 8.5cmx8.5cm. The scoring and cutting of a 90×30 sheet would probably take me an hour: the laser cutter did it in 46 seconds. The scoring and cutting of the words took more like 16 minutes but is reproducible in all kinds of medium (wood, perspex, paper…)  

  Mostly the cutouts from the bellbirds. Plus the perspex and wooden bits from piercing the covers / boxes. I have since made a 5cm cube to hold the tiny pieces. I’m yet to assemble it.  

  there were some minor technical difficulties: the fonts available on the printer’s PC didn’t match those available in the PC on which I did all the planning. So most fonts are the default serif font from the cutter. This was a box segment which was the wrong size, so I added the holes and a letter from a cool cursive font. It will become a book cover. I also didn’t bother to line up the holes properly on the laser cutter: which is why the bottom hole isn’t quite aligned with the wood!  

  the laser cut squares from an old acrylic on canvas paper work left a cool outline. I’m going to stick this down pretty much as pictured, and it’s a new work.  

  Some of the good bits from the 5cm squares. I’m going to make these into a work (pretty much as pictured).    

5cm squares to make small book covers: the laser ran out of memory and stopped, so I had a partially engraved perspex sheet. Which turned out just as deliciously as the fully engraved sheet I think! And it took a lot less time.    

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