Monthly Archives: December 2015

How to make laser cut plywood hinges

Update September 2016: You can now download the hinge laser cutter files for free! The link is on my Downloads page.

I made this video back in October 2015 and it looks like I forgot to blog it. It’s one of my first videos and you can probably see I’m slowly learning.

 

Laser cut hinge
Hinge from laser cut 4mm birch ply
Hinge laser cut from 5mm birch ply
Hinge laser cut from 5mm birch ply
Hinge laser cut from 5mm birch ply
Hinge laser cut from 5mm birch ply

Laser cut key rings engraved both sides

I got side tracked by the Tiny Lantern project, but today I finally finished the key rings I made using my Engrave Both Sides technique. I’ll put these in my on-line shop next week. They will be £7 each. As you can see, there are several styles and colours to choose from.

Tiny Lantern for LED tea light coming soon

I spent some time designing and developing a new product: this tiny laser cut lantern for use with an LED “tea light”. Wax candles not such a good idea as the whole thing is made from paper & wood. I have a few different window styles and more to come. It’s also possible to do custom designs. I’ll be sending samples to wedding places like Ceridwen in the hope of some business from them.

The lanterns are held together with wedges, not glue and so can be posted flat in a Jiffy Bag for easy home assembly — I’ve even done some IKEA style instructions.

Some of the design effort went into making a nice product which I can sell for an attractive price. I wanted to get well below my cheapest box which is £45. The lanterns will be on sale in my on-line shop after Christmas for £15 each.

From inspiration to product

The inspiration for my tiny laser cut lanterns came from a picture I saw on Pinterest. I liked the idea I saw, thought I could do better. I love the whole experience of taking an idea, developing it and producing a finished product. This is probably what I most love to do, what gets me into flow. When an idea is upon me, I can’t leave it alone. This is the first time the development process has exhausted me, probably because I was already emotionally drained by recent experiences, particularly discovering my dear friend Linda Joy is so ill.

I’m very pleased with the cuteness of the tiny lanterns. I’m obviously hoping others like them too and that I will sell lots. Before the camping season, I will design & make a “chandelier” for my tent to hold four lanterns.

Laser engraving both sides of an item

Have you ever wanted to laser engrave both sides of an item? I was asked if I could cut some key rings and engrave both sides. My first thought was that it wouldn’t be possible. If your laser cutter is anything like mine, you won’t have any way to accurately position an item for cutting. My cutter has a LED cross hair projector which would get me to within about 6mm (roughly 1/4″) but no closer. Less than a millimetre out and the key ring would look terrible.

Key ring blank with cut outs
Key ring blank with cut outs

Then I had some inspiration: If I could cut two mirror image items, and engrave one side, I could use the cut outs to accurately position the items if I could keep the blank in exactly the same position. I think you could adapt this idea to laser cutting and engraving pretty well anything.

I got the idea of working with jigs in the laser cutter while watching a “Laser Origami” video on YouTube:

What I’m doing is completely different, but the seed of an idea of making a jig was planted. I made an MDF jig to hold a blank in place and cut two butterflies. Each is a mirror image of the other. The jig has feet which fit snugly into the holes in the laser cutter’s bed. I marked one corner of the blank. So long as I don’t move the X or Y axis until the job is complete, I can replace the butterflies accurately.

Jig after engraving two butterflies which are held in place with tape
Jig after engraving two butterflies which are held in place with tape
Underneath the jig you can see the feet
Underneath the jig you can see the feet
Cutting the butterflies
Cutting the butterflies

I put the butterflies back into the blank and hold them in place with masking tape. Then I defocus the laser by 4mm and engrave butterflies’ markings. Then swap the butterflies over and engrave again.

Engraving the butterflies
Engraving the butterflies

Cutting and engraving relies on the RD Works laser software taking the position of all the items in a job into account, even those that aren’t output. I created the two DXF files from one Corel Draw image — one with the blank’s outline and the butterfly outline, the other with the blank’s outline and the butterfly details.