• Andrew Buckley

Hair-brain idea #1: Laser Cutting

BuckWorx, as I have mentioned before, is ultimately a place for me to share the many interests that I have. I hope you enjoy learning and possibly joining me on my exploration of all the fascinating hobbies that are out there... I assume I am a lot like my dad who was famous for starting a load of different projects only to leave the last 20% until he was bothered enough by my mom to finish a project. I too have many projects in the works and, like I said in the last post, my activities are seasonal and you should see me ebb and flow from project to project in a year's time...

Earlier this spring, I was in the midst of my beekeeping and I was absorbing lots of great information from my favorite site.. YOUTUBE. Honestly, how did people get into hobbies before Youtube? How did they learn? It must have been tons of tons of learning by failure. Anyway, I was watching Frederick Dunn (an amazing hobbyist beekeeper) and he was showing how he laser etched the front of his Flow Hives (another blog post in the future)... You can find that specific episode here if you're interested... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QO96zU4cZSc.

Being a woodworker, I was immediately impressed with this whole new dimension of woodworking. Having years of AutoCAD and Google Sketchup experience, my mind started to race with all the possibilities of cutting and creating very complex pieces. My interest continued to rise and then I stumbled on a YouTube channel dedicated to creations from a commercially available laser cutter called GlowForge. GlowForge was a very successful Kick-starter program in which the creators wanted to bring affordable laser cutting to the general consumer and make it as easy as a desktop printer.

Cutting and engraving on leather, acrylic, silicon, wood, paper, metal? I was immediately hooked on the idea... More and more design ideas popped into my conscience. I called my girlfriend Melanie and we started to talk about all the possibilities. We quickly started a Pinterest page to catalog all the cool things people had created. We even started to dream about the idea of putting up a booth at the local Saturday market. You guessed it, later that night, I bought my GlowForge...

Interested in getting your own GlowForge?

You can get a discount (up to $500 for a Pro) if you use the below referral link...


It took about 5 business days to arrive and honestly, I was creating all types of projects later that afternoon... It really is an amazing product. I have had the GlowForge for about 6 weeks now and my projects are really starting to develop into products that I am very proud to share (see my store if you are interested). I have started using items that I make as personalized gifts and the response is nothing but amazement. Here are a few items that I have made so far.

I took my Buckworx logo and immediately started the design files to bring it to 3D life... painted the lettering, treated with crackle, added a little reclaimed redwood fencing, and Presto!!! A very professional business sign for my Saturday market.

Learning from my experience.

1) Pick a graphics program like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape, and start to get extremely familiar with groups, paths, compound paths, clippings, etc... The GlowForge CANNOT assume what you want to make and the .SVG input file you give it has to be perfect OR weird things will start to happen. For example, if you have two lines over the same path, GlowForge will freakout and and you will ruin your project. I cannot stress enough, spend lots of time learning these tools, it will greatly improve your designs. I started with Inkscape (it was free), but I quickly realized how much better Adobe Illustrator is.. for $20/month, I get a tool with years of development (less bugs) and many more resources / users to draw experience from. You can cancel anytime...

2) Get magnets ASAP (shielded magnets like old hard drive magnets work best). You need to hold down your wood/material absolutely flat or it won't cut all the way through. I bought some very strong Neodynium N52 bar magnets. They are not shielded, so you have to keep them away from the laser head. There is a little fan in the laser head that can be affected by the magnetic field and stop your project with no way to restart it (we are waiting for GlowForge to make that enhancement).

3) If you are going to keep your glowforge indoors, invest in a inline fan... everyone agrees, the GlowForge internal fan is rediculously loud. You will need to get the fan (see link below), some 6" flexible ducting from HomeDepot and a 4" to 6" adapter.

4) Get a digital caliper - knowing the exact thickness of your workpiece is critical... knowing that a piece of card stock is 0.001 inches thick or that the wood is 0.124" thick will get your focus correct and create the cleanest results.

5) If you want to buy your own wood, instead of the proof material, I would buy transfer paper asap... it will prevent scoring the top and bottom of your workpieces.

6) Most importantly, practice on cardboard!!! Save all those Amazon boxes, cut them up and store them flat... you will eventually create a setting in your GlowForge app called "Amazon Cardboard" and you will use it religiously before you actually start to cut that $20 piece of 1/8" walnut.

7) If you are not using proof materials from GlowForge, test new pieces of material using a range of Speed and Power. Finding the right depth of cut using faster/slower speed can very by new lots of material. I create a few test circles on the side of my work piece (making sure it is perfectly flat) and do several through cuts, using different speed and power settings, making sure that I have a clean cut through the material with minimal scorching on the bottom side. I then document those settings for that batch of material.

8) Safety First - or last, in my blog... you are dealing with a high powered laser and it is atomizing material.. Fires are rare, but they can happen... Have fire blanket near by. So far, I have created A LOT OF SMOKE, but I haven't caught anything on fire, yet....

So I will continue to post new projects that I create and if you have any ideas, don't hesitate to reach out to me through the contact page. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed this episode... Until next time...


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