A member’s take on Laser Cutter 101

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New makerspace member Ksenia wrote this write-up of her experience learning how to use YuKonstruct’s laser cutter

Three ladies and I are in a well-organized back room at YuKonstruct and Thomas is talking. He’s guiding us through the safety measures, tools, and steps we need to know before crafting with the laser cutter that takes up most of the back room “Fabrication Lab”.

The laser cutter is less complicated that I thought. And less dangerous, with proper care and safety. It can cut and engrave many materials– metal, wood, glass, stone. As Thomas interspaces a very practical 30 minute introduction with helpful hints, I am admittedly distracted by all the possibilities – engravings, Christmas ornaments, board games…

Thomas giving instructions

Thomas is now leading us through an example project. He uses the computer program CorelDRAW to draw a simple circle, enters in a few printing specifications and then presses ‘print’. A perfect circle is cut out of plywood by the machine in three seconds and its edges smell like fire.

Different cuts and etching the laser cutter can do

After a bit more friendly instruction on using raster versus vector images (hint: raster = engraving, vector = cutting), kiss cutting (less romantic that it sounds, this is a ‘half-way-through’ cut), and several useful tips, it was time to try our own hand on the machine.

Sitting down at the computer, I searched Google images and selected a picture. With a few clicks the picture was translated by the software and, with a few more, some font was added and it was ready to go. Four minutes later, I’m opening the laser printer top to bring out the final product. Success! 

We each take turns creating something new on the machine. There are few limits and Thomas is patient in helping us bring our visions to life. First, three tiny cranes are cut out to make jewelry and then the Toronto skyline is freed from plywood. Meanwhile, I’m admiring my lizard.

As the workshop draws to a close, I take some time to ask the other ladies why they signed up. Kathy is an artist with work currently on exhibit at Arts Underground (Coleoptera Embellished). She is looking at new ways to work with wood to create beautiful art. Selene is inspired to make jewelry. Kaitlin is the new executive director at the Old Log Church Museum and, aside from making gift shop items, is thinking of ways to develop interactive displays to bring history to life for visitors. On his end, our instructor Thomas has always been a maker and became interested in the laser cutter when he needed to precisely cut a very thin piece of wood for the telescope he was building.

Me? I’m hooked. You’ll know where to find me when the snow blows in winter.

– Ksenia

For more information on upcoming workshops, visit: http://yukonstruct.com/events/