Maker’s Dozen: Laser Cutting

Art,Business,Technology October 24, 2012 7:14 pm

A laser cutter, the tool at the top of every garage engineer’s wishlist, is capable of making incredibly intricate cuts in a wide variety of materials. The laser moves back and forth over a stationary bed, much like a CNC router or an architectural plotting printer. Traditionally used for cutting out wood or acrylic pieces to build containers or models, inventive users have put anything that fits on the bed underneath the laser to see what happens.

Stylized Nori

Since laser cutting is essentially ultra-focused toasting, it’s food-safe. Designed for the Umino seaweed shop, these sushi wrappers were laser-cut from extra-thick seaweed. Save them for a nice piece of fatty tuna, though – they retail for about $10 apiece.

Kerf Bending

By cutting holes into a sheet of wood and soaking it in hot water, it’s possible to bend and shape the material without cracking it. Martin Breuer experimented with different patterns on his laser cutter (including Space Invaders!) and recorded their bendability.

Gothic Works

Wim Delvoye pushes the boundaries of laser cutting by working big. Really big. His steel sculptures of construction equipment and buildings are imposing but delicate, with the intricate cuts that only CNC cutting can provide.


The internal structure of these surfboards is made from corrugated cardboard, the same humble material that brings Amazon purchases to your door. The segments are cut and assembled into a honeycomb pattern, then fiberglass-coated like a standard foam board; these paper wonders can shred with the best of them.

LASER Records

Laser-cutting the grooves into vinyl records would be a great way to boost your indie cred, but the resulting chlorine gas does a number on the machine (and your lungs). The appropriately-named electronic music duo LASER opted for plexiglass instead. The resulting audio isn’t music to everyone, but it plays on a standard turntable.

Glazing Pottery

Wax-resist glazing, a pottery technique in which a pattern is etched into wax and then glazed over, requires delicate handwork. A student at the University of Minnesota used a laser cutter to replace the handwork on two vases, a difficult process on a non-flat surface.

When Engineers Make Lunch

The world’s most over-designed sandwich. A laser was used to cut break-away bite-size pieces in the sandwich, and offset openings for peanut butter and jelly ensure adequate coverage of both components in each section without excessive mixing.

Pumpkin Carving

It’s that time of year. Laugh at the children struggling with their safety knives and revel in your lack of adult supervision as you fire up your CO2 laser to make the best damn jack-o-lantern on the block.

Hockey Meats

Michelangelo visualized the statue of David inside a block of marble. Aapo Matilla visualized Timo Jutila, a Finnish hockey player, in a block of lunchmeat.

Lettered Scarves

Designed more for style than warmth, these microsuede scarves are intricate, delicate, and perfect for that friend who has Helvetica permanently in her Netflix queue.


To make wood inlays fit together tightly, careful attention must be paid to kerf: the width of the cutting implement, be it saw or laser. A client at CLC, a laser cutting service, shares his guide on how to make wood segments fit together seamlessly.

Candy Stories

The intricately cut patterns in this chocolate bar packaging form a mini-stage, completed by the images on the wrappers inside. As the chocolate is devoured, each subsequent bar displays another piece of the story.