I joined the local makerspace, Xerocraft, in Tucson, Arizona early this year. When touring the different shops (wood, metal, jewelry making, fused glass, CNC, and 3d printing), the laser cutter really stood out to me. With my background in graphic design, and experience drawing on a computer, it looked like something I could probably learn and be able to make something in a short time. But you don’t have to worry, there are so many great laser cutter designs available online that you don’t even really need computer drawing experience to be able to start creating things.
While searching online for laser cutter projects and ideas, I saw wooden ties and thought they looked fascinating. I found various examples and information on how to create flexible wood patterns. I went through several prototypes, and made a few goofs, of course.
I also learned the quirks of creating the file within Illustrator and then finalizing it in Inkscape. Illustrator does not export an SVG file correctly, so there is clean-up work that must be done. Inkscape is a free program for drawing and editing vector images.
To use the laser on your own at the makerspace you must be certified by taking the class and producing a small job correctly demonstrating safety and basic knowledge. I took the laser cutter class and quite a few people here helped me while I was learning. I was able to get certified on the laser cutter and produce several small projects as well as two flexible wood ties–all within a month! That is something I really appreciated the most about the people here, their willingness to teach.