Things in the Laser Cutter

I love our laser cutter. It’s a machine that uses a power beam of energy to burn through things. How cool is that?! The only thing I love more than the laser cutter (sorry, loom, you’ve been temporarily replaced) is putting odd things into the laser cutter.


Nilla Wafers work really nicely, because the burned design shows up well against the light-colored cookie.





Wood (Painted)

Wood isn’t a very “exciting” or novel material, but I learned a cool trick from my friend David, who works for Danger!Awesome in Massachusetts: painting different layers of color onto the wood and then etching it — only burned off the top layers — makes beautiful, multi-colored images.




Paper is also a pretty simple material, but what’s exciting about paper is how versitile it is! It can be used in so many ways. Layers of paper look really neat when stacked together, or it can be used as a stencil for screenprinting.




Cardboard is another common material, but laser cutting can make it look amazing. My favorite technique is to etch away only the top layer of corrugated cardboard. Corrugated cardboard is built like a sandwhich, with a smooth top and bottom layer with a wavy layer in the middle. This makes the cardboard stronger and sturdier, so many shipping boxes are made this way. When the top flat layer is burned away and we can see into the corrugation, the results are pretty neat.



We use a special “no odor” rubber that is designed specially for laser cutting. If you’ve ever seen a car brake really fast, or start moving very quickly, you may have smelt burnt rubber. It’s a very strong smell, and we prefer not to make the museum all stinky! We’ve engraved rubber to make flexible tags for our box cutters, but we have also used it to make stamps.


Canon3 068

…And Many More

Some of my other favorite materials include felt, t-shirts, acrylic, matboard, and baseball cards — but there are tons of options out there!


What NOT to Cut

There are some things that shouldn’t be put in a laser cutter. A good rule is that if you don’t know what it’s made of, don’t put it in! Most plastics are made with chemicals that can be dangerous when burned, for example. It’s also a bad idea to cut cardboard that was used to hold greasy food (like a pizza box) because it’s more likely to catch fire.


– Rebecca

Rebecca has been a MAKESHOP intern, educator, Teaching Artist and Manager. She's also been a graphic designer, costume shop manager, shoe salesperson, and hair stand-in for Fabio.

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