Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Laser Cutter Explained

Years ago my wife and I worked for several different sign companies around the state and learned how to use computer cutters to cut vinyl lettering for signs. Even though it was work, it was fun and we had so much fun playing with it and designing our own stuff that we bought a cheap vinyl cutter and opened our own small company.

It's a Roland Camm-1 and it still works pretty good, even after close to fifteen years later.

When we moved up here to work for the state that business pretty much went by the wayside. The competition for sign work was too stiff and way too cut throat for our tastes, so we let it go but we kept the vinyl cutter to play with now and then.

Then about five years ago I ran across an ad for a laser cutter/engraver that worked alot like our vinyl cutter. But instead of a blade it used a small 40w carbon dioxide laser beam that could cut through thin wood (like 1/8" or less), paper, card stock, etc. It will also engrave on wood and certain other things of you set it up right.

The company sent me this tiny carved Aztec calendar about 2" wide done in wood with their laser that was just exquisite.

That's their website there if you can read it. Epilog Laser.

I wanted one bad. Wasn't sure exactly what I would do with it, but it looked like alot of fun. I'd think of something.

The problem was of course, money. The one I wanted that could do such amazing stuff was around nine grand and I don't keep that kind of cabbage stuffed in my mattress. So we had to settle for second or possibly third best.

We picked up a much cheaper Chinese made laser by scrimping and saving for three grand. And the company that we bought it from is now gone so we have to deal with the factory in China if we need any help.

That's not cool. Shipping alone is gawd awful.

Anyway, here's the one we bought.

It will cut and engrave, just like the other one, just not as well and the program that runs it is difficult to use and lacks alot of features.

My wife has been using it to cut out tagboard (like plain card stock) shapes for her friends on the internet who do scrapbooking. She also cuts out paper and other things. She is quite the whiz.

That black tube hanging down there is where the laser beam comes out. You do not want to put your fingers or any other bits of you under that thing. Trust me. I know.

Bits and parts of some of the shapes she has been cutting out lately. Some are large, as you can see, and some small and delicate. Usually our work table is quite covered with tagboard bits waiting to be mailed out all over the world.

Anyway, the laser uses three mirrors to focus the beam down into that little tube there. And because of the soot from cutting and the vibration of the machine, the mirrors need to be regularly cleaned and readjusted. It's a tedious and somewhat dangerous process involving having your hands inside the thing while it's running. It's real easy to get burned by the thing if you aren't careful. I have a couple of small scars to prove it.

Adjusting the mirrors involves lots and lots of tiny incremental adjustments that drive me crazy. The difference between cutting and not cutting can be as little as 1/32". And that's freaking tiny. My fingers don't normally do things that small.

Keep the jokes to yourself, people.....

So, that's the laser cutter. A sometimes fun toy that might pay for itself in another ten years or so. But, it makes my wife happy (when it's working correctly) so who am I to complain?

If you have any other questions, just ask.

On to other things. There's two new story sites that have popped up that deserve some attention. Both of them are brand new and just now growing and it will be interesting to see what happens.

The first one is The Obsessive Shadower. So far it looks like some sort of stalker stories. I think it has some real potential. Creepy, but fun. No zombies yet, but you never know.... (grin)

And the second one is FCC Short Stories. Looks like a few folks are having a competition. Only two stories up so far, but I like the looks of them. Hopefully they will have some more contributors soon!

P.S. One of the tales is mine. Can you guess which one?

And.... what else? Oh yeah. I went to "Trainer Skills Development" class this morning. Learned some skills in how to teach a class effectively. Organization, dealing with difficult students, class prep, etc. It was fun and informative. Becky is a great teacher.

I don't know if I will ever really become a trainer or not. It's alot of early mornings and extra hours that you don't get recognized for. And they hassle you about getting extra hours. But I figure it's just another bit of the enigmatic puzzle called The Rev that makes me so freaking awesome. (grin) Plus I had fun, even if I did have to get up early.

So, on with the calendar so I can hie me off to bed. I've been up since 6:00am and I am one tired puppy.

Wednesday is going to be National Bouillabaisse Day. Why we would have this on our calendars I don't know. It will also be Monkey Day (not FlyinMonkey, but we could pretend, eh?), and St John of the Cross Day.

I think I'll just stick to the monkeys. Probably gentler on the stomach.


  1. “Keep the jokes to yourself, people..…” talk about taking the fun out of commenting!

    I checked out “FCC Short Stories”...I voted...but I don’t think I’ll say which one I voted for until after the voting closes. Suffice it to say...I really liked the story I voted for.

    What else...oh yeah, the laser cutter...your wife does some pretty cool things with that laser - tell her I said so!

    Alrighty...I think that covers it...oh, by the way...I’m a HUGE fan of Pralines and Cream - I thought it was a bit freaky that that should be Tuesday’s ice cream pick - too bazaar!


  2. The laser cutter does definitely look like it'd be a blast to use.

  3. Congratulations buddy! Do either you or Sgt. Watcher want the Hive job? If not, I'll take it!

    I knew you'd do it! Let's all stick together and help each other not screw up too much!

  4. I ate pretty close to raw tuna today. That totally counts as fish soup. Except it was just the fish and it was mostly raw and nowhere near cooked. Just the outside was seared.

    Anyway, I like your laser thingy. It looks like a lot of fun to use, except that I couldn't possibly keep something like that around the house with Choo Choo always underfoot. I'd lose a finger or she'd lose her tail or something. But I am envious of that Mayan calendar you've got there. It's very nice looking. I'd like to feel it, but alas, the screen prevents me.

  5. Jenny- I had to stop that one. I saw where it would go right away...

    Glad you liked the stories. I hope we get a few more and can keep it up.

    And I'll tell her what you said. I wish I had gotten a pic earlier in the week when the table was covered with stuff.

    And actually I just guessed pralines and cream. Is that too weird or what?

    JPT- It's alot of fun sometimes. I'm glad we got it even if it isn't making much money.

    Sgt Drew- Congrats to you too! And as far as I'm concerned, the Hive is all yours!

    Chanel- It's a fun toy but definitely one to keep your fingers and tail out of. But if you email the company, they will send you a sample! That's how i got mine!

    And no raw fish for me, thank you.

  6. I was hoping for something a little more appropriate to world domination, but that does look like a nifty piece of equipment.

    Now I'm just wondering about the clowns on the periphery of that one photo. Will the mysteries never cease?

  7. Bryan- The clown pic says "Comfort the disturbed. Disturb the comfortable." It's what I do.