DIY

Should you get a Glowforge Laser Cutter?

Image by Adonyi Gábor from Pexels

Image by Adonyi Gábor from Pexels

You want to make laser cut designs and crave the iterative possibilities that come from having a maker space right in your own home. Should you get a laser cutter? More specifically, should you get a GLOWFORGE brand laser cutter?

I’ve been a Glowforge owner for the past year and I get asked all the time whether I would recommend it. It’s a big investment, is it right for you?

Please note, I have a Glowforge Basic, and all of my experience will be based on that model only. If you use my referral link to purchase, we both receive $100. That said, the opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own and 100% truthful to my experience.

THE MACHINE SPECS

Cost: $2,495

Body Size:

Maximum material size: 18"x 20”

Cutting Area: 11” x 19.5”

Max Material Height: 2”

Max Material Height with crumb tray: .5”

Maximum material width: 20″ (515 mm)

Power: 40W

WHAT CAN IT CUT?

Glowforge makes it’s own Laser-safe materials that are designed specifically to work with your machine called “Proof-Grade.” While they are nice, they’re definitely not cheap. Luckily, a number of other materials work just perfectly. Including these common materials:

1/8” Plywood

1/8”-1/4” Hardwood

1/8”-1/4” Acrylic

100% Acrylic Felt

Veg-Tanned or Untanned Leather

Laser-safe rubber

Cork

Paper

If you’re new to laser cutting there a few things to know.

1. You’ll need to get used to the smell of campfire. There are things you can do to reduce the smell or remove the smell afterward, but the burn is part of the deal – love it or hate it.

2. You’ll make the most of your tool if you learn design software to create your work. While Glowforge does have a trace feature, straight lines and precise designs come from vector files. There are free programs like Inkscape and subscription programs like Adobe Illustrator.

3. Burn marks happen – You’ve probably seen it a million times in the store without knowing what you were looking at. A clean brown edge on a piece of wood is almost a sure sign it’s been laser cut. Some people like it, some people spend hours sanding it away. Adjusting settings can help change the color, but on most materials, the burnt edge will be visible.

4. They are LOUD. Imagine a vacuum cleaner.

5. They can start fires. While all lasercutters have a fan that continually blows out the flame, a loose piece of material catching the flame just right could cause a fire if unattended.

6. Fumes CAN be toxic. Improper ventilation or use of non-laser safe materials can be extremely toxic. If you’re not certain that a material can be cut, DON’T CUT IT.

The Good, The Bad, the smelly:

With the Tech specs out of the way, let’s get into it. Is a GLOWFORGE right for you?

Let’s start with the Answers to YOUR questions:

Had I not gotten the preorder discount would I still buy it, and if so, what model?

Short Answer yes. For those who are new to GF, the machine first went public around three years ago and offered an early discount for preorder. At the time I ordered my machine, I paid ~$2,000.00. These days, the machine costs $2,500 for the Basic model. 

The main differences between the Basic model and the Pro model are a slightly stronger laser, and a pass through slot that allow long pieces of material to be fed through the machine.

 I think knowing what I know now, I would still purchase  the Glowforge Basic even without the discount. It’s sort of a chicken and egg scenario – I now need the Glowforge to run my business, but I wouldn’t/didn’t have a business before my Glowforge. Before I had my own machine, I had to run to the local wood shop to score some time on their machine. If there was a long line, I was waiting. If something didn’t come out right on the first shot, you were out of luck. There would be weeks between design iterations which was so frustrating. 

The basic model is enough for me. I really just don’t have room to accommodate the pass-through slot, and I’ve learned to work within the small bed size.

 

Have I had to replace any parts?

Yes, 

There are a lot of small parts and pieces that can be easily damaged by improper use. Like any piece of equipment! The lens removal tool provided has a small magnetic ring which allows you to remove the lens for cleaning. Once, when I was cleaning the magnet got stuck to the lens and once reinserted back into the machine became completely stuck. In trying to remove it, I scratched the lens. However, Glowforge is aware of this design flaw and sent me a new lens at no charge even though it was technically my fault. Since then, I’ve glued the magnetic ring to the tool and it hasn’t happened again.

I have also replaced my airfilter (which is a non-glowforge product – more on that in a future post)

Eventually, I will need to replace the laser, but I think that won’t be for a few years.

Have you ever had a fire?

Yes :( I was careless and walked away from the machine. Lucky for me the fire was already out by the time I came back over. Nothing was damaged, but you better believe I learned my lesson. Don’t leave the machine!

 

The Good

  1.  If you have limited space, the Glowforge is perfect. My whole apartment is only 500 SF. The machine body is appx. 2’x3.25’, which is still pretty big, but compact enough to fit into an apartment when you consider that the cooling system is self-contained and all you need for exhaust is an open window.

  2.  I was able to use it within about 30 minutes of opening the box, so it’s super user friendly and easy to understand.

  3.  It saves your designs to a personal library so you can recut things again and again. If you’ve made changes to a design within the program (deleting objects, rotations, scaling, etc), the software will remember it and store the new design.

  4.  Glowforge support is fairly quick to respond to errors and questions. Extremely quick if you compare them to other companies, but it can take anywhere from a few hours to a day or so which feels like years when you’re in the middle of a project.

  5.  It has a camera so you can somewhat accurately align your design to the object

  6.  It looks nice. It’s definitely the most attractive laser cutter on the market. It looks like a large white inkjet printer instead of a huge bulky piece of machinery.

  7.  It can save your settings. I don’t primarily use the Glowforge brand proof-grade materials, so being able to save settings for materials I use all the time is insanely convenient. Without manual adjustments I can quickly set the cut speed, power, and focus height.

  8.  It comes with community. Owning a Glowforge means you become part of the forum. Within the forum you’ll see all sorts of project ideas, support, free designs, and settings which make workflow much easier.

  9.  Web-based software. Web based software means that when Glowforge decides to come out with a new update, special feature, or tool, your machine will be automatically improved. By the time you next turn on your machine, the software will be ready to use.

  10. Snapmark. Snapmark allows you to easily align graphics with objects or cuts. For example, say you printed your own business cards on an inkjet printer. You could then use the Glowforge snapmark tool to cut out your card so that the text is perfectly centered.

  11. It goes into power save mode. After a few minutes of non-use the Glowforge gets a little quieter and a little dimmer, it’s a small touch but it’s really big difference.

 

The bad (and smelly)

  1. The bed size and height is limiting. Large commercial machines often have a bed that can lower feet, not inches. With the glowforge, you really can only cut materials of ¼”. Engraving can be done on materials ~2” tall if the crumb tray is removed.

  2. Like all laser cutters, it’s loud. Don’t expect to chit chat while it’s on.

  3.  Designs don’t fall exactly where you place them with the camera which is a little frustrating. To be fair, most laser cutters don’t have a camera at all. Typically, a laser cutter will have a trace feature that allows to ensure the boundaries of your design fit within the material. It would be great if Glowforge has this in addition to the camera.

  4.  Still no air filter. Glowforge has long since offered an Air filter. Years later, however, it’s still not on the market. The air filter, which would theoretically snap on to the bottom of your machine allowing you to vent into the room, would be a major game changer. Making sure that air is safe to breathe is no easy task, so GF is still in production.

  5.  Yes, you can vent out the window, but it seriously stinks. I like in a small apartment complex and I know the smell bothers my neighbors. Once they even panickingly thought there was a forest fire nearby (oops). Since then I’ve jerry-rigged an air filter. I still vent out the window, but the added filter just makes it better for my neighbors.

  6.  It comes in a HUGE box. I’m grateful my machine arrived in one piece, but unfortunately you need to keep the box in case there are any issues. Packed with custom foam blocks, there’s no breaking down this bad boy. If you get rid of it and need to send it back you need to buy another box from Glowforge for $250 👎🏼. 

  7.  Cleaning it is really challenging. I use my Glowforge a lot, which means I’m also cleaning it a lot. Some pieces like the camera and lens are easy to wipe. But the many nooks and crannies are nearly impossible to clean. The forum does have many recommendations on how to clean it, but proceed with caution – any un sanctioned care could void your warranty.

  8.  Because you need Wifi to operate your Glowforge, a shoddy connection could be fatal. I recently have switched to  Google Wifi and saw an instantaneous improvement.

  9.  If you’re already a commercial laser user, you’ll be a little frustrated. When I first made the transition could NOT get the settings right and was very frustrated. With time, I’ve figured it out.

Overall?

I really do love my Glowforge. I’m happy I own it, I have so much more freedom to create, and it does exactly what I need it to.

Have other questions? Comment below!

Discount!!!

If you do decide to get a Glowforge of your very own, you can use my referral code and we’ll each save $100. Just follow this link

FIVE GIFT IDEAS: For the Person who has Everything

How To-1.jpg

FIVE GIFT IDEAS: For the Person who has everything

We all know that finding the right gift is a challenge. May this list help you find the best one out there!

 

1. Dollhouse kit 

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1. DOLLHOUSE KIT - Creative kits are a great gift. They’re the gift that keep on giving and allow the person who has everything a chance to explore their creative side. Not a kid? Well guess what, Modern dollhouses are on the rise for ADULTS! That’s right, many millennials can’t afford houses and a miniature home is a fun and affordable way to test out your interior design skill and create the rooms you’ve always wanted. Grab a bottle of wine and your bff and make yourselves 3D image board of all your house goals.

Link: Dollhouse kit

 

2. Airbnb Gift Card

Picture by Pexels

Picture by Pexels

2. AirBNB GIFT CARD- The person who has everything can’t possibly have enough of this one thing – ADVENTURE! An Airbnb gift card means you can explore the world. Whether it’s a quick night stay at a funky home around the corner, an aerial tent in the woods, a tiny home in the mountains, or a luxurious room over the ocean.

 

3. Massage

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3. MASSAGE - I know this isn’t the most original idea, but hear me out. Unless your person doesn’t like being touched- who wouldn’t be excited to get a massage? It’s one of the few things we’re not willing to invest in ourselves for. With groupon its easy to find a spa treatment near you or your friend to make it as simple as possible.

 

4. PHOTOBOOK

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4. PHOTOBOOK: If the person in your life is sentimental, a photobook is one of the sweetest gifts you can give. Whether it’s a year in review, a wedding album, or just a long reflection on your friendship, they’re bound to hold on to it forever. With online printers life Shutterfly and artifact uprising, you have a wide range of options for cover, paper type, size, and style.

 

5. Maker Class

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5. Maker Class: One of favorite gifts to receive is the gift that keeps on giving. There are so many types of crafts to learn: woodworking, woodturning, painting, gardening, screen printing, knitting, welding, glass blowing – the list is endless! Find out what your friend has always wanted to learn and open the door for them to get there.

FIVE GIFT IDEAS: For the Plant-Lover in Your Life

How To-1.jpg

FIVE GIFT IDEAS: For the Plant-Lover in Your Life

We all know that finding the right gift is a challenge. May this list help you find the best one out there!

 

1. Monstera Earring

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EARRING - Monstera-Large.jpg

1. MONSTERA EARRING - If your friend has run out of window space, there’s still one more spot they can add some leaves – their jewelry! I love the lightweight feel of these leather (or wood!) monstera earrings. They are made from 21k gold dipped hardware so they’re comfortable even for sensitive ears.

Link: Monstera Earrings

 

2. Plants

Picture by Pexels

Picture by Pexels

2. PLANTS - This one is a no brainer. If you or your friends love plants but can’t keep them alive go for a bullet-proof plant. These plants are easy to maintain and still bring life to your home. These plants include: succulents, cacti, snake plants, air plants, philodendron

 

3. Plant Book

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3. PLANT BOOK - Every true plant nerd loves a field guide. Find a local plants identification book that’s local to their area. Even better, join them on a hike where you can both identify beautiful natives.

A few great choices:

Leaf Supply

Urban Jungle

All That the Rain Promises and More

 

4. PLANT ART

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4. PLANT ART: It’s always fun to know what plants are in season. What better way then with a gorgeous chart by Young America Creative

 

5. Flowers

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5. Flowers: Flowers are always a welcome addition to a room. If you’re feeling creative, walk around outside to find some branches and foliage to add to the mix. This brings in a personal touch that is sure to reflect the season.

If you’re in LA, head to my friends at Wildflora

FIVE GIFT IDEAS: For the Creative Person in Your Life

How To-1.jpg

FIVE GIFT IDEAS: For the Creative Person in Your Life

We all know that finding the right gift is a challenge. Creative gifts, however, have the remarkable ability to keep on giving long after the season is over.

 

1. Dollhouse Kit

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1. DOLLHOUSE KIT - Not a kid? Well guess what, Modern dollhouses are on the rise for ADULTS! That’s right, many millennials can’t afford houses and a miniature home is a fun and affordable way to test out your interior design skill and create the rooms you’ve always wanted. Grab a bottle of wine and your bff and make yourselves 3D image board of all your house goals.

Link: ChelseaMakes SImplekit

 

2. Creative Class

Picture by Pexels

Picture by Pexels

2. CREATIVE CLASS - One of my favorite gifts to give is a gift that keeps on giving. There are so many types of crafts to learn: woodworking, woodturning, painting, gardening, screen printing, knitting, welding, glass blowing – the list is endless! Find out what your friend has always wanted to learn and open the door for them to get there.

Link to Creative Classes Near You or if you live in Mill Valley check out The Makery + TamMakers

 

3. Wine + Craft Night!

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3. WINE + CRAFT NIGHT - The wine night you know most commonly is Paint NIte! https://www.paintnite.com/ , but there are so many other great wine and craft nights for you and you rLocal to MV? Check out @Makery.com One of favorite gift to receive is an activity- even better if it’s an experience I get to share with my BFF! Check our local locations for a paintnite or similar activity. Maker spaces are popping up all over with one-session crafts that are bound to inspire.

 

4. Lap Loom Kit

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4. LAP LOOM KIT: I’ve been so inspired by this loom by the Makery here in mill Valley! I’m so excited to make wall hangings and miniatures with truly inspired materials!

 

5. Notebooks + Journals

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5. NOTEBOOKS + JOURNALS: There are so many great journals for the creative! Whether it’s a writing prompt, introspective question, sketch prompt, or completelyblank – a journal is a great way to get the inspiration flowing.

 I love this one from Moorea Seal: 52 Lists

and these: The Five Year Journal and The Watercolor Moleskine

Make your own clogs

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I'm half Swedish, and I think a love of clogs must be embedded in my DNA. These may not be traditional style, but there's something about the click clack of wood on pavement that reminds me of home. Dad likes them because it means you always have a hammer on hand - so versatile.

I have been wanting a pair of Bryr clogs like crazy. The SF based company combines the most beautiful colors and patterns. With each pair running upwards of $200+ though, it's not in budget.

There are definitely less expensive pairs on Amazon or Poshmark - but what's the fun in that?

Before we get started, there's one more thing you need to know. I am NOT a professional. I have made all of ONE pair my entire life. The following instructions are what I've pieced together from the internet. It worked for me, so I hope it works for you!


MATERIALS

  • Leather or Leather scraps - Amazon and Etsy are your source for all things crafty. But your local leather store might have a scrap area that has what you need for free! A quick search got me to this Etsy listing: ETSY LINK. When selecting leather, keep in mind thickness, color, and making sure you have enough of your material to make the straps. A piece around 4"x8" should be enough for a simple strap like I've made. 
  • Wood Base - Traditional clog makers would make the base from scratch. Since we're working with limited tools, we're going to buy the base premade. There are two routes you can take. (1) A base blank: ETSY LINK or (2) a used pair! I found mine on Poshmark for $4. 
  • Upholstery nailsLINK
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Sand Paper - I used this Dremel because it's what I had on hand: LINK, but I also love using sanding sponges: LINK
  • Fabric scissors or Leather scissors
  • Felt or printer paper
  • Pencil or pen
  • Masking Tape
  • Leather glue (optional)

LET'S GET STARTED

Prepping the base

If like me, you purchased an old pair, it's probably going to need a little bit of prep. 

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1. Using pliers, pull out the original nails and leather strap and set aside.

2. Using the dremel, sand paper, or sand paper sponge, begin to sand down the wood base. Give some extra attention to any chips or dents that need to be worked out. Be sure to follow the natural curves of the clogs to avoid sanding down any ergonomic character of the sole.

One clog down, Just keep sanding!

One clog down, Just keep sanding!

3. If you plan to coat, stain, or weather protect the wood base of your clogs, now is the time. I opted to skip this step, but that doesn’t mean you have to!

4. The rubber soles of my clogs were pretty worn down. I was able to use a box cutter to make it flat but be careful with this! If the soles on your clog are in really bad shape, you may consider bringing them to a professional for some final repair touches.

 

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Designing Straps

QUICK NOTE: Traditional Swedish clogs are made from a single piece of leather that is molded to curve around the top of the foot and toes. This utilizes a process called “lasting” where leather is wet before being stretched over a wood form or “last.” The process of wetting leather allows the flat piece of leather to curve over the toes and arch and dry into its iconic structured shape.

Because it’s unlikely that you have a last on hand, I recommend making your clogs as strappy sandals. An open toe leather will be much more manageable  for our DIY method.

5. Regardless of your artistic ability, give yourself a quick sketch of the design you are looking to achieve. Testing out a few different patterns will help you figure out how much material you will need. I knew I wanted a wider strap than what was originally on the clogs. Without a large swatch of any one material, I opted for one medium and one small strap in two different leathers.

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6. Trace the strap previously removed from the clogs onto a piece of paper to create your template.

7. Adjust the template as needed to match your design.

8. Cut the template out of a piece of felt to test out your design. Tape the felt to the shoe to understand the shape and layout, and trim excess material as needed.

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9. When you are happy with the design use your felt template to cut the leather strap.

 

 

 

 

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QUICK TIP: because I didn’t have the tools on hand, I opted not to “finish” the edges of my straps. So far, it hasn’t affected the durability of my shoes and I actually like the rough edges. If rough edges aren’t your style, head over to this great video for guidance on the process: LINK

You may also want to coat your leather straps with a leather protectant, bear in mind that this may alter the color of your leather.

 

Attaching The Straps

This next step is really going to test your flexibility. There will be ots of leaning over to hold the straps in place, adjust, and hammer into place.

While traditional clog makers use a form or “last” to ensure the correct placement and stretch, we will be using our feet.

10. Place your feet on the wood base making sure your toes are aligned.

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11. With your feet on the base, place your pre-cut leather straps over your feet and tape to the wood base. Make sure the straps are even and fall in the same spot on both feet.

12. Once taped, remove your foot from the clog and use your hammer to nail in one side of the strap. Work from front to back, making sure you pull tight and flat as you work. Slowly pull back the tape as you hammer so that tape does not get stuck between the nail and the leather. 

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13. Once one side is completely secure, place your foot back into the shoe and adjust the other side of the strap. Pull the strap snug and any trim any excess leather. Remove your foot again and hammer the strap into place again working from front to back. 

14. Repeat this process with the other shoe.

 

15. For additional comfort you may decide to add a heel cushion. Cut an oval, leather shape to cushion your step. Apply an even coating of leather glue to the underside of the leather cushion. Align the leather to heel of the wood sole and press to secure.

QUICK TIP: I attempted to reuse the nails from the clogs. I would not recommend this. I squashing or damaged enough nails that I only had a few left for each clog. For a shoe like mine, I probably should have used 16 nails per clog (8 each side – 6 on the tan strap and two on the silver) instead of 8 total which has allowed some of the corners of the leather to “peel up.”

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Enjoy!

Walk your new clogs around town and enjoy!

Click Clack!

Click Clack!