Many of us in the DIY and craft world are familiar with laser cutters. We’ve seen (or made) balsa wood jewelry, intricate quilt patterns, and gorgeous cut-paper designs.
But did you know that some laser cutters are also strong enough to engrave and cut through metal?
If you’ve been limiting yourself to soft materials, why not give something more durable a try? Grab a shiny sheet of metal and read through these clever laser cutter projects for inspiration.
First Things First: What If You Don’t Have a Laser Cutter?
Laser cutters, especially those capable of cutting through metal, are large and expensive pieces of equipment. Most of us don’t have the extra space or cash to install one in our homes.
Just because you don’t own a laser cutter, it doesn’t mean you can’t use one. If you’re set on doing the cutting yourself, take your materials to a local maker space to use their equipment. Many maker spaces have lasers that can engrave the metal but can’t cut it, so make sure to check on their capabilities ahead of time.
But if you’re using heavy-duty materials or need a little extra help, you can always take it to a company like All Metals Fabricating who will cut metal according to your specs. You provide them with the design and instructions, and they’ll use their industrial-strength equipment to do the hard work for you.
Now that you know how to access a laser, it’s time to move onto the fun stuff!
1. Engraved Bottle Opener
If this is your first foray into the world of laser projects, why not start with something small and useful? All you need to start is a plain metal bottle opener with a flat side.
Make your design on a computer program that puts out a file type that’s compatible with the laser. Common choices are Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, and Inkscape. You can make the design as simple or complex as you like, but be aware that black and white line art engraves much better than multi-colored images with shading.
Then, set your bottle opener up in the laser and watch as your design comes to life in the metal. Custom engraved bottle openers make great gifts for Christmas and Father’s day, as well as party or wedding favors.
2. Dog Collar
While you’re already busy engraving things, why not get your beloved pooch in on the action? Get rid of annoying, jingly dog tags by engraving his information right on the buckle of his collar.
Make sure you use a real metal buckle for this, not plastic—plastics containing PVC can release toxic fumes when cut with a laser.
Custom jewelry is a beautiful, thoughtful gift for someone you love. Try engraving and cutting out a design from thin, lightweight metal and turning it into earrings or a necklace pendant. You can even layer multiple pieces on top of each other to create a cool motion effect when the jewelry is being worn.
4. Wall Art
If you envy the gorgeous metal wall art you see in stores, it might be time to make some of your own. The sky’s the limit with the designs you can make—go natural and cut out an elegant tree, or aim for a more industrial feel with abstract geometric shapes.
If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can also turn your new piece of art into a clock. Cut out a set of clock hands from the same material and attach them with a DIY clock motor kit. Some of the best laser engraving machines on the market for this job are the ones from Trotec Laser. Not any laser engraver will do for the more intricate projects.
5. Knife Blanks
If you’d like to try making your own handles for knives, axes, or other sharp metal objects, it’s best to start with a pre-made blank. But what if you’re looking for a shape that’s a little more interesting than what you can order online?
With a laser cutter, you can cut out whatever shape of knife you desire. Be sure to choose the best type of steel for the kind of knife you’re making, and find a way to sharpen the blanks once you’ve attached them to the handles.
And speaking of handles—if you make them out of a laser-friendly material, you can engrave them as well!
6. Boat Anchor
Tired of boring, modern anchors? Want to throw something off the back of your boat that’s more reminiscent of nautical days gone by? Just want to hang some cool maritime decor on your wall?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time for you to laser cut yourself a custom boat anchor. You’ll need to use fairly thick steel to make this durable enough for actual use, and you might have to attach additional weights if you’re using it for a large boat.
But if you’re looking for a cool piece to add to your sailing-themed living room, consider using a soft metal like brass and engraving a swirling, watery design.
7. Custom Outdoor Gate
This is a project that will definitely take an industrial-sized laser cutter to complete, but the results will make your front gate the envy of the neighborhood. You can cut out an abstract geometric design, create a monogrammed gate, or even choose a design as intricate as the Doors of Durin from Lord of the Rings.
Using a metal like aluminum will make it lightweight enough to move easily, but also ensures it will hold up to the elements without tarnishing. Just weld some hinges onto the side and you’ll be ready to boost your curb appeal.
Which One of These Laser Cutter Projects Will You Try First?
Whether you’re trying to build a full-sized custom gate or engrave a piece of jewelry, we hope these ideas have inspired you to take on a few laser cutter projects of your own.
For more great DIY and design inspiration, make sure to check out the rest of our site.