Learning to Use the Laser Cutter Via SCC Makerspace at Hackerlab

The fall semester of 2021 I took a class called MakerSpace (MAKR) 151 at Sacramento City College. The course was all online but in person lab time at HackerLab was available. I took the orientation course for HackerLab online and then took two in-person trainings; one on the ShopBot (a large format CNC router machine) and another on the Spartan Laser Cutter where you can laser cut wood, acrylic, stone, cardboard, paper and fabric (according to HackerLab rules- I CAN cut many other materials).

I have not returned to the Shopbot because it scares the shit outta me and has a ton of steps. Plus I had trouble getting the right software for my Mac and I dont really want to make wood signs which is what people primarily use it for (tho you can make many other things with it).

I fell in love with the laser cutter!

It’s been a ton of fun to experiment with. My first project was a design I brought with me for the training, a small sign reading “Tenacious Goods”. I had actually taken this same training in a group setting at HackerLabs previous location on I Street in 2017 and loved it then but didn’t have any time to get to the lab. Shane walked through the process and helped me cut the small circular sign below.

Tenacious Goods with Fennick Fox
2017 training demo
Tenacious Goods sign
2021 version

First Project on My Own

The next week, I prepped a few vector files for printing on my own. I used Adobe’s Capture app which takes a vector photo of things with your phone to transfer line drawings into vector artwork. I also designed some things in Illustrator including a test sign for the native plan garden we were putting in at Sierra 2 Center, a project I was spearheading and one of my reasons to take the class.

Signage Test – Attempt at Adding Color

My plan was to engrave this in reverse and use paint pens to back-fill the engrave with color. I saw a few videos on this and it sounded easy-peasy. I forgot to reverse the text and my paint pens came out all muddled and cracked. It seems that my engrave was not deep enough in some spots and/or the text was too close together. In the end I was not thrilled with the color on the clear acrylic anyway.

Cutting Color Acrylic

I went out to TAP Plastics and bought some 7×8 inch scrap sheets of acrylic to play with. I cut another sign sample that came out much better. I also cut some fun shapes to play around with in art making.

Cutting paper with a laser

It was both fun and tricky to cut stacks of paper. Fun because I got a lot of copies with different visual features from the printed book pages and tricky because the forced air that comes through the machine next to the laser would blow away the scraps and sometimes move the part I wanted to cut. It also got a little worried about the paper catching fire. I had to pause the laser often and blow out embers or move magnets around to hold down parts of the pages.

I also found a rather large scrap of a wood-like material that was very thin, approximately 1mm, and painted or primed white on both sides (pictured above on wall, the largest item). I really liked working with that material but I dont know what it is or where to get more. I couldn’t find anything similar at Home Depot but there may be some options online.

Artistic Applications

I used almost all of the paper I cut in backgrounds for an art series called That Look From Mom for the 30×30 Show at Blue Line Arts in Roseville. I also cut some shapes of California with Poppy’s for a commissioned artwork I finished in November. The commission was a 12×12 piece on wood panel inspired by the song “The Golden State” by John Doe.

The Golden State Song & Artwork

Assemblage Magnets & Ornaments

These assemblage magnets are made from laser cut waste pieces and all kinds of discarded jewelry, gears, and found objects. (I save a lot of weird things). I use E6000 to glue them together. Many of the base circles are laser cut from a book cover, the imagery is waterslide decals from another project called We Wear Many Hats. I’ll be selling these and many others at Atrium in old Sacramento and online at sacramento.shop/tenaciousgoods

Ok One Last Thing… A Collaboration!

I talked my 9 year old into drawing some monsters to laser cut with me. We primed them, but still haven’t painted them but I hope to get on that this weekend.


2 responses to “Learning to Use the Laser Cutter Via SCC Makerspace at Hackerlab”

  1. Born creative, that Heather Hogan! What an adventure.

    Love the monster collaboration too.

  2. […] stoked to have renewed my engagement with HackerLab, its a great space and so fun! I’m still deeply infatuated with the laser cutter but HackerLab also has an entire room full of jewelers benches and tools that you can access once […]

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