Category: Laser Cutter

All the Smaug related posts

It’s Alive! Highlights from our Big Laser Maintenance Day

In March, intrepid makers David P., Goldie, Miriam, and Crafty came together to nerd-out over laser maintenance. Guided by expert Light Object Tech, Joel, they gave our hardworking Barracuda Laser a head-to-toe check-up and learned tips and advanced methods for how to continue to keep our laser in tip-top shape.

10:29:20 AM: Dag, nabit. Frosted window!

Crafty discovers folks using 409 and isopropyl alcohol on the acrylic windows of the laser making them all frosty and icky. Goldie springs into action and finds and orders an acrylic cleaner on Amazon.

10:30:57AM: Oooh! Maybe we’re promoting a new life form in there? – David

Image close-up view of red algae growing in the water lines
Red algae growing inside the water lines around the Barracuda Laser

The maintenance adventure got off to a rockin’ start when Crafty announced the discovery of an unexpected life form fluttering in the water lines around the tubes of our laser.

As it turns out, what looked like scorch marks in the laser tubes were actually algae!  Because red and blue laser beams are truly monochromatic and super powerful, plant life like algae are able to super efficiently convert the rays into food during photosynthesis. Very cool from a scientific perspective but not so cool from a laser cutting perspective. Algae can impede water flow as well as create “hot” spots that may end up with arching.

Joel recommended checking the water lines every three months for signs of life and showed team laser how to properly flush the tubes with a bleach/water solution.

10:43:52 AM: Alignment!

The alignment was off but not bad. Joel gets everything ship-shape!

11:05:52 AM: Lotsa chunks raining down. – Goldie

Next, the team scrubbed the busted, dirty honeycomb and laser bed. The honeycomb creates a flat medium for cutting and protects the laser bed from smoke damage. Over time, the surface has warped and the build-up began to transfer to the surface of the items being cut.

Goldie posted a super dirty image below of our old honeycomb (left) versus a brand new honeycomb (right). Unfortunately, the new one didn’t fit our laser and Ace is going to have to special order one.

Image shows the difference between a dirty, used honeycomb and a brand new clean one
Old honeycomb (left) vs. a new honeycomb (right)

11:38:22 AM: Omg. that is so gross. Post it. – Crafty/Goldie

Crafty and Goldie also scrubbed the support rails before re-inserting the old honeycomb.

Image of yellow and silver laser bed and hands holding a scrubber
Crafty cleaning the laser bed

12:01:37 PM: Joel is currently optimizing our Parameter Settings… exciting!

There was an adjustment to the Z!

Default factory settings screenshot
Default Factory Settings for us in LaserSoft

12:37:20 PM: The result is… A clean cut with more speed.–Goldie

The top is lower speed, and you can see flashback on the back. In the photo below, bottom is higher speed, same power, and a super clean cut!

(Note – the black soot is from us flipping the honeycomb – it’s not fire marks)

Laser cut wood name tags
Comparing settings
Laser cut wood pieces with hand written settings
Settings used for comparison

12:56:54 PM: We are starting the Rotary installation!!!! – Crafty

Our rotary setup is using the Y-axis to drive it instead of a separate driver. in order to compensate for the distortion, many parameters must be switched and then switch back again at the end of the rotary session. Rotary training is done! 120mm max diameter. Uses a chuck-style attachment with two options so very friendly for irregular objects.

2:59:53 PM: Replacing the main vent hose now.

Discovered hole in it so it wasn’t nearly so efficient. Def. time to do a tear down on the fan as well!! Miriam lending a helping hand. Yay new hoses!

fan and filter box with hoses on the floor
Filter box and fan assembly

2:59:53 PM: Annnnnnnd done! –Crafty

We found the bearing on the Y asses was loose and we need to tighen it. We guess it is a 2.1 or 2 mm allen key. At the end of the day everyone was dirty and tired, but after running some successful test-cuts, extremely satisfied. We also got a complement of replacement parts including the damaged valve and cone. Working on documenting things now.

Now, the Barracuda laser is back to peak efficiency and better than ever for clean and speedy cutting!

Custom Organizer Carts in Textiles

At Ace Makerspace, you’ll see unique touches everywhere. Our Textiles room shares space with our Co-Working desks (not to mention you’ll frequently see the space used for New Member Orientations and other events!)

It’s important that the room’s configuration remain flexible depending on the need. Rachel McCrafty, Ace’s own Executive Director, came up with the modular storage design. Each Janome 3000 machine has its own customized storage cart with organizers.

organizer cart textiles

The organizers are custom made from ⅛ inch birch wood using Ace’s Barracuda Laser. The tabs are pressure fitted into the organizer. The slot designs for the organizer were created in Adobe Illustrator.

Each cart has a machine, sewing pins, scissors, marking tools, and a tape measure and seam gauge. Just roll out a cart, set up your sewing machine on a table, and you’re ready to start making in the Textiles room!

Lasering in on Patrick Davies


Patrick has been an Ace member for about 4 years. However, in that time he has quickly grown proficient with laser cutting, served on the Ace board, and has become a beloved member of the Ace community. I’m Carter Jenkins, and I had the chance to talk with Patrick about what he does and why he does it.

History with Ace

Close up of wooden dividers labeled "rock"
Some of Patrick’s dividers in a store

Patrick’s story begins after he finished school at the California College of the Arts. Having studied industrial design, he was on the lookout for a place to use the skills he’d learned. His search eventually led him to Ace, located in a neighborhood that Patrick used to live in. Patrick quickly found that Ace fostered a very creative and friendly learning environment that he enjoyed. The close proximity to his home was a boon too. Soon Patrick was working on social media outreach with fellow Ace members as well as doing his own personal laser cutting work. He even served on the Ace board for a year.

Nowadays, Patrick does a lot of laser cutting and is a part of the maintenance crew for that machine. He enjoys working on the machine and likes to see it working well. As a precision-based instrument, he likes fine-tuning the various parts of it in order to get it into tip-top shape.

Patrick’s Work

Multiple pictures of wooden, engraved disks
Examples of Patrick’s work

Over the years, Patrick has created a small business based on the laser work he does at Ace. This whole thing started back in design school when Patrick developed a liking for vinyl record collecting. He made his own plywood inserts for jukeboxes, eventually selling them to small record stores as a side business. Word of mouth spread his work, and now Patrick sells custom-made inserts and dividers to all kinds of record stores. This isn’t the only work he does, however. Even with a name in record-making, he is open to all kinds of design work. Check out his Instagram page to see his work and even get a commission at

Patrick’s process is simple. He works mostly with plywood to create the products he then sells. He has experimented with different kinds of materials like acrylic and solid wood, but there are a couple of reasons why he has stuck with plywood over the years. Not only are some materials not environmentally friendly, but Patrick has found that the material type he uses doesn’t always make the impact he wants. When his customers see one plywood product and one solid wood product, they don’t see the craftwork that went into making it. They see two identical things with different prices. Patrick continues to use plywood, a material that can do any job at a reasonable price.


This summer, Patrick is looking forward to being in a less covid-restricted environment. With no major projects in mind, he will continue to work with the laser in order to fine-tune and make more creations. After all, the more enjoyable moments of his life happen when a piece of work comes out exactly as he envisioned it.

Lead to Life: An Ace Collaboration

What is Lead to Life?

Lead to Life is an Oakland-based organization of black and queer artists, ecologists, and healers. The group is primarily focused on reversing the effects of violence against black people. They turn the metal from guns into tools that are then used to repair ecosystems, specifically in black neighborhoods.

Lead to Life’s goal is to empower racial and environmental justice through artwork. Their commitment to removing systemic oppression is done through what they call “applied alchemy,” or in other words using nature to provoke new ideas for justice. The group intends to create connections between restorative and environmental justice. The organization also aims to reconnect people to a more natural and peaceful life.

“A people’s alchemy for regeneration”

Lead to Life’s main purpose isn’t just to make gardens and have shovels with words on them (though those are both things they do). Lead to Life was created to foster peace in chaotic places, to provide a grounding factor that many people could use. It was because of this main driving force that Ace decided to collaborate with Lead to Life.

How Ace is Involved

David displaying 2 completed handles

Lead to Life and Ace Makerspace are running a joint project where Ace used its in-house tooling to create a fresh batch of shovel handles for Lead to Life. The three main people who spearheaded and worked on this collaboration were David Perry, Rachel Sadd, and Greg Habiby.

Rachel worked with the laser cutter, sanding blocks, and finishing chemicals, creating the shape of the shovel handle as well as polishing it. David was the primary user of the laser engraver that put the words into the side of each shovel handle. Greg took the role of photographer for the project, taking all the pictures that were used in this article.

Rachel answered a few questions about the project for this blog, ranging from what was challenging about the project to how being a part of this collaboration changed her.

Rachel’s Experience

Multiple shove handles stacked on each other
A selection of the finished handles

As stated, Rachel worked on laser cutting the handles and polishing them. While working with the irregularly sized wood pieces and modifying the lathe to work properly, she had time to think about what the project meant to her. Lead to Life works with organizations she has a connection with, one of them being the Segoroea Te Land Trust. Both organizations work with community gardens and building relationships with nature, which are values that Rachel holds deep in her heart. Working with Lead to Life was a form of direct action that reminded Rachel of her connection to the Oakland community.

If you want to learn more about Lead to Life, check out their website at

laser etched rubber stamps

Adventure in Rubber Stamp Making

So Ace is working on a holiday card and we need rubber stamps for some of the art. This is the tale of making rubbers stamps including all the mistakes on our 100w CO2 Laser.

Materials used

  • Scrap wood
  • Gorilla Spray Glue
  • Craft Foam
  • Art Ink pads
  • Laser Engravable Rubber Polymer, low odor, from

The artwork

The artwork… that is the first place things went wonky but I didn’t realize it until I cut. I had forgotten that engraving needed an outer boundary in order to drop out the right stuff. Check out these screenshots. Everything black in these images will be burned away.

The thing to remember with vector laser files, LaserSoft, and rubber stamps is:

  • Mirror the art
  • Set an outer boundary for the etching
  • The outer boundary is the same as the cut line so you will need one object to be the boundary and one object on another layer to be the cut line.
laser art
In this file, I forgot to put an outer boundary for the vector etching and that means all the white bits between the pink cut line and the inner art is what will print when I stamp it. Not ideal.
Laser art
In this one most of the art is correct and all the inner graphics that are white will print. The only thing that is wonk is the white gap between the pink cut line and the etching. That is easily solved though post-laser with a pair of scissors.
bad rubber stamp
Opps… etched away the thing I wanted to stamp.
laser etched rubber stamps
The actual art I wanted to stamp.










Here are the results from the two files. As you can see the art in the first file didn’t match the intention.

Testing and getting the right settings down

The laser polymer comes with some settings but they are for much lower wattage lasers than ours.

settings from laser package

It took a bunch of test etching to get to settings that worked. I used a focus range for etching. These are the settings we finally settled on:

  • Cutting: 15/90/87
  • Etching: 150/80/78 (make sure to turn on grade engrave)

Putting it together and what I learned about glue

So I cut the outlines out of some scrap wood and used e6000 glue to attach the rubber bit. The results were… bad.

Hard curled up crumbling stamps.

The final product did work out well with a layer of craft foam and using gorilla spray glue.

The post-laser etching finishing and clean up

Laser etching rubber polymer is dirty. Really dirty. When the stamps come off the laser they should be soaked in the water right away for about 10 – 15 min. then scrubbed with a soft brush.

This is what a brand new filter looked like after 8.1min. of cutting and etching laser.

Dirt filter after cutting laser polymer next to new filter material.

What a difference a lens makes

So we have been. having a great time with our new 100w Baracudda Laser from Light Object. Like any laser, there are fun times to be had with focus, and so on.

We have a slight wobble at high speeds and tight art we are fighting along with just learning what is the best default configuration for a wide community of users.

Below are a few picks today that show the difference between what I am getting with different lenses. I am cutting on 1/8 inch cabinet grade Russian birch plywood.

The one on the left was cut with a 2″ lens with these settings

  • Cut: 30/55/50
  • Partial Cut 55/12/12
  • Etch: 400/30/.1

The one on the right was cut with a 2.5″ lens with these settings

  • Cut: 30/35/30
  • Partial Cut 200/12/12
  • Etch: 600/30/.1

As you can see for the partial cut and sharp detail the 2″ lens was a way better bet.


Oakland Pride Jewelry at the Library

We celebrated pride with some Oakland love at the Golden Gate Library!

We brought laser-cut Oakland trees and alcohol ink. Families brought their creativity and spark. Together, we made lots of rainbow-colored, Oakland-themed earrings and key rings. A wonderful way to show our Oakland Pride!

Crafty Painting Extra treas for the librarians
Trees painted with alcohol ink
Oakland pride trees coming off the laser
Pretty painted oakland pride trees