You can find a laser cut map of any
large city, but what about the small town your family has spent generations in? In my case, I live 2,500 miles from home, but for four generations, my father's family has lived in a small (pop. 3,200) town, Oakfield, NY.
When creating the laser cut map of your hometown, you'll have an opportunity to customize it for your family as well. On mine, I marked locations of homes my Dad has lived in, and other important places. An example would be, for three generations, his family worked at Gypsum mines in the area. Although the mines are now closed, he still works for that company. I highlight its location on the map, as well as the high school he and his children (that's me and my sister) attended.
Have fun learning more about your family and town and ending up with a very meaningful map that will make a GREAT gift.
Step 1: Find Your Town on Google Maps
Open an image editor to the size you'd like (example: Photoshop > new > size 7 x 5 ").
Visit Google Maps and find the town you'd like to create a laser cut version of. When zooming out to capture the entire area, it is likely that you won't see as much detail as you'd like. Some street, streams, etc. will disappear. To combat this, zoom in and take screenshots of smaller areas and piece them together in your image editor.
WARNING: as you are working with Google Maps, be sure not to accidentally zoom in and out as your moving from one part of town to another. Your map will become distorted and you won't be able to line it up properly in Photoshop (or whatever tool you're using).
Step 2: Complete the Puzzel
Here you can see the finished product, which will now be moved into Adobe illustrator. Of course, if you have a similar tool, (CorelDRAW for example) you can use that.
Step 3: Specific Tracing Instructions
Each of the following traces should
be within their own layer.
Trace streams with the paint tool at .25 stroke
Trace roads with the line tool at 1pt stroke
Trace railroad tracks with the line took at .25 stroke and use the line tool to add dashes at .25 stroke
Trace ponds, lakes and rivers with the paint too at .001 stroke, you'll want the laser cutter to leave these as holes
Road names, choose the font and font size you'd like, but be sure they are large enough to read clearly when printed. I used all caps with a sans-serif font, I believe size 9. Do yourself a favor and leave tiny roads unlabeled. To fit certain street names, leave out "St." "Rd." etc.
In Adobe Illustrator, in "symbols" there are useful map symbols. These can be used to mark personal areas of interest. I used the triangle with a circle around it to mark places my father had lived. I used the circle with a star in it to mark the location of the business his family has worked at for generations.
Trace parks that are marked on Google Maps with the box tool (if they are rectangular) or the paintbrush tool (then fill in the area with a light grey).
Trace the "downtown" area using the box tool, and make this a darker grey that the parks.
If there are other large areas, for example, school grounds, use the box tool to mark those as well. Make the area a lighter grey than the parks.
Need to cut out the edges of the map? Use the line tool at .001 stroke.
Add anything else you want!
Now it's time to laser cut this bad boy. You may want to use scrap wood first. I found on my first try, my font was too small and there were some lines that cut instead of just leaving impressions. I was able to go back into my .ai file and make adjustments.
Make sure the Google Map layer that you traced is NOT visible while laser cutting. Or - of course, it will etch that into the wood too. :O
Then, it is time for your final cut! To really finish off the project, cut a second piece of wood (no map on it) to fit directly behind your map. Glue the two pieces together.
I haven't done it yet, but I will also cut small pieces of the same wood to frame the map.