Laser cut Marquetry

5 Steps
I was recently inspired to create my very own tile game.  The object of the game is to create paths around the board and attempt to stay on the board as long as possible. I think the game works well in it's current state so I decided to make something a little bit more substantial than the paper tiles it was initially printed on, this lead me up to the following instructable.

This instructable guides you through the basic process of laser cutting veneer for marquetry purposes and hopefully covers some of the terminology and tips that I found useful. It was initially used to create a kindle case for my wifes birthday and then the tiles and board for my tile game.

Marquetry is the art of applying wood veneer to an item to create a picture or a pattern. The designs can be very detailed and intricate which would be tricky to cut out by hand. Accurate and repeatable cuts make for work that is particularly well suited to the laser cutter.

If you're in Nottingham, UK and would like to know more about this subject then come along to the Nottinghack space tomorrow night where I'll be giving a small workshop
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Step 1: Calculating Laser Kerf

Kerf is basically the width of the cut.

When the laser cuts it vaporises a small piece of wood directly under the cutting head and this cut has a width. The width will vary depending on the power of the laser, the speed of the cut and the material you are cutting in to.

James Williamson has written a great post about how to calculate the exact width of a laser cut. His method shows that cutting 10 stripes of veneer side by side allows you to bunch all the kerfs together and take a much larger, easier, reading of the amount of material lost. I calculated that the kerf for this tile setup was roughly 0.1mm and I used this figure while designing the tiles and veneers.

Another thing to consider is that the laser does not create parallel cuts. As the laser penetrates the wood the power drops off and the cut actually becomes narrower. This leads to '\ /' shape cuts in the wood. The veneer I used was only .6mm thick and this effect was still visible, the effect is very noticeable in the material I was adding the veneer too. This can be used to our advantage to create 'male' and 'female' parts. By cutting a mirror image of the veneer parts and cutting those it is possible to create parts that compliment each other. When the piece is 'flipped' back up the right way the edges of the two cuts can be aligned to make '//' edges.
im3733 says: Nov 21, 2011. 7:33 AM
Thanks for the game. I dont have access (or time) to use a laser cutter, but i'm going to try and make this for a family game at thanksgiving this weekend.
msraynsford (author) in reply to im3733Nov 21, 2011. 8:21 AM
That's no problem, I'm sure it could be backed onto some framing card or something for a bit of thickness.
Don't forget if you ever wanted a fancy laser version you can buy the tiles from me too, but play it and enjoy it first, I'm making a dozen for christmas gifts :P
im3733 in reply to msraynsfordNov 21, 2011. 9:32 AM
Thnx. I noticed you have two different ones listed, whats the difference?
msraynsford (author) in reply to im3733Nov 21, 2011. 5:01 PM
I assume you mean the two paypal links on my website.

The first (cheaper) is the straight tile set. I'll cut and sand it so it will look good but it won't have any veneers in it (must take a photo of those)

The second is the complete tile set, plus the pieces of veneer to go with it, but you'll have to glue them in and sand it down yourself. Having done a few sets now I'm not interested in making them to sell like this.
dragondor101 says: Nov 21, 2011. 3:51 PM
this really cool i bet you woked blood sweat and tears in this good job
msraynsford (author) in reply to dragondor101Nov 21, 2011. 4:58 PM
It took much longer than I thought it would. It's not too bad, but it's not worth making veneered sets to sell.
Jayefuu says: Nov 21, 2011. 9:30 AM
Thanks for linking to my blog post on the Kerf measurements. Great Instructable, you got great results!