Introduction: Saint-Petersburg Multi-layer Wooden Map

Multilayer map shows main road and waterways of Saint-Petersburg, Russia.

Could be made from materials suitable for laser-cutting.

I've made two versions: cork + carton + MDF and tinted plywood.


  • materials suitable for laser-cutting
  • PVA-like glue

Step 1: Region Selection

The first region should be chosen.

You can do it using any web-maps like Google maps, OpenStreetMap or printed map.

I've chosen my home-town Saint-Petersburg, Russia

Step 2: Data Grab

If you are familiar with GIS applications you can use QGIS to import layers with geodata from OpenStreetMap. You can use Geofabrik data shots or QGIS plugin.

Usually, it is the main roads and waterways, but depending on region and topic you can add linear, area or point objects which you need (e.g. letters "A" "Д" on cork map)

If you are not a GIS person - simply make a screenshot or scan your map and highlight objects of interest.

Step 3: Cutting Layout Preparation

For this step, you need to use a vector graphics editor. The result - files ready for laser-cutting.

I'm using Adobe Illustrator.

Select the size of the map. Design the frame and labels (remember that elements shouldn't be too small, otherwise it will be broken easily after cutting).

From vectors imported from QGIS or with a raster base create a vector layer for each future physical layer - it should follow the topology rule - "no breaks". All Lines should be connected, no "islands" allowed (they will fall out of the map). Lines shouldn't be too thin.

Combine layers with frame and labels. The first layer should have background and can be used for engraving, without any topological rules. The top-most layer usually has no geography objects, but have a label.

Before next step re-check carefully topology and thickness.

Step 4: Cutting

Find a laser-cutter and cut your layouts. Usually, there is a FabLab or MakerSpace near you. I'm getting kind of hypnotized looking for the cutting process. Have fun

Step 5: Assembling

Use PVA glue to collect your layers. Do it carrefully, joiner's clamps could really help.

Step 6: Finishing

Remove excess adhesive, wait until it becomes dry. Great, it's finished!

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