In this instructable I will show you how to make a basic stencil in a lazer cutter using card board. I will be using a software called Inkscape on a computer running linux. Inkscape can run on windows too. Chances are the maker lab or hacker space that you could join or visit has a lazer cutter that works with a certain file type that inkscape can save as. This instructable also deals with a solid shape which is much simpler than if you are to do a picture with multiple holes. I will soon add to this one or make a new one to show to make more complex stencils.
Step 1: Make Stencil
The first step is to find a logo or picture of something you would like to cut on a lazer cutter. This tutorial shows how to easily do a single solid shaped hole but you could do it with multiple negative spaces in one. Batman signal, Nike swoosh, your favorite sports team letters, any thing you would like to help you paint a perfect shape onto whatever you want. Just paint it on stuff legally! Once you have saved or drawn your stencil save it onto your computer as a .jpg
Step 2: Setting Up Inkscape
load inkscape and click on FILE then DOCUMENT PROPERTIES. You can also press SHIFT+CTRL+D. The window on the right will now show up and you will need to enter the max dimensions that your lazer cutter can do. Mine is 300 X 219 millimeters, be sure you set the units before entering the numbers.
Step 3: Opening the Image
Go to FILE and OPEN or CTRL+O to find the image you wish to trace then open it. click OK on the window and there is your image! you may need to resize it as needed, if you hold CTRL and click on a corner you will size it up and down equally instead of squishing it one way or another.
Step 4: Create Bitmap
This is the most involved step I think, read each line before looking at the next picture then read a line and so on.
Click on the image and go to PATH at the top of the screen. [ Image marked first]
Go down two spots to click on TRACE BITMAP... which can also be SHIFT+ALT+B (after this it will look like nothing happened, click on the image and move it up) [ Image marked second and 2.1]
If you are having trouble selecting the image or moving any thing around make sure you have the cursor selected and not the EDIT PATHS AND NODES icon directly below it [second]
Double click on an image and keep the one that makes a bunch of squares around it. [third]
Click on the box next to the word fill and the fill and stroke window will open. [fourth]
make fill NO PAINT[five]
make stroke paint FLAT [six]
make stroke style .01 millimeters [seven shows .1 but you should make it smaller. this number is how thick your lazer line will be.]
some side notes that can help in the overall process, use the EDIT PATHS AND NODES icon below the cursor one I mentioned earlier, to grab the boxes on the image and stretch certian parts of it to fix any unsatisfactory bumps.
depending on the darkness of your pen you may have the border lines be wavy in ways you don't want.
Step 5: Save As a File
Now that you have an outline all you have to do is save your stencil as a file format that your lazer cutter can use. In my case it is an .svg. Go to FILE and save as an .svg or another type if needed.
Now that is all on the computer end. Hopefully you can just upload it to the lazer cutting software and away you go!