Obedient Wood




A material study exploring how to make wood malleable and rigid at the same time.

It was part of a bigger study - thinking about topographical visualization of a proposed architectural design (at scale), and being able to create models that not only help visualize an idea, but become pat of the ideation phase in real-time, allowing you to twist / lift / sink / bend / scrumple it in every possible way. In turn, influencing the bigger design.

As a result of making these various tests and hybrid materials, people took them away post-project, to use as bowls, holders, light-shades, art-work in it's own right! I think the brass ones (above) were really cool - but, that'll have to be a different instructable...

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Step 1: Gather the Materials

Latex Gloves

Apron - Because it won't come out of your clothes.

Face Mask - The adhesive is pungent.

Impact Adhesive - I used Thixofix; it's thick and heavy duty strength (+non-drip)

Pasting brush - To keep it even, and for fast application

Copper Mesh - Anything with a diamond meshing (3mm gaps max) - Copper because it's is elastic-flexibility

Wood Veneer - Any veneer you can get your hands on (1mm thickness or less is good)

Etching Scissors - To cut mesh, don't use normal scissors!

Step 2: Laser Setting Manipulation

I used a Trotec Speedy300 - meaning it doesn't laser cut metals (this is important)

Have some fun setting-up various laser cut settings. You want to set a scrap piece of veneer into the cutter (resting it on a board), then play with different cuts using whatever Vector software you prefer -- at which point you may want to use a simplified smaller cut pattern (for efficiency - not like what I did - see above). When your cut settings are at a point where they are etching almost all the way though the material, to the point where it feels like it is going to fall apart at any moment - then you are ready.

Take note of these setting, for later...

For those of you familiar with lasers, you might want to try rastering rather than cutting lines.

Step 3: Pattern Design

Depending on what you want to achieve - form wise, you might want to try various pattern designs. Do some test cuts on something cheaper (like card) - and see what shape profiles and flexibility you are achieving.

Mine were mainly uniform geometry variations, but that was due to the nature of the project - they can be any shape. Just remember, if the cuts are too close or too far apart - it may not workout well.

Step 4: Creating the Material

Cut both the Veneer and Meshing oversized. Get your gloves / apron / mask on - and use a well ventilated area (spray both if possible).

Paste a thin layer of the Thixofix to the back of the veneer and to one side of the mesh. Keep it even and apply fairly quickly. Wait until it had dried-off (like maybe 10 mins). Then press them both together firmly.

Step 5: Re-Cut & Trim

Reinsert the joined surface back into the laser bed.

Enter the cut settings saved from step 2.

Use the Vector file you decided worked best from Step 3.

Once the file is cut, take it out and trim the edges of the mesh with the Etching Scissors.

Step 6: Play

Make variations with different patterns, materials, etc.

Scrumple away...

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    26 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    equilateral triangles could make a good pattern


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great work! I've been trying to come up with a system for a similar project:

    What about doing it at a larger scale without an intact piece to begin with? Say each triangle piece has a base of 1ft and height 2ft and as thin and light as possible; will the bonding material used in this instructable hold newly joined pieces just as well?


    5 years ago on Introduction

    just a little confused by the pics. one is shiny and one is dull. are there 2 different pieces or do they look differently based on perspective? the dull one looks like fabric but the shiny one (in my opinion) is really awesome. this would be cool to use some really unusual woods like mahogany, teak, etc for some interesting patterns.

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice. These can be used as photography background like say for jewelry photography. You're able to get the texture just right to obtain the right play of light and shadow.

    For those of us who don't have access to a laser cutter, what are our options? Seems that a hobby knife wouldn't do and I doubt once can obtain enough precision with veneer-cutting scissors or shears. Ideas?

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, a hobby knife is just a dangerous idea. Maybe use band saw to cut the pieces out? Any other way is just really laborious!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very interesting and satisfying to see. You might look at the Geometric Origami by Eric Demaine who uses this type of work to explain Mathamatic and geometric principles.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You could do this without the laser. It would just be one heck of a lot more work.

    Great project! I was playing with this idea a while back but was having a hard time transferring the small tiles onto a backer all in one piece and getting the tiles to really adhere to my backer (fabric). I never thought of using a metal mesh backer, have you experimented with anything that moves more like fabric?

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