Since moving into our new office last summer, we have had a ongoing project of decorating our new, larger space with cool stuff made on the lasers. One of the challenges has been the large, wide hallway that is central when you walk in the door. We wanted to create a smaller entry section with some armchairs for visitors, so I came up with the idea of making a room divider that hangs from the ceiling. It made the sitting area feel smaller, and more contained, but still let the natural light from the large windows at either end through.
Step 1: Video Overview
Step 2: Creating Your Design
Measure your space. Measure floor to ceiling and how wide you want it to be.
Next, decide how you want your design to lay out - all the same size shapes, or a mixed bunch. Also, knowing what standard sizes your materials come in is handy. I chose wood that comes in 18" x 24" sizes, so I used that as my main size piece. From there, I made a 12" x 24" version and then a 6" x 6" version. Keeping the sizes divisible by two or three really helped when deciding the layout.
I then went and played with the layout in a design program (I used CorelDraw), fitting the different size pieces together like a puzzle. I also used this layout to determine where to put the holes for the connectors.
After determining the sizes and layout of the pieces needed, I started working with the design of the panels themselves. I wanted a lot of light to show through the screen, so settled on a lacey, repeating flower pattern with a one inch border around the outside of the design. I made guidelines where the connector holes would be placed so that I didn't have to make a new panel for each piece, just adjust the holes to correspond to the correct panel before sending each one to the laser.
Step 3: Gather Your Materials
Once you have completed your design, you can determine how much materials you will need. I chose mahogany 1/8" thick sheets that were prefinished from Colorado Heirloom They make all sorts of interesting wood sheets and products that work great on a laser.
12 sheets of 18" x 24" mahogany 1/8" thick (plus one or two more for testing and goofs!)
1 sheet of 12" x 24" frosted clear cast acrylic
6 drop ceiling hooks
50 brass "S" Hooks, 1 1/4" sized
Access to a laser cutter that fits a 18" x 24" sheet of wood. We used a Trotec Speedy 400, 80 watt machine. It has a 39" x 24" working area, so it was more than big enough to fit our sheets of wood.
Step 4: Laser!
Now comes the fun part! Fire up your laser, it's time for some cutting!
As I mentioned before, I used a Trotec Speedy 400 80 watt machine. It is fast and big, which is what I needed for this job. Each large panel took me about 23 minutes to cut.
Check the lens to be sure it is clean and check the filter on the exhaust system. Both of these will affect the finished cuts. Make sure that you focus the laser once your material is in the machine.
For the mahogany, I used the following settings:
100% power, .90 speed, 2500 frequency, air assist on
For the acrylic, I used the following settings:
60% power, .30 speed, 25000 frequency, air assist on
Please note that every laser is different and you may have to play around with the settings to get a good cut with as little charring as possible. Also, remember to NEVER leave the laser unattended while it is running!
Once the laser has finished processing each piece, take a damp cloth and clean off the soot marks around the cut lines. This works if you are using prefinished wood, but may not work so well if the wood is unfinished. I find it easier to do this before removing it from the bed of the laser.
Step 5: Assemble the Screen
After all of your panels have been completed, it is now time to put everything together.
Lay out the pieces on the floor to make sure that everything lines up and fits in the space.
Using ceiling hooks for a drop ceiling, start with the top pieces and work your way down. I made sure that there was a lot of room at the bottom between the lowest panels and the floor so that nothing gets damaged by the vacuum cleaner.
After you are finished, stand back and admire. Added bonus, it will smell like a campfire for a few days after you put it up!