Welcome to Stewart Island & Sails Ashore +64 3 219 1151 tait@sailsashore.co.nz

Boys Toys

One of the irritations in life is crap adverts appearing on web sites. But occasionally there is a little glitter in amongst the dross.

Some many months ago an advert touting laser engravers showed up. And being a bit “techie” I was intrigued and had a look. And was fascinated. The end result of much investigation and of watching “how to do it” YouTube videos was I purchased a 10 watt “TwoTrees” unit. Very definitely a winter project, so apart from a quick look when it arrived 8 months ago it was put away until I had time to spend.  With all things like this they depend on software which is generally 3rd party. In in this case I opted for “Lightburn”  A steep learning curve as it is very complex. And a big part of that is learning what the various terms actually mean.

What To Do With It.

Before purchasing the unit I had to actually justify it in my mind…. and more importantly for Iris’.  The machine can cut thin plywood, and we thought there might be a small market for simple laser cut art work……. mobiles, wall decorations, perhaps clock faces and even letters for embossed signage.

I purchased 3 sheets of 3mm finished ply from EH Ball, and they cut it into 400 mm squares…. the platen size of the machine ….  and I was in business. With the help of some simple graphics programs I was able to gussy up some silhouettes of Kiwis, Weka, geckos, Morepork, Albatross, and of course an outline of Stewart Island.  I had a LOT of failures until I started to get the hang of the unit. All sorts of things to take into account. Focus of the laser, speed of travel of the unit, percentage power output and number of passes to actually cut through 3mm ply.

Properly set up the cuts are fractions of a millimetre wide, and at 100% power, and 10mm/second take around 8 passes to cut right through.  So a full Stewart Island map clock takes around 4 hours to complete.


The cut faces are charred, though quite stable. So I seal the faces with a two pot sealer, then lightly sand the front and back and varnish. This has been a LOT of trial and error, as the ply is very light coloured. I’ve tried wood stain and then varnished. Ok but not really how I want them. So a darker varnish seems preferable. Electric clock movements aren’t expensive and the results seem to meet the approval of folks who have seen them … or perhaps they are just being polite.

But anyway if there is enough interest and I can recoup the cost of the machine and the bits I’ll be quite happy.  And it”s something constructive to do with my spare time.








The Unit.
It needs a computer to run the software

My First Clock
This one is very complex, and takes around 8 hours to burn.
Took me ages to work the flaws out of the image software

Preferred Clock
Much Simpler. About 4 hours to complete
This one seems the most popular for the folks who have seen it

The figures can be almost any size, and at present I have around 10 different figures.
so mix and match

Figures as wall decoration
The small hole is for the mobiles.
or I can do without the mobile hole

What I’ve done so far

Cape Pigeon
The machine does engraving as well as cutting.
But I’ve a lot to lean to make an image look real.

I couldn’t resist. Iris and I call our solar power shed Roxburgh
(A hydro electrical dam in Central Otago)

The laser is quite spectacular when it is working. The cut material is laid in an aluminium grill, and when the ply is cut through the blue laser light can be seen under the grill, which also dissipates the heat…. which is around 1200 deg C.