Playing around with kerf bending

With laser cutters popping up in hackerspaces and maker’s tool sheds like weeds, it’s no surprise we’re seeing an explosion in manufacturing techniques that would be nearly impossible without a laser cutter. One of these techniques is kerf bending, a method of bending plywood simply by burning patterns along the desired bend. [Martin] just put up a great tutorial on kerf bending with a laser cutter, and even came up with a few very interesting patterns that can be used to build your own case with rounded corners.

[Martin]‘s adventures into kerf bending began with a small radio transmitter case he built. This case used the very common ‘vertical slit’ method, but in the first version of the case, the slits were placed too far apart. By moving the slits closer together, [Martin] was left with a very easy to bend and very strong wooden case.

There are also a few other patterns [Martin] tried out. A herringbone pattern made for a wooden case nearly as bendable (and a little stronger) as the traditional vertical slit method. From there, [Martin] branched out into more esoteric patterns such as a medieval cross and Space Invader pattern, both ideal for your next highly stylized enclosure.

In the end, [Martin] says just about any pattern will work for kerf bending, so long as the design isn’t diagonal to the bend. We’d love to see some proper engineering analysis for kerf bending, so if you can figure out the optimal pattern for high strength, low machine time bends, send it in on the tip line.

21 thoughts on “Playing around with kerf bending

  1. Y’know people, you don’t have to cut all the way though the material.

    Nerds, meet woodworkers. Woodworkers, meet nerds. Discuss.

    1. Woodworking takes skill. Kids these days only want to download instructions for a machine, not get their hands dirty.

      GET OFF MY LAWN!

      1. The problem with doing this on plywood is the veneer layer cracks & splinters – not nice. (It’s especially disastrous if the cuts are across the grain.)

        You can dial the laser in so it cuts just up to the veneer, same as ye olde woodworkers do with a saw.

        The Space Invaders one is amusing though. Might steal that.

    2. Or, for us boat builders (i cant be the only one) you could just build a steambox and bend wood helically, into rings, all sorts of wonderful things. You will have to use solid wood or maybe marine plywood instead, but i assure you it will be worth it

    3. Fine sawdust + PVA glue. Kitchen wrap or wide clear tape the exterior side, fill the holes with the mix, let it dry and sand to smooth finish.

      Solid and nice.

    1. Hmm. They appear to have solved a problem no-one has.

      Unless they are wanting to be the Ikea of bikes – flat-pack the frame, and you bend it into shape yourself.

  2. “and even came up with a few very interesting patterns that can be used to build your own case with rounded corners.”

    Rounded corners? Be careful… you may be infringing on an Apple patent :P

  3. I just visited a friend yesterday as he was working on his still. One new component is a flexible single piece aluminum coupler that bends using kerf cuts. The flexible section allows misalignment where a stirring shaft goes into the mash vessel.

    I suppose you could use a u-joint, etc, but this was pretty neat and much more sexy.

    1. Sounds like a helical coupler. They are OK. They are too springy for a lot of things I do. The aluminum ones are really weak too. I have sheared them off.

      Bellows couplings are real nice though.

      1. Thank you – helical coupler is the proper name.

        His application is low rpm stirring. So it isn’t a big deal if it fails. The misalignment is minimal. It’ll be interesting to see how long it lasts.

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