DIY laser cutter built to make stencils


It was time for some new T-shirts so [Andreas Hölldorfer] built a laser cutter. Wait, what? That’s the excuse he’s going with, and in the end this scratch built laser cutter did come in handy by cutting stencils to use when decorating his garments.

The first thing we thought when looking at the cutter is where’s the tube? [Andreas] didn’t use a CO2 laser, so this ends up being rather low-powered. The cutting head is a 1W blue laser diode which manages to slice the three-ring binder separator pages he’s using for the stencils. The two-axis machine is mounted inside a wooden box to protect his eyes while it’s cutting. He plans to add a drawer later on so that the cutting bed will slide in and out to swap out material for the next project. He already does a lot of 3D printing work and had an old RepRap driver board on hand to use for this projects. He designed and printed the red mounting brackets which make all of the junk-bin components work together. Not bad!

If you’d like to try this out on a smaller scale try using optical drive parts for the axes.


  1. polossatik says:

    ” A 1 Watts blue laser diode will be enough to cut through a thin plastic sheet, that’s all I need. Everything else is routine.”


    this dude rules

  2. RM says:

    This is pretty darn cool.
    I like that he even thought about laser safety, and enclosed it.

    Now haw many “Lasers are dangerous” replies will we get?

  3. Eyesaid says:

    Without a safety lock out switch he gonna burn his eyes out!!!!!!!


    • Slurm McKenzie says:

      That was my first thought too ;)
      Would it be possible to mount a camera inside (and a led if neccesary) ?
      Or does the laser damage the camera chip like it does with a human eye ?

    • camerin says:

      Without fume extraction…. I know it seems paranoid, but you are not moving the air, the heat will stay in the WOOD BOX….

      • deamiter says:

        You don’t think the box can handle a 1-2 Watt load indefinitely?

        Maybe if the focused laser were concentrated on a single point for a long period it’d be a problem, but I’m pretty sure the box will survive the distributed heat load.

        Fume extraction is still probably a good idea when ablating and melting plastics, but it could potentially be safe if the volume of material removed is small and the area is well ventilated.

        An interlock would be easy to implement and is critical to safety in this build, but it’s otherwise one of the few laser hacks I actually find tempting!

  4. M4CGYV3R says:

    We use lasers far more powerful than that in clubs and at concerts every day. I don’t think the knee-jerk safety responses are necessary.

  5. dubloe7 says:

    Just out of curiosity, if it was an actual medium powered laser that could cut through things like wood and acrylic, would this be enough shielding, or would the case need to be made of metal and/or special glass?

    • mhutchie1 says:

      Wood / acrylic would not be suitable for the base of the containment, but would be fine for the sides of the containment (providing you are not cutting / rastering on glass or reflective surfaces). All that would be needed (theoretically) is a few layers of aluminium foil that are sandwiched between layers of 3mm ply.

    • Ryan says:

      Generally, lasers used for cutting are absorbed by almost anything – a laser that simply passes through the workpiece is worthless. A CO2 tube is perfectly safe behind regular glass or acrylic/polycarbonate. The thickness of the enclosure is up to you but they rarely take prolonged laser hits.

      The most common mode of catastrophic failure is the workpiece catching fire. Since the boxes are well ventilated it can become spectacular pretty fast which is why most cases are non-flammable sheet metal.

  6. fartface says:

    Neat, but not the way to do T-shirts. you can do screen printing very easy and dirt cheap by simply printing onto a transparancy and exposing a screen treated with the emulsion to sunlight.

    Still a laser cutter is cool, Even cooler it should be able to laser engrave wood causing you to be able to make epic cool stuff.

  7. Hack Man says:

    Why is this in a flammable wood box exactly?

  8. 0xfred says:

    Just me that read the title and assumed SMD solder stencils then?

    Nice build though. I won’t make any comments on safety as I have a (small) permanent scar on the back of my hand from a 40W CO2 laser.

  9. Can anyone recommend what laser to buy to make a semi-decent laser cutter?

  10. Orion says:

    All this talk about lasers is discouraging, now I’m thinking twice about messing with them.

  11. pityu says:

    Could this be used to make PCB stencils maybe? With ball bearings this thing could be pretty precise…

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