Bending Laser Cut Wood Without Steam Or Forms

If you want to pretty up your project boxes, we can’t imagine anything better than [Shaun]’s walnut plywood, laser-cut, kerf bent Arduino case. Instead of the slot-and-tab construction of traditional laser-cut enclosures, [Shaun] used a technique to bend plywood without steaming, heating, and eventually scorching his somewhat expensive plywood.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this accordian style laser-cut kerf bend. By alternating laser cuts along the desired radius, the plywood can be bent by hand. The technique is called kerf bending and is perfect for putting an organic touch on the usual 90° angle project boxes we see.

[Shaun] has an Instructable for the smaller boxes that are part of his Arduino powered wireless sensor network. This Instructable goes over the pattern of laser cuts required to get a nice, smooth kerf bend, and also shows off how beautiful a laser-cut project box can be when cut out of aromatic cedar.

16 thoughts on “Bending Laser Cut Wood Without Steam Or Forms

    1. Agree, it’d probably look nicer without the screws (but the photo makes them look worse because they pick up the flash). It’s hard to do hidden fastenings using a laser though. the laser can only do 2D so you either need to have a peg and a hole or a screw.

      I guess I could have glued on the side pieces and used strong magnets to hold the curved piece in place. (I want to be able to open it up for access to the electronics.)

      Currently, the nuts that the screws fasten into are hidden underneath so simply reversing the screws wouldn’t work too well.

      1. Why not just use black screws then? No flash glare and they would somewhat blend in. Also could try countersinking and beveled screw-heads. Used in conjunction with one another would make this look fantastic.

  1. Hi…when designing a box, is there a way of calculating the length of a side to accommodate the kerf bend based on the thickness of the material? Or should I make a model first using thick card of something?


    1. Yes, I recommend drawing out the side on paper. Then, take the radius of your curved sections and calculate their circumference using pi * 2 * radius and multiply by the fraction of a circle that you’re using. E.g. for a 90 degree curve that section would be radius * 2 * pi * 90/360.

      Also, the curved portions are pretty springy so if you’re a few mm short then it’ll stretch to fill the gap.

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