Typically kerfs are cut with a table saw or a miter saw set to trench. Many laser-cut box generations use kerfs to allow the piece to bend. The downside is that the cuts are straight cuts that are the same thickness throughout. This means that when the wood is bent into its shape, there are large gaps that need to be filled if you want the wood to look continuous. The hack comes in by using a router (not the networking kind) with a 6.2-degree taper. This means that the kerfs that it makes are angled. By placing the right amount of cuts and spacing them out equally, you get a perfectly rounded curve. To help with that even spacing, he whipped up a quick jig to make the cuts repeatable. Once all the cuts were made, the time to bend came, and [JAR made] used some hot water with fabric softener to assist with the bend. His shelves turned out wonderfully.
He makes the important statement that this CNC bit isn’t designed with this use case in mine and the chances of it snapping or breaking are high. Taking precautions to be safe is key if you try to reproduce this technique. Perhaps you can bust out some framing lumber and bend it into some beautiful furniture.
Here’s some interesting work shared by [Ben Kromhout] and [Lukas Lambrichts] on making flexible 3D prints, but not by using flexible filament. After seeing a project where a sheet of plywood was rendered pliable by cutting a pattern out of it – essentially turning the material into a giant kerf bend – they got interested in whether one could 3D print such a thing directly.
The original project used plywood and a laser cutter and went through many iterations before settling on a rectangular spiral pattern. The results were striking, but the details regarding why the chosen pattern was best were unclear. [Ben] and [Lukas] were interested not just in whether a 3D printer could be used to get a similar result, but also wanted to find out what factors separated success from failure when doing so.
After converting the original project’s rectangular spiral pattern into a 3D model, a quick proof-of-concept showed that three things influenced the flexibility of the end result: the scale of the pattern, the size of the open spaces, and the thickness of the print itself. Early results indicated that the size of the open spaces between the solid elements of the pattern was one of the most important factors; the larger the spacing the better the flexibility. A smaller and denser pattern also helps flexibility, but when 3D printing there is a limit to how small features can be made. If the scale of the pattern is reduced too much, open spaces tend to bridge which is counter-productive.
Kerf bending with laser-cut materials gets some clever results, and it’s interesting to see evidence that the method could cross over to 3D printing, at least in concept.