The Laser Cutter

A recent and versatile addition to Jim's arsenal of tools is a laser engraver/cutter made by Universal Laser Systems. This machine uses an infrared (and thus invisible) laser beam under computer control to work wood, plastic, or other materials. It can engrave an intricate pattern on the material surface, or cut right through it along a precisely specified curve. These photos show the machine in Jim's shop, and just a few examples of the many uses to which Jim has put this unusual tool.

A corner view of the closed laser cutter.

Front view of the laser cutter, opened for loading.

One of the first uses Jim found for the laser: he uses it to very precisely mark the positions for string slots on nuts. On this nut you can see the marks for the 1st through 4th strings; the 5th and 6th string slots have already been cut.

Here the laser is cutting a rosewood guitar back...

...and here it is cutting a spruce top. Jim used to use wooden templates for this purpose, but the laser performs the task more simply and more precisely.

This back has had the centerstrip glued on and slotted for receiving cross braces (the metal plate visible under the back is a jig Jim created on the Fadal to guide routing of the slots). In the middle of the back strip you can see the Olson Guitars logo. It is etched with the laser.

A closeup of the backstrip logo.