Cloud Shelves

I work at Curiosity Hacked, a hackerspace/maker based education hub for kids. We have a great deal of programming and equipment that is a lot of fun, but I am crazy about the laser cutter.

The kids named him Zuko, which I cannot get over. It’s too perfect.

So, my husband and I moved to the Bay Area a few years ago. I feel super excited to be here, but space is tight. I need shelves at the back of my kitchen counter.

(This is really all the counter my kitchen boasts. I love the pretty blue tile.)

(We all plan things this way, right?) :wink:

Prototype 1 came out weirdly small. It would take months and a bunch of trial and error, but I have come to believe that there is a translation issue somewhere in the various applications I’m using where one is defaulting everything to A4 and the other US Letter. Things come out just that sort of too small and oddly reproportioned.

Sadly this plays hell with my slots and tabs as well. But we chuff onward.

For Prototype 2 I hamfistedly dragged the art back into better proportions in the AutoCAD program we use to talk to Zuko.

I was eager to get the shelves clouded up anyway.

Rushed makers get sloppy with glue.

Prototype 3: bring on the plywood!

This little one is my favorite of the supports. Except when I want to hang something under a shelf. So obviously I need to mix the ideas a bit.

I am really bad at lining up slots and tabs. I get the feeling that I’m reinventing a wheel here and somewhere there must be software that makes this easier (I’m in Inkscape so far), but I haven’t sorted this part out at all yet.

The design shrank again! (I don’t remember in which step of the process I started shaking my fist at the ceiling while yelling “AAAAAAA! FFFFOOOOUUURRRR!” but it has been deeply therapeutic.)

Dude… Zuko. If you shrink my designs, the slots become too small for the tabs. And then where are we? We’re laser professionals using SANDPAPER. Sandpaper, Zuko. What has become of us?

… okay, things are getting pretty, though.

I still <3 you, Zuko.

A! 4!

Prototype 4 Laser settings.
(Raise your hand if you’re feeling increasingly grateful for the Glowforge crew smoothing out a bunch of this nonsense? Yeah, me too.)

Prototype 4!
(I think this is about when I decided I should make smaller shelves and stop using so much material on each failure…)

This is the first verion to get actual screws into the actual wall.

We’ve been living with them for a while and I’m pondering my next moves. People don’t trust the shelves’ strength: my mom didn’t believe she could put her coffee on them, but John (my husband) is also correct that I’ve put too many supports in so they’re kind of silly-reinforced. I need to get better at the structural lining up of different planes… The super swirly supports are a decent start, but there are areas where they’re too delicate and others where the gaps are too thin…

And we haven’t really begun to put in lighting, though we have bounced some strategies.

I can hardly wait to get our glowforge. :smiley:

Thanks for making the tool of our dreams, Glowforgers. You rock. <3


Love the whimsical look of it!

One suggestion I’d make regarding the shelf supports, rather than having straight-through slits you could provide better support by doing something like this in future projects. You’ll have to account for a certain amount of material sticking out the back, but the forces on the shelf will be stronger.


Oh, that’s wonderful. Thank you!

Actually, you know what? Forget what I wrote above. Thinking about it more, I think your shelf supports are too small to do that effectively. Thinking about it more this afternoon, I’d consider something like this, rather.


Also bumping out from the wall is a feature, not a bug, as I’d already decided I want them to float more and behind seems the first logical choice for where LEDs could nest.


I love these so much. Thanks for showing us the prototype story too, the backstory is always interesting to me :smiley:

Somewhat related - I’ve been pushing my architect for stainless steel splashbacks in the kitchen renovation so I can attach laser-cut accessories/small shelves for tiny things/etc by rare earth magnet. I have made a market display for the jewellery I used to produce that functions in this way, using magnetic whiteboards on easels as the backdrop and I love that everything is repositionable.

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Umm, magnets don’t stick to stainless steel, so you might want to rethink that plan.

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Some stainless steels are magnetic, so make sure to test the backsplash you plan to use with a magnet first before installation.


(Yes, I would check that the chosen stainless steel isn’t austenitic.)