Design newbie seeks help for first project

Hi folks,

As a complete newbie to all things laser, I am wondering if you have any advice on what would be a good first design project to create from scratch, and what sorts of things to take into consideration along the way.

I need some project ideas that will help me learn just a few useful skills at a time and also help me get to my first successes without tearing my hair out.

Is a simple wallet with leather stitching too ambitious?


You might want to start with something other than leather for the first project…you can work up to that soon, but leather has its own issues…stitching, bending, stinking…you know the gig.

(We’re putting together a few beginner tutorials geared to exactly that, but they’re not ready just yet.)

I will probably start with decorating up something with a simple engrave…maybe a little box or a bookmark, or something in acrylic so I can see how it cuts and engraves. (I’m totally new to it too!) :smile:

Oh, there are some things you need to start gathering to prepare for it…

And check out the Free Laser Designs Category:


Without any idea about your non-laser skills I cannot comment on the appropriateness of a wallet as your first project. But with any project beyond a coaster there are two primary aspects of it: designing the pieces and assembling the pieces. Designing for a laser means creating something that will be in 3D, but is cut in 2D. Each material will have its own quirks, but the basics of designing will span all materials. Assembling what you’ve cut, on the other hand, will require techniques specific to your medium.

I’m assuming you have no real leather working experience. If not, my apologies. You may want to consider buying a leather wallet kit from a place like Tandy leather. You can get a simple kit that comes with pre-cut pieces and everything you need to assemble it for about $30. This has the following advantages:

  1. You don’t have to invest in a bunch of leather working tools you may or may not need.
  2. You get to see what a wallet consists of when it is in pieces thus giving you an idea of what you would need to replicate in Illustrator, Inkscape, or even drawn on paper to be traced by the glowforge software.
  3. You’ll get to stitch it together giving you some idea if this is something you’d like to do.

As is the norm, @Jules has a) beaten me here, and b) said what I was going to say better than I could.

Yeah, assuming you really are new to all things smart tool, I’d do a hello world in something flat and hard. A ruler, a coaster, something in that realm. then make a box or some type of holder. Headphone holder, wall mounted key holder…

Get 5-6 things under your belt to build confidence and then start playing with leather.


All good advice. If you anticipate leather as your preferred material, a bag of scraps would be a good investment. For any problems or questions you encounter, your owner’s forum here stands ready to help.


I believe some of the initial designs (at least as seen by pre-release users) available like the GF ruler would be a good first option. As stated in above posts, something like a simple coaster to show a cut and engrving would be nice (or make it into a brooch or button). As there are almost infinite ideas, you can choose something functional (think of what you need - coaster, ruler, gift tag, frame) or simply decorative! Just have fun with it - experiment with it - learn with it and share ideas and questions here !!! :relaxed:


i’ll be devil’s advocate. leather’s a great material to fiddle with: the only thing you really need to worrrrry about is whether it’s vegetable tanned. anything else is peanuts. personally if i were anticipating being a big leatherworker, i’d get a bag of scraps and start working on designs for coasters or bookmarks. simple things that often see leather being used.


I plan on doing my learning and “trial and error” on cardboard I have cut into flat segments that will fit in the Glowforge. they were free to me, and can make some cool stuff. By the time I’m done doing all those projects I hope to be comfortable with the machine and the interface, and ready to move onto expensive materials.


My third beta project was a leather credit card holder, the original post is in the forums here somewhere… it was fun and gave me a new appreciation for handmade leather wares!


My first project was to reproduce an object that was made of a different material but would work well as a laser project. I posted my first steps as a topic and got loads of help from the forum. The topic developed and I was able to design an object that worked perfectly th first print. I had a little experience using vector drawing programs and had been using Sketchup before so that helped.

Right now I am looking at a ceiling fan above me and thinking that I could make some cool, decorative fan blades with the Glowforge.

You could always just start with making cutouts of different things. I think the coaster idea is interesting. Whatever you decide, don’t be afraid to show your steps or share your mistakes or problems. I think many forum members are eager for something to do. As long as you show something. Even if it is a napkin sketch and you ask the question: how would you turn this into a file the Glowforge could process. I did that with the basketweave engrave and was so delighted to get all kinds of ways to improve the process.


Considering mistakes are the teacher, showing them allows us to learn how not to… Just as valuable as a successful project.


A decorative pattern that becomes animated when the blades spin?
[searches ‘animated fan blade decoration’]
Of course there is a youtube video that will serve as a point of inspiration for something that we will be able to do with much more complexity with a Glowforge.


Yeah. That is a good example of what I wanted to do. Although I haven’t found any that said laser cut ceiling fan blades, there was a cool persistent vision one with LEDs. The Glowforge could really leverage the spinning blades into some cool patterns.


You could start by purchasing patterns. Look on Etsy for Laser Cut Box patterns. First, follow their directions, and later start making your own modifications.


Hey, if you need the passthrough of the Pro to do that project, you know you are welcome to use mine (once it arrives of course).


Cool idea!
“My common sense is tingling!” The LED setup (or material removal from engraving) on each bade needs to be close to identical for balance.
Just a friendly reminder from Captain Obvious. :wink:


This site is great for making boxes…I use this alot then modify them to my needs.


@smcgathyfay - Thanks Laser Lady! Bookmarked the site. :sunglasses:
Love the pearls you scatter for us.:+1:




I think I’ve got those from other posts but they are scattered all over–thanks for consolidating to one spot!

Come to think of it, not sure I’ve seen that third one. Off to check it out–thanks! You scatter a lot of pearls too!