How to design finger joints for beginners

I am new to glowforge and designing. I am having a hard time figuring out how to create finger joints easily, and being able to make adjustments if it isn’t correct without having to start all over again. I am using inkscape. I also created a SVG on a baby sign but can’t figure out how to make it engrave and cut. It only wants to engrave. Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer.

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The easiest thing is to use a box generator.

There are lots to choose from:

However if you’re set on making your own:

Generators are much simpler. I very rarely make my own fingers.


Welcome to the forum.

Regarding your baby sign issue, you need to understand that even though you have an SVG file, you don’t necessarily have a file that the Glowforge will print in the way you wish. To differenciate different operations, the Glowforge uses colors. In Inkscape, make different parts of your design different colors so the Glowforge can treat them differently. Also, only vectors can be cut/scored rather than engraved. After working through the Glowforge tutorials, I suggest reading the Laser Design Basics.pdf: Laser Design Basics 🤔


How people use art programs to do built up 3d things I just don’t know. I guess their brains work differently than mine.
The other Evans turned you on to generators and if I am needing a basic box (there are around 20 styles amongst the different generators) I use one.
If you need something beyond these (and you most likely will at some point) I use Fusion 360 to make all my finger jointed box-like things. I’d say 95% of what I make is genetically related to a box.
Like Inkscape, Fusion 360 is free to use for personal use and it makes adjusting kerf easy. Lots of discussion right here on these forums.
I wrote some tutorials several years ago that have not aged really well but they are still useful if you are interested.

Here is a link to mine as well as several others:


It helps to be old enough to have taken perspective drawing and drafting classes where you used paper and pencil :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I’m old as dirt but I can see that. That is exactly why I love Fusion 360 over other 3d modeling programs like Sketchup or blender, you pick a view and draw a sketch just like I learned in all the technical trades I’ve been in through the years.

hahaha you’re hilarious, you actually just made it seem like f360 is intuitive.

Oh, good one. :wink:


It’s actually not hard. Once you have one slot and finger, you can break them into their own segments, and just duplicate them as needed.

I’m not a fan of the finger joint edges, but I use tabs and slots to join pieces all the time. I have a template that I created for working with PG maple ply and draftboard.

In Inkscape, you can make a small rectangle the size of the finger you want and a large rectangle longer than your longest side, use Duplicate in place on the larger one.

Now using Object to Path you can set the distances you want and have a long string of teeth. The corners may be weird but you will fix that. first union everything together and then in node editor delete the end bits and segments and hit Break Apart and you now have 2 long sets of teeth.

Set the line of one of the strings to your Kerf adjustment, and hide the other. Now using Stroke to Path you will have two sets of teeth! You use the bigger one for where the teeth go out and the smaller where the teeth go in and the result after kerf will have them the same.

After that, all you need do is make sure the teeth will align on the different parts, just copy the relevant set of teeth enough times for your needs,


There are so many ways to read this, sarcasm for sure, but where it is pointed I don’t know. I actually find it very intuitive! The key to learning it is to simply ignore all the things it can do with its different modules until you have the basics down. Sketch and extrude alone will do oh so much.

The same way I see everything as a box I see tabs and slots as being genetically the same as fingers. Learn fingers and tabs and slots come naturally. I enclose the ends of most of my stuff making them essentially tabs and slots. Mix and match is good.

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If you can keep your fingers crossed you have solved most that there is about a box.


It’s (offtopic ish and highly subjective) pointed at f360 being a labyrinth that my brain doesn’t like to navigate… f360 has a very steep initial learning curve, and if you don’t like to learn by video (which I don’t) you’re in some trouble. F360 documentation is very committed to video formats for whatever reason. It’s not as simple as “make a sketch”, the workflow is far more complicated than that, even just exporting svgs is non trivial.

So, the F360 route is definitely not the advice I’d give to someone just getting started, especially for a simple creation of finger joints. It’s like recommending Carl Sagan’s apple pie recipe… you don’t need to create the universe here, finger joints are easy with generators and 2d programs.


I had to like that even though I can’t entirely agree with most of it. I appreciate that you fleshed it out so I can understand other people’s takes on things.

The more I see into other people’s heads, the more I can see that a) I am anything but neurotypical, and b) I start to wonder if there is any such thing.

I’ll have to go with you to the point that the first project can look like a wall, but after that, I see it as a steady climb.

Sadly it is not just F360, everything seems to be going that way. I do better with a written tutorial but have been forced to learn how to learn from the video due to them taking over.

But it is, or at least it can be. I’ve gone from thinking of something to cutting in under 10 minutes!

You install the Shaper Origin plugin (non-trivial), and yes, exporting SVG is completely trivial.

I seconded using generators for the first projects. It is after that that we disagree. I have seen people use MS paint to draw electronics schematics, and they got good results, but that doesn’t mean it was the best tool for the job.

Past me is always telling present me that future me will very much appreciate a bit of investment now towards learning something that will make my life easier for him.

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Once upon a time at my old corporate job I’d get marketing people sending me ground plans they made in Excel :slight_smile: Poeple can get really creative within their limitations


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