Making a neon acrylic scale (glorified ruler) from start to finish on a Trotec laser (also a fair amount of Rhino stuff)



I made an acrylic scale (AKA an acrylic ruler) yesterday and it came out pretty good, in my opinion. It’s quite accurate and easy to read too. I can envision a few places where I would prefer to use this acrylic ruler instead of a metal ruler.

A project like this could be done in… 20 minutes or so if you have a good plan for your design. Maybe add another 10 minutes if you have to make revisions to your design. Subtract some minutes if you’re in a hurry and just want to get something made as quickly as possible.

Personally, I turned it into a 2-hour project by recording (both video and screen capturing) the whole process from start to finish, and also including a bunch of stuff that I had already done. :slight_smile: And THEN I made it an ALL DAY affair by editing together all that video… Whew, what a hassle that is!

Below is the video. It’s… thorough. It basically goes from turning on a Trotec laser, to focusing the beam, to cutting a speed test pattern, measuring the kerf, positioning cuts/engraves on the bed of the laser, messing with the Trotec “JobControl” software settings, and some other laser-related stuff I’m sure. I also give a decent look at simple 2D designing with Rhino by drawing the scale from scratch (and making corrections) and throw in a shout-out to the screen recording software I use (“OBS”). Included is video of all the cuts and engraves. At the end, I compare it to a factory-made scale and carefully measure its dimensions.

The video is an hour long… Grab a sangwich and some coffee and enjoy!

Here’s the file…
150mm Scale.dxf (541.8 KB)

Inking acrylic

Thank you! I’m looking forward to watching this and learning a lot about this process. I know that many would edit this much more heavily to just provide the “highlights”, I’m looking forward to learning the minutae.


That’s a high point for me, like the RD Works guy who stumbles into a problem, and explores the reason, then how to fix it.
Witnessing real life learning an unknown process on an unfamiliar tool.


Nice work! What is that giant caliper-like device and where can I get one?!


That is called a height gauge


Great video and commentary. For me who has no laser experience, it’s cool to see the details.

Yeah. Funny about the stick. Don’t they still use physical miniature representations of planes when working with the air wing on an air craft carrier? ?@dwardio? And do air traffic controllers still use sticks to represent planes?

Nice tip about Open Broadcasting. Trying to find a decent free solution too. I’ll check into it.


I can’t watch this in its fullness until after work but I am SO tickled that I started a thread that lead to this.


As a non-laser using human being (pre-Glowforge,) I now have a fuller appreciation for what Proofgrade™ will do for me after watching the test cuts and the process for measuring and compensating for kerf.

Also, I feel like I could just stick the original under the Glowforge camera and have the job done in seconds. I am thankful for gaining some understanding of what a full manual design process looks like, though. Getting enough Proofgrade™ to keep up with random inspiration that turns into a design will require some forethought as long as it is only available by mail, and I’m not always good at that.


So, I have this idea for the Glowforge Drinking Game. Every time you hear, “compensating for kerf”, you have to take a drink!


Last I saw, the plane handlers (yellow shirts) still used scale silhouette models of the aircraft on a model of the flight deck. Looks like every war movie ever made.

Likewise, aviators were still using little wooden models on sticks to talk through manuevers, as shown in Top Gun. Makes sense, as it was shot while I was on active duty.

Standard joke:
How do you get a Naval Aviator to be silent?
Tie their hands down.




welp…watched the whole thing. Told myself for the first pass I’ll just watch bits and pieces and get the highlights. An hour later and I’m really glad I didn’t skip anything. THANK you for creating this for us.


*note to self: don’t read this forum in the morning while playing this game. Lunch time is acceptable.


Doing a quick search on Amazon for “height gauge”, there are some options available that are less expensive than most of the options available on the zoro site that @jkopel linked to. Of course, as with all things, you often get what you pay for, so it probably comes down to how precise you need to be.


I’m not even all the way through and already thinking about how much easier the Glowforge will make things. I love the comment about having this high-tech laser machine that you focus using a stick! Maybe @dan can have somebody stick a ruler and some acrylic in a Glowforge sometime and show how easy and fast it is to repeat what this guy did in an hour.


Thanks! For me, when I edit video I end up watching it OVER and OVER again and, after a while, it basically loses all meaning. It’s good to hear that it was indeed informative and “watchable”. :smiley:


What about feeler gauges? Is that a standard part of the tool kit for those with laser cutters? I guess using my digital calipers would not be as easy as the feeler gauges for checking compensating for the kerf (slurp, slurp).


I would also like to see a video like that. One that gets down to the nitty-gritty, with a focus on accuracy.

It’s not standard equipment as far as I’m aware. I am currently thinking that it probably should be though. It’s not hard to find space for one 20mm cut that can be used to test. 20mm might even be too long.


The one @jkopel linked to is indeed the one I have, except mine is the 12" model.

Height gauges (or height “gages”, as it’s often spelled, for some reason) are quite handy. One of the things you can do is score a line into something at an exact (well, very close to exact) height. You can score a line with a set of calipers too, but since you usually have to hold them at an angle, some accuracy gets lost. In fact, the lack of needing to futz with trying to hold objects at a perfect angle is one of the best things about using a height gauge on a surface plate.

Like digital calipers, as the price goes up you get diminishing returns. This one is nice as it’s pretty beefy and it keeps an “absolute” position, so it doesn’t need to be rezeroed all the time (actually, I basically never have to rezero it).


I didn’t really intend to, either. Strange how that was fascinating to me.