Proofgrade Walnut Plywood Alphabet Block(s)

I have been thinking about this for a while and since I am needing to get stuff to display at the Bay Area Maker Faire, I thought I’d get started on this.

When I was little, we would go visit my Polish grandparents in St. Louis. They had a wooded toy box (about the size of an old beer case, which it probably was). It contained all sorts of small toys, all wooden. I remember the blocks. And I remember the fights we’d get into when one of the siblings inevitably knocked over our towers.

At the moment, I have just painted the engraved lettering. I remember that the blocks we played with had different colored letters on them.I really think that I have to do a lighter engrave and fill the engrave with paint or some type of infill. Although the paint works fine.

I used for the pattern. I entered in a .005" kerf width and it fits very tight and holds together. It outputs a PDF that I just dropped in and printed. Really amazing how fast you can make some cubes. There was one issue. It was missing one small cut on two tabs. Looking at how the PDF was placed in the Glowforge workspace, I can see what happened. One of the sides overlapped the no-go zone and seemed to get split in half. When I moved the design around to fit into some odd shaped leftover pieces, I must have left those little lines out. Easy enough to take care of with a box cutter.

Note how I have selected the tiny side of a tab.

Here is a pic of the one side that got split in half. I’m going to redo this with one of the other box generators. I’d like to have an SVG of the cut file so I can tweak just a bit. I’d like to be able to eliminate how the tabs are proud. We’ll see. The boxes are 1.65" cubed.

I had cut each of the sides in some odd place on scrap plywood, from two different sheets. They behaved fine. One interesting things is that the top and bottom (the pieces that have the four corners with big squares on them (it has a white “X” on it in the picture), fit better with top side in. Part of that is a function of how the laser cuts through a thickness. “Fit” is a relative term. It slid in slightly easier but holds together perfectly.

While the masking was on, I sanded the “Ed Burns” a bit, not really to get rid of the char but more to get make the tabs flush with the connecting side. This particular pattern left the tabs slightly proud. It all worked just fine but if I am going to make a bunch of them, I’d like to work on the design to tweak it ever so lightly for a perfect fit. No glue is needed but I think for permanent use, I’d glue them in case differential seasonal fluctuations in humidity would make them less liable to stick together.

And finally, You need a set of the alphabet in your design space. They come in handy. I can engrave or cut these each individually and put them where I need to. This is an SVG with the text letters changed from stroke to path and broken up to make them pure vectors.

I’ve been thinking about letter placement on the blocks. I thought I would make sure all the vowels got their own blocks and make sure the “q” and the “u” are on different blocks. Might repeat a few of the more frequent letters. An interesting linguistic question: How does one make a set of alphabet blocks for English?

Finally, I have to go pick up one more color of paint so there are six colors for the six sides. I have five bottles of different colored acrylic.


You could start by looking at how many of each letter a Scrabble set has.

This might be helpful too:

Letter Frequency in the English Language (from most used to least used)
e t a o i n s r h l d c u m f p g w y b v k x j q z


Neat! Great advice about the letters. Are you able to open a file that has them all and just select and place one letter, ignoring the others? That would be pretty handy.

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Definitely good advice. You certainly don’t want to put the most frequent letters on the same blocks.

I didn’t bother with different colors. They are all one so they come in as one operation. Since they are all separate though, I can delete the ones I am not processing at the moment. So in this case I engraved them all at the same time on the cube sides attached and flat so they didn’t get blown around. If I need to put more letters on, I can just back out of the workspace to the design space and put the whole alphabet back in.



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You can shift-click as many items as you want, then hit the “delete” key to remove them.


the scrabble tiles are a good idea; they’re just the result of english letter frequency analysis done on the newspaper.

something to consider, if you want to start making these en masse - you could fill the engrave with a brightly colored resin or epoxy, and let it cure before you put them together. i’m thinking it would be less finicky if you had to make a whole host of these.


If you wanted to mass produce wouldn’t you do the following:
Make 6 rows of sides. One for each color.
Place the letters you want in their respective row.
Engrave the letters.
Remove from the glowforge.
Paint (spray, roller, brush)
Place back in the glowforge.
Cut out the sides.
Remove masking and assemble. Touch up if necessary.

Or will the masking used on the material wick the paint under it?

I understand you were using scrap to see how it would look, but if you wanted a pile of them for Maker Faire.


@marmak3261 Will you be doing 0-9 later ? I seem to recall some blocks having numbers as well.

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That would certainly be fair and since it is Pi Day in the US calendar system, appropriate for today.

Yes. That would be a good workflow. Much more efficient. Thanks for pointing that out. It all depends on the ability to place a full tray of cut outlines over a full tray of engraves. This would be a good test of the standard size template that can be used as an accurate positioning.

Now that would be a cool inlay application. Do the Scrabble tiles with an inlay for the letters. In the hopper!


Very nice. I had a set like that on my to-do list from the very beginning. Thanks for working out the kinks for the rest of us.

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If you had one of those Luxury Scrabble sets, some inlaid tiles would really make it pop.

Shoot, if they really go for $500 like amazon is suggesting, someone might be quite willing to pay for a custom set of wooden tiles…


Oh boy, I bet I could sell a set with Comic Sans as the inlay typeface!


Agh, not for the Luxury version!:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

the main designer at Twitter tweeted that the most server space is used by complaints about: first, airlines; second, Comic Sans; and third, Justin Bieber. So not even The Bieber can beat Comic Sans!

That was from an interview that I found here on

Also, was this article about comic sans (written by the designer and hosted on his site) posted before? I apologize if it was.


Haha–he was just yanking your chain!

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Added emoji to help relay tone of comment!
And actually, the proper owner of one of those lux scrabble sets should be cool enough to really want a comic sans letter set, for the beautiful irony!

Oh, but now I’m thinking about cast Iron(y) letters…
no thats ridiculous.

No. Google reveals a disturbing lack of steampunk-themed scrabble sets. Only the Vintage comes close.


Oh that luxury set reminds me of Grandma.
Words with friends not so much… but that is totally Grandma.

Looks like you found a market. :slight_smile:


My mom is a scrabble fanatic. We gifted her a luxury set back in the 90’s, but it wasn’t as swanky as the one that you posted. She would love that!

Now I’m trying to think up unique, GForgeable scrabble-y gifts for her :wink:


If @marmak3261 doesn’t make a comic sans letter set, you could still do one.
It might look like this?


I always wanted the table set one:

I think they even offered “Scrabble ™” chairs.
Then again - why stop at tiles? make a board with the Glowforge ! (We’ve seen posts with monopoly lasered boards).