QOTD from Glowforge: Before Glowforge, what tools have you used for making things and how do you feel about them?

We’re super curious how much exposure you all have had with fabrication tools, which leads me to our next QOTD:

Tell us about your previous experience with fabrication tools and how do you feel about them? Talk about any building/crafting/making tools you love, but we’re particularly interested in computer controlled tools (CNC mills, 3D printers, laser cutters/engravers, desktop cutting devices like Cricut, etc).

As usual, I’ll kick things off.

On the computer-driven side, I’m relatively new to the game. Like any card-carrying designer-geek, I got excited about 3D printers when they hit the consumer scene a few years ago and quickly lost interest. The results just weren’t pretty or useful enough to motivate me to get better at CAD. 14ish months ago, I met and fell in love with laser cutters (Dan introduced me to his). I joined a Makerspace and kept trying (with a RedSail Laser), but I was pretty frustrated. The software was bad, many projects failed, I couldn’t use a Mac, there was a ton of trial and error (with material waste), etc. Still, I made a few things I was proud of. Since then I’ve used lasers almost daily (an old laser at work and increasingly, a Glowforge!). I’ve played a bit with a Cricut and Silhouette just to see how they work. I’ve never used a CNC mill, but we have a big one and an OtherMill at the office. I’ve only dabbled in electrical/mechanical stuff.

On the analog side– I’ve helped a friend build a cabin in Alaska, have remodeled what started as a truly awful house in Seattle (I love tiling!), and I’ve built a bunch of custom furniture and shelving (you can see some of my work here). I have a deep love for my router, chop-saw, and table-saw and I wish I was smarter about stains and varnishes. My wife occasionally asks me to build chicken coops and bee boxes for our little urban farm.


I’ve been using a re-branded Graphtec plotter to cut heat press vinyl full time for a little over 3 years now. I guess my nerdy Youtube viewing habits worked for me, and youtube suggested the Tested video of the Glowforge. I knew I had to have it. I didn’t have the capital laying around, so I convinced my brother and sister that they need it too. Now if only I can survive the wait.


hi, my name is nick and i am a scenic carpenter. I build theater sets and displays for theme parks in Orlando Florida. Alot of my experience is with traditional wood working tools (table saw) but for the last 4 years or so i have bounced around from shop to shop programming large cnc routers. the main soft ware i use is vector works, auto cad, and aspire for the cnc work.


My first “big boy” digital tool was a KNK die cutter that I have only had about a year. It’s excellent, I have found it to be very reliable. The software is goofy because the people who wrote it seem to have missed the last couple of decades of graphic design software and the standard UI conventions which came to exist, and so they did everything their own way… but it gets the job done.

So from that experience, my feedback for the Glowforge team is this: in matters of UI/UX, don’t reinvent the wheel where you don’t have to.

On the analog side I have a normal dude’s assortment of small power tools. This includes a nice double-bevel, double-miter compound saw which I don’t know to use at all, and only have ever used for crudely chopping pieces of wood into exactly slightly the wrong size for my needs. I really, really don’t like working with wood and conventional tools. I never really learned the ropes and have little aptitude for it. This is why I am very interested in laser cutters… If I can cut precise shapes out of wood by spending time on the computer, where I am comfortable… now we’re talking.

Also, once I realized that dimensional lumber was labeled with cruel lies, I had a falling out with the idea of woodworking. Funny story: I was in my 30s when I went to a Home Depot to buy a two-by-four because I needed a piece of wood that was 4 inches across. At the time, this seemed a perfectly reasonable thing to do, I swear. I got it home and found that the wood was not sized as labeled… it was not even close, in fact, and everyone but me knew that already and was OK with it. When I am in the lumber aisle, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

Glowforge, help me come to love woodworking. You’re my last hope.


CNC Controllerd Gear:

  • 1800mm X 1100mm heavily modified ShapeOko 2 named LongOko (Fusion or Illustrator then to Aspire - Powered by LinuxCNC)
  • Silhouette Cameo Vinyl cutter. (Plugin for AI)
  • DIY 2.5W laser cutter thats 500mm X 1000mm named Pew Pew (Fusion or Illustrator then to OctoPrint)
  • Solidoodle Press & Solidoodle 2 named Thing 1 & Thing 2 (both heavily modified- The SDP has a E3D Cyclops and the SD2 has a E3D v6) (OctoPrint & Slic3r)
  • HP Wide Format Printer


  • Fusion 360 (OS X)
  • Adobe Illustrator CS6 (In some cases Inkscape) (OS X)
  • Aspire (VM /w Windows 7)

Analog Gear

  • Surface Planner
  • Table Saw
  • Power Coat setup
  • 12" Drill Press
  • 12" Press Brake
  • Small spray booth for staining or painting.

Of all the machine listed above my favorite is LongOko. It can handle large pieces and 3D Carve into them. The close second is Pew Pew.

We’ve been doing craft stuff with these machines for couple years. It’s amazing to have an idea in the morning. CAD’d out in the afternoon and a part in your hand that evening. So, So cool.

Digital tools: first used vector software was Coreldraw and I designed a large outdoor pavilion and had a barn raising over a weekend at the rustic retreat center in the woods that our school owned. Then did a bath and kitchen house at this place which I was able to turn over to a few local carpenters who put it up after I did the footings and foundation work. First time with rebar and forms. It included a radiant heat floor. The laser printer was the only output machine I ever used. Have been fiddling with raspberry pis and stepper motors with the goal to some type of CNC machine, most likely a Makerbot style printer. Have done various pieces of furniture and finished the inside of a cabin where my workshop is. Built a brick pizza oven and the digital model I did in Sketchup made it possible when it came to figuring out how my recycled blocks and bricks would fit together. Having finished my cabin and outdoor work, I was ready to turn indoors for some crafting. Was ready to buy an X-Carve when I stumbled across Glowforge in BoingBoing. I do want to finish my woodworking tool kit though now because I want to have low cost materials for the GF. Thus bandsaw, planer, and thickness sander. I have plenty of hardwood planks but need to get them thinner.

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This is similar to the thread I started here: What OTHER digital fabrication tools do you have/use

CNC Control: see link

Fusion 360
Vcarve Pro (would like to upgrade to Aspire but
123 Make
several less used

Analog gear:
All or most standard hand tools
Table saw
Belt sander
Hand sander
Miter saw
several more not coming to me

I think my first digital fabrication tool was a label maker of some type but I got into 3d printing a while back. Spent a lot of money on having models printed so purchased a Dremel printer for prototyping. last fall, the wife asked for a kitchen hutch and I think I wanted to somehow prove that I could combine 3d printing with a wood project. that Frozen movie was big back then so I thought about a themed hutch of some type. I definitely wish I had a Glowforge or CNC of some type back then because welding some 30 plastic parts together was a pain and you can still tell it’s plastic when touched or inspected closely:

Rosemaling archways and cabinet doors would work better on a laser cutter I think. I know it has been mentioned that the Glowforge is too small for cabinet faces. However, depending on your design or if you plan to paint it anyway, you may be able to hide seams well enough even with a small laser bed.


Ack how did I miss that? If I could roll back time, I would’ve maybe pinned (or at least referred) to yours. :slight_smile:

You didn’t ask for what we don’t have…but I have zip, nada, nothing. The Glowforge is virgin territory for me. I am putting time into learning as much as I can about the technology and design software while I’m waiting. Makes for a very short response!


I spent a long time with my nose in books, learning theory alone. Then I broke away and did a ton of electronics. Though that was ALSO all in theory alone forever. Finally got out to a ship and put the book learning to good use. Learned very fast that what looks elegant on diagram is a mess of wires and cabinets in real life. But was still able to troubleshoot an aircraft elevator just by a glance at schematics.

Went back to books. Started to realize that lacking the real world aspect was a major disconnect. So only in the last 2 years or so have I been delving into fabrication. I have access to a full machine shop, but do not know the tools and do not want to break them, and the shop belongs to someone else, so have to work around his schedule. All things I do not like.

So I acquired a 3D printer (Printrbot Simple Metal). Loved that, got another which was more capable (Monoprice 3D… a Makerbot dual extruder knockoff). Didn’t love that as much. Got a completely different one (Form 1+), loved it to pieces, but hated the extra post-process requirements. Assembled a CNC (mostly. A Zenworks 12x12). Had some of my students assemble a laser cutter for me (I actually just asked one of the guys for his impression on the Lasersaur, since he said he had worked with waterjet in a prior job. He pitched it as his semester project idea, and I let him run with it. The design has been heavily modified from the Lasersaur, as many things about that project are a bit lacking, and their allowed budget was smaller).

I have a table saw, far too many Dremels, drill press, and many hand tools which I don’t know the names of. I have almost as many different soldering irons as I have dremels. I have tons of multimeter and oscilloscope options. Though not something I have seen anyone else use in fabrication, I have a high speed and a thermal camera, and have used each to troubleshoot random projects I have never heard of before.

I have used FreeCAD, OpenSCAD, Truespace, Adobe CS6 (almost every tool in the suite), OnShape, TinkerCAD, just got started with Solidworks. Also have done quite a bit of drafting by hand. And just recently I started teaching myself how to read architectural blueprints so I can plan a new building for a local school. Teaching myself a 3D architectural modelling tool called SweetHome 3D for that (I hope it is decent, dunno).

I also love to code, which I consider to be making things just as much as anything in the physical world. I self-taught starting in Python and moving to C++. This was because I taught myself for the purpose of modding in Civ 4. Since then I have learned just about every language I have heard of to some degree (It is really quite simple to move from one to another, so if you don’t know how to code yet, just pick whichever one is useful at the time and learn from there). I play with Arduino and RaspPi quite a bit, though I haven’t used them to make anything that had remained assembled for more than a week.

I would LOVE to belong to a Makerspace so I could play with more toys and learn more tricks, but none exist where I live. I hope to include one in the expansions for the school I am working on, and dream of re-locating to a job where I make/do more, and have a pre-existing Makerspace in the area. Sadly relocation doesn’t look likely any time soon, but I look on occasion.


I’ve been using 3D printers for a little over a year.

My first one was the Da Vinci 1.0 by XYZprinting. It was a good printer at a reasonable price ($500 US) but it had a few shortcomings. The first was proprietary filament cartridges. I can see the advantage of the cartridges, in that the embedded chip communicated the type and amount of material and various settings to the printer automatically. But it was frustrating to see all of the new types of filament being created and not being able to try them out. Another issue was the bed leveling, it was a very tedious process. There was an automated measurement of the bed height at three points, but you were just given the results and had to guess at the right adjustments to make, then sit by while it measured again. But the final straw against that machine was a failure to live up to their promises. When I bought the printer, it only printed ABS but they claimed printing PLA would be possible within a few months. That kept getting pushed back. Eventually PLA printing was available, but only with an upgrade to the extruder head that you had to pay for. So I gave the printer away to a friend and upgraded at the beginning of this year.

My current printer is the Ultimaker 2. I like the fact that it is based on open source, and I am able to use whatever filament I like. But it also has a few issues, mostly due to its design. It uses a Bowden tube design, with a motorized feeder that pushes the filament up through a plastic tube and into the extruder head. This distance between the feeder and the extruder can cause print failures with softer filaments like the flexible or metal-filled ones, especially when retraction is used. I also wish it had an all-metal hot end. But it does make some excellent prints. Here’s a time-lapse video of a Celtic skull model from Thingiverse that I printed in Bronzefill. (I thought my local Irish pub needed one for its Halloween decorations.)

I’ve also crowdfunded the MoonRay printer. http://global.sprintray.us/moonray I haven’t gotten my hands on one yet, but I am definitely looking forward to it. One idea I’ve had was using 3D printing to create molds for silver metal clay jewelry. (And because I’m impulsive, I’ve already bought the materials and kiln needed.) But I realized I would need to find a way to remove the layer lines from the 3D print. So when I saw the MoonRay, it seemed like a possible answer to that problem. Add the castable resin that they are making available for it and I was completely sold. I’ve found a silver foundry here in Chicago that advertises a 24-hour turnaround on small pieces. I can’t wait to try their services.

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That is exactly why I waited so long to buy my first 3d printer. I bought an LULZBOT mini and can print everything out there except flexies. Bridge and T-glase make owning it so worth it.

The Moonray looks like it is a step up from the Form 1+ in a few ways. Hopefully being projector based means running the higher resolution to get a smooth print right out of the vat isn’t also going to make the print take ages to finish.

But if you want to start casting right now… vapor polish your ABS prints. They get insanely smooth, and you can avoid losing fine detail once you get some experience under your belt with the timing.

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In terms of equipment and experience I am almost a complete novice. I like to think of myself as ‘practical’ and also pretty computer literate, but generally I don’t make/repair/create stuff.

However, when I have made things in the past I have really enjoyed myself and I am very excited about some of the ideas that I have for the glowforge, especially as I am looking to open a shop.

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Computer-Driven Side: My first tool in this category was a Next Wave Automation CNC Shark (early model) that I have used to make some signs, hand mirrors, and to fabricate for other projects. I still struggle to get the right feeds and speeds for some projects. I first learned about CNC routers around 1999 when I was looking for a way to produce a large number of cribbage boards from a design I created. I outsourced those but wished for my own CNC ever since. A year ago, I added a Roland VersaStudio BN-20 vinyl printer/cutter. It works great but prints kind of slow. I use it to print decals, heat transfers, and posters. I occasionally get orders for up to 2000 decals which can take 20 hours or more of machine time. I occasionally use it a a cutter to cut vinyl for heat transfer. I have a line of t-shirts, decals, and other gift items that I either produce on the BN-20 or partner with a local screen printer.

Analog Side: I have been a making things since I was a kid. I was the one kid in shop class that never found a plan and followed it. I always created my own designs. I have a table saw, drill press, miter saw, scroll saw, multiple routers, and countless hand tools that I have used to make things as small as jewelry and as large as armoires.

Software: I do most of my design work in CorelDraw. I used Vectric Aspire for CNC router design work. I also have experience on a lot of other design tools including the Adobe suite, Inkscape, and SketchUp although I prefer CorelDraw.

To answer the original question:

On the computer-driven side–I have a Roland GX24 24" vinyl cutter as well as a Brother ScanNCut. The latter has a feature similar to what we have seen in Glowforge demos: you slap your hand-drawn design down on the mat and the machine scans it, then cuts around the periphery (with or without a user-selectable border). There are lots of other features as well. For software I have the VE-LXi software (now obsolete Mac version) that came with my GX24 and I recently purchased Sure Cuts A Lot 4 which interfaces with both of my cutters and does a great job of file manipulation.

On the analog side–I have lots of jewelry making tools because my husband is in the business, including a super cool battery operated Foredom tool. I also have some photopolymer stamp making supplies. Which I hope to replace with the Glowforge!

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As designers, we (contract) manufacture ALOT of different products - cut-n-sew leather, turned stainless, laser cut titanium, CNR wood, sand cast iron, etc, so we technically end up using ‘everything’.

While we don’t own or operate the tools used in prototyping and manufacturing our stuff, we do need to deeply understand how they function and what they are capable of so we can take maximum advantage of their capabilities - classic DFM thinking.

My main CNC is the boss of all cutter-plotters, the Black Cat Cougar Pro. I bought it as an intermediate step to a laser for doing fine leather and paper cutting for bookbinding and jewelry. Frankly, it leaves a lot to be desired and wasn’t worth the investment. I’ve also had access to an Objet 3d printer and a laser sinterer through my job.

On the analog side, I use mostly handtools. I’m a bookbinder, calligrapher, and painter who focuses on inlaid and onlaid leather with lettering and illustration, with forays into combinations of typography, papercutting, and painting.