TOPO Experiment

One of the things I’ve been wanting to try with the Glowforge is TOPO maps. Quite a while back I was able to create a vector topo map of Mercer Island, WA using elevation data I found online. For cutting, I wanted to use the least amount of material so I decided to try cutting it twice alternating each topo line between a cut and a score with a plan to use the score to align the piece above.

The cutting and scoring took just over 20 minutes.

I didn’t bother to order the cuts from inside to outside and just let the GF decide. It did cut several outside first but it didn’t seem to cause any trouble. It was really fun to see it cut between the score lines in the steeper areas.

After cutting was the hard part, the weeding! Once I had the pieces all organized.

They were easy to pick up and place.

I haven’t bothered to glue the pieces together so it was a little tricky to get a shot of the underside with my phone.

I love how easy the GF makes these projects!


Nice project!!


Nice, very cool!


Great way to organize your cuts for material conservation!
Product looks great!


My father in law once said the thing he likes least about the internet is that it makes his vast musical trivia knowledge irrelevant. I feel sort of the same way about the glowforge. Wonderful to be able to do this so quickly and multiple times. But, for anyone who spent countless hours doing it by hand, it’s also a little bitter sweet.


Absolutely agree. One of my very first prints made me realize how easily someone who has never touched leather craft can now reproduce designs and skills that I’ve refined over the course of decades… and without that investment of time, they may not value the work as dearly.

Yay for them, not so great for me … made me realize that I need to step up my game and hone the aspects of my work that are unique and cannot be reproduced by a machine.


Uhhhhh…I saw your stuff this morning on your webpage…you got no worries! :smile:


"With every gain there is loss, and with every loss there is gain."

On one hand I see how easily someone with little experience can make something that traditionally took me hours or days at the bench to produce with long practiced skill, and at the same time I rejoice in how easily I can craft something with numerical precision by pushing a button.

The craft of the hand wielded tool has been replaced by design software. What hasn’t changed is the underlying artistic inspiration and creative vision.
To bang out a copy of an inspiring work is easy, but the reward and satisfaction of making an idea manifest still eludes all but the artistic visionary. They cannot take that from us, and they will never know that joy.


I don’t know if you’ve thought of this yet, but this doubles as a bathymetric map!

I mean, it’s not like you could say it was somewhere specific, but it looks a lot like an underwater view :wink:


This is relevant to my interests!


This is definitely on my list. I look forward to doing the local boy scout reservation where I spent soo many hours herding teenage cats.


Great job! Can you please tell us how you created the vectors from the topo map? Can’t wait for mine!

Thanks, it’s been a while so I’m not sure I remember the exact toolpath I used and there may be better ways today. I do remember that a followed most if not all of the advice in the video referenced in this post…


Like these?



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What a great idea to use the scores for alignment. Love seeing the reverse in your last photo - it could make a beautiful decorative bowl!

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I watched this video today, and it reminded me of your project. Once again, great work!

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This was NOT made on a Glowforge, I used a ULS Laser at Techshop while I was waiting for my GF, but I thought I’d show what can be done. Mt Whitney CA area. 22 layers, each layer is 400’ of elevation. It took a while, but it was fun!


Oh, that’s beautiful! I would be itching to deeply engrave all those lakes and fill them in with blue-tinted resin. You’ll have to give it a try with your GF!


Really great work and process! Thanks!

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