Designing and cutting

Laser cutting is a great way to make things and the precision available constantly tempts the designer to make more complex innovations.  But complex is not necessarily the way to go, when the aims are great play value, simple clean lines and ease of assembly.

Taking a trip down memory lane here is a picture of the Hobbies treadle fret saw, one of the ways plywood was worked in the 20th Century to create models.  Modern versions are available, electric powered of course.  Many toys and models were made on machines like this, and the Hobbies brand lives on and seems to thrive, although few of the products they sell are made in the UK.

Precision making in the pre-electric age developed from clock making and then scientific instruments, and involved a host of small tools, some of which have morphed into modern versions, such as the Archimedes hand drill.

In the age of mass production and high-tech manufacturing  the individual maker could only compete by charging high
prices for craftsmanship.  Laser cutting and other batch production machines – the vinyl cutter, 3D printer, CNC Router &c – have helped cottage industries to redress that balance just a little.  They provide highly accurate cutting – 0.2mm tolerances in the case of lasers.   And for the time being at least the robots are not able to design things.

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Chris Miller