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January 11, 2021

Glowforge Project Tutorial: A Laser Cut Phone Stand

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The next project on my list is to make a laser-cut phone stand. We're going to use these with our Apple iPhone 11 Pro smartphones.

As usual, my wife had found an excellent design on Etsy for this project. The laser download file is called Cell Phone Stands FULL ALPHABET - Laser Ready File - SVG – Glowforge.

The name of this Etsy shop is Spin Customs - Custom Laser Ready Files. It's another "Buyers are raving!" shop with "This shop got multiple 5-star reviews in the past seven days."

The owner of this shop, Darryl, also has a Facebook group for Glowforge owners. In it, they talk about business, marketing, and everything else laser cut. If your primary goal is to make money with a laser machine, then this would be an excellent group to join.

Files Included with the Mobile Cell Phone Stand Design

One of the excellent features of this laser design is that it is personalizable. While this requires just a little more work to prepare for cutting, every result is virtually unique.

Along with adding your name to the design, the design includes the Alphabet letter. So if your name starts with the letter "A," you can use the letter "A" design. Yes, as you guess, there are twenty-six different designs included.

However, a design for each letter of the alphabet is only the beginning of this design's features.

As you can see from the image at the start of this article, you cut two separate material pieces, which intersect together for the final phone stand.

For this assembly to happen, you need to cut a slot in the larger piece of material. The width of this slot varies based on the material you are using. It could be different thicknesses of wood or acrylic.

Rather than leaving you to change the slot size, the shop owner provides drawing files for some of the most common sizes.
These sizes include a separate alphabet design for each of the following sizes: 3mm, 3.5mm, 4mm, 4.5mm, 5mm, 5.5mm, 6mm, or 6.5mm.

All that's needed is for you to determine the thickness of your material. The size can be determined easily using a caliper.

You do not need an expensive caliper, but I would suggest not getting the least expensive either. I ended returning an inexpensive one I purchased from a local tool store.

After researching them in the Glowforge community forums, I purchased the iGaging ABSOLUTE ORIGIN 0-6" Digital Electronic Caliper - IP54 Protection/Extreme Accuracy. It's been working very well for me.

iGaging ABSOLUTE ORIGIN 0-6" Digital Electronic Caliper - IP54 Protection/Extreme Accuracy

Working with the Design Files for the Phone Holder Stand

I work on a desktop PC running Windows 10. It's not uncommon for me to sometimes have problems un-zipping files created on an Apple Mac computer.

This design happened to be another one of those times I had problems with a ZIP file.

Windows 10 did not like one of the files included in the ZIP, i.e., "The following invalid folder name was encountered in the archive: "Cell_Stands\INKSCAPE:LIGHTBURN FOR EDIT ONLY!!!!!\." I'm sure that Windows 10 does not like the colon character in the folder's name.

The following invalid folder name was encountered in the archive message

The easy workaround was to open the ZIP file using Windows Explorer instead.

Open the ZIP file using Windows Explorer

Once Windows Explorer opens the ZIP, navigate to the Cell_Stands folder name and copy it. You can then paste this into a folder anywhere on your PC.

Navigate to the Cell_Stands folder name and copy it

It takes a few seconds to copy the files, but then you'll see a separate sub-folder for each of the different design sizes.

Separate sub-folder for each of the different cell phone stand design sizes.

After you open the size sub-folder, you'll see another directory listing of the alphabet design files' letters.

All the files are type SVG, which works fine for the Glowforge Laser. There are not any DXF files included.

I'm going to start my personalization changes using the letter "K."

SVG Design files for laser cut phone stand

Personalizing Your Laser Cut Cell Stand Design

The rest of the design changes were straight-forward and easy to do.

I work with Adobe Illustrator, which is what the designer used also. However, since many Glowforge owners use the free Inkscape design software, he included special instructions. Inkscape worked just a little bit differently.

The first for personalizing with Illustrator is to use the text tool. Please type in the name you want and place it in the right position.

Your next step is to change the text object into a shape object. You can do this using the Create Outlines option under the Type menu in Illustrator.

Create Outlines option under the Type menu in Illustrator

To eliminate any potential issues when the Glowforge engraves the name, it's also an excellent idea to Unite the text shapes from the Pathfinder menu.

Unite the text shapes from the Pathfinder menu

As you can see from the images above, the stroke color for the inner circle cutout and design are all black. The stroke color for the finished shape cut out is also black.

I've written a separate article about stroke colors' relationship in your design and the Glowforge cutting steps' operation

If you want to control different cutting operations in the Glowforge app, you need to color-code the path strokes differently. If I leave both black in this design, then the Glowforge software will select which one to cut first.

I always like to process the laser cuts from the inside to the out. To do so, I need to change the stroke color of the outermost laser cut.

Typically, vector image designers leave multiple strokes with the same color joined in either a group or a compound path. In this design, it is a compound path. To separate them, select them (selecting one at this point determines both) and open the Object menu. From the Object menu, choose the Compound Path menu option and then click on Release.

At this point, you have separated the two sets of paths.

Adobe Illustrator Release Compound Paths

There is one task to do first before changing the outer path stroke color. I have the text shape approximately where I want it. However, it would be better to have it exactly centered between the two sides.

To do this, select both the outer and text shapes while holding the shift key. Once you have both selected, you click once the outside path to make it the key object.

Select both the outer and text shapes while holding the shift key

You then need to click the Align text option to center the name shape.

Align text option to center the name shape

The final design task is to change the color of the outer path stroke. I used a color from my Trubetskoy color swatch I wrote about separately. I chose purple to make sure this step was last or close to the final step.

Change the color of the outer path stroke

This design is ready for Glowforge Software processing.

At this point, you may be asking why the Name shape is black also? Doesn't this shape need to be engraved instead of cut?

The difference between these objects is that the name shape's Fill color is black. For the other vector objects, the path stroke color is black.

The Glowforge software interprets different stroke colors as separate cutting actions. In contrast, different Fill colors will process as individual engraving actions.

Cell phone stand design ready for laser cutting

Laser Cutting the Cell Phone Stand Design

All that remains is to use the Glowforge Laser.

I will use some Walnut PureBond Plywood Project Panel 2-Sided (10-Pack), purchased from Home Depot online, for this project.

 It's attractive plywood and easy to cut using the Glowforge.

Walnut PureBond Plywood Project Panel 2-Sided (10-Pack)

I've imported the SVG file for the design into the Glowforge app. I did need to change the paths for scoring to a score action. By default, the Glowforge software only sees different stroke colors as cutting steps.

After scoring, I have the "name" engraving step. Then comes the inner cut actions and, finally, the outermost cutting steps.

imported the SVG file for the cell stand design into the Glowforge app

As shown from the above image, the designer was careful to maximize all the material used. You could cut out up to five cell phone stands from one sheet of this material.

Designer of the phone stand was careful to maximize all the material used

So far, a close-up picture, with just a little more "weeding" or masking tape removal left to do, looks pretty good.

Close-up picture of phone stand cut

The final assembled stands turned out excellent!

Final assembled cell phone stands

After a few Minwax Polycrylic protective finish coats, this project is now complete and ready for use.

After a few Minwax Polycrylic protective finish coats

More Laser Cutting Designs By SpinCustoms

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