My First Laser Cutter Projects as a Newbie

Zee Kesler a light skinned woman with red glasses and dark long hair is close to the camera with a laser cut teal sign with white letter on a table behind her in the background

Hi, my name is Zee Kesler and I’m excited to share some of the first laser cutter projects I created during my time at Fuse 33 Makerspace aka the Thunder Laser Canada headquarters in Calgary AB.

 I’ve been a maker for many years. In my time in the maker community, I’ve been a member of several makerspace and led many educational projects that involve maker tools and technology. Some of these projects include the MakerMobile: Workshop on Wheels, the Maker Education and Young Makers. I’ve also created maker programming and camps through several businesses I’ve run over the years. This is how I was originally introduced to laser cutter machines.

Thunder Laser Canada is run by my good friends Shannon and Maria Hoover who I met through the maker community many years ago. They have a pretty interesting story about how they began working with Thunder Laser which I will be highlighting in a blog shortly!

This blog will cover some of the first laser cutter projects I’ve done on my own. Hopefully, this will demonstrate how easy it is to learn for total beginners!

My Maker Background: Laser Cutter Projects Over the Years

I saw my first laser cutter at the Vancouver Hackspace back in 2011. I quickly understood the value of having such an awesome tool at my disposal. As a person with a joint disability, I knew cutting and sanding wood by hand can really tire me out and strain my muscles. I was excited to try something that would make that process of making easier on my body.

One of the first projects I made was a set of twin peacocks for decor for a puppet show. I brought this project to Manama Bahrain where I participated in an artist residency as part of the Unesco Bab Al Bahrain Souq(market) for the Spring of Culture event. To be fair, back then, I worked with a friend on this project and didn’t use the laser entirely myself. However, even then, I could see the benefits and I hoped I would eventually have the time to learn more about it and integrate the laser cutter into my making practice

a screenshot of the makers making change website showing an assistive technology called a keyguard which helps people who cannot speak communicate by pressing a touch screen tablet with images. There is a laser cut keyguard device laid on top the screen made of acrylic with hole to prevent the accidental pressing of the wrong buttons.

Laser Cutters for AAC Keyguards

The next time laser cutters reappeared into my life was when I acted as Project Manager of a project called Neil Squire Society’s Makers Making Change.

Here I paired volunteer makers with people with disabilities who needed assistive devices made to help them in their daily lives. 

In this role, I saw how the speed and accuracy of laser cutter machines were well-suited to create laser cut keyguards for Augmented Alternative Communication devices (AAC).

Learning to Use a Thunder Laser Machine

When I first encountered my first laser cutter machine in 2011, they were less common for hobbyists. The machine we had at the Vancouver Hackspace was huge and industrial and there was definitely a bit of tweaking and issues that needed to be done to make it ‘work’.

When I arrived in Calgary this spring to work with Shannon and Maria, I was surprised at how quick it was to learn and use the Thunder Laser machines. An upgrade for sure!


a young light skinned woman with long light brown hair holds a laser cut letter made of wood. In the background the words Thunder Laser Canada are on the wall

Project 1: Packaging

As a maker, of course, I have a million side hustle businesses. One of my businesses is called Magic Trout Imaginarium, where I sell wool felting kits for teachers and curious creators.

One of my main challenges with this business, is the cost of shipping. Wool is very fluffy, which means a small $20 kit, can cost $15 to ship. This is ridiculous- that’s practically the same price as the kit itself! 

My goal for my first laser cutter project packaging project was to create a card with tabs that the wool can wrap around. This will allow me to pack my small kits in a standard envelope, then vacuum seal them flat. I also wanted to integrate branding and a QR code into the card, so customers can easily find tutorials online. Here is a prototype I made when I was in Calgary. 

Stay tuned for Part 2!


Project 2: Signage

Another one of my side hustle businesses is called Curio Cabin. Here I basically document my maximalist home decor and renovation projects. I get a kick out of it, I figure other people will too!

I am so excited about the possibilities of the laser cutter for my projects! I would love to build my own miniature custom shelves, make neon signs and all sorts of customized items!

Stay Tuned!

I will be creating more content from our he awesome people at Thunder Laser Canada headquarters as well as members of the larger Thunder Laser community!