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Laser Cutter: “Kerf-Cut” Techniques (bending wood)

The Laser Cutter is available for use at Idea Exchange Old Post Office, Makerspace.

The "Kerf-Cut" technique allows you to bend wood, in multiple directions, depending on the cut. This technique has been applied in traditional woodworking for a very long time. but is often a long and arduous task. Kerf-Cutting on a laser cutter is relatively quick and allows you to do more versatile designs with your wood.

How to Guide

Cutting technique on wood

Wood is typically great for these bendable cutting techniques. However, the type of wood used must be carefully considered. The following notes should be followed:

  • Plywood
    Plywood works very well with flexible applications. If you glue the sheets, the wood becomes capable of bending in every direction within a very small radius.
  • Solid wood
    When using solid wood sheets that have a thickness from 3/16", cutting techniques that have recesses, like Kerf 6, are a lot more flexible than a straight cut or one without recesses (e.g., Kerf 1). With solid wood, make sure to always cut in the direction of the grain. If the cut lines are done across the grain, the wood becomes easier to break and is less bendable as a result.
  • MDF
    MDF, like plywood, is really easy to work with. Because it has a mix of grains, you do not need to purposely align the cut lines.

Which cutting techniques are there?

Kerf 1: Straight cut lines

Straight Cut Kerf Cut

Straight Cut Kerf Cut

Straight cut lines provide a stable radius to bend around.  The larger the distance between each cutting line, the wider the bending radius. Depending on the file and the material, a distance of up to 1/64" between each line can be used.


Kerf 2: Small waves

Small Waves Kerf Cut

Small Waves Kerf Cut

The small wave pattern is interconnected, making the rigid material bendable. This design can be used on materials that are up to 1/8" thick. The bending radius is very wide for this technique.


Kerf 3: Large honeycombs

Large Honeycomb Kerf Cut

Large Honeycomb Kerf Cut

Using large honeycombs, the curves get tapered at either end and then are cut from the sheet. This technique is common in model making. Because the honeycombs are so large, even wooden boards up to 3/16" thick can be made flexible.
The honeycombs can easily be pulled apart and bunched together, properties that work will with connections like those in bracelets.


Kerf 4: Wavy cut line

Wavy Cut Line Kerf Cut

Wavy Cut Kerf Cut

Like the first kerf cut, this technique is made completely from cut lines, but has different, more flexible bending properties.


Kerf 5: Honeycombed cut line

Honeycomb Cut Kerf Cut

Honeycomb Cut Kerf Cut

Because of the way that the pattern is designed, this cut allows for flexibility in every direction. This property makes it good for many different artistic applications, such as bag design.


Kerf 7: Narrow and wide waves

Narrow and Wide Wave Kerf Cut

These patterns are general purpose, well suited for a large variety of materials. The shape of each cut line gives both stability and flexibility.




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