A laser belongs in your shop AND can make you money – here’s how.
There’s a ton of different ways to use your wood shop to make money. Years ago I started out with a GlowForge laser, then I upgraded a few years later to a 90 watt Full Spectrum laser – it has become time to upgrade again to a 130 watt Nova 51 Thunder Laser. Adding a laser – no matter what it is – can allow you to make extra money from your shop.
Using a laser can allow you to quickly taken an idea and put together a prototype to easily see a product in the real world. Over the last year, Josh has been working on designing and prototyping desktop arcades. The tab and slot tolerances in the design really only work well because they were cut on a laser. The laser can make prototyping super fast and effecient – I can model it in Fusion 360 and then send it to the laser for the prototype. After that, I can use the laser to batch out several arcades at a time. By using a laser to make the cuts, they become even more precise than if I were using traditional shop tools.
Using a laser to make unique objects and use different materials to make objects. One of the more popular items I’ve seen made with a laser is jewelry. You can make super intricate designs out of wood, leather, or other mediums. Not only can you make the unique and intricate design, you’re able to batch out those designs to sell.
You can make even more money by customizing whether by customizing a unique item you’ve made or by customizing items off the shelf. You can always pick up a cutting board locally and customize those with a logo, name, or even a design using your laser. Adding customization to any project is a way to make instant extra money – a specific example would be a simple walnut box sold on Etsy and it was an additional $25 just for a lasered customization. That’s a pretty significant amount of profit for no work.
How do you figure out what to make and where to sell it? Look for gaps in a market. Look at your own personal hobbies and see if there’s something that can be added. If you’re into collecting Hot Wheels, maybe there’s a market for selling display units for storing the cars. With a step further, you can even customize those items that are filling the gaps in the market.
Once you have your products to sell, where do you even sell them? You can start out at local craft shows for people in your community to see in person and walk away with it in hand in that moment. You can also check out Etsy – it’s a website created specifically as a marketplace for handmade goods. By loading your products on Etsy, you’re able to make ond ship out a ton more product across the world. Another local option is to check in with local shops and boutiques – whether they buy your items wholesale in bulk from you or sell at the items as consignment.
Several of my kids are on soccer teams and the parents will often use lasers to create merch for the other parents to purchase in support of their kids. The laser allows you to work on a bunch of different mediums with a ton of different capabilities.
Not only can you engrave wood but you can work in a ton of different materials. For the desktop arcade, Josh designed and cut cardboard packaging on the laser. He designed it in Fusion 360 and it was completely custom to the arcade and even added integrated zippers for opening.
There’s also engravable plastics that look like wood or metal. Not only can it cut some heavy duty materials, but I can also laser in super delicate materials like paper. You can engrave beautiful wedding invitations right on the laser by dialing down the intensity. If you remember last year, we introduced shop mats for your shops that we lasered in house!
Just like there are certain materials that wouldn’t be cut with woodworking tools, there’s certain materials that shouldn’t be cut with a laser. Make sure to do your research to make sure that it’s safe to cut them.
Though some traditional woodshop tools can be precise, nothing is as exact as laser cutting for curves like name signs.
One of our favorite capabilities is the safety aspect. My son was able to design a school project and cut it out on the laser with minimal supervision and minimal risk – something that I would not do in a traditional woodworking shop.
We definitely are aware of the price tag that goes along with one of these machines. Josh’s 70 watt laser ran him almost $700. My 45 watt Glowforge runs about $7,000. The 90 watt Full Spectrum laser at the office ran us about $13,000. To the newest super laser upgrade: the 130 watt Thunder Laser – cost $13,400. This big machine can cut through 3/4 inch ply wood. The capabilities is has far surpasses all the other lasers we have combined.
By creating and selling different projects made on this laser, you could easily pay it off. My biggest advice is to have a plan prior to purchasing – know what your projects are and what your profit would be to pay off the laser. Josh came up with a book nook that cost him almost $3 in material to make. Most book nooks on Etsy profit at least $40. To make up the cost of the laser in just book nooks, Josh would have to sell 325 to pay off the machine. It would be super easy to come up with several products to make your money back quickly and start making a real profit.
I think having a laser in your shop can add capability AND can pay for itself. What projects would you make on your laser?