All About My Glowforge Pro

I get a lot (a LOT) of questions about it, so today I thought I’d answer–not all of them, we’d be here all morning, but the handful of questions I get most often. As always, though, if there’s a question YOU need answered, I’m all ears! Hit me up here, in the comments, email me through the “contact” page, or drop me a line on Instagram. We’re all in this together.

Probably the most common question I get is some variation on: just how much of a shortcut IS this thing? Are my designs really mine?–or did I just buy my way to greatness? And my answer is…a piece of tech like this is expensive, and so is a table saw. I remember bringing home my first table saw; it was a game changer. I felt like a wizard. Miter boxes were–and are–awesome, but every tool has limitations. I’ve upgraded table saws, since then, more than once. Now…am I a better artist, today, than I was? Absolutely!–but not because of that, or any, table saw.

I actually do own the most recent model of that very first table saw. What’s made my work better is practicing with it. No tool, however incredible its potential, can do the work for you. You’re–in any shop, big or small–as good as your skill set.

My advice, to you, is the same advice I give myself: only buy a new tool, or a new anything, for that matter, when you really need it. You’ll know you’re ready to upgrade, for example, from a miter box when you know exactly what’s wrong with that miter box. The cuts aren’t fine enough, for example, or you just can’t cut veneer like you’d like. There are any number of excellent, valid reasons; “I’m dissatisfied with what I’m producing, and feel like everyone else’s minis are more exciting” isn’t one of them.

I post tons of pictures of my painting area, on Instagram, but few to none of my shop. I should change that. Our garage, in addition to being home to our cars, is also home to a collection of tools I’ve built over twenty years. I spend entire days, some days, slaving over my saws.

Luckily, the Glowforge Pro doesn’t need babysitting. That’s one really great thing about it, which I love. Ninety-five percent of my active work time, when it comes to that, is spent upstairs at my battle station computer, designing. I use a Wacom Cintiq Pro 24, slaved to a Mac; your mileage may vary. I love the Wacom as, as far as tablets go, it’s amazing for freehanding. And yes, long before anything’s been scribed, I’ve drawn it.

I use Photoshop and Illustrator, primarily, Photoshop for the straight up art (i.e. what’s going on with that coffered ceiling), Illustrator for everything else (think turning them into an SVG), and getting everything set up to print is the last step–of the first few steps, at least.

Then comes the fun part!

The really cool thing about the above picture is how many mistakes it represents. That inner mantel? I had to cut, and recut one of the inner corners probably six times. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve printed pieces, too, only to discover that they didn’t fit together because my math was shit. Your final result, here as with anything, is only as good as your abilities and the ability I use the most often, with every tool, is the ability to never give up.

As I mentioned, my Glowforge Pro lives in my garage. Its “throne” is a shop bench from Home Depot. I talk about Home Depot a lot; I shop there frequently. You don’t need anything fancy, just something capable of holding a lot of weight. Now, I didn’t spring for a fancy venting machine; mine vents right out the window, “You Might Be a Redneck If”-style. When it’s forging time, I throw up the sash and toss out the snake; when I’m done, I do the reverse. Presto, changeo!

I believe in things being exactly as fancy as they need to be. Growing up, we didn’t have a washer and dryer but my aunt did and I always knew it was laundry day when the kitchen window opened. My husband recently installed some fluorescent track lighting for me, and that was nice.

Basic cuts are pretty quick on this thing, but scribing can take a while. The base of the coffered ceiling for the Blackthorn Manor greatroom took over eleven hours…both times. I had a(nother) craft fail. Luckily, though, I could spend that time asleep.

Each of my SVG’s represents hours, sometimes days of work. Even on those projects that are entirely Glowforge free, I always start by making a cup of coffee, cranking up some tunes, and then sitting down at the computer. How can I build, if I don’t have plans? I want to know, before I ever touch a piece of wood, or any other–expensive!–supply, just what exactly I’m creating.

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