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I'm thinking of building this shelf out of cheap 1/4" thick MDF:

enter image description here

Now knowing how slow I am in the most basic of woodworking, I want the job to be speedy & easy. So I decided laser cutting it & joining it with finger joints, would be an excellent way to go about it.

The problem is producing the vector file that will be fed to the laser cutter. The cuts, with it's finger joints, would be time consuming to be manually drawn in a vector graphics software, not to mention error prone.

So I need an automated way of generating these cuts to a file. Sort of like what a lot of these "box generators" do (except the shelves are tilted):

https://makerdesignlab.com/tutorials-tips/online-file-generators-for-laser-cutting/

Maybe there is a hack that would take boxes generated by these generators & modify/chuck-away certain parts to end up with the shelf in the picture.

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  • $\begingroup$ that shelf assembly looks like it has no grooves or finger joints ... probably just some screws $\endgroup$
    – jsotola
    Feb 20, 2023 at 3:54
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, even if it does look rudimentary enough that it only uses screws, I know it's a 10+ hours job for somebody like me. $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2023 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ Plus, you can't screw MDF directly. With screws, I'll need brackets at the minimum. $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2023 at 4:04
  • $\begingroup$ I hear you ... I'm all thumbs also $\endgroup$
    – jsotola
    Feb 20, 2023 at 4:09
  • $\begingroup$ Is that really 1/4" ? I think it is thicker than that. $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 20, 2023 at 7:13

2 Answers 2

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So there is no good answer to your question. I deal with these kinds of questions daily as i operate a prototype workshop.

So I decided laser cutting it & joining it with finger joints, would be an excellent way to go about it.

This is not a good fit for a laser cutter, maybe if you have a 5 axis one. There are several reasons for this but essentially a table saw is the right tool for the job. Not only are they faster, easier to find and produce better results. They allow you to design things better without need to learn more tools in digital realm.

Its a pretty easy first project. Takes you less than half an hour to learn all you need to learn. Your hand eye coordination is not a essential skill thats what stops are made for.

So I need an automated way of generating these cuts to a file. Sort of like what a lot of these "box generators" do (except the shelves are tilted):

Essentially what CAD is meant for. There is really no way around you doing the work or getting somebodey else do the plans for you. There is only so much you can expect others to make ready for you. So once you move outside stuff others have done, learning to use a CAD application becomes a must. Ok so you need to learn being systematic enough not to make mistakes.

Also simple enough of a project start with CAD.

Also for several reasons you may not want to use middle of material finger joints as adjusting them is a pain in the ass (something you can only do on the laser)

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  • $\begingroup$ Could also possibly router the zig zag path into the backplate using guides to provide an inset for the shelves then use glue. But, yeah, it starts with a table saw. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Feb 22, 2023 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen yeah sure but you can also do those in the tablesaw if your ok with the cuts goin all the way to the other edge having a line on the board. But i didnt want to go that deep into deatails. Screws probably work fine too. Routing has its own problems in corners nothing mickey mousing or chiseling corners. $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    Feb 22, 2023 at 16:07
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The traditional way to do it would be to design your shelf in cad (solidworks, fusion 360, etc). Then export the faces you want to cut as dxf files. The laser cutter software will be able to read those.

Note that most of the edges on this shelf are not square, so you will need to do some additional cutting or sanding after the parts come off the laser.

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