Stuff Jack Makes

Laser-Cut Miniatures

I had recently gotten into laser-cutting, and decided to dip my toes into the hobby with a K40 laser cutter. It’s the cheapest 40W laser money can buy, so after translating the documentation, some light hardware upgrades, and much configuration of the provided software, I was able to cut 3mm wood and acrylic with ease. I’ve used it since for many general art projects, but one of the larger ventures was creating 3D miniatures inspired by one of the factions from Warhammer 40k, a popular tabletop miniatures game.

My aim was to make each model instantly recognizable as the original that inspired it. I started with the smaller, simpler models; usually representing cheap, expendable units. Those were often simple enough and didn’t actually require much creative construction. The mid-sized models, however, began requiring a bit of cleverness. This was exacerbated by my use of Adobe Illustrator, which, while excellent at creating vector files for laser cutting, is useless for any sort of 3D modeling. This meant lots of math to get pieces correctly aligned and cutting extra parts to test for proper, unobstructed fit.

Common patterns began to emerge in all of the designs. They all had a large center piece that was a profile of the model. Some had different head/helmet structures that needed to be put on top, but some could just integrate the head into the center piece. You might also need a hip piece, which attaches to two legs, which attach to the baseplate. Sometimes you can just attach the center piece to the baseplate directly. The tricky part from there is adding limbs, which can interfere with one-another depending on the model, and need to be in “action” positions to make the model appear in motion. Sometimes other fins or details are required, but can be attached in the same manner as limbs, but usually pointed backwards.

After going through the mid-size models, I tackled one the larger models (although there are much larger ones). While it did use many of the ‘standards’ developed from earlier models, the increased size meant that it couldn’t be dominated by a single center profile. In this particular model there are overlapping plates on the back that give it a recognizable shape. These mean that some creative placement is required with the arms, which need to be extended further from the center piece than usual. They came out great, although some of the longer limbs tend to be fragile; a problem that also occurs with the original models.

There are larger models to attempt as well as several other factions within this particular game. Not to mention all of the other miniature games that this could be attempted with. However, I’ll leave those for another time or as an exercise to the reader.