Love for the Laser Cutter

by Kim J.

A collage of the ornaments and practical items made with the laser cutter, including a Seussical 2022 ornament with the Cat in the Hat's hat, a blue snowflake, a buffalo against a backdrop of trees and mountains, two pumpkin silhouettes that say "thankful" and "grateful," a keychain that says "I luv you Dad," tropical floral earrings, and a cookbook or tablet stand.

I’ve been a crafter all of my life. I make costumes and throw elaborate birthday parties. My first thought when I see something beautiful in a store is usually, “Can I make that?” I love to create handmade gifts, produce decorations for birthdays, and design personal touches for my home. The laser cutter/engraver (Glowforge) at HCLS Glenwood Branch + Makerspace is the latest tool in my crafting repertoire. Among the many things I’ve been able to make are jewelry, decorations, gifts, cake toppers, valentines, teacher appreciation keychains, and an LED light. My favorite things that I’ve made are keepsakes that engrave my son’s drawings and a lighted archway that I made to try and replicate the schwibbogen that are sold in Germany.

A picture of a German Schwibbogen village scene made with the laser cutter. The photograph consists of a village with homes, a church, lampposts, and fir trees, surrounded by an arch that has more cottages and fir trees, against a blue background resembling the sky.

What is a Laser Cutter/Engraver? 

This machine allows you to put a piece of material like leather, wood, or acrylic in the machine and it carves out your product using laser light. Glowforge is the name brand for the Laser Cutter Engraver at HCLS Glenwood Branch + Makerspace

What materials can it cut? 

At HCLS, we only allow Proofgrade materials in the machine – Glowforge sells proofgrade materials, which are certified to be laser safe. These materials also have pre-assigned settings in the machine – telling the laser exactly what power and speed it needs so cuts and engravings produce exactly how they should! Proofgrade materials include hardwood, acrylic, draft board, plywood, veneer, and leather, among others.

A yellow and green laser cutter atom with the words "Happy Birthday" in the center, atop a science-themed birthday cake with Erlenmeyer flasks and icing atoms as decor.

How can I get Proofgrade Materials? 

The Glenwood Branch has a selection of materials to purchase directly from the library, including many colors of acrylic and several finishes for hardwood, plywood, and veneer. Alternately, you can purchase directly from the site, shop.glowforge.com, or from local craft stores that carry Proofgrade materials.

A child's handmade stick-figure drawing of a family with their dog, and the laser cutter's reproduction of it as a wooden ornament, with the year "2022" inscribed at the bottom.

What kinds of things can I make?

The photos in this post are all things that have been made in the Makerspace with the Laser Cutter/Engraver. There is so much room for creativity and customization. Your design can be high-tech – you can create an .svg from scratch with interlocking or overlapping pieces to construct 3D artwork. Your design can also be low-tech – you can convert a line art drawing, photograph, or handwriting sample into a custom-engraved keepsake. You can also browse premade designs in the application and send them with customized engravings, or you can use the application to create a design using graphics, text, and shapes.

Two snowflake earrings made with the laser cutter.

How do I get started?

If you want to see a quick intro video, you can watch on HCLS’s YouTube channel here. You can also register for upcoming make-it and take-it classes at Upcoming Laser Cutting Classes. Someone is always available in the Makerspace to help you get underway. Anyone under 18 who wishes to use the laser cutter must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Kimberly J is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Glenwood Branch. She enjoys reading, photography, creating, crafting, and baking.

DIY Tools for Spring Needs

The blue Hi circle from the Library's logo lays on the floor surrounded by tools and books from the DIY collection.

by Eric L.

I like all the seasons, I like something beginning, then I grow tired as it persists, and I then I enjoy the start of something different. Autumn is just barely my favorite season. I even love the winter, as well, and then I’m rather happy when it comes to end. (I’m thankful it’s not winter forever, that would be pretty bleak)

I don’t want to get overly philosophical or trite about it, but the rebirth and renewal of spring is a wonderful time of year. Observing the daily greening of nature just makes me feel happy, it is my favorite color.

That said, you may look outside and see your yard, large or small, and it may look a bit drab in early spring. Moreover, there is likely debris in your beds, garden, or yard (e.g., sticks, leaves). I’ll be honest when I was younger, had less patience, and “better” things to do, I used dislike yard work. However, I’ve come to embrace the relaxing nature of yard work, and perhaps the completed product. Keep in mind, there really isn’t a deadline, just pick a nice sunny day and get out there and take it on at your own pace.

The library has so many great tools to lend you (for free!) at the Elkridge DIY Education Center to get most of your outdoor jobs complete. Anyone 21 or older who lives, works, or attends school in Maryland may apply for an HCLS DIY library card at the branch.

Leaf and tine rakes will help you get all the aforementioned yard debris up. We have cordless blowers, so perhaps you can rake less. You can borrow numerous varieties of manual trimmers, tree limb saws, and tree pruners to get all those bushes and trees in shape. We’ll even lend you an extendable (up to 14 feet) pole trimmer to get those high limbs. The battery powered electric hedge trimmers are just wonderful (I’ve literally “cut the cord” on the other style). We even have battery powered string trimmers, if you’d like to clear a small area, or just trim some grass or weeds. You can borrow a variety of shovels for the bushes, flowers, plants, or trees you’d like to plant, replant, or dig up.

I would invest in some garden gloves, or you may just want to literally get your hands dirty, that’s your choice. And, so many other great tools to lend. I’d recommend you stop by, chat with us, and see what we have to offer.

Happy spring!

Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the Elkridge branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.

Get Cozy and Crafty with the DIY Collection at Elkridge

A pile of colorful skeins of yarn.


by Emily T. and Eric L., HCLS Elkridge Branch

In this dark and chilly season, creative activities like making and baking can light us up from within. Tapping into creativity is a proven mood-booster, whether you complete a masterpiece or simply enjoy the process. With the DIY Collection at Elkridge, find a trove of inspiration and tools to help you get cozy and crafty.

Love the warmth of freshly baked treats? Get creative with our fun seasonal cookie cutters or cupcake tins with our icing piping kit. Or, go big with specialty cake pans like Frozen’s Elsa, a magical castle, or a smiling dinosaur.

Or, brighten those long sunless hours with the glorious colors and textures of fiber arts. Our yarn winding and spinning kits are a meditative joy and get any project off to a smooth start. Try our knitting needles or crochet hook sets for stitching comfy blankets, hats, and more. Our fabric cutting mats and tools pair perfectly with our ever-popular sewing machines – and be sure to check out our excellent pattern and technique guidebooks, too.

With the DIY Collection, you can even try your hand at leathercrafting, tile mosaics, and more. Whatever you choose, we hope you’ll be basking in the glow of creativity! Anyone 21 or older who lives, works, or attends school in Maryland may apply for an HCLS DIY library card (instructions and more information here).

Emily is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Elkridge Branch. Because she is solar-powered, her favorite winter activities involve warm, sunny window seats and brisk walks outside if she’s feeling adventurous. 

Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the Elkridge branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.