By: Laura Keil
Ray Flavelle and son Chris are just beginning to explore the possibilities of the print button on their computer.
In their woodworking shop their Trotec Laser cutter – about the size of a frozen dessert cooler – stands in the corner, while several computer monitors are lined up on the desk. On the other side of the room several woodworking machines sit quietly – a planer, saw and sanders, which are used to prep the wood surfaces before cutting.
3D puzzles, jewellery, Christmas ornaments, wooden boxes and wood engravings lie on various tables… and those are just some of the things they can do with wood. The Trotec can also engrave and cut stone, tiles, metal, plastic, rubber, leather, glass – even paper – all through the operator creating or downloading a design and hitting the “print” button.
And it only uses 60 watts of power – like a lightbulb.
Flavelle discovered the laser cutter while on a trip with his wife to Tasmania. They went to a craft fair and noticed a man who used a laser cutter. His booth was by far the most popular.
This spring Flavelle decided to invest in a similar laser and turn it into a business with his son. They have already completed orders for locals, such as engraving the brewery’s serving platters and engraving the glassware given to finalists in the marathon. The father and son hope it will turn into a full-time job and supply not just the valley, but beyond.
One of the great things about the laser is you can use very small pieces of wood that otherwise would be thrown away. You can also recycle existing pieces – such as old wooden furniture.
“You can slice them up and do beautiful things,” Flavelle says.
The laser makes a hairline cut and “vaporizes” the wood – sometimes you can see a tiny coil of smoke drifting up from the design, as the laser does its work. But it all depends on the speed, Flavelle says. It’s critical to get the speed right – or else it will burn or won’t cut through.
He says it’s a huge leap in quality for speed and accuracy in cutting – you can make identical pieces and stack them.
But once you make a mistake, there’s no going back.
Flavelle, who used to run an automotive shop, is operating the business under Glacier Ridge Services Ltd.