Laser-Cut Plywood and Cable-Tie Sculptures

George Hart
Proceedings of Bridges 2015: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2015)
Pages 77–84


I have been making a series of geometric sculptures from laser-cut plywood parts that are held together with cable ties. This method has many advantages for use in group “sculpture barn raisings”: (1) Laser cutters are extremely accurate, so allow for very precise fabrication. (2) Laser cutters are becoming widely accessible through maker spaces, universities, and online service bureaus. (3) The template files can be distributed via internet, allowing others to replicate the process widely. (4) Readily available plywood is inexpensive and cuts cleanly. (5) Cable-ties are inexpensive and easy to use by participants with no special training. (6) Unlike glued wood joints, cable-ties can be easily undone with wire snips if a mistake is made. (7) Cable-ties adapt to any desired dihedral angle between the plywood parts, so no special brackets are required. (8) As illustrated below, the resulting sculptures look very crisp, creating a 3D volume from 2D panels and highlighted 1D edges, and can incorporate laser-cut designs etched on the surface. I have been exploring variations of this technique, leading teams of students and the public in making intricate geometric sculptures and taking the opportunity to informally present mathematical ideas. I encourage others to replicate these designs and this paper provides enough details to make this possible.