Make Architecture



2- Laser Cutter//Press Fit

My goal for this exercise was to adapt a traditional woodworking joint, the pegged through tenon, to the lasercutter, making a ‘press-fit’ container.


  • 1/8″ chipboard – 1 piece at 18″x30″, 1 piece at 10″x10″


  • take cut file to lasercutter, cut both sheets once.
  • assemble with no tools using the assembly process described below, be sure not to bend any tabs or force them into slots.


I started by looking at typical woodworking mortise/tennon joints, both regular and pegged versions:

I imagined that with this joint on the laser cutter, you could make a tab (tenon) that press-fits though a slot, but becomes structural because of the peg.  It wouldn’t pull out of the slot, and requires no glue, so it is infinitely construct/deconstructable.

It was a challenge to find a woodworking joint that could be adapted to flat material, be cut in one plane, and still turn a corner.  This is how I envisioned it working:

I then sketched out a version of a 5 sided lampshade using this same process: 

I tried a couple of different joint types and configurations, finally settling on a combination of pegs that were simple wedge shaped rectangles, and some that were strips.  Using the 1/8″ chipboard, I found that I didn’t need to add any additional wiggle-room to the joints, that the kerf of the laser was sufficient for press fitting the tabs and pegs together.  I made a few trials with 1/32, 1/64, or 1/128 added space for fitting joints but this just made it too easy to slide the pegs out.

The proportions of the lampshade turned out really poorly, so i modified it for a second version that would be a magazine box.

Here’s the lampshade, unwired.

This second version has dividers in the middle that slot into the bottom and sides and are pegged by strips running along the side faces, as a continuation of the strips on the front/back faces.

very sturdy!  no glue!

and, it can easily be dismantled and re-assembled without any problems.  See the assembly process and laser cutter file below.

1)  all the pieces

2)  assembling bottom + one side

3)  this joint uses the rectangular wedge (peg)

4)  fitting the dividers into bottom + side one, pegging with a strip

5)  adding the second side, and capturing the two dividers

6)  another view at same stage

7)  adding the front face

8)  attaching with strip pegs

9)  same process follows for back face


lasercut sheets


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Instructor: Nick Gelpi TA: Skylar Tibbits TA: Varvara Toulkeridou
Class Times, Monday, 1-4pm - room 5-216
4.184 is an intensive introduction to methods of making explored through a wide range of brief but focused 1-week exercises. We'll engage the real and leave behind representation in the focused context of this class gaining skills for utilizing a range of fabrication machines and technologies from lasercutting, waterjet, 3D printing, welding, formworking-molding, casting, gears, joints and composites.
In this workshop we'll constrain ourselves to the territory of the 1:1. Students will represent architectural constructions at full scale and develop a more intimate relationship with technology by engaging the tools and techniques that empower us. We will gain access to the most cutting edge machines and technologies in the MARS lab at the Center for Bits and Atoms.
The second layer of information for this course will be to look at a series of case studies in which construction methods and technologies have played a dominant role in the design process .
Over the past 20 years, architects have focused on the technology of representation to create new ideas of what architecture could be. Looking back today, much of that research failed to substantially change the way we design buildings by focusing on apriori formal configurations. This class makes the contention that this failure comes from a lack of considerations of the potentials within fabrication knowledge. We look to the future of what building might become, given the expanded palette of personalize-able technologies available to us as architects. Students will participate in curious technological and material investigations, to discover the potentials, known and unknown, for these various technologies.
The sub-disciplines of what's drawn and what's built have been compartmentalized and disassociated as the representational tools of architecture have distanced themselves from the techniques of making. At the same time the technologies for “making” in architecture have provided us with new possibilities for reinventing how we translate into reality, the immaterial representations of architecture.


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