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Home > Train Layouts > Scenery > My First Laser Cut Kit

My First Laser Cut Kit

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Author: Clarence Guenther
Photos by the Author

The recent development of laser cut kits has brought several new manufacturers to the model railroad market. These kits are mainly structure kits, along with some detail parts such as pallets, furniture, and the subject of this article, cable reels.

I have been admiring the GCLaser family of laser kits ( for some time and I decided to experiment with building one of these wooden wonders. Since this was a departure from my usual styrene, I was looking for something economical and easy. Their “Loaded Cable Reels” fit the bill and make a fine gondola load to boot.

GCLaser sells three styles of cable reels: unloaded, loaded, and covered. The difference between loaded and covered is the wooden sheathing over the load. The loaded style has the sheathing inside the side disks. In the prototype the sheathing is dimensional lumber (1x2, 2x3, etc) toenailed to the side disk planking. (My dad was an electrical contractor so I’ve seen these up close and personal.) The covered style has the sheathing flush with the rims of the side disks. I chose the loaded style. All reels are packaged three to the pack and have a MSRP of $12.99 (HO scale).

The Kit

The kit comes packaged in a small heat-sealed plastic bag. Inside it are three sheets of thin plywood. Each sheet makes one reel. There is one sheet of load sheathing, also made of thin plywood. It is perforated into three sections, one per reel. The wood is laser etched to form “planks” and surface detail such as washers. There is also an instruction sheet. The side disk components are burned all the way through the ply except for three small fingers that hold the component in the ply sheet until it is cut out.


I used the following tools and supplies to build the cable reels: X-Acto™ knife, sanding stick (optional) and Elmer’s™ white glue. That’s it. Assembly is simple.

Tool Picture
Click to Enlarge

Step 1: Cut the components from the backing sheet. All you have to do is cut the attachment fingers and the component falls out. Hold the sheet up to a light if necessary to see the finger. Use the sanding stick to smooth off any burrs if you want. You should end up with two outside faces, two center inside faces, two rim inside faces and one sheath strip. There may be a small ring of scrap between the center and outer inside faces, you can throw it away.

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Step 2: The instructions would have you glue the sheathing strip to the two center inside faces, resulting in a little can of ply. This doesn’t work. What I did was smear a small amount of Elmer’s onto the interior side of the outside face piece (the non etched side).

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After a minute to let it set up a bit I glued the two interior disks to the outside face disk, taking care to center the rim (no overhangs), to align the direction of the planking with the outside face, and to leave a slot ring for the sheathing strip. I did both disks at the same time.

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Step 3: Immediately after building the disks, before the glue dried and the interior pieces could still be adjusted I inserted the sheathing strip into one of the disks. Once I had the strip fully into the disk (a little bit of wiggling may be needed) I worked the sheathing strip into the other disk. You may have to twist the disk slightly. You will know when the strip has fully seated itself. Start with where the sheath ends come together and work your way around or start with a solid section of the strip and work around to the ends.

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Step 4: That’s it! Set the reel aside to dry and start on the next one. It took me about 30 minutes to build all three reels.

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Start thinking about what you’re going to do with them. I plan to use them for a gondola open load, once I finish weathering and weighting the car for proper operation. A simple frame of stripwood and some string for cabling and the load will be complete, but that’s a story for another time.

- Clarence Guenther

Clarence is an avid model railroader and member of the Northwest Trainmasters modular railroad club in Chicago. Clarence is the very the first guest contributor to I am grateful for his contribution and the opportunity to present his work for all of us to learn from. Thank you Clarence!

- Mark N. Goedert, Webmaster