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Sawing/Cutting

Cut maps

By Emily Vasquez

One week after online post, orders soar for Dan Linden’s laser cut maps

April 2015 - One day, Dan Linden thought it would be fun to create a laser cut map and post it on the online community website Reddit. A few days later, Linden was bombarded with requests to create custom maps for people all over the world. One week after posting his work, Cut Maps was born. “Essentially it went from on the side [hobby] to a business in a week,” says Linden. “Everyone started asking how they could get one of their beloved city. Everyone wanted one.”

In 2012 Linden was working for a model roller coaster company and noticed a laser cutter that was rarely being used. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Linden was inspired by the city’s burgeoning art scene and decided to make “something that was kind of cool to put in an art show but at the same time relevant to Columbus.” 

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With a degree in mechanical engineering, Linden combined his technical and artistic skills to create Cut Maps. “I literally traced every single road [of Columbus] in Adobe Illustrator. I just took a PDF map of Columbus and I traced it. It took me 20 hours over two days,” says Linden. Then, Linden used a BOSS laser cutter to create the 34 in. by 46 in. map. 

Once the business took off, Linden devised a new plan that no longer required 20 hours of tracing. He used OpenStreetMap, a free Wiki site that collects data of roads, railway stations and trails, to draft his custom maps. OpenStreetMap allowed Linden to transfer the road maps straight to CAD software, making intricate maps in less time.

While most of the company’s large maps are created from wood, Cut Maps is expanding to include stainless steel and aluminum substrates in its product line. Business continues to grow quickly, says Linden. In the past two years, he purchased two laser cutters and with the help of his business partner, will begin waterjet cutting maps in a couple of months. “The waterjet can do just about everything. If people see it, people are going to go wild for it.” 

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The existing collection includes 5 in. by 7 in. stainless steel desktop maps chemically etched at an off-site location. Chemical etching uses acid to selectively remove metal parts, “almost like screen printing, where you submerge [metal] in acid and shine a light through a negative. The light reacts to the acid and it eats through the metals and you get this resolution,” explains Linden. “The [desktop] maps are our best seller right now.” 

Linden has created custom maps for hotels, restaurants, and says he’s willing to create any project a customer wants, within reason. For example, a customer asked for a 1/2 in. iron map. “It was just a small piece of art on a wall. I said, ‘I don’t think you want that, your wall is going to fall off if you do that.’” Linden says iron is too heavy to mount on a wall safely and advised his customer to use aluminum instead. 

Today, Linden has made over 300 city maps as big as 8 ft. by 16 ft. Linden looks forward to continue developing his hobby into a full-fledged career. “I’m an engineer by education, but an artist at heart. I found a way to combine the two. That makes my life really fun. I get excited to come to work everyday because I get to do two of my passions at the same time.” FFJ

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