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YuKonstruct offers high tech holiday designs

On Industrial Road is the closest thing the Yukon's got to Santa's workshop. YuKonstruct officially opened its doors at this spot in September.

On Industrial Road is the closest thing the Yukon’s got to Santa’s workshop.

YuKonstruct officially opened its doors at this spot in September. The non-profit organization gives Yukoners a chance to create stuff with tools that you wouldn’t find in the average garage, like an induction forge and a laser cutter.

As the snow fell in November, thoughts turned to the Winterval parade happening this Saturday.

Using the laser cutter in the back of the building, cardboard boxes from a recent kitchen renovation are precision cut into 23 individual puzzle pieces that form an elaborate model airplane, big enough for an elementary school student to wear.

The goal is to make at least three or four before the parade.

“Making stuff is fun. You learn lots of skills that you can bring other places. I didn’t learn how to design a plane in school, I learned how to design buildings,” says Chris Lloyd, an architectural technologies grad and founding member of the group.

“And it’s all the skills that I learned there that allowed me to do what I do here.”

The laser cutter doesn’t look that different from an oversized photocopier.

Lloyd used 3-D modelling software on the computer to come up with the design for the plane. A tiny model, about one-eighth of the size of the final product, hangs in the corner.

Once the computer is programmed, slabs of cardboard - glued two or three sheets thick - are laid on the machine and the clear plastic lid is closed.

Then, with the press of a button, the laser cuts a clean, precise path. In less than five minutes all the pieces are cut. The laser cuts sharp corners and long, thin notches that would be near-impossible with scissors.

“If you were doing this with scissors you would probably have to free-hand it,” said member Allison Button.

“Whereas we were able to have a model on the computer that we were able to play with until we had it just exactly right.”

YuKonstruct has only had the laser cutter for about a month. It’s capable of cutting leather, brass or different types of plastic, among other things. It can also be used for engraving.

As Lloyd watches the machine, 11-year-old Owen Czerny stays close by. One of the young members of YuKonstruct, he’s full of questions: how does an induction forge work? Does tin rust?

YuKonstruct aims to be accessible to everyone no matter their age. During drop-in nights and workshops, there are always a wide range of activities available for different skill levels.

“Really it’s about learning at YuKonstruct,” Button said. “You don’t have to already know how to do things.”

While the plane is being built, drop-in visitors in another room are making Christmas ornaments. Elsewhere, a craft melting together tiny plastic beads using an iron is also a big hit.

Yukoners can come in on drop-in nights or buy a membership. With some training they can get access to all the tools.

“Depending on the person, in one day, you could go from Play-Doh to lasers, it’s totally possible,” Button said.

Once the laser finishes its job, it’s time to piece everything together.

Thanks to the laser, pieces slide together pretty easily and in 15 minutes the Ikea boxes have new lives as a plane.

“There’s like a joy. You made it, and it’s good,” Czerny says, right before he tries it on for size.

“The joy of making it yourself,” says Lloyd.

Contact Ashley Joannou at