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Midterm Process & Pics

I’ve learned a lot in the process of creating my Piecing it Together midterm, the clock. Here’s a recap.

Materials

I haven’t worked much with wood or acrylic, so finding the right materials took a few tries. For the wood, I first decided to use poplar and to buy it at Metropolitan Lumber. When I got there, they only had a big piece that was too thin for my design and cost $50. I decided to try other options. I went to Home Depot and perused the lumber section. I didn’t find anything that would work for the project, but I did get a better sense of how I could talk about what I wanted. I then went to Blick on Bond St. They had less wood than I thought they would, but I did find some basswood sculpting blocks that seemed they would work with my designs. I forgot to take a photo of it before cutting, but here’s a link to it on their website. I know that basswood is a soft wood and not necessarily the best choice for the project, but I figured it would get the job done.

For the screen I had decided to use acrylic or vinyl, neither of which I’ve used before. I started with a thin piece of white translucent mylar and 1/16″ clear acrylic, but when I glued them together with spray adhesive I could still see the glue. I went back to Canal Plastic to take a second look at the white acrylic. I ended up with the 1/16″ translucent white acrylic. Originally I had thought this would be too opaque for my LCD to shine through, but on a second look, it seemed it should work ok.

Fabricating

The piece of wood that I found was a bit shorter than my original design, so I reworked my design to fit the wood. In doing so I decided to revert back to my original design with the decorative lines on the front. I drew and redrew my designs multiple times on the wood, then transferred the design to Illustrator. I drew separate designs for the front and the back.

Drawing on the wood.
Drawing on the wood.

When my designs were finished, I took them to MasterCam and the CNC. It’s hard to believe that I spent nearly seven hours over the weekend on the CNC. I ran into so many challenges, here are the highlights:

The first issue that I ran into was that my bit wasn’t long enough to route my back pocket. I needed about 1.5″ depth in the pocket, the total length of the bit was 2.5″, but when I put it on the CNC, the bit was too far up the shaft. The collet hit the wood. I stopped the machine right away. I thought that maybe I could just lower the bit and zero the machine to finish the job, but no one in the shop at the time knew if that was a good idea, so I decided to abort because someone was waiting for the CNC and I didn’t want to risk breaking a bit.

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The collet hit the wood because the bit was not long enough. You can also see the pocketing/bit issue described below.

The next day, I was able to solve the pocketing problem by just putting the bit lower in the shaft. I also ran into some other issues. First, I wasn’t sure how to use two different bit sizes. Luckily someone was around to show me how to do that in MasterCam. Then, I had a problem pocketing, because my bit size, although it was set to 1/4″ was set to a cutting size that was bigger than the bit. Once again, to my luck someone in the shop helped me sort it out. It turns out there is a 1/4″ straight bit setting saved in MasterCam that messes a number of people up.

Finally, as I was getting toward the end of the back pocket, the screws holding my wood popped out and the wood jumped up on the bit causing a big gash in the pocket. I hadn’t wanted to screw into the bed of the CNC, so I used screws that only went about 1/4″ deeper than my wood. Unfortunately the board on top of the bed is in such bad shape that one of my screws was partly in a hollow of that board and it eventually broke free, causing my piece of wood to come loose. I re-secured the board with longer screws.

Techno router love bite.
Techno router love bite.

I was able to finish the job, but the final piece does have a visible little love bit from the CNC.

From there I used the laser cutter for my acrylic and the vinyl cutter for the mylar (which I ended up not using). I used fast drying epoxy to mount the screen, and small screws to put on the back. I was surprised to see that, despite the very small amount of epoxy that I used, a little of it crept around the sides of the screen and dripped on the back panel.

Screen and back cut on laser and vinyl cutters.
Screen and back cut on laser and vinyl cutters.

Final Piece

I’m happy with the final piece. I learned a lot and it’s great that I now have some experience with the CNC techno router.

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