Making signs

One of the cool things about a CNC machine is the ease at which you can produce really good looking signs out of pretty much any material. One of my ‘commissions’ was to make a sign for a guy in Scotland who contacted me on Instagram. He had seen I’d made a house sign and asked whether I could make one to hang above his hot tub. I wasn’t intending to charge him other than the postage so in order to keep costs down I used some old pallet wood I’d reclaimed. The results came out pretty well and he loved it.

Another request came closer to hand, when Tina mentioned that one of her colleagues at work asked whether I could make two bedroom door signs for her young daughters. My usual process is to firstly go and do a Google images search to get some inspiration on what the signs could look like but in this case I went straight into designing using the Vectrix VCarve software.

But having checked with Tina, we didn’t feel they were ‘girly’ enough, so went back to Google and found a sign I thought could work. A quick design in the CNC software and I then got to work cutting the signs and the accompanying butterflies and flowers.

In the end I added some rope for hangers and gave both a coat of varnish. And the girls absolutely loved them, even to the point that the younger one Evelyn just kept walking around carrying it like a handbag not wanting it to be hung on her door.

Another request came from a difference work colleague of Tina’s, this time asking for a sign to give to her friend who had recently got engaged. Again I knocked up a mock-up, which was accepted and soon the CNC had produced the sign. Again they loved it.

One of the reasons for buying a CNC was the fact that the output is so exact, crisp and clean and so far it’s proving that way.

I’m happy just making these as for me the enjoyment is the creation and reward of seeing something produced that looks good and the recipient is pleased with. Perhaps one day when I’ve retired I can set up my own business selling these for profit but I’m really not sure I’d get the same pleasure in making them as I do at the moment.

Making Stuff Part 6

IMG_2084The first task in building my WorkBee CNC machine was to unpack the contents that Ooznest had provided and check that there was nothing missing. But with over 20 different boxes and 100’s of individual parts, I decided to trust them and hoped they included everything I needed 🙂

IMG_2122I started working through the online manuals beginning at the  ‘Assembling your WorkBee‘ section and followed the instructions, which have been created by the Ooznest guys in the format of building IKEA furniture. These step-by-step guides were really well written and diagrams provided, and with every individual part bagged and labelled it, was a fairly straight forward task of assembling the machine. I’d previously ordered a set of nut drivers and a small spanner and these proved invaluable and made the construction much easier.

Some of the build was quite fiddly and I often had to refer to other Bee builders YouTube videos to get passed some sections, but with some perseverance it all started to come together. In total it took two or three days on and off to complete this part of the build but fortunately all parts from Ooznest were provided.

IMG_2141Once I’d completed the mechanical build I then moved on to the electronics assembly. Again, following the guides and making sure I didn’t miss any steps, I wired in the Duet2 controller board, linking it to the 4 stepper motors that drive the screws and finished of by bolting together the base extrusions which would house the spoiler board.

IMG_2138At last the 100’s of individual parts were starting to come together into a working machine, with only the connecting and commissioning phase to go. Again, the instructions were clear and I soon had a working CNC machine, hooked up to my laptop via my WiFi network. I updated the drivers and then gave it it’s first instructions to move. And amazingly it followed the commands I had entered in, moving in the X, then Y and finally Z direction.

I then fitted the new DeWalt router I’d also purchased from Ooznest and at last the WorkBee was ready to do it’s first job.

Finally I purchased a cheap WiFi webcam which would enable me to watch the cutting process from the comfort (and warmth) of my living room.

So what was the first project I made I hear you ask?

5B92AE8A-FDB9-4353-B07E-02C31ACBDE36_1_105_cE0089A17-6A65-4D67-B32A-A3C84AB3ADCD_1_105_cHaving watched loads of Vectric videos about designing using VCarve Desktop I’d been creating a few ideas of things to try out, and with Valentine’s Day looming I thought I’d have a go at making a sign for Tina. Unfortunately I misjudged the depth of the MDF and had to abandon the sign mid-way through the job. Rather than start again, I then tried a different model and this was more successful.

One of the issues when cutting anything on the machine is how to hold down the timber when making the cuts. There are different ways of doing this including holding the wood down with screws and clamping through the spoil board. Another technique, which I used in this case, was to use masking tape and strong super glue. This method is really effective and holds the work-piece down really firmly but is easy to remove once the cutting has been completed.

11A9CFCF-2EA6-4A68-A503-2665050342FF_1_105_cAnother effective use of the CNC is to cut out letters, joined together so they stay together which creates a pleasing wall-hanging decoration. The example here was cut out of 9mm MDF and then sprayed black. The finished wasn’t brilliant (it was a bit rough on the edges) so I then cut another version using thinner plywood and made it slightly larger. This came out better and is now hanging on our upstairs landing wall.

So my CNC journey has now started in earnest and have already diversified into making items out of coloured acrylic (perspex).

I am pleased with the CNC machine set up, the fully enclosed unit is keeping the dust down and running the router is quieter than the dust extractor so minimal disruption to my neighbours.

My next update will show some more of the things I’ve created and also detail the near disaster I had when a wire on the CNC machine got cut and caused the router, at full speed, to plunge into the spoil board, causing quite a bit of smoke. Fortunately I wasn’t watching the machine remotely and was on hand to switch it off. More of this next time.