Sunday, July 5, 2015

Another Retro Table

Now that we've got the retro coffee table in place, we developed a need for an end table which didn't clash. I started looking around for mid-century designs and liked the two-level design of this table:

I did not, however, feel that I needed to duplicate the $999 price tag. I also wanted to do something different with the legs, and was struck by the in-and-back-out curves of that mid-century icon, the Space Needle.

This was almost absurdly easy once I had the idea down. I got a basic boomerang shape in Inkscape, added 3/8" circles at intervals around the edges, and made a horizontally flipped copy. I used the Shapeoko to cut the table pieces out of half-inch birch, with pocket operations to drill the 3/8" holes down a quarter inch. Again, the fit I can get is very pleasing; the dowels connecting the two levels fit into the holes snugly, barely needing glue. The legs were just a question of a few sweeping curves cut into some planks, with notches matching similar grooves cut out of a few circles holding them together. Stain, glue, a few layers of poly, and it's the Jetsons' house:

And I think the total I spent on making the table, including buying the CNC machine, is less than what they're selling the original table for.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Super Block

Not long ago, I saw this hoplite-themed knife block:

(from here)

And I thought "Hey, that'd be a nice, easy project for the CNC machine." But in deference to my lovely and talented spouse's sensibilities, I decided a different theme was in order. And it was far too easy.

I found some superhero-shaped silhouettes, played with them a little in GIMP to make suitable outlines, ran them through Inkscape, and handed the designs to the Shapeoko, using a 1/8" bit and 3/4" birch plywood. Here's what I ended up with:

The edges came out quite nicely. A little work with 300-grit sandpaper cleared up some fuzziness and some splinters. The caped body piece gets sandwiched between the non-cape bodies and has small pegs which are supposed to fit into the holes in the base and shield/knife-holder. This is how it looks glued together.


The tolerances are rather stunning. The "foot" and "hand" pegs fit almost perfectly, requiring a bit of force to get them in and holding so well they almost didn't need glue. The Shapeoko is too much fun, and I've only been using it a couple of weeks.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Scaling Up

The dragon I posted yesterday was maybe three inches across. This one isn't.

Ruler for scale. Obviously.

I'm still feeling my way around what bits to use under what circumstances, and I really need to work on hold-downs, but the CNC machine is doing whatever I tell it to, no matter the size.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fully Functional

I did a little tightening up here and a little adjusting there and...

Yep. Machine works. No sign of that drifting to the left. I've got some other prep work to do like putting threaded inserts into the waste board to make it easier to clamp pieces down, but I've basically got it functioning like it should. I'm running a larger-scale test, but after that, on to the inlay work.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

First Carve

I managed to clean out a corner of the garage so I could run the CNC machine without filling my dining room with sawdust and noise. Watching it work is insanely cool.

But how does it work? Well, needs a little tuning. There's a bit of leftward stepping going on with the finished test piece, which suggests I'm losing some moves along the X axis. Probably just need to tighten up some pieces.

But I've finally got the machine plugged in and running. Now I can reasonably contemplate cranking out wooden pieces for Castle Panic, engraved stone, inlaid furniture for Stephanie, and all manner of things.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Shapeoko 3, #90

Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!

 OK, maybe not quite so impressive as all that, but at this point, I have a fully assembled CNC machine which is responding to controller software commands and gcode files. Now, what shall I make first?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tabula Rasa

For some time, Stephanie's been wanting something like a coffee table for the living room to use instead of a series of tiny folding tables which get moved into and out of the room as necessary. After, at long last, looking at the design of some mid-century modern tables, I realized that building such a thing would be remarkably easy. And it was.

Table, with dog for scale.

I started with a couple of sheets of plywood (a thin birch piece for the surface, a thicker pine one for the underside). I scribed a triangle on the surface, used a couple of old paint cans to draw curves into the corners, clamped them together, and cut out the shape with the usual jig saw.

Using a little simple geometry, I found the center of the triangle constituting the lower piece, drew some lines out from there towards the corners, and put the brackets for the legs about two thirds of the way out from the center towards each corner. I used angled brackets for the legs, and cut the ends of the legs at a matching ten-degree angle. Doing the top and bottom as separate pieces conveniently allowed me to drill through the bottom piece without worrying about marring the top.

Once that was done, I glued the top and bottom parts together (clamped together for about a day), put iron-on birch trim around the edges and trimmed it back, stained it a reddish-brown (sorta mirroring the living room's largely red color scheme), and put on lots and lots of coats of polyurethane finish, occasionally sanding between coats.

Helpful scale dog provides scale.

The result is, it appears, a nicely stylish table, sized and colored to suit the room it's in, which cost maybe $75, with the manufactured legs and brackets being the most expensive components. Once I get the CNC mill going, I may experiment with smaller side tables in the same style, but with some Atomic Age inlay.