Fun while it lasted

Had to take back the CNC Shark to Carbatec today – thanks for the loan!  It was interesting to experience CNC machining, and I can see how having a CNC router would be very useful in a cottage industry setting.

It is quite a different animal to a laser, but both operate on a similar, adjacent playing field.  One of each would make an ideal setup – some jobs are perfectly suited to one, some to the other.  Both work from a subtractive perspective, so a 3D printer would provide the additive component.  That shouldn’t be too far away now.

Think next time, one of the requirements for a CNC router, is to have one that doesn’t have a router that screams so loudly when it operates.  Many of my machines are moving towards a quieter form of woodworking (not as far as getting away from murdering electrons mind), but at least either quiet brushed motors, the even quieter brushless, or induction motors on the larger machines.  Having a small thing that screams for the 2-3 hours of a larger CNC job is just not pleasant!  The CNC Shark doesn’t have to use the Bosch router, so I’d be looking for a different router if I did get one of these.

So back to more traditional forms of woodworking, at least for the time being.  I expect at some stage that each of these options will be available in the shed, just not sure about the timeline.

In the neighbourhood

Happened to be passing by Caboolture, and couldn’t let the opportunity pass to drop in on Larry (as in Lazy Larry), have a beer with a mate, and check out his new laser engraver!

And it is a monster! But more of that in a sec.

I haven’t seen Larry’s place since my introduction to the Torque Workcentre a few years ago, and it was very familiar- a shed away from home. Still crazy with all the projects he has on the go (and even more so now that Larry is full time operating out of the shed these days- selling through numerous markets, and online).

Interestingly, despite Larry being the very first purchaser of a Torque Workcentre, and then the first dealer, there was not one to be seen (and only a base being used as a bench).

Workcentre as a bench

Workcentre as a bench

Lots of very familiar tools around the place, similar to what is in my shop but with a lot more available space (and a much more impressive wood store!)

Workshop

Workshop

Now to the new star in Larry’s eye- his laser engraver, and it is awesome! The size, capacity, wattage, possibilities.

Just to give you a sense of scale, here is Larry prepping a job on the computer alongside the laser

Laser

Laser

The laser tube itself has to be seen to be believed. What was once such a rarity, seen only in elite industry, and university research, you can now pick them up for a few hundred dollars ($400 or so)

Laser tube

Laser tube

The beam is reflected around and down to the lens to focus it onto the work.

Aligning

Aligning

Then to the actual burn

Doing the burn

Doing the burn

Fast, deep (and it can be used to cut thinner stock, not just engrave), sharp, and accurate. And it may not seem cheap at around $7k, a lot cheaper than the $20k+ they can still be.

The result will be proudly mounted in the shed.

Result

Result

Thanks Larry, and sorry for dropping by unannounced!

Playing with Fire

Was round at the Roving Reporter’s workshop today, having a play with a few bits’n’pieces. He has a couple of new texturing tools for the lathe which were interesting, especially seeing as I hadn’t tried these out in person before.

What was really interesting was playing around with his laser engraver. (Basically a printer/plotter for wood, that uses a laser instead of ink.)

Didn’t take any photos, although you can see it in action in Episode 72 of Stu’s Shed tv.

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Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I could see such a use for one of these machines, whether it is project adornment, or part fabrication.

Plug in a laptop and you are away 🙂

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There are all sorts of images of results of laser printers on the web. Some amazing stuff!

Some images of a burn, as taken by the Roving Reporter: (I was too busy at the time playing with the laser to remember to take any photos!)

Setting up the burn, using a pretty basic program that effectively “prints” the info via the laser onto the workpiece.

The laser with the top open (this is a ‘real’ laser printer!)  The laser is not in the head (which is in about the middle of the screen) – that is a moveable mirror that reflects the laser down to the work.

Partway through a burn.  You can see the spot of light – this isn’t the laser, but the resulting mini flame at the point the laser is hitting the wood.  Depending on how intense the laser is set, the flame and smoke can be very fine/indistinguishable, or rather dramatic.

First line complete.

Burn complete.  This unit can do small objects: business cards, makers marks, engraving into pens etc.  About 8″x8″ in size.  The price has dropped dramatically in the past few years, and you can potentially now get one of these laser units for under $1000.

I’m currently researching just where you can pick up a reasonable unit, for a reasonable price.  If anyone knows suppliers in Australia that may be interested in having their unit included in future articles on laser engraving, you can suggest they contact me!

Episode 85 Kallenshaan Laser Pen Turning

Episode 85 Kallenshaan Laser Pen Turning

Kallenshaan Pen Kits

It was only the evening of the 20th that I ordered a couple of pen kits from the USA and they arrived 5 days later, from Kallenshaan Woods, who supply specialist laser cut pen kits (such as the Fire Pen kit I made about a year ago…

and the Betsy Ross I got as a bit of a memento from my trip to the US last year (sadly, I still have to actually make it!))

After seeing examples of Kallenshaan’s recent designs, I definitely wanted to get these:

A woodworker’s laser cut pen

And one for Wood Turners

It always surprises me how such fragile-looking components make it safely through the post, but they do.  Both kits will be interesting to make (and use), and I might finally get on with the Betsy Ross one as well. (I was waiting to source a supplier of Sierra Vista pen kits, but it is proving too hard to bother with, so I’ll stick to a normal Sierra kit)

Think I’m getting the pen-making bug back again!

Episode 72 Feel the Burn

Episode 72 Feel the Burn

Laser Based Woodworking

As woodworkers, we primarily still rely on very traditional methods for shaping wood, and for the modern woodworker not much has changed other than the death of a few more electrons.

Sure, the market has moved significantly, and a lot of technology has been bought in that turns an historic chisel or saw into a whirling dervish of razor sharp teeth mounted to a Flai Ultimate blade, but it still reduces down to a whole bunch of mini chisels paring wood away.

Where technology is making some indentations is the use of new methods for cutting.  Now lasers have been around for ages (observation about laser vs lazer removed: laser being an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), but it is interesting just how available they are becoming for the backyard woodworker.  And even if you are not running out to buy one tomorrow, you can now buy kitsets for various items that utilise the accuracy/precision of the laser for your own woodworking.

I recently made up one of the laser-cut pen kits from Rockler, and it was remarkable just how each piece came together so precisely.  I have another to make of theirs – the Betsy Rose as a momento of my recent US trip.

Flame Kit from Rockler

The Roving Reporter also found another kit over the weekend that has particular appeal, also from the US, but in this case it has a definite down-under theme

Down Under Laser-cut pen

You know, I’m really starting to wonder if I shouldn’t get into retail – there are so many cool products out there!!

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