Oneshop Redding | Custom Business Ornaments | Laser Engraver

I was recently contacted by a church friend to design and make 50 small wooden ornaments for gift baskets they where giving to their top clients.

I did some quick calculations and looked online for the cost of the wood necessary for the project and quoted her $1.45ea. I found the wood would cost me $12.00 off of Amazon, which gave me five sheets of 300mm x 200mm x 1.5mm, and I could fit 11 per sheet at about 70mm in diameter; this would yield me enough plus a couple extra for mistakes. 

For the wood, I decided upon basswood as it was one of the cheaper materials which had excellent rigidity at about 1/16". If I weren't looking for something so rigid, I would probably go with something to cut faster so the overall machine time would be lower.

For securing the wood to the bed of the laser cutter, I just used some double-sided painters tape, which worked out quite well and was easy to remove afterward.

For the actual design process was very simple, I used adobe illustrator to design everything. She wanted her business's logo on the front and "Thank you" engraved on the back and a single 8mm hole on top to attach a string.

The runtime was 9 minutes for the back and 14 minutes for the front. I started with the end as it would be easier to work with because the text didn't need to be perfectly centered.

After getting the first sheet of 11 done and working out some of the kinks, I was able to whip through the rest pretty quick and sanded the edges where necessary from burn marks and where it didn't cut all the way through.

Oneshop Redding | Setting Up a Coolant System | Shapeoko CNC

After successfully cutting aluminum with pretty decent quality, I wanted to improve the efficiency of it. The major problem I tried to solve was that of coolant. I've tried running the machine without coolant, and it works just not well; it overheats way too fast and leaves burn marks.

With coolant works much better and I sat there and watched the machine the whole time spraying it with compressed air and pure wd-40 lubricant, which was time-consuming and meant I couldn't leave the router to work on other projects.

After posting about cutting aluminum on Instagram, someone mentioned that there was a product just for this issue. I was already aware of its existence, but not sure about the price and how easy it was to setup. After doing a bit of research, I came across this video, which explained how to set up a cheap coolant system with an air compressor and liquid coolant. The way it works is it combines the compressed air and liquid coolant and sprays it out through an adjustable nozzle pointed at the tool.

The video had links to all the different products I would need, and so I purchased them all, and they came in the following week.

The setup was straightforward. The only thing not listed was PTFE tape, which allows it to have a perfect seal, and no air leaks out. I also added for ease of use was magnets. I bought two large magnets from Lowes and attached one to the router base on the Shapeoko and the other to the side of the mist system. I wanted a simple detach system as this machine commonly for cutting wood, and the mist system would get in the way pretty quickly.

I found that the air regulator 20 PSI that he recommended in the video was not enough for what I wanted, so I just raised that to 30 PSI, which worked well for my projects.

Once I started up the machine, I knew I had a problem right away. The magnets I got started sliding around from the vibrations of the router, which was not good. From the vibration, it meant that if I had the nozzle positioned wrong, I could get knocked into the tool which would grind and possibly break it or have an equally disastrous outcome.

A quick solution was to glue some pieces of wood to the sides of the magnets; this makes them sit parallel with each other and prevent vibrations from moving it in the vertical direction. The wood worked to a certain extent, but it didn't feel very sturdy and didn't look very pretty, so I designed a simple brace for the magnets to sit on so they fit inside of each other and keep things sturdy; which I will cut out of aluminum later.

Oneshop Redding Lazer Engraving Guitar Picks

I started a small side project for my sister on the laser engraver.

She wanted a series of guitar picks laser engraved with some specific quotes and Bible verses as a gift to her boyfriend.

The lighter ones at the top are oak and the bottom darker ones are coconut. I believe she got these off of Etsy.

I did a couple of test runs on some scrap wood to make sure everything looked fine and had the right color tones. Everything looked fine so I exported each design separately and manually did each one. I probably could have done it all at once but I didn't want to take that big of a risk.

I only messed up one and that was the heart and initials, I set the home to be a few millimeters higher than I meant to and so it sat a bit high on the pick.

Unfortunately, the coconut ones where so dark it's hard to make out what they say and there really isn't anything that can be done for that. My sister asked if it was possible to inlay it with a gold plate but it's not really viable for this situation as the lettering was so small that it would be hard to get it in. In addition to that, the laser goes by layer by layer which leaves small line marks if you look closely.

My father actually mentioned something to me a few weeks ago that I hadn't really thought about. A paint or powered base coloring that would get melted or fused with the material to give it coloring. After doing a bit of searching I did find a paint that does just that. I'm really curious about what it would turn out like so I may order a bottle in the near future.

Oneshop Redding Cutting Aluminum (part two)

Over the past few days, since I did the first aluminum cut, I've been researching the most efficient ways to cut aluminum with a clean finish.

I found that the vertical cutting height should be much higher than my previous 0.2mm. This time I set it at 6mm cut depth and place it at 0.1mm optimal load; the sound wasn't quite like I would have liked, so I tweaked it a bit and got to sound a bit better.

I also found that using compressed air helps with chip removal; I already knew this, but I found with a combo of compressed air, and the silicone gets a clean-cut, and you can see what's going on.

I was able to cut down the stock to about 5mm and then start cutting out the logo design that I modeled a few weeks back. It all went very smoothly without any hitch, though I did have to be there as I didn't trust it on its own.

I started with a 1/4" 4 flute carbide bit to mill out the smaller stock, then switched over to a 1/8" 4 flute carbide bit to clear out the shallower areas and to do the final touches.

The significant difference between this cut and the previous cut operations I did the other day of the same model as I didn't understand how to set the Rest Machining option; this means the rest of the stock to cut from the previous operations.

I tried something new here as well, which was taping the underside of the stock and the board and glued the two sides together for a more secure fit. I did this primarily because I knew I wanted to cut the part out of stock, and I didn't want it loose.
I noticed that toward the end, one side of the stock was higher than the other and so I started cutting into the tape before its final pass, which was not ideal.

Since I had to be there watching and blasting it with air, it was not ideal. I've got an idea to add a few nozzles which I can attach to the air compressor so I can let it run on its own.

So the bits I got from my brother (see earlier post) were for cutting steel and titanium, which, as it happens, is not ideal for cutting aluminum. I thought it would be just using a harder bit than necessary but would work just as well, but not.

Oneshop Redding Cutting Aluminum

After acquiring the aluminum stock and endmills to cut it, I need to figure out what feeds and speeds to start cutting the material to achieve a decent outcome.

I started with a flat plain cut to remove some of the access material and give it a smooth surface to begin my next operation. I didn't realize till I started cutting that the aluminum stock is not perfect perfectly flat on top, I added an extra 0.5mm to the top of the stock to clear it off in case it was imperfect, which worked out well.

I set it at 203mm/min (8in) and 0.5mm stepdown with a 1/4" 4 flute endmill. I can probably have more of a stepdown and even increase the speed, but I'm playing it safe for now. These bits are seriously expensive, and I don't want to ruin anything in my first go.

The outcome was not a huge success; the tool edges were a bit worn just slightly enough that it left some stock when it should have cut. The chip evacuation wasn't the greatest either, so I'm going to try using compressed air and silicone wd-40 lube to give it more of a chance. Overall though the places it did cut have a very nice finish to it, something about CNC cut aluminum feels so good, such a perfectly smooth top.

The sound of the machine didn't sound like I was hoping. So for the next cut, I'm going to lower the optimal load on the bit, which should decrease the size of the chips and have a smoother finish. While cutting the aluminum heated up quite a bit and got to the point where it was too hot to touch, I think the reason why it was heating up so much is because of chip evacuation; the chips couldn't get out fast enough and so were recut and started welding with the tool. The outcome was a very rough finish and a definite color change along with it being much sharper of a surface finish.

Attempt number two, it was more successful than yesterday, I bought a can of wd-40 silicone lubricant and sprayed it periodically while it was cutting, and that did the trick, I sped it up quite a bit faster than before, and it kept up. This time the aluminum only got a little warm and all the chips consistent and small. It sounded much much better than before and had a cleaner finish. 
I tried running a few cleanup passes but didn't quite get them down right, so I ended up cutting places where I shouldn't. Very pleased with the outcome, even though it didn't look as clean as I would have liked. One thing I keep forgetting to try is compressed air that would remove the chips from getting recut, and I feel it would keep the material from overheating.