Project 2: Rhino and the CNC Router

Brainstorming and Ideation

Idea 1:

I like Lake Superior. I’ve visited Duluth many times in my life. I’m mildly thalassophobic and the size and depth of Superior is a for sure trigger. I am drawn to such bodies of water with an intense curiosity and fascination.

I can use a composite of geological data and maps to include the features I want in file work. Potentially, the surface will be smoothed with artistic liberties taken — shying away from 100% accurate portrayal. I could inlay laser-cut translucent blue acrylic.

The piece will be on the large side, something for a tabletop or to be hung up on the wall like a painting.

I could also include engraving on the outside of the lake to include cities, designs, major roads or other landmarks. I think I’d put landmarks and sightseeing destinations, emphasizing my favorites.

Idea 2:

A similar geographical relief. I love mountains. I would select something front range in central CO. I would probably select Pike’s Peak, since I’ve actually been to the top.

The basic idea is to use two pieces. One will be the base and act as a frame. It will the second piece, the mountains, inset. The mountains will end up being as maximally as tall as the material’s thickness, or if several layers are glued and then cut (not sure if possible).

Idea 3:

My little siblings likes toy vehicles. I will have to make things in pairs if I decide to make a set. This idea requires assembly, so I would try to keep the design relatively simple. The material either has to be quite thick or several layers need to be glued together to build something like a toy.

Combination of laser cut and CNC parts.

File Work

I decided to go with Idea 1. I decided to go with it because it was my favorite idea. I figured it would be the most fun to make in Illustrator and also result in a final product that I would enjoy.
I used AI and drew with the pen tools. I was using image sources that excluded depth data, only the layers included. As such, I wasn’t sure if each layer was deeper or more shallow/above water; I consulted several map sources, generating a best-fit composite ‘image’ to build the legend. Beyond Isle Royale, my knowledge of islands in Lake Superior is lacking.

Getting started with the second outer-most layer.
More detail
Almost there
Scaled by 130% with complete detail.

Final Assembly

The 3D simulation.


The 3D simulation looked good, so I knew the cut piece would turn out as well.

Pre-sanded piece. Notice the frayed/fluffy cut edges.

I was impressed with how the piece looked when I picked it up. Initially, I was worried that the smaller details would be lost, but it turned out with the perfect amount of intricacy.

There was some frayed MDF at the cut edges that had to be sanded down. I also decided to sand on the flat outer part to help with the staining process. I used 150 grit sandpaper for the whole piece.

Sanded Piece

I sanded and then vacuumed the dust from the board, in preparation for staining.

I had imagined that I would stain the outside and either stain the inside or leave it uncolored. I would then fill the lake up with clear epoxy; the pocket cuts would be visible, but it’d look finished. After looking at various epoxy products, I realized that the depth was probably too much to get a crystal clear fill without imperfections, bubbles, dust, etc. I had also envisioned, as seen earlier in my post, that I would laser cut acrylic to place into the pocket cuts. Ultimately, I decided against either of these choices.

Instead, I stained everything.

I selected stains that would be easy to use and look good. I wanted to choose a dark color for the backdrop for sure and the lake had to be a lighter color. I purchased, after much deliberation, the following stains from Home Depot.

The exact stains I used.

I applied with brush and wiped excess off.

First stain — Mahogany
Second Stain — Pecan

It was pretty hard to wipe the excess off of the deeper cuts, so there is some extra accumulated at the edges, giving a richer color.

I applied a second coat of the mahogany to hopefully deal with some patchiness, but the result is pretty much the same.

Second coat

I think it turned out well. It has been a long time since I’ve used wood stain, so I probably made some errors in technique that compromised the quality of the final project. The stain isn’t 100% consistent in each part. Sanding was fine, except the edges were hard to get to and frayed/fragmented pretty easily, making it hard to apply stain and to wipe excess. The stain tended to accumulate at the edges of each level, holding more of the color. I do like that the stain is influenced by the geometry of the cuts, giving some interesting variety in the appearance of the piece. It might not be the most polished, I really am happy with the result.




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Jack Hammond

Jack Hammond

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