In keeping with the spirit of making things on the Othermill that are not circuit boards, we were playing around with engraving anodized aluminum when we thought we could do one better and make earrings. Here's a quick rundown on how we did it.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Anodized sheet metal in color of your choice
- Double-sided tape
- Jump rings
- Earring findings
You can find earrings, jump rings, and anodized aluminum at the craft store of your choice. There are also lots of resources for jewelry supplies online.
Step 2: What's a Voronoi Diagram?
Our plan was to engrave a nifty pattern onto some anodized aluminum, and then cut the aluminum into a circle. At the suggestion of our visiting friend Robby Kraft, we looked at a few examples of Voronoi patterns and decided that they would look really good as earrings.
A Voronoi diagram is a mathematical methods of dividing space into regions. Seed spots are spread along a field and polygons are generated around these seed spots. The polygons are every point in space around a seed spot that are closer to that seed spot than any other (here's a little more about them if you're curious).
Step 3: Drop the Image File Into a CAM Program
The first thing we did was select a Voronoi diagram image we liked. Then we opened up our CAM (computer-aided machining) software and imported the diagram.
In the CAM software, we created an outline that was the shape we wanted our earrings to be — in this case, a circle. The circle file also includes the holes for the findings and jump rings that will help turn your engraved circles into earrings.
We created two toolpaths — one for the diagram and one for the outline — and exported them as G-code. (There's more detailed information about handling CAM software and toolpaths in our PCB Nightlight tutorial.)
We included the G-code files here in case you want to use the pattern we chose and skip directly to making earrings.
Step 4: Import the G-code Into Otherplan
Bring your G-code files into Otherplan by dragging them into the Otherplan window, or select "Import Files" from the top menu bar or the Plans panel.
Then, in the Materials Setup panel, we set our material thickness to .061'' (1.5494mm). This is the thickness of the material we used to make the original pair of earrings, and it's the depth of cut in the G-code for the holes and outlines. Measure your aluminum with the calipers to see if it's the same thickness.
Setting the material any thinner will cause the spindle to run into the machining bed, which could break the end mill or damage the bed or both. Setting it thicker would result in your earrings not getting cut out all the way.
Step 5: Cut Your Earrings
Insert your engraving tool and make sure to run the tool location sequence.
If you need a refresher for basic mill use, have a look at our Getting Started guide.
Once your tool and material are set in Otherplan, click on "Cut" under the Voronoi pattern file. When the Voronoi pattern is finished, click on "Cut" under the Voronoi Circles and Holes panel.
Cutting out the files will take a few minutes, and you should never leave a running mill unattended, so make sure you have everything you need to settle in for a while.
Step 6: Add the Hardware
Once your earrings are cut, gently pry them out of the sheet with your prying tool.
Add the jump rings through the holes at top, and then add the hooks. Make sure each earring hangs so that the design is facing outward.