Hello Internet is the name of a well known(?) podcast by C.G.P. Grey and Brady Haran (Grey runs the CGP Grey youtube channel, while Brady runs multiple youtube channels (Numberphile, Computerphile, Periodic Videos, and many others...). From time to time, I enjoy listening to the Hello Internet Podcast.
Recently, on the podcast, they held a referendum to select an official flag of the podcast. (and yes I know that sounds kind of bizarre to an outsider... Just go listen.) To cut a long story short, I thought it would be fun to make a carved plaque of the winning design. This would allow me to combine Woodworking with CNC carving and also with general science nerdiness. What's not to like?
Step 1: Preparing to Carve
I downloaded the SVG file and then went over to the Inventables website and logged into the online Easel application. Easel is how you control the X-Carve CNC machine that I have. You can draw directly in Easel, or you can import SVG or other Images files, or some combination thereof. I created a new project there, set my material dimensions, and imported the Nail & Gears flag image from Hello Internet. I scaled the image larger, set the cutting depth, and surrounded it with a square, just to frame and set off the image.
The material that I am carving is a two-colour HDPE sheet. (Available from Inventables). It is 12x12" in size, and 1/4" thick. What makes it interesting is that the core of the material is white, but it has a black coating on both sides. So as you carve an image, the image will show up as white, with a black field surrounding it. I think that will look classy.
The material is loaded onto my X-Carve machine and clamped down. I was carefull to leave room around the edge of my image to allow for the material clamps. However, in future I think I should look into a wedge system for holding the materia. I've seen other people do that, which holds it fast without obstructing the surface at all. One little detail to watch out for is clearance for the Y carriage wheels. One of my clamps was extending under the y axis beam, and the wheels of the carriage hit it. Fortunately I caught that during calibration or it would have ruined my project.
Step 2: Carving
Carving is a slow process, which would not normally be an issue but I have not yet added any dust collection to my system. The HDPE carves nicely, but it breaks up into tiny splinters that fly everywhere, so I was pretty much chained to the system holding a shop-vac hose for the entirety of the carving process.
In the 2nd photo, I'm holding the two-flute 1/8" diameter carbide cutting bit that I used for this project. It's pretty tiny, which allowas a fair bit of high resolution detail in the image, but of course that slows it down when carving out all the interior space.
In the third photo I'm holding up the final result of carving. It turned out great.
Step 3: Clean Up the Carving
Here I am fine-tuning the carving with a chisel. There were a number of tiny "hairs" of plastic left along the edges of the carving. I am lightly dragging the chisel backwards along the edge of the carving, using it like a scraper, which quickly knocks loose all those little bits.
Step 4: On to the "Pro" Version!
Okay, so we're done, right? Got a nice carving of the Nail&Gears flag, right?
Not a chance.
One running joke on the podcast is that Brady is never content with the "basic" or "classic" versions of things. He always wants the "Pro" model. In this case, what we have here is the base model. But I'm going for the "Pro" model. So I grabbed some reclaimed hardwood -- I believe it is some kind of European Beech wood, as it came from an Ikea table -- and planed and jointed it to use making a nice hardwood frame for the plaque.
A simple rectangular shaped frame would be pretty straightforward, but I'm aiming for better than that. In the 2nd photo I am showing the 3 cutting operations that I will make on the router table to make some nice molding to frame the plaque. First I will use a roundover bit to curve the outside edge. Next a cove bit (inset photo) will be used to take out a quarter-circle shaped chunk of wood. And finally a rabbeting bit (in the background of the inset photo) will be used to make the notch where the plaque fits in the frame.
I used a mitering jig on my tablesaw to cut perfect forty-five degree angles on the ends of the frame pieces, as shown in the third photo.
Step 5: Framing It
I don't have a strap clamp -- which is perfect for clamping together things like this picture frame -- but I wish I did. I tried using masking tape, which is a pretty common alternative. However, I seem to have a lousy batch of masking tape and it was not holding at all.
Fortunately there is always more than one way to do things, so I fell back to using my dowelmax jig and I put some small dowel holes in the face of each miter. The dowels would lock the joints together, giving strength, but more importantly than that, they would keep the joint from slipping while it is glued up and held in clamps.
Step 6: The Big Finish
A quick treatment with some spray lacquer and my "Hello Internet" Nail and Gears plaque is complete -- Pro version. It turned out even better than I was expecting and I quite enjoyed this nerdy little project. Here are some more photos of the finished product.