Introduction: MTG Mana Coasters
Who doesn't enjoy a few rounds of Magic The Gathering? Filled with strategy, anticipation, careful planning, and quick thinking when your carefully laid plan is thwarted by your opponent. An easy game to learn but impossible to master, Magic The Gathering is a favourite past time for many many gamers. So, as a homage to this fantastic game, I decided to grant it the highest honour of holding my booze, er, I mean, beverage ;)
The coasters are made from a thin plank of Ash, about 93mm wide, 740mm long and 6mm thick. The design was then engraved onto the wood using a CNC router (I only recently acquired this piece of kit and this is it's first project, super exciting!). The engraved wood was then filled with epoxy resin, sanded, and oiled. I stuck some natural cork to the bottoms to give them a bit of grip.
Wood - I used Ash but any thin wood board will work
Epoxy Resin - I used Gorilla brand which sets in 5 minutes but actually, a resin that takes longer would actually be more beneficial when it comes to touching up as it gives you more time to work. These contain 25ml of resin but you'll need about 40ml plus extra for touching up so buy at least 2.
Epoxy Pigment - Many things can be used to colour epoxy resin, I used Jet Black liquid pigment but a more common option is solid powdered epoxy pigment.
Danish Oil - Usually inexpensive and you don't need a lot
Lint Free Cloth - 100% Cotton works well
Natural Cork - I bought a "Self Adhesive" roll about 3 meters long on ebay for less than £5, which is way more than I needed, and it's just peel and stick :)
CNC Router - Ok, so not everyone has one of these but more and more people are getting into CNC and will let you hire equipment for a few hours. A good place to look for is FabLab. Fab Labs are being set up all over the world and allow members of the public to use CNC equipment at a fair price, as well as offering free help and guidance from the staff.
Belt Sander - Removing excess epoxy is not very fun but a belt sander makes it a hell of a lot quicker!
Detail Sander - Helps to remove small amounts of epoxy after touching up
Step 1: Engraving
The wood board was engraved using a CNC router and the .svg images I have included in this instructable. This file contains everything so you will have to separate the images out how you want. I started with just the mana symbols, engraving them to a depth of 2mm. However, if I were to make these again, I would actually go deeper than this as the belt sander removes a lot of material.
The endmill I used was a generic 1.3 mm bit, the only reason I used this was because it was the only endmill I had at the time. To save time, it is recommended that a larger endmill is used. However, you have to bare in mind the finer detail on some of these designs; your endmill must be able to fit into the gaps it will be carving out. The image of the sun shows this, the small gap between the circle and the edge of the design is only a few millimetres, the cutting tool must be able to fit in this gap.
Step 2: Filling With Epoxy
Before you fill the engraved board with epoxy resin it is a good idea to give it a quick sand and remove the dust with a cloth. Once clean, you are ready to fill. For this you will need a place to mix your resin and a tool to mix it with, I used a plastic shot glass from a pack I had left over from a party and a few wooden coffee stirrers I "borrowed" from my local coffee shop.
Each resin pack contains 25ml of resin but you'll need at least 40ml plus extra for touching up. As this stuff sets in 5 minutes it is best to work with one pack at a time. Empty a whole pack into the shot glass but before mixing, load your stirring stick with a small amount of pigment. You only need a small dab to fully colour the epoxy resin. Mix the resin well and begin scooping it into the engravings. Don't worry about being too neat, it is more important that the resin fills all the holes and gaps in the engraving.
Leave this to harden over night.
Step 3: Sanding and Touching Up
Once the resin has hardened fully, after about 24 hours. You will need to sand away the excess. You can do this by hand but it will take a very long time. A quick was to do this is to use a belt sander or drum sander. I secured the wood board to my workbench and used a belt sander to remove the excess epoxy. Be careful though, too much sanding and you'll sand right through the design, like in the tree image shown, luckily this was a test piece :)
Air bubbles are inevitable, you can easily fill these in by mixing up some more resin and filling them in with a tooth pick. Let these touch ups dry again for 24 hours before sanding them either by hand or a small detail sander.
Step 4: Cutting Out
Back to the CNC router to cut the coasters out. Sanding the board so much leaves it a non-uniform thickness making cutting through difficult. To overcome this, I secured the board to a piece of old MDF and set a cut depth larger than the thickest part of the board, ensuring a full cut through. The board was secured to the MDF with double sided tape; one piece under each mana symbol. Once a piece is fully cut out, it can fly off and do damage if it's not secured.
After cutting all my coasters out in one run, I have learnt that precision can be a problem and what may only be a tiny error at the start, can become a large error at the end. It would be better to cut each coaster out as separate runs and re-position the work piece between each run.
Once each coaster is cut, give the edges a little sanding to make them nice and smooth.
Step 5: Finishing Touches
To finish the coasters I used Danish Oil. This really brings out the grain of the Ash and looks awesome on most woods. Start by cleaning your coasters of all dust with a lint free cloth. Then dab a generous amount of oil onto the cloth and rub it into the wood, follow the grain and don't worry about getting it on the epoxy, in fact, it will help hide many sanding marks left in the epoxy.
The Danish Oil finish is optional but you can see the difference makes in the photo of two pieces of Ash. The one on the left has not been treated and the one on the right has a single coat of Danish Oil. The Ash piece on the left is also smaller, this is because I made it to use as a template to cut some natural cork to stick on the bottom of the coasters.
And that's all there is to it :D You can use the .svg file provided to make your own MTG mana coasters or you can use any design you like to make your own epoxy inlay coasters :D