I decided to custom make some superhero centre pieces for the tables for my son's bar mitzvah.
This was done using made to order clear acrylic for the main box part of the centre piece and laser etched super hero panels on each side. In addition each centre piece had an item of superhero toys/props corresponding to the superhero. This will also have LED up-lighting to really make it stand out and a mirror at the bottom of the centrepiece.
This instructable is for one centre piece, though I am making eight. I've completed four so far.
What you need:
- 4 - 300mm x 500mm x 3mm Clear acrylic sheets (sides)
- 1 - 306mm x 300mm x 3mm clear acrylic sheet (top)
- 4 - smaller tinted acrylic (A5)
- Tensol or other acrylic solvent
- 20ml syringe with blunt metal needle.
- 8 x corner clamps
- 2 x adjustable straps
- craft knife
- Novus acrylic scratch remover(optional)
- 250mm x 250mm mirrored acrylic
- 4 LED battery powered lights
- silver reflective tape
Step 1: Clamp the Sides Together
The first step is to clamp the sides of the acrylic box together. If the edges are too rough then lightly sand, but don't sand smooth as the acrylic glue works better with a rough surface. Also make sure the acrylic parts are straight and square. I definitely recommend laser cutting as it is the best way to cut perfectly square acrylic parts. If you buy it sawed like me then you will need to check with set square and maybe sand down a little. I know for next time to mention QA issues to my acrylic supplier that what they supplied me was not quite what I asked for. I guess I've learned an important lesson.
The acrylic you have purchased will have come with a protective plastic film on both sides. Do not remove this. It will help prevent scratching. What we do need to do before gluing the sides together is to carefully cut thin vertical strips off the edges of the protective film from both sides of the acrylic. See photos. This is so we get good acrylic to acrylic contact for capillary gluing. Do this on all 4 side pieces. This should be 16 strips.
Start by arranging the clamps as shown in the first image on an even surface. These bottom clamps will actually hold the top of the centre piece because these edges will sit perfectly flush in the clamps.
I configured the side with two sides between to end piece. So the box will end up 300mm x 306mm.
Clamp the top corners now but remember this is actually the bottom of the centrepiece. If the acrylic sides are not cut square, this is where you will see it. But it should not affect the build much.
When attaching the clamps, you need to make sure that the edges are flush on every corner. Work around from corner to corner adjusting the clamps. You may need to do this a couple of times to get the fit just right.
Once you have all the sides clamped and square you may notice some bowing in the middle. This is probably because the acrylic has not been stored perfectly flat and has a slight bend. Even if the acrylic is pretty straight there is still likely to to be a small gap. To rectify this for gluing so that we get the best acrylic to acrylic contact, I used two luggage straps adjusted to go around the acrylic quite tightly(see photo). This should bring in any bowing nicely and make sure there is acrylic to acrylic contact for gluing.
Step 2: Gluing the Sides
I used a Tensol type solvent. A very strong acrylic glue that essentially melts the acrylic together rather than glues it. Please make sure you do this in a well ventilated area as the fumes are very strong.
Use a small 20ml syringe with a blunt metal needle. Gluing using capillary action uses very little of the tensol fluid. A little goes a long way.
Add 5 or 10ml to the syringe.
Practise with the syringe to see how much pressure you need to use before trying it out on the actual acrylic box.. It's very responsive so be careful not to squeeze too hard.
Point the metal needle of the syringe right into one of the corners of the box. See photo. Run the needle down the corner pressing very gently as you go. You should see the tell-tale sign of fluid seeping into the join. Do this for all joins and leave to dry. Replace the syringe cap to prevent leakage and drying out.
The solvent should dry within a few minutes but it's best to leave it for 10mins.
Step 3: Adding the Top of the Centre Piece
Once the acrylic glue is dry carefully remove all of the clamps. Remember that the structural strength is still a little fragile without the square top on it so try not to put any inward pressure on the sides.
Before we start we have to remove some more strips of protective film from the top edges of the acrylic box. This should be the side currently sitting on the table facing down and not facing up.
Turn the box over and remove a 10 or 20mm horizontal strip from both sides of the acrylic on all 4 sides of the box. That does not sound quite right but I think you understand! :-) This should be 8 strips.
When you have done this turn the box over and and leave these edges face down on the table.
Take the square 300mm x306mm top and place it side by side with the acrylic box. Make sure they are both rotated so the dimensions match. You can lift the box on top of the square piece of acrylic to test this and rotate to match up the size. Place side by side again.
Now remove the protective plastic film from the side of the acrylic square facing up. You will be bonding this side to the box. Lift the box on top and align the corners and sides. Make sure both parts are flush and the box is square. You should have good acrylic to acrylic contact all the way around.
Now using the syringe, reach into the box being very careful not to touch or move it and push the metal needle right into one of the corners. Start to apply a tiny bit of pressure and the run the needle along the join to the next corner. You should be able to see the solvent enter the join because of the capillary action.
Repeat this for the other three joins. Leave the glue to dry for 10 minutes.
You now have an acrylic box with a platform to use for display purposes.
Step 4: Add Laser Etched Superhero Panels
The four laser etched panels were created using black and white images I found. I was able to use coreldraw to make these in better graphics for etching and then etch.The took about 18minutes each to etch. The panels are A5 size and are transparent. Transparent acrylic looks so much better when lit up.
You make need to wash the laser etched panels to remove the white acrylic dust from the surface of the panel before you continue.
To make sure placement of the panels are identical on each side of the acrylic box I cut out a cardboard placement template the same width as the box. Then measured the centre and traced around a panel and cut out the excess card.
Place the box on it's side. Be careful not to scratch the sides. We will be taking off the protective film to fix the etched panels on. Carefully remove the film from the up-facing side of the box. Place the cardboard on top and align top and side edge (See picture). Place object on top to hold in place.
Now to add the glue dots to the back of the etched panels.
Remove the protective film from the back of the first panel. It should be clean but if not, wipe with damp sponge. Take the glue dots and place one close to each corner (See image). Remove glue backing leaving the glue dots behind.
Turnover the panel and angle up placing top edge neatly into the corner of the placement template making sure the panel is straight and level. Then slowly angle down and press into place. Repeat this for the other three sides.
Step 5: Dressing It Up!
Now let's add some finishing touches.
You can use silver reflective tape to wrap around the top and the bottom of the box. This makes it look nice and can also hide any imperfect joins and edges.
Remove the remaining protective film. I left this on, and only removed it once I was at the venue to set up. It is likely you will need to polish the whole item with a soft cloth. If you have any light scratches then you will need to use the Novus acrylic polish. Deep scratches will not come out.
Arrange the LED lights in a square and place the mirror on top. Place acrylic centre piece carefully over the lights and mirror. In addition I bought a couple if Ironman masks from Amazon and glued them together. Then placed them on plate stand on top of the centre piece.
I actually made eight of these centre pieces, which you can hopefully see in the photos.
I hope you like this. Please vote for me! Take a look at my other recent laser cutting instructable.
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