We have been looking to make a custom cat bowl stand for some time now. We wanted it to have their names on it as well as instructions for feeding when we have a cat-sitter come by. We really enjoy the look of laser cut wood joinery so we wanted it to have a lot of that "puzzle piece" look. Here is how we designed, cut, and assembled our cat's new food station.
Step 1: Sketch Your Idea Out
We started by talking through our ideas together.
We used a micrometer to make sure we had the exact thickness of the board we were using as well as a ruler and a pencil to draw out our rough idea.
We measured the cat's food area and took measurement of their bowls to ensure that we made the stand as well as the holes were the proper size.
Step 2: Make Your Sketched Out Idea Into an Inkscape(Adobe Illustrator) File
When we felt good with design, we started creating the box in Inkscape (Free Adobe Illustrator alternative)
To make any box on a laser cutter you have to be very aware of the thickness of the wood itself. If you don't have the correct thickness the joints of your box will not line up correctly and the box will not fit.
I definitely recommend taking Instructables Class available on Laser Cutting. There is an entire unit on creating a box to surround a Tissue box that does a great job of explaining the importance of material thickness.
Below is a copy of the files for you to create this box yourself.
Step 3: Adding Your Own Personal Touches
Whenever we need to add text to a Glowforge project we need to convert the text into something the Glowforge's software will understand!
- Type your textexactly how you want them to be displayed on your piece, font and all. (image 1)
- Use Snipping tool on your computer to take a photo of the formatted words and copy that image into Inkscape.(image 2)
- In Inkscape, while still clicked on the image of your text, go to the top bar of options (image 2):
- Click 'PATH'
- Click 'TRACE BITMAP'
- When the 'TRACE BITMAP' pop up appears, make sure Brightness cutoff is selected and adjust the levels until you are happy with the live preview on the side. (image 3 + 4 )
- *Tip- I find it useful to attempt this a few times at different levels so I can see how they look all together*
- Click 'OK' when you are happy with the levels selected. (image 3 + 4)
- The new version will appear DIRECTLY ON TOP of the image you brought in. Click on any part of the words and drag to separate the images. Delete the original image and you now have a laser friendly vector version of the words you want to use. (image 5)
- Move the words to the areas you want them to be when engraved. Color all your pieces differently so they can be differentiated on the Glowforge and save. (image 5)
Step 4: Convert That File Into Laser Beams
Within the Glowforge web interface, use the following Settings:
Focus Height: .25
- Speed: 140
- Power Full
- Passes: 2
- Speed: 600
- Power: 80
- LPI: 270
Step 5: Remove Your Pieces and Clean Your Burn Marks
When we did the initial cut on the Glowforge, we made the mistake of only doing one pass. Plywood can be really tricky as glue layers can cause the laser to not fully penetrate the wood. Two passes ensure the wood is cut all the way through.
- Since we did not do that, we had to go through the process of scoring the wood with a xacto knife and safely removing it from the other wood.
Once the pieces were safely removed, we peeled away the masking tape,took the pieces to the sink and applied Pumice soap to the burn marks.
Pumice soap helps remove the burnt bits as well as the burnt smell. With a small amount on an old toothbrush, you can get a lot of the char off.
*Do not try to completely remove the burn marks. There is no way to completely remove the dark color by washing. Washing for too long will damage your wood. Make sure to dry your wood right away to avoid warping!*
Step 6: Gather Your Clean Pieces and Start Gluing!
After the pieces were dry, we started assembling the tray like a puzzle. We used CA glue to assemble the entire thing. The piece was so sturdy from its puzzle piece nature, not much glue was really even necessary.
Step 7: Time to Stain
Once we gave the glue some time to dry, we gave the entire box a quick sanding with 240 grit sandpaper.
Plywood gets little flyaways after it gets washed with the pumice soap. A light sanding followed by a dry towel wipe down made for a smooth, clean, staining surface.
The stain we use on most projects is Varathane Premium Wood Stain - Interior - American Walnut. We use this primarily because it is the stain used around our entire house. We like color consistency in all of the furniture/art pieces we put around the house, so using the same wood stain color reinforces our color pallet. Use whatever color fits your needs!
To use this Varathane Premium Wood Stain:
- Shake the can to give it a good stir.
- Using a foam Brush, apply a coat of stain.
- Wipe off excess stain with a paper towel.
- Let the stain dry for 24 hours.
Once the stain dried, we applied a coat of Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane Aerosol and let that sit for another day. This will maintain a durable finish for many many feedings to come.
Step 8: Send It Out for User Acceptance Testing and Accept Without Their Input Because They Are Cats
After a long process of waiting for everything to dry, our pets now have a food station to really call their own.....literally...because their names are on it.
This build is very customizable to what you want for your pets.
Make it your own.
Add some cool designs to it.
Spray paint it funky colors.
Have fun and go make something awesome!
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