Here is a video walkthrough of my entire build.
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?
The easel file is provided above, so you can skip this step if you want.
If you head over to www.hellointernet.fm you can download either a PNG or SVG image file that Grey and Brady have made available. I downloaded the SVG file.
I then jumped into Easel.
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 12×12″ 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.
Note that I set the cutting depth to 1/16". It really only needs to be deep enough to cut through the black surface to reveal the white beneath. So you can set this as shallow as you like. In hindsight I would set it shallower if I did this again.
(I’m guessing a bit as to the duration… It was LONG)
The material is loaded onto my X-Carve machine and clamped down. I was careful 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 material. 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.
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.
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.
THIS CONCLUDES PART ONE — the carving is complete. You could stop here.
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. Here (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.
After that I take it back to the tablesaw and use a 45-degree cutoff jig to make the mitered corners of the picture frame materials
(You could use a miter saw if you have one.)
The final assembly step is to glue and clamp the frame pieces together.
A strap clamp, which wraps around the entire frame, would make this very easy. I don’t have one, so I added dowels to the ends to help lock everything together while it is clamped, so that it will not slip.
Another option would be to use small nails from the top/bottom where they would be almost unseen.
After some final sanding I took it out to my garage (for better ventilation) and sprayed on several coats of clear laquer. This is a quick and easy clear coat that shows of the natural colour and beauty of the hardwood frame.