The challenge set by Inventables for the #EaselPowerHour challenge was to see what can be carved on an X-Carve in 60 minutes or less. Carving times would be tested by using the “Simulate” button within Inventables’ web-based Easel software.
Since the focus of this challenge was Easel’s functionality, this became my inspiration for my project. I used the “A” from Inventables’ Easel logo as a basis-of-design of my project; a free-standing, foldable, double-sided, tabletop easel.
The easel dimensions are approximately 12" wide at the base, 16" high, and the depth depends on how wide the base is spread depending on what is being displayed. Both sides of the easel have an adjustable height horizontal ledge to support the art pieces.
I selected baltic birch plywood as the material for the easel because it is dimensionally stable, attractive and easy to sand and finish. The plywood thickness used in this project is 3/8", but 1/4" would also work and would reduce carving time from 57 minutes to 35 minutes.
Having never used the Easel software before, I developed the design concept within Graphisoft ARCHICAD 21.
Rather than importing the drawing from ARCHICAD into Easel, I took the opportunity to test Easel’s functionality by drawing the design from scratch on a blank canvas within the software using the tools provided. Generally, I found Easel’s interface to be very user-friendly with a somewhat shallow learning curve.
Since the challenge was to carve the project in 60 minutes or less, I used the “Simulate” button throughout the process to determine if the project would fit within that parameter. This enabled me to select the most effective material, material thickness, and router bits for the task. Using the “Simulate” button also pushed me to refine the design itself by arranging the pieces in a manner that reduced the number of cuts made by the X-Carve. This helps to improve efficiency of both time and material.
Some observations from my first experience using the Easel software:
- Very user-friendly, particularly if you have little to no experience with other CAD programs;
- Enables the users to quickly design and fabricate their projects; and
- Gives users a clear understanding of how well their project will look depending on their choices of materials, router bits, feed rates etc.
- I would enjoy being a beta tester for the Easel software as it evolves.
Some improvements that I am looking forward to in future iterations of Easel:
- The use of dynamic data input, rather than relative to the origin;
- Quick editing tools used in other CAD programs e.g. trim, extend. A workaround that I used to trim lines and object was to insert a shape over the line with a zero depth cut. This trick was used in a number of locations for this project.
After iterating the design concept using the tools within Easel, below are the final specifications for the project to be carved in 60 minutes or less:
- Machine: X-Carve
- Work Area: 31.5” x 31.5”
- Spindle Control: Manual
- Material: Birch plywood
- Material Dimensions: X – 21”, Y – 18”, and Z – 0.375” (3/8”)
- Bit: 1/8” Downcut
- Cut Settings (Recommended): Feed rate – 40in/min, Plunge rate 12 in/min, and Depth per pass – 0.05 in
- Simulated carve time: 57 minutes.
Since I do not have access to any kind of CNC router, the mock-up of my design was made using conventional power tools i.e. a circular saw, jigsaw, router, and a random orbital sander.
Once the pieces have been carved using the X-Carve, the tabs which held them in place during carving should be removed, and all four pieces sanded in preparation for finishing. Any number of finishes could be used for this project, but since baltic birch plywood is a clean, attractive material, a clear finish would be suggested. I used a water-based polyurethane for my mock-up.
The hardware required to assemble the easel is:
- One small hinge (1″ × 0.5″) at the top of the easel plus required number of 3/8" long screws
- Four 1/8" diameter threaded machine bolts (1" long") with corresponding washers and wing nuts to attached the support ledges to each face of the easel, and
- Two small chains and four eyelets to restrict how much the easel opens. Length of chains depend on mounting height and desired opening angle for easel.
- For continuity, I used brass hardware throughout.
Show off your latest work at the next makers meet-up using your newly carved easel!
The Easel software from Inventables estimates that it takes 57 minutes to carve one of these easels.
If I am lucky enough to have my entry selected as the overall winner of the Easel Power Hour challenge, my first project (after assembling the X-Carve) will be to carve, assemble, and finish 57 of these Easels, and donate all of them to local schools, preschools, and not-for-profit organisations in my area.
Thank you, Inventables for this fantastic opportunity!