When deciding what to create for this course, I knew I wanted to create something very small, and I wanted to make sure it was an object I couldn’t make by hand. I saw a beautiful finger joint butter box commonly used in Canada in the 1930s and was inspired. I knew that the pieces making up a box like that are ideal for the precision of laser-cut, computer-generated imagery.
After asking many questions of the RP people downstairs, it became clear that I needed to do a test, so see how small I could make the object without the laser burning the wood too much. I had two main worries, firstly that the cutting would be too close (pieces too big) to fit together, or alternately, that the burning of the wood would burn so far that the pieces would fit too loosely together.
And so I created these two test boxes using balsa wood with a thickness of 2mm. I chose balsa wood because I thought a very soft wood would require less heat to cut and thus less burning would occur. Instead, I found that it actually burned more and the pieces fit almost too loosely. Even so, the pieces fit together well and I determined that 2mm was about as small as I could reasonably make the joints.
Then I designed the final object. These are the line drawings I created to help illustrate the objects construction. The 11 by 17 inch illustrator file, the rhino file and the file used by the RP centre to actually cut the pieces can be found here.
Once designed, I purchased plywood made of basswood. The wood was harder than balsa wood, and thus less prone to burning, but was still very thin. Knowing that the RP centre was very busy, I only had time for one order so I purchaced two different thicknesses in the hopes that at least one would fit together perfectly. I had two sets cut on each board so that in case there were any mishaps in the cutting or constructing process, I would have extra pieces to work with.
Once I (finally) got the pieces back from the RP people, I spent a frustratingly long time trying to fit the pieces together. The challenge was fitting the middle pieces into both outer pieces without making something else pop out. Then, using simple wood glue, I glued the frame in place while leaving the inner pieces slightly loose. I considered gluing the inner pieces in place as well, but prefered the movement and the sound the pieces made because they fit slightly loose.
And this is the final piece with all the slats in place. The fabulously blackened edges of the wood really pop against the light basswood. The dots on both sides of the box spell out “feel this” in braille. The final dimensions of the box are 4 cm by 2 cm by 2 cm.