Chipboard Thickness

Yes, there really is a difference between 35 mil and 57 mil chipboard:

Chipboard coaster - 35 mil white vs 57 mil kraft
Chipboard coaster – 35 mil white vs 57 mil kraft

The thinner leaves (0.92 mm) have one delicate white surface that presents much better color when scribbled with fat-tip colored markers. The thicker frame (1.45 mm) is ordinary kraft chipboard which seems much more durable and looks terrible when colored.

The difference is obvious:

Chipboard coaster - plain vs white
Chipboard coaster – plain vs white

Although it may be a case of gilding the dandelion, a durable kraft frame sets off the petal colors and, being slightly thicker, may also protect them from immediate destruction by sweaty drinks.

We’re talking artsy coasters here, not cheap disposable junk. Right?


Smashed Glass Coaster #2: Mirror Base FTW

Glass fragments bedded on clear epoxy atop a white base looked OK, albeit minus most of their glitter due to epoxy filling their cracks:

Glass Coaster - fragment edge detail
Glass Coaster – fragment edge detail

Filling the cracks with black epoxy makes them stand out:

Smashed Glass vs epoxy - magnified comparison
Smashed Glass vs epoxy – magnified comparison

So I assembled a coaster from shattered glass in a clear surround with black epoxy atop a mirror base:

Smashed Glass Coaster 2 - mid-layer glass pour
Smashed Glass Coaster 2 – mid-layer glass pour

Each fragment sits on a blob of black epoxy that eventually oozed out to fill the gap between the mirror and the transparent layer. You can see the oozing start around the two fragments in the upper left.

A top layer of black acrylic sits flush with the upper surface of the glass, seen here with the protective paper in place before pouring black epoxy into the gap around the perimeter of each fragment:

Smashed Glass Coaster 2 - masked top
Smashed Glass Coaster 2 – masked top

Peeling the paper away exposes an almost perfect surface, with the epoxy forming a slight curve between the black acrylic and the glass:

Smashed Glass Coaster 2 - overview
Smashed Glass Coaster 2 – overview

The mirror doubles the number of glass cuboids and their glittery gaps:

Smashed Glass Coaster 2 - fragment detail
Smashed Glass Coaster 2 – fragment detail

All in all, it turned out well, but the epoxy pouring and leveling is tedious.

It might be possible to assemble a coaster upside-down, with the black layer stuck to something like Kapton tape and the fragments carefully aligned in their openings to make the entire top surface a plane. The tape should keep the epoxy from oozing out of the gaps, although a perfect seal may be impossible.

Then fill the gaps with black epoxy, lay the clear middle layer in place, run a dollop of epoxy on each fragment, lay the mirror in place, and hope there’s enough epoxy to fill all the gaps and not enough to make a mess around the perimeter.

With a bit of luck, that wouldn’t require so much hand finishing.

The next coaster must have a perimeter shrinkwrapped around the fragments, if only to break the low-vertex-count polygon tradition.

High Impact Art: Smashed Glass Coaster Meniscus Removal

After using the smashed glass coaster for a while, the beveled epoxy meniscus around the perimeter proved itself more annoying than expected:

Glass Coaster - second test
Glass Coaster – second test

So I clamped it to the Sherline’s tooling plate and milled off the rim:

Smashed Glass Coaster - meniscus removal
Smashed Glass Coaster – meniscus removal

Given the Sherline’s cramped work envelope, all the action took place along the rearmost edge, requiring eight reclampings indexed parallel to the table with a step clamp.

The cutter cleared off everything more than 0.3 mm above the surface of the glass chunks. I could probably have gone another 0.1 mm lower, but chopping the bit into the edge of a shattered glass fragment surely wouldn’t end well.

Polishing the dark gray milled surface might improve it slightly, at the risk of scuffing whatever poured epoxy stands slightly proud of the glass:

Smashed Glass Coaster - leveled edge
Smashed Glass Coaster – leveled edge

Perhaps if I define it to be a border, everybody will think it was intentional.

Smashed Glass vs. Epoxy

Just to see what happens, I laid some smashed glass in puddles of epoxy:

Smashed Glass vs epoxy - samples
Smashed Glass vs epoxy – samples

Backlighting with the LED light pad reveals more detail:

Smashed Glass vs epoxy - backlit samples
Smashed Glass vs epoxy – backlit samples

The chunk on the left is the proof-of-concept shot glass coaster with a form-fit black acrylic mask atop a clear epoxy layer on a clear acrylic base. The chunk at the top is raw shattered glass fresh from the pile. The two chunks on teardrop acrylic scraps are bedded in transparent black and opaque black tinted epoxy.

A look through the microscope at all four, laid out in that order, with the contrast blown out to emphasize the grain boundaries:

Smashed Glass vs epoxy - magnified comparison
Smashed Glass vs epoxy – magnified comparison

You may want to open the image in a new tab for more detail.

The raw chunk has air between all its cuboids, so it’s nicely glittery. All the others have much of their air replaced by epoxy.

Clear epoxy produces an essentially transparent layer where it fills the gaps, because its refractive index comes close enough to the glass. The stretched contrast makes the gaps visible again, but the backlit image shows the unassisted eyeball view.

Transparent black dye sounds like an oxymoron, but it fills the gaps with enough contrast to remain visible. The overall chunk is not particularly glittery, but it’s OK.

Opaque black dye produces a much darker tint; the slightly tapered thin layer between the glass and acrylic (the small white circles are air bubbles) cuts down on the transmitted light. The gaps remain nearly as prominent as in the air-filled chunk, although with very little glitter.

Bedding the glass in epoxy against an acrylic sheet should reduce its tendency to fall apart at the slightest provocation, although the proof-of-concept poured coaster showed the epoxy must cover the entire edge of the glass sheet to bond all the slivers in place.

Laser Kerf Width Test Pattern / Coaster Generator

Before trying to make decorative coasters from colorful acrylic, I figured a few practice sessions in chipboard would be in order:

Chipboard coasters
Chipboard coasters

They’re colored with wide tip Sharpies of various ages and, as the yellow and uncolored sections show, chipboard never gets very bright. On the other paw, chipboard is also known as “beer mat”, so at least I have the right general idea.

The patterns come from a GCMC program producing SVG figures for LightBurn to apply kerf compensation:

Chipboard coasters - cut and color
Chipboard coasters – cut and color

It’s obviously too late to have me color within the lines.

The overall frame in the upper left and the base plate in the upper right get the kerf compensation, which (for chipboard) turns out to be +0.15 mm outward (thus making the holes smaller and the diameter larger). If I were doing marquetry, I’d want to arrange each piece on a separate wood veneer sheet with proper grain orientation and similar fussiness, but that’s not the point right now.

Without compensation, the pieces have a drop-in fit with an obvious gap:

Coaster - chipboard - no kerf comp
Coaster – chipboard – no kerf comp

Adding a mere 0.15 mm on each side produces a very snug fit:

Coaster - chipboard - frame 0.15 out
Coaster – chipboard – frame 0.15 out

In fact, the pieces go in from the back and require hammering gentle tapping to persuade all the corners into place.

Protip: putting a dark color on the frame and around the edges conceals many flaws.

Increasing the compensation to +0.20 mm means the pieces no longer fit and, when eventually battered into the frame, the surface becomes a concave-upward dish.

With the (colored) pieces in the frame, I covered the base plate with a thin layer of good old Elmer’s Yellow Wood Glue, dropped the top over it with some attention to good alignment on all sides, and clamped the assembly between two planks for a while. Obviously, you’d want to make more than one at a time, but they’re rather labor intensive.

The GCMC program produces the patterns from the coaster’s dimensions:

  • Outer diameter
  • Number of leaves around the center
  • Center spot diameter
  • Sash width (it’s really a muntin, but quilters say sash)
  • Leaf aspect ratio (max width / overall length)

Due to the relentless symmetry, finding the points describing half a leaf and half the sector between two leaves suffices to generate the entire coaster by various rotations around the center. The code performs no error checking whatsoever, so some dimensions emit a hard crash rather than a coaster.

A geometry doodle with some incorrect values:

Coaster Geometry doodle
Coaster Geometry doodle

Poinr P1 (where the leaf snugs against the circular sash around the center spot) sits at the intersection of a line and a circle, so the code solves a quadratic equation with grisly coefficients:

  a = 1 + pow(tan(LeafStemHA),2);
  b = -2 * tan(LeafStemHA) * (Sash/2) / cos(LeafStemHA);
  c = pow((Sash/2) / cos(LeafStemHA),2) - pow(LeafID/2,2);
  xp = (-b + sqrt(pow(b,2) - 4*a*c))/(2*a);
  xn = (-b - sqrt(pow(b,2) - 4*a*c))/(2*a);
  y = xp*tan(LeafStemHA) - (Sash/2) / cos(LeafStemHA);
  P1 = [xp,y];

Given the geometry, the “plus” root is always the one to use.

A doodle working out that intersection, as well as for P5 out at the widest part of the leaf, carrying some errors from the geometry doodle:

Coaster Geometry equations
Coaster Geometry equations

Both of those doodles have errors; the GCMC source code remains the final arbiter of coaster correctness.

The Bash and GCMC source code as a GitHub Gist:

# Marquetry test piece
# Ed Nisley KE4ZNU - 2022-07-01
Flags='-P 4 --pedantic' # quote to avoid leading hyphen gotcha
SVGFlags='-P 4 --pedantic --svg --svg-no-movelayer --svg-opacity=1.0 --svg-toolwidth=0.2'
# Set these to match your file layout
ProjPath='/mnt/bulkdata/Project Files/Laser Cutter/Marquetry/Source Code'
Script='Marquetry Test Piece.gcmc'
echo Output: $fn
gcmc $SVGFlags -D "$leaves" -D "$aspect" \
--include "$LibPath" \
"$ScriptPath"/"$Script" > "$fn"
view raw hosted with ❤ by GitHub
// Marquetry Laser Cuttery Test Piece
// Ed Nisley KE4ZNU
// 2022-07-01 Simplest possible mandala
layerstack("Frame","Leaves","Rim","Base","Center","Tool1"); // SVG layers map to LightBurn colors
// Library routines
FALSE = 0;
// Command line parameters
// -D various useful tidbits
// add unit to speeds and depths: 2000mm / -3.00mm / etc
if (!isdefined("OuterDia")) {
OuterDia = 120.0mm;
if (!isdefined("CenterDia")) {
CenterDia = 20.0mm;
if (!isdefined("NumLeaves")) {
NumLeaves = 5;
if (!isdefined("Sash")) {
Sash = 4.0mm;
if (!isdefined("LeafAspect")) {
LeafAspect = 0.40;
// Leaf values
LeafStemAngle = 360.0deg/NumLeaves; // subtended by inner sides
LeafStemHA = LeafStemAngle/2;
LeafLength = OuterDia/2 - Sash - (Sash/2)/sin(LeafStemHA);
LeafWidth = LeafAspect*LeafLength;
L1 = (LeafWidth/2)/tan(LeafStemHA);
L2 = LeafLength - L1;
// message("Len: ",LeafLength," L1: ",L1," L2: ",L2);
LeafTipHA = to_deg(atan(LeafWidth/2,L2)); // subtended by outer sides
LeafTipAngle = 2*LeafTipHA;
// message("Width: ",LeafWidth);
// message("Tip HA: ",LeafTipHA);
LeafID = CenterDia + 2*Sash;
LeafOD = LeafID + LeafLength;
// message("ID: ",LeafID," OD: ",LeafOD);
// Find leaf and rim vertices
P0 = [(Sash/2) / sin(LeafStemHA),0.0mm];
if (P0.x < LeafID/2) {
a = 1 + pow(tan(LeafStemHA),2);
b = -2 * tan(LeafStemHA) * (Sash/2) / cos(LeafStemHA);
c = pow((Sash/2) / cos(LeafStemHA),2) - pow(LeafID/2,2);
// message("a: ",a);
// message("b: ",b);
// message("c: ",c);
xp = (-b + sqrt(pow(b,2) - 4*a*c))/(2*a);
xn = (-b - sqrt(pow(b,2) - 4*a*c))/(2*a);
y = xp*tan(LeafStemHA) - (Sash/2) / cos(LeafStemHA);
// message("p: ",xp," n: ",xn," y: ",y);
P1 = [xp,y];
else {
P1 = P0;
P2 = P0 + [L1,LeafWidth/2];
P3 = P0 + [LeafLength,0mm];
P4 = P3 + [Sash/sin(LeafTipHA),0.0mm];
P5r = P4.x * sin(LeafTipHA) / sin(180deg - LeafStemHA - LeafTipHA);
P5 = rotate_xy([P5r,0.0mm],LeafStemHA);
P6 = rotate_xy(P4,LeafStemAngle);
t2 = pow(tan(-LeafTipHA),2);
a = 1 + t2;
b = -2 * t2 * P4.x;
c = t2 * pow(P4.x,2) - pow(P3.x,2);
xp = (-b + sqrt(pow(b,2) - 4*a*c))/(2*a);
xn = (-b - sqrt(pow(b,2) - 4*a*c))/(2*a);
y = (xp - P4.x)*tan(-LeafTipHA);
// message("p: ",xp," n: ",xn," y: ",y);
P4a = [xp,y];
P6a = rotate_xy(P4a,LeafStemAngle - 2*atan(P4a.y,P4a.x));
// message("P4a: ",P4a);
// message("P6a: ",P6a);
// message("P0: ",P0);
// message("P1: ",P1);
// message("P2: ",P2);
// message("P3: ",P3);
// message("P4: ",P4);
// message("P5: ",P5);
// message("P6: ",P6);
// Construct paths
LeafPoints = {P1,P2,P3,[P2.x,-P2.y],[P1.x,-P1.y]};
if (P0 != P1) {
StemArc = varc_ccw(P1 - [P1.x,-P1.y],LeafID/2);
StemArc += [P1.x,-P1.y];
LeafPoints += StemArc;
RimChord = length(P4a - P6a);
RimThick = OuterDia/2 - Sash - length(P5);
RimPoints = {P4a,P5,P6a};
RimArc = varc_cw(P4a - P6a,P4a.x);
RimArc += P6a;
RimPoints += RimArc;
//--- Lay out the frame
repeat(NumLeaves;i) {
a = (i-1)*LeafStemAngle;
repeat(NumLeaves;i) {
a = (i-1)*LeafStemAngle;
//--- Lay out internal pieces for oriented cutting
// baseplate
relocate([OuterDia + 2*Sash,0]);
// central circle
relocate([OuterDia/2 + Sash,-(OuterDia - CenterDia)/2]);
// leaves
repeat(NumLeaves;i) {
org = [LeafWidth/2 - OuterDia/2,-(OuterDia + Sash)];
relocate([(i-1)*(LeafWidth + Sash) + org.x,org.y]);
// rim
repeat(NumLeaves;i) {
org = [-Sash,-(OuterDia + 2*Sash + RimChord/2)];
relocate([(i-1)*(RimThick + Sash) + org.x,org.y]);
tracepath(rotate_xy(RimPoints,180 - LeafStemHA));
// Debugging by printf()
if (FALSE) {
move(OuterDia/2 * [cos(LeafStemHA),sin(LeafStemHA)]);

High Impact Art: Practical Smashed Glass Coaster

The proof of concept coaster might suffice for a shot glass, but my morning tea comes in a 20 ounce mug with a much larger footprint.

So, back to the Basement Shop, where a laser-cut and -engraved layout guide helps arrange and carry some suitable fragments:

Glass Coaster - Layout tray
Glass Coaster – Layout tray

As before, scan the bottom of the fragments and wrap selections around them:

Coaster Layout - selected fragments
Coaster Layout – selected fragments

Apply the usual operations to get a suitable mask:

Coaster Layout - fragment masks
Coaster Layout – fragment masks

Fire the laser to cut the chipboard test template holding the fragments, then a white octagonal acrylic base plate and a transparent acrylic layer surrounding the fragments, and:

Glass Coaster - base epoxy setup
Glass Coaster – base epoxy setup

Mix up some pourable epoxy, smooth it over the base plate, squish the transparent layer atop it, use the tape (sticky side up) to hold the two layers in alignment, and gently insert the fragments:

Glass Coaster - fragment epoxy
Glass Coaster – fragment epoxy

I eased some epoxy around the perimeter of each fragment with a pipette in an attempt to reduce the glass-sliver hazard:

Glass Coaster - fragment epoxy detail
Glass Coaster – fragment epoxy detail

Yes, that’s on top of the protective paper, because then I can whisk the paper off to reveal the pristine surface around each fragment:

Glass Coaster - fracture filling
Glass Coaster – fracture filling

As with the smaller coaster, the epoxy penetrates the fractures and reduces the shattered appearance. Mary suggests tinted epoxy would produce an interesting effect and I’ll try that the next time around.

Because the smashed glass came from our neighbor’s lawn, it carried a bit of dirt and debris onto the playing field:

Glass Coaster - fragment edge detail
Glass Coaster – fragment edge detail

Seen through the edge of the coaster, the uneven surface of the epoxy fill around the fragments shows up clearly:

Glass Coaster - fragment edge profile
Glass Coaster – fragment edge profile

The top of the glass stands half a millimeter above the transparent acrylic. I knew that would happen and wanted to see how the bottom of the mug interacted with the epoxy-coated sides:

Glass Coaster - first test
Glass Coaster – first test

As it turned out, the epoxy coating wasn’t quite good enough to prevent tiny slivers from chipping off and, in the cold light of day, the pale-green-ish tinted glass didn’t stand out well against the white background.

So I taped up the perimeter, leveled the base, mixed up another batch of epoxy, added two drops of opaque black dye, and poured just enough to level the surface with the glass:

Glass Coaster - black epoxy pour
Glass Coaster – black epoxy pour

Introducing the meniscus to Mr Belt Sander put a bevel around the edge and finished it off well enough:

Glass Coaster - second test
Glass Coaster – second test

The Squidwrench logo looks a bit battered after three and a half years of trips through the dishwasher, although I didn’t expect it to last nearly this long.

There’s still a slight upward tilt around the perimeter, but it meets my simple requirements and the fragments definitely look better in black. The white base sets off the fragments, but a clear plate takes advantage of their transparency; a mirror sheet might be even more interesting.

High-Impact Art: Smashed Glass Earrings, Proof of Concept

If you’re a particularly sharp person, these may accentuate your wardrobe:

Earrings - 12mm - finished
Earrings – 12mm – finished

They’re fragments of smashed tempered glass, epoxied into laser-cut disks, with a ring providing some structural support. Although it’s hard to tell from the photos, the fragments sit flush with one side of the disk, which is likely the side you want closest to your carotid artery:

Earrings - 12mm - finished
Earrings – 12mm – finished

Each chunk consists of a few smaller cuboids, so you get internal reflections from the minute air gaps between them. They’re not diamonds, but they’re surprisingly glittery in the proper light. Bonus: you can see right through!

The “gold” band around the disk is a beading ring held in a notch engraved around both disks:

Earrings - rings
Earrings – rings

The smaller ring is 12 mm OD, the larger is 25 mm, with 16 mm (the descriptions says 15, but ya get what ya get) and 20 mm available for other glass fragment sizes.

The engraved recess (green) is slightly larger than the OD to allow the perimeter cut to proceed through a thinner section:

Earring templates - 25 20 16 12 mm
Earring templates – 25 20 16 12 mm

Cross-hatch engraving puts a steep edge all around the recess, so the ring fits with just a little slack and turns freely around the disks.

You will, of course, have different glass fragments requiring different shapes, but the outlines came from the same process I used to make the palette organizing the fragments:

Smashed glass palette - fresh cut
Smashed glass palette – fresh cut

You (well, I) can just import that layout, copy the outline of the chunk to be used, then delete the rest. Mirror the outline so the engraved sides of the disks fit together around the chunk, position symmetrically in the template halves, and fire the laser.

Affixing the fresh-cut disk and its glass chunk to a strip of Kapton tape (sticky side up) holds them in proper alignment and prevents the epoxy from leaking out the bottom:

Earrings - 12mm - taped
Earrings – 12mm – taped

With everything lined up, run a small bead of epoxy around the chunk, squish the top disk in place, and line up the notches. When the epoxy cures, peel the earring off the tape and slide a jump ring into the notch.

As a finishing touch, you’d add a suitable ear hook or stud, but I think it’s fair to assume anything from Amazon would consist of the finest arsenic-plated plutonium and be completely unsuitable for skin contact. Neither of us have any piercings, so I cannot provide enticing action photos.

The 25 mm versions failed because I made the outlines such a snug fit around the chunks they didn’t quite fit:

Earrings - 25mm - failed
Earrings – 25mm – failed

Protip: do not attempt to coerce two rigid bodies into alignment by applying firm pressure, particularly when one of them is already-broken glass.

The small earrings weigh 0.7 g each and a 25 mm one (well, the parts for a large one) comes in a bit over 3 g, plus whatever hardware goes in / on / around your ear.

This was (obviously) an exercise in small-scale laser machining, rather than a venture into haute couture. In the highly unlikely event you can’t live without a pair of custom-designed high-impact earrings, I’ll shut up and take your money … let me know if you want little or big. Black is the new black; I do have other colors, but who are you kidding?

The SVG images as a GitHub Gist:

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