This is the season for erecting the structures upon which the pole beans will climb:
They’re made from a dozen small trees and branches of larger trees harvested around the yard. They last for a few years, just long enough for the next crop to reach useful lengths.
We lash them together with fabric strips:
My knot hand is weak, but seems sufficient to the task.
Mary formerly tore the strips from old jeans / pants / whatever, which required considerable effort, produced ragged edges, and filled the air with fabric dust. This year, I proposed an alternative:
The weird thing in the middle is a reflection of an overhead can light in the laser cabinet’s polycarb lid.
From starting the LightBurn layout to presenting the strips for final inspection required the better part of ten minutes. I scissors-cut along the main seams to get single fabric layers, with everything above the crotch seam wadded off the platform to the left.
As with my shop raglets, the layout depends on LightBurn’s overhead camera view to align the cuts with the fabric on the platform:
It’d be easier to see with lighter fabric, but that’s what came to hand in the scrap box and the beans won’t care. We do not anticipate complaints about the odor of charred fabric when they reach the top of the poles, either.
The strips must align with the fabric’s grain to put the warp threads along their length, which makes the main side seam parallel to the X-axis. Even I can handle that layout!
Yes, the strips have rounded corners and, no, it doesn’t matter.
Not knowing what to expect, I peeled the protective plastic off the styrene PETG sheet before cutting the perimeter, thereby dooming myself to about five minutes of polishing with Novus 2 to remove the condensed vaopor and another five minutes restoring the shine with Novus 1. Next time, I’ll know better.
Eyeballometrically, the hairline is a lovely fine line, but it’s really a series of craters on 0.25 mm centers filled with red Pro Sharpie marker and wiped off with denatured alcohol:
That’s dot mode: 2 ms pulses at 20% power (about 12 W) with a line speed of 100 mm/s and 0.25 mm dot spacing. The craters look to be 0.15 mm in diameter, with a 0.15 mm blast radius merging into a line along the sides. The view is looking through the undamaged side of the cursor, so you’re seeing the craters from their tips.
I cut the cursor and engraved / etched the hairline in one operation, by just laying a rectangle on the honeycomb and having my way with it:
The six pips (small printed holes with ugly black outlines) intended for the Sherline’s laser aligner make this feasible, although the accuracy of the OMTech’s laser pointer requires precisely setting the focal point atop the fixture.
The corners of LightBurn’s tooling layer (the enclosing rectangle) match the corner pip positions, so framing the pattern should light up those four holes. Putting the Job Origin (small green square) at the center-left point lets me tweak the machine’s origin to drop the alignment laser into that pip.
AFAICT, burning a cute puppy picture pretty close to the middle of a slate coaster makes everybody else deliriously happy.
Setting up the cut layer parameters:
Burning through the protective film, peeling it off, filling with Sharpie, and wiping with alcohol produces interesting results against a 0.1 inch = 2.54 mm grid:
The angled top and bottom lines are the edges of the cursor, positioned with the craters on the top surface.
The bottom three lines at 10% power consist of distinct 0.10 mm craters incapable of holding much ink:
The top three lines at 20% power have 0.15 mm craters and look better:
The top line was a complete surprise: it seems a 20% duty cycle does not turn off completely between 1 ms dots spaced at 0.15 mm. I expected a row of slightly overlapping dots, which is obviously not what happens.
Punching the dots through the protective film eliminated the polishing operation, although I have yet to cut the perimeter with the film in place.
More experimentation is in order, but it looks like I can finally engrave good-looking and perfectly aligned hairlines on nicely cut cursors without all those tedious manual machining operations.
Wiping down a tool or wiping up a mess with a small rag and then throwing it out simplifies cleanup:
Long ago, I applied scissors to old towels / t-shirts / whatever to get randomly sized squares, but when Mary began using rotary cutters for her sewing projects I immediately saw the light. A few times a year, I lower the scrap box level and restock the shop wipes boxes.
A laser cutter is even better:
Flatten the rag on the honeycomb, drag a few rectangles into place, and fire the laser:
Something like 50 mm/s at 60% power works for all the fabrics I’ve tried, from worn-out towels and dead sweatpants to napkins and t-shirts. Thinner fabrics can be stacked, but wrinkles and seams get in the way of clean cuts.
Rounded-corner rectangles are easy enough to draw and the scrap cloths have different shapes, so I don’t see much point in saving a file with any specific layout. Your scrap box may be more orderly.
A clean cut lets the outer cloth just lift away:
The wipes give off a distinct smell of charred cloth, but running them through the clothes washer in a big mesh bag with everything else solves that problem.
Obviously, one couldn’t possibly justify a laser cutter to make shop wipes, but if you happen to have one just standing around, well …
They’re a convenient 9 inches wide, just right for general clutter. That stubby screwdriver encroaching on the lid shows I haven’t been entirely successful.
Each white shelf bracket has three self-tapping machine screws driven into the wood and a single 4 mm SHCS through a hole drilled into the cabinet with a nyloc nut & washer on the inside. If I understand the somewhat abbreviated instruction sticker correctly, I installed them upside-down in order to put the longer end under the wood where it would do the most good; they’re entirely rigid enough for the purpose.
The fuzzy edges engraved on the acrylic test sample showed the need for scan offset adjustment:
The problem arises from the finite delay between the controller turning the laser beam on and the rise time of the death ray energy at the focal point.
LightBurn can produce a calibration coupon (on Trolase laminated acrylic) to help explore the multidimensional parameter space:
The “Interval” value is the vertical (Y-axis) scan line spacing. The laser spot diameter is, at absolute best, about 0.2 mm on the focal plane, with the actual engraved line being smaller due to the energy distribution across the beamwidth and the power required to visibly damage the material, so a 0.1 mm interval should result a little bit of overlap between adjacent scan lines.
A closer look shows the serrated edges on the left and right sides of the engraved squares:
Peering at it through a measuring magnifier suggests the offset is a bit over 0.2 mm at 400 mm/s, corresponding to a 500 µs delay between laser turn-on in the rightward direction and turn-off in the leftward direction.
The LightBurn Scanning Offset Adjustment is half the measured distance, with an Initial Offset parameter to adjust the starting point of the first scan line. You measure the distance at each speed and fill in the table accordingly.
Iterating through offsets, speeds, powers, and intervals produces a series of test coupons slicing through the parameter space:
All in all, a 0.1 mm offset at 400 mm/s with 14% power (about 8 W) and 0.075 mm interval looks pretty good:
Engraving various fonts:
A closer look (left coupon on the top):
LightBurn linearly interpolates between table entries of offset values at specific speeds, so you must fill in several lines to give it something to munch on. The top text came from an offset table with two entries at 400 and 500 mm/s, which obviously wasn’t quite sufficient. The bottom text comes from a three-entry table:
Which produces a better result, even at 500 mm/s and 20% power (12 W) on scrap acrylic:
Mary, having had considerable trouble with cutworms in her gardens, routinely deploys cardboard collars around new plants:
It seems cutworms trundle around until they find an edible plant, chew through the stem and topple the plant, then trundle off without taking another bite. A small cardboard barrier prevents them from sensing the plant: apparently, motivation to climb a short wall hasn’t yet evolved.
Up to this point, Mary applied scissors to tissue boxes, but I proposed an alternative with an adjustable fit to any plant:
A splayed cardboard box rarely lays flat, a condition enforced by a few MDF stops used as clamps.
Come to find out no two tissue boxes have identical dimensions, even boxes from the same brand / retailer, so lay out duplicates of the collar template to match your stockpile.