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Making routing guides with a laser engraver

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swepri
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I got me a diode laser engraver recently. I was hoping it would be powerful enough to cut out routing patterns/guides as well as engrave, but I have not been successful in cutting thick enough material required for guided routing.

So, this is how I use the laser engraver to at least make more accurate guides.

First step is to make a simple CAD-drawing (using free LibreCAD software). In this drawing I draw the outline of the desired cavity and crosshairs in the center of radiuses/holes.

Second step is to import the drawing to the Lightburn software. There I add descriptive text, position the piece in the desired orientation and then sent it to the laser engraver. The outline of the cavity is burned deeper than text and centerlines. Done with the laser.

Third, I drill holes for corners and then take the jigsaw to get rid of the bulk of material. Edit: The crosshairs makes it easy to find the center, you can feel the indentation where the lines cross.

The last step is to just clean the edges with chisels and files. The groove burned along the outline makes it easy to get edges even and to the exact dimension.

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NSJ
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@swerpi, what wattage is your laser? It seems birch ply is a preferred material for cutting too, mdf is apparently to dense. A bit of air assist and multiple passes should work. My thinking is to maybe use some thinner ply then use it with the router to do 10mm mdf or that.

 

I'm going to try it this coming year. 


   
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swepri
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@nsj It is a 24W diode. For cutting, a CO2 laser would be a better alternative, but they are quite expensive and bulky.

I can indeed cut through both MDF and plywood, but anything more than 3mm requires so many passes at max power (and lowering the focus height in between) that those passes start to char the edges too much, making the result too uneven to use. 

I also thought about cutting a thin plywood first and then use that for routing the thicker MDF, but have not tried that yet (I don't have any good ply).

It takes a lot of time and material to test this and, since good ventilation is needed, it will have to wait until spring and temperatures above freezing.


   
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music@johnmcculloch.net
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I've not had fantastic success with cutting mdf or ply with my blue diode laser (Neje E80 24W optical power), though 5mm walnut is a breeze and 5mm or 8mm black plexi cuts really well.  For thicker templates, I'd laser cut 5mm black plexi and then a bearing guided straight router bit to transfer to MDF/ply.


   
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swepri
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@musicjohnmcculloch-net Ok, we have the same laser module then. Great tip about the black plexi, thanks! I will try to find some and test it.


   
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music@johnmcculloch.net
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If it's useful, here are my Lightburn settings for 5mm black plexi/acrylic:

image

I'm planning on using this method to create fret spacing templates as well.

 

Best of luck

John


   
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swepri
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Posted by: @musicjohnmcculloch-net

If it's useful, here are my Lightburn settings for 5mm black plexi/acrylic:

Thank you! I was just about to ask... 😀 

 


   
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NSJ
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@musicjohnmcculloch-net I should be able to do it in 4 passes seeing as my module is 12 watt I believe lol

 

Are using air assist?


   
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music@johnmcculloch.net
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Yes - I use air assist, but more to stop any smoke fogging up the laser glass and having to clean it all the time.  If you're doing multiple passes then a z-axis control can be useful as this moves the focus deeper into the material.  I'd also take most of what the laser manufacturers say that you can cut with a pinch of salt.  At the sort of prices that us hobbyists can afford you have to be pretty selective material-wise.


   
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darrenking
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You could always cut layers of 1.5mm ply or 2mm MDF and laminate them together using laser cut dowel holes for alignment.

Darren


   
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music@johnmcculloch.net
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Posted by: @darrenking

You could always cut layers of 1.5mm ply or 2mm MDF and laminate them together using laser cut dowel holes for alignment.

That would work as well; though if you check out E80 cutting 16mm pine it suggests that pine would also be an option.  I haven't tested with pine, I'll give it a go in the next couple of days.

 


   
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swepri
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@musicjohnmcculloch-net It would be nice to have that Z-axis motor. It is fiddly to adjust the height manually.

Please keep us posted on your progress with pine. 👍 


   
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music@johnmcculloch.net
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Hi - I've just done some tests with pine.  Firstly I used 18mm pine with a variety of settings, but it was having none of it.  I then used 8mm pine which cut pretty well with the following settings:

image

I suspect that 10mm or 12mm pine would also be doable but I can't test as I haven't got any of that size knocking about. 

 

For the z-axis motor, I ended up making one from 8mm and 5mm plexi (cut on the laser cutter) and various items from Amazon:

image

but it was quite a faff and your controller has to support z-axis control as well.


   
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sogoslotvvip
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well that is some nice equipment right there, now if only I had the right budget to afford one.. 😥 


   
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FYI - Tele body blank routed to become a Tele Custom using 5mm black plexi as a template cut on laser cutter using Lightburn and free template downloaded from Electric Herald


   
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tv1
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I was fortunate to be able to grab a CNC machine a couple of years ago (a friend was upgrading and so selling his old machine).  

It's really just a router but controlled by the computer rather than an error-prone human.  Well, it's probably more accurate to say that it moves the human error away from the actual routing.

It's great for very accurate and repeatable cutting.  Just wish that I could get my head around the 3D modelling sufficiently!

Online guitar making courses – guitarmaking.co.uk


   
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