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Automated Designs For Laser Cut Case

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My son has access to a laser cutter at the university where he works and made me aware of this site http://www.makercase.com/ when I asked him to cut some 1/4" plywood for a case I want to make. You just enter the dimensions of the case and it generates the laser cutter case plans. You don't even have to calculate exterior dimensions. If you know the interior dimensions and the thickness of the material, it calculates the exterior dimensions for you. It gives you a choice of flat joints, finger joints and t slot joints and generates those for you as well. It's a neat web site.

 

Out of curiosity for those of you who have made cases, what thickness of material do you use? I'm wondering if I could drop to 3/16" luan since the finger joints make a pretty secure join and it does those joints for not only the sides but the top and bottom as well. Or even use 1/8" masonite??? I was planning to add a strip of wood inside the rim so that the screws for the hinges (and handle) would have something more to bite into.

 

R Lamparter

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I have used 3/16" Plywood when making small boxes for my concertinas , only adding corner blocks to the glued and screwed construction, and a 'weather collar' of the same thickness around the opening. This makes a strong/ light weight case.

 

For larger cases , like a double concertina case that I made long enough to use as a seat when turned on its end; I prefer 3/8" Plywood .

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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Thanks George. Nice to know my consideration of 3/16" lauan isn't crazy.

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Here are some photos of the case as cut by the laser. I used some Lauan that was lying around the shop. The contrasting wood color at the joints is pretty enough I considered just varnishing it, but then I decided I'd have to treat the box like a piece of furniture to keep it from getting scratched when I carry it around, so I'll just cover it with black nylon cloth instead. The first photo is approximately how the program laid out the pieces for the laser cutter. The second is the box assembled without any glue. The third photo is of the end with the specifics of internal dimensions I chose and material thickness. My case will be longer along the front to give me an area to the right of my instrument to store a recording device, reading glasses and a screwdriver. Even without glue, the finger joints seem pretty strong. In a previous case I made, I used wood for the top and bottom thick enough that I could drive thin nails in from the sides to keep the top or bottom from ever dropping out. With finger joints for the top and bottom I think I can rely on the glue. That really helps with case weight. The wood pieces as they are now weigh 1.75 lbs. (~0.8 Kg)

 

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In another hobby which will remain nameless, I have made lots of cases for carrying these heavy items. The material I find best is Baltic birch plywood. It has many layers, even in thinner sizes, is well laid up and glued, and cuts cleanly. While I am aware that our concertinas are very small and light, I wouldn't in good conscience ever recommend Luann plywood. That the material is light is about its only redeeming feature other than maybe its mahogany color. Luann plywood is made cheaply, and is frequently only three layers with poor quality wood at its core - making it prone to warpage. Voids are common and because it is soft and light, it can be difficult to cut cleanly. Laser cutting can solve the clean cut issue, but I would be concerned about warpage and general weakness of the material.

 

My recommendation would be to search out a plywood supplier, like Wurth here in the Southeast US, and see the wide range of better quality materials available. As for Masonite, don't get me started!

 

All the same, good luck with your project.

 

Ross Schlabach

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I'm impressed, was making it with the lid ready detached a possibility..? I second the suggestion of birch plywood...

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...was making it with the lid ready detached a possibility..?

 

Yes, I was wondering about that too?

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I plan to put it on my table saw and cut the lid off the glued box. It's just how I've always made the few cases that I've made. That way you know your sides are going to match up. I hadn't thought about using the laser cutter to make the lid cut, but that's an interesting idea. My son is the one who set up the laser cutter.

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My son has access to a laser cutter at the university where he works and made me aware of this site http://www.makercase.com/ when I asked him to cut some 1/4" plywood for a case I want to make. You just enter the dimensions of the case and it generates the laser cutter case plans. You don't even have to calculate exterior dimensions. If you know the interior dimensions and the thickness of the material, it calculates the exterior dimensions for you. It gives you a choice of flat joints, finger joints and t slot joints and generates those for you as well. It's a neat web site.

 

Out of curiosity for those of you who have made cases, what thickness of material do you use? I'm wondering if I could drop to 3/16" luan since the finger joints make a pretty secure join and it does those joints for not only the sides but the top and bottom as well. Or even use 1/8" masonite??? I was planning to add a strip of wood inside the rim so that the screws for the hinges (and handle) would have something more to bite into.

 

R Lamparter

 

 

I use 1/4 inch Baltic Birch from Rockler and used rabbet joints. This is my video from about 3 years ago. I've made about a half dozen of these cases. Video is here:

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I plan to put it on my table saw and cut the lid off the glued box. It's just how I've always made the few cases that I've made. That way you know your sides are going to match up. I hadn't thought about using the laser cutter to make the lid cut, but that's an interesting idea. My son is the one who set up the laser cutter.

That is what I have always done but the laser would not even have to think about it, what would it add, 30 seconds to the process?

 

What sort of power does a laser need to whack through 3/16" ply? Does it do it in one pass? If I could use that site for the drawings and find someone to do this locally I would probably return to wooden cases.

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Hi Chris

 

I use a 40 Watt laser to cut through anything up to around 5mm, but bear in mind that the burning action does not leave a square cut, but a wedge shaped one, which is OK for boxes where they are to be covered, but not too good for exposed surfaces or precision fitting. No doubt a higher power one would give more cosmetically acceptable results.These laser cutters are on ebay very cheaply and are easy to use.

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Bill, thanks for the insight, I have seen them on eBay and wondered how good they are. I'd like to have one, I can think of a lot of uses for it, but always suspected 40 watts would not be enough. It is hard to know how much power would satisfy me in terms of quality.

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Posted (edited)

That is what I have always done but the laser would not even have to think about it, what would it add, 30 seconds to the process?

 

 

 

What sort of power does a laser need to whack through 3/16" ply? Does it do it in one pass? If I could use that site for the drawings and find someone to do this locally I would probably return to wooden cases.

 

I don't know how much power the laser has, but it did do it in one pass if I understood my son correctly. He said it would't be a problem to add a straight line cut to the pieces to create the top at the time it was initially cut. By the same token, he said the device has 13.5" of head room so it could be used to cut through an already glued box to create the top.

Edited by RWL

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I plan to put it on my table saw and cut the lid off the glued box. It's just how I've always made the few cases that I've made. That way you know your sides are going to match up. I hadn't thought about using the laser cutter to make the lid cut, but that's an interesting idea. My son is the one who set up the laser cutter.

Would you have to add the width of the table saw blade kerf to the appropriate interior dimension?

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Would you have to add the width of the table saw blade kerf to the appropriate interior dimension?

 

 

Yes. I added 1/8" to my height calculation to allow for the saw cut.

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