Yard Art for the House In The Woods

I finally got around to using my CNC Plasma Cutter to make some art for our yard.  The first item is something I’ve wanted to do since realizing that this tool would be able to do this.  As some may recall, we created a stylized branch to decorate the panels in our “Throwaway” Buffet Cabinet.  We like the artwork so much we’ve wanted to replicate it.

Here is the replica, mounted on our Garden Shed:

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New decoration for our garden shed.

And a closer view:

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Here’s a closer view of the branch and ButterFly

And finally the Butterfly:

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Closeup of Butterfly

Details of how this was made are down below.

The other recent addition to the Yard is some livestock to entertain our Granddaughter when she comes to visit.

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Here is the Sheep looking longingly at the front lawn…

Closeup of the Sheep:

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Sheep painted.

The two large pieces, the Sheep and, especially, the Stylized Branch, both required some special cutting techniques because both of them were too large to fit on the CNC Plasma Table.  The table can only cut  23″ in one direction and 25″ in the other.  The good news is that the table is open on the ends of the 23″ axis so, theoretically (see Note [1] below), I could cut something as long as will fit in my Workshop.

However, this required multiple steps in both processing the artwork and the cutting process. Each step allowed me to cut a region of the metal, the cutting was paused while I re-positioned and aligned the steel for the next cut, and then cutting was resumed at the next section with the software offsetting the coordinates to match the new position.  The alignment is critical as the cut line is only about 0.050″ wide so any error in positioning would, at best, leave a jog in the cut line, or, worse, an uncut section of steel that would need manual cutting and fixing.

The sheep was used to test and prove the process.  It could have been done by limiting the size to 23″, but using a full sheet gave me a bigger sheep and tested the process.

The first step was to rework the art work:

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Maximized Sheep Artwork, rotated and scaled to fit 24×24 piece of steel.

You can see the split line between the two halves of the drawing.  That’s where the art work needed to be separated into to independent groups.  Note that the art work has internal cuts and they had to be separated into the two different cut phases as well.

Using the Sheep project to refine the process turned out to be a wise decision as I learned enough from the Sheep project to do the Stylized branch, which required three sections over a 72 piece of steel, and 4 joints.

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Branch Artwork showing three sections and mounting hole locations.

Cutting a 6 foot long piece of steel also required some re-arrangement of my workshop, not only to make room for the workpiece but also to provide support for the portions of steel that were on either side of the table during the cut.   It also concerned me that my Plasma cutter, which is normally kept in a little alcove surrounded by fiberglass welding blankets where most of the sparks are contained by the blankets, would now be out in the open during all the cuts with sparks flying in all directions!  As a precaution I put my fire extinguisher right at my side during the whole operation!

Here is the setup prior to cut:

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I had to rearrange my workshop to manage a 6 foot long piece of steel!

And here is the result after the cut:

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And here is the finished cut. Notice the lead in and lead out cuts at the joint of each section.

And the final piece cleaned up and ready to paint.

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Branch ready for painting!

All in all, the cutting went very well with probably no more than 1/32″ misalignment in the worst case.  As a result of this project, I’m confident that I can reliably do larger pieces still!







[1] “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Variously attributed to Jan la van de Snepscheut, Albert Einstein, and Yogi Berra.

Retirement gift for National Park Superintendent, Kate Cannon

A very good friend of mine, who has a very close association with Canyonlands National Park, realized, after seeing that I had a CNC Plasma cutter, that we could make a nice gift for the current Park Superintendent, Kate Cannon, who is retiring next week.

My friend suggested that a silhouette of Druid Arch, a difficult to find, but very imposing natural arch, would be appropriate. Fortunately I had a fairly nice and high contrast photo of the arch that I took on a trip in 2005. So…
Here’s the arch:

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Druid Arch

and here is the gift:

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Gift to retiring Canyonlands Park Superintendent, Kate Cannon.

Birthday present for brother-in-law

With my brother-in-law celebrating his 50th birthday this year, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to:
1. Yank his chain a little,
2. Use my new toy!

So, a popular item in plasma cutting ‘circles’ is what’s called an ‘F-Bomb’. Now without going into the derivation of this name, the object is a cutout that looks like a ‘bomb’ that would be dropped from an airplane with a large ‘F’ cut out of the center (for some reason I’m not at liberty to say). For this occasion, however, we can be sure that the ‘F’ stands for ‘Fifty’ and therefore, the following object seems entirely appropriate:

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‘F-Bomb’ birthday gift for Duff.

Happy Birthday, Duff!

For those who are curious, the ‘bomb’ was cut out of a sheet of 11gauge 304 Stainless Steel and I used my Laser engraver to ‘burn’ the printing onto the surface.

New Tool for Workshop!

Well, this past fall I finally got around to adding the cabinets I had planned for the East Wall of my Workshop. The East Wall had become a dumping ground for pretty much anything that didn’t have a ‘home’. As you can see in the photo below, it had really gotten out of hand, but, with the new cabinets and storage, not only was it organized, I discovered that I had room for yet another tool!!!!

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Before and After new cabinets for East Wall of Workshop.

Naturally, an empty space like the area on the left can not go un-filled! So…
Thinking about what’s next on the workshop growth plan, I was ready to start dabbling into metal work. Lots of choices here, but, in the end, I concluded that the first place to start was the ability to cut sheets of metal into something useful. After some investigation, I discovered that a company in California, Langmuir Systems, sold a CNC Plasma Cutter kit for a reasonable price.

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CrossFire CNC Plasma cutter (sold as a kit).

The table size is 23×25 inches and, with a water table, was plausible to use in a woodworking shop. The best part was that, about the time I decided that I’d get it after Christmas, Langmuir had a ‘Black Friday’ sale and I got the table for substantially less than the list price. Of course, by the time I bought all the OTHER stuff you need to make this useful and safe, it will take a long time to recover from this!
In any case, here is the resulting installation:
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CNC Plasma Cutter ready to go!

and a closer view:
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Close up of CNC Plasma setup.

In case you’re wondering, the ‘curtains’ around the plasma cutter are made of fiberglass cloth. They keep the bulk of the sparks thrown off by the cutter contained and also forms a ‘room’ by which a single vent, connected to my dust collection system, can pull out the bulk of fumes produced during the cutting process.

So, now that my new toy, er, tool is in place, here’s the first ‘real’ thing that I cut…

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First Pass ‘artwork’ from CNC Plasma Cutter, it works!

and after a bit of clean up:
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Simple Yard Art cleaned up!

These two have been ‘deployed’ to our yard, the rabbit has been painted white and the turtle has been left to weather naturally, both set out as initial test cases for future yard art. Now it’s time to think about the other projects I can work on…

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