Monday 27 May 2024

Boardgame Badge Burn Ballsup

My friend Stephen (Table Tok Games) is making the pilgrimage to UK Games Expo in Birmingham this year and will be running demos of some of the upcoming releases from Hachette Boardgames

He asked me if I could make some badges for the event. I thought that this would be a great way to learn how to use my new Laser Cutter Engraver.

Stephen created a design in two parts, an etch file with his meeple logo and a cut file with a series of 30mm circles which would be the badge.  Registration marks in two opposite corners made sure that Illustrator would not trim the images to just the internal drawing.


I am currently using LaserGRBL which has support for SVG from inkscape but this is an experimental feature so the files were exported as PNG.

The Cut File 

The cut file was uploaded into LaserGRBL and I used the centreline option to vectorize a cut path.  This was slightly problematic in that the on the very top and bottom row of circles the line hit the edge of the page and vectorizing broke the cut path.  

Pardon the pun, but there is definitely a learning curve when creating files for the laser cutter.  The next attempt will have some whitespace between the design and the registration marks.

I imported this at 120mm/min and a laser power of 95%

The Etch file

Importing the etch file I opted to go for the Line to Line Tracing option at a speed of 500mm/min and a laser power of 95%

The Material

I had some scrap MDF sheet left over from some DIY project.  This measured 2.8mm thick and I mounted it on my workspace with Duck Double Sided Tape (Boy this stuff is sticky) 

Laser Engraving

I was reasonably pleased with the engraving which took just over 20 minutes with one pass.  I initially tried 1000mm/min but the laser threw an error about two thirds of the way through and it would not recommence.  I think that it must have run into a buffer problem or the speed was too high.  I have not done any testing on speeds as yet so this may be part of my learning curve. 

Laser Cut Badges Fail

The only downside with the Line to Line Trace option is that it prints like a conventional printer and you get jaggy curves (there's no anti-aliasing as far as I can tell)

Laser Cutting

This is where I fall down, hard.  With any new technology or tool you just have to learn what works and what doesn't.  I have no idea if I am using the software correctly, if my laser is focused correctly, how many passes I should be making, should I be using Air Assist, if my material is at fault or even if I am expecting too much.  There are so many variables.

After 4 passes and 160 minutes of cutting I gave up in frustration.

Resin 3D Printer to the Rescue 

This job still needed to be completed as delivery is scheduled for the following day.  45 minutes later these bad boys came off the Photon Mono 4K.

Table Tok Games Badges

Sunday 19 May 2024

Roleplay-Geek Gets a New Robot

Well payday came and went and not long after a new tool arrived in my workshop.

A Cheap Laser Cutter / Engraver

There are just some jobs when you need a tool like this (or have lots of skill and patience).  That one job was making a custom enclosure for a secret project I have yet to reveal out of acrylic sheet.  

I'm reasonably handy, but when it comes to transparent sheet materials, you have to be super careful otherwise you will end up scratching or gouging the delicate finish.

I bought this one off ebay and it needed to be able to do a few things

  • Cut A4 sheets - my stock is A4 (210 x 297 mm) so having a largish envelope was key.
  • Cut Plexiglass - a little bit of research showed that a 5W Laser should be capable of this

The one I ended up buying from eBay was the:

5.5W Actual Output Laser Engraver Machine For DIY Engraving Cutting 40x40cm   

New Hobby Tool - Laser Cutter


This was my first experience assembling Aluminium extrusion and frankly I am gobsmacked at the ingenuity of this stuff.  It seriously is the Lego of mechanical engineering.  The instructions were pretty clear although they could have done with a bit better photos showing the orientation of the relevant parts.  

As long as you are pretty good with IKEA furniture this will be a relatively stress-free exercise and the total build time was less than one hour.

My only issue came with the routing of the cables and the complete lack of instructions regarding zip ties and cable management.  They have pretty much thought of everything though and as long as you follow the labels on each connector it is pretty logical where everything goes.  After all, we aren't wiring a 1974 RA 21 Toyota Celica with a 2005 2UZ V8 from a Tundra (Seriously if you aren't watching Sarah-n-Tuned what are you doing with your life). 

Software Installation

The nice eBay seller sent me a message with a QR code for the software download.  Installation was a breeze and after a little bit of reading of the help pages I was connected and ready to go.

Lots of Problems

I ran the cutter power test which seemed to go okay although there was a lot of burning around the edges.  After loading up a picture, I went through the basic interface and set the printer going.  Immediately I had an alarm and couldn't work out what had stopped the printer.  

After another set of tries and different images and more alarms I gave up.

2 Weeks Later...

Sometimes it is better to sleep on a thing and after 2 weeks of sleeping on it I summed up the courage to have another go.  

The first thing I wanted to do was build a baseboard to keep the cutter square and in place on my workbench.  This was quickly fashioned from a piece of white laminate hardboard.  I made little cutouts for the 4 printer feet to lock into.  

Laser Cutter Baseboard

I then homed the cutter and using the "flash" button I marked the home position I then manually moved the head to the furthest X position and flashed the laser again marking this position.  Homing the printer made all sorts of noise, I guess that it doesn't like its stepper motors being back driven but unlike my 3D Printer there is no option to disable the steppers.  

I decided to use the Jog feature to send the head North along the Y axis but after about 5 or 6 Jogs it threw another alarm.  I flashed the laser and marked this point.  Connecting all the dots gave me a rudimentary XY scale and origin point about which I can set some guides snd be a little bit more confident in where my images are going to appear.

X Y Offset

It seemed like when the image uploaded into the cutter workspace it was centered on the origin and the first thing the cutter wanted to do was travel West and South beyong the cutter's Home position.

Eventually I discovered that in the import / resize dialogue there are some offset commands.  These were bizarrely set to -43 in both axis.  Resetting these to +20 in each axis and hey presto my laser moved and burned my first image... Tony Stark!

Tony Stark Iron Man

Next Projects

I really want to be able to quickly locate stock at the origin and be able to judge the offset when importing my art, so making an L-shaped scale is high on the agenda.

I also want to create a detachable shelf for the workbench as this particular model requires a laptop to be connected at all times. amd I just dont have anywhere nice to put the laptop at the moment.

Watch this space.

Friday 10 May 2024

Jessie's Prints - Episode 45 - Nonagon Infinity open the door!!

This week, I are mostly been printing... A Compact Travel Dice Tower!!

If you know me in meatspace then you know I am a big fan of the Australian progressive microtonal rock band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Here's a Nonagon Infinity Inspiration Coin for infinite inspiration when fighting the Petrodraconic Apocalypse

Nonagon Infinity Inspiration Coin - Thingiverse thing: 6608846

Designed for use with my Compact Travel Dice Tower you can make this magnetically attach to the tower so you are never seperated from the ultimate inspiration coin.

Nonagon Infinite Inspiration Coin

I also modelled a new slide for my Compact Travel Dice Tower with a nonagon cutout.

Nonagon Infinity Compact Travel Dice Tower

Nonagon Infinity Compact Travel Dice Tower

Nonagon Infinity Compact Travel Dice Tower

OK, Robot Stop!

Friday 3 May 2024

Jessie's Prints - Episode 44 - Keeper of Secrets

This week, I are mostly been printing... A Giant Keeper of Secrets!!

Well this is another commissioned print by me and an amazing paintjob from Sam, my fellow founder at Dragons Keep Roleplay Club.  I'll let the pictures do the talking but suffice to say that a few short years ago all of this was impossible...

Daemon Damzels Queen Lillith the Keeper of Secrets - Keta Minies

Daemon Damzels - The Queen Lilith

Daemon Damzels - The Queen Lilith - Back

Daemon Damzels - The Queen Lilith - Optional Bird

Daemon Damzels - The Queen Lilith - Optional Spear

Wednesday 1 May 2024

1:100 Scale Halcon Baltimore Schooner NTJK Models - Part Two

I decided to take my time with this build, I'm surprisingly impatient when it it comes to modelling projects.  When I get bitten by the bug, it's hard for me to not just dive in.

Building the Keel, Frames and Fitting the Deck

The first part of the instructions are probably the best part of the instructions and it was just a simple case of popping out the numbered parts and supergluing them together.

The first thing to build is the cradle / display stand.  disappointingly this does not have a name plaque in English so this will need to be designed and printed.

I did make one change to the order of operations in that I left the frames unglued until I had laid in the deck.  This was a lesson I learned from my earlier 1:30 Naxos Fishing Boat build as the frames do not always line up with the cutouts in the deck.  If you force them to conform you will either snap the horns of the frames or the delicate deck. 

Halcon 1840 - Keel, Frames, Deck Fitted

Deck Fittings

Cannons - the laser cut frames of these cannons are perfectly acceptable at 1:100 scale so I proceeded to glue these together.  The cannons provided in the kit are flat and definitely not good enough for this model.  You can buy an upgrade pack with brass cannons but as I have a couple of 3D Printers it was a trivial task to find a suitable model and print them out.  

I will document all the 3D printed parts including the links in a seperate post. 

Halcon 1840 - Deck Fittings

Capstan - I thought I would try out the capstan which was provided.  After building it I am in two minds as I think it would possibly look nicer in resin, but it's a crazy shape and will likely test my modelling skills.  There were also a distinct lack of arms on this capstan which might be historically acurate but it looks kinda weird on a masted ship.

I have bought some scale chain to go with this capstan and so I will need to check out how it meshes with the webbing to see if I want to continue using it.

Locker - Again this is borderline acceptable at 1:100 scale although the roof of this locker is way too thick and will need to be sanded down

Anchors - I liked the laser etched detail on the anchors so I thought I would give them a try.  They sort of look okay at the top but the buisness end of the anchor looks awful.  I will have to mull this over.

In the Part Three I will look at planking the hull.