Photo Finish! (unfinished)

Well, hello there! Since my last post, I’ve finished that Kickstarter video, and the campaign has nearly launched. I’ve been able to breathe a little, and I got to do actual work on the ol’ homebuilt CNC router!

That’s what this post is about. The work, not the breathing. Or the video.

If you happen to hit the Great American Beer Fest, you may see Nellie, the photo bus, with the prior (not us) version of the camera cabinet. Our task was to create a new, IMPROVED version. One that was shorter! Thinner! Able to be open from the front! The KING…OF…CABINETS! (Moxy Fruvous reference)

Slow going...

Slow going…

With a deadline of double-booked events this weekend (for the photo booths), and a hunk of plywood, I got down to business. I’m fully aware that a lot of this would have gone faster if I had a table saw. I will start looking for reliable access to one. For now, though, I’m doing stupidly simple stuff on the router. I shaved down the edges of the front panels so allow the sides to socket in a bit (to avoid light leaks).

Ooh! Holes!

Ooh! Holes!

The advantage of using the router was that I could precisely define the cutout shapes, to better fit the flash ring, monitor, and button. Cross-grain cutting tends to fuzz up a bit, but a few swipes with sandpaper cleans that off. Also, I cut from the back to avoid that problem on the front (I haven’t gotten a down-cut bit yet).

Bucket chair testing stand

Bucket chair testing stand

The initial test of the front panel looked great! The fit was much better than the previous stand, and the button could now be installed correctly (instead of just jammed through the hole and friction fit). After this, I started the side panels. I don’t have any in-progress photos of the side panels, but they were an interesting challenge.

Due to the narrow space in which the cabinet must fit (13.75″), and the width of the photo printer (12.875″-ish), it was going to be a tight fit. I chose 7/16″ plywood instead of 1/2″ because that extra 1/16″, doubled, would give me valuable interior space. Then I designed a carving into the inside of the side panel to shave another 1/16″ off of each interior side, giving me another 1/8″ of space. The client wanted to be able to pull the printer out of the front a bit to access the paper tray. After all of the carving, the installed printer has 1/8″ of clearance on each side. I carved pockets next to the printer’s ventilation holes to allow a little air circulation because I knew that the through-cabinet cooling slits wouldn’t match up perfectly with those on the printer.

During this process, I learned a lot about my router, and the upgrades I’d like to make to it. I also learned some tricks to improve the job reliability. I need a better bed support system, so I’ll be ordering some more aluminum extrusion to spread out the weight a bit more, and some angle brackets to actually bolt the waste board down. Replacing the spindle with a trim router might also improve cutting speeds by adding more torque.

Testing, testing...

Testing, testing…

After I had the side panels and the printer shelf, I grabbed some clamps and started testing the fit of the pieces. It looked like this might actually work! Those slots near the bottom are for a support that I later removed because I remembered that the clients stored a battery underneath everything. It’s strong enough without it, though.

It's 11 o'clock, and all's well!

It’s 11 o’clock, and all’s well!

After working late into the night, the cabinet was finally ready for the client. There are still a few fit-and-finish bits to do, and they’ll be bringing it back for those, but it’s an improvement over their old cabinet! I threw a catch-shelf on the door underneath the slot, and the clients picked it up this morning!

We’ll probably add some laser etching and attachments later, and I’ll add a back panel that has room for a backlit logo, and it’ll be all beautiful and finished!

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