Saturday, February 21, 2009

This Weekend's Project: Playing with a Dremel 300 series

I've bought a Dremel last December, which I made use of making the Team Fortress 2 sentry's main supports. It's been sitting in the case for two months, unused. I've decided to see how well the Dremel can be used to replace the old method of cut-then-laminate with a laminate-then-cut procedure. The reasoning behind the latter method all revolved around one limitation I've had: standardized hole making.

The previous method utilizes regular office hand hole punches of 1/4" and 1/8" diameters. With a drill, I now have access to 1/8" holes and alternatively, 1/16" with a hand modeling drill. The hand punches were limited to two or three layers of Magic: the Gathering cards before being rendered null and ineffective. Not to mention, they hurt like hell to grip and use on three layers of Magic cards. Thereby, I was forced to cut each layer, then glue them to form a rather ragged stack of cards. I was never fond of that, nor the end result that required further sanding to bring up to standards.

Another limitation of the cut-then-glue method was scissors. My 8-10 year old pair of scissors can only cut through 4 layers satisfactorily before that also starts hurting my hands. Fortunately, with the Dremel, I have a variety of implements of destruction to carve out chunks of card.

To test out and devise proper manufacturing methods involving Dremel cutting tools and Magic: the Gathering cards, I hereby present my results, in the rare occurrence that you may find yourself with the odd pairing of tool and material.

I've made a stack of Magic: the Plywood cards, each consisting of four layers of Tenth Edition cards I received as part of Wizards' promotion back in November. (Contrary to popular belief, I do not use land cards. They're more useful than junk commons.) My parts are 16 layers thick overall, with the thinnest section being 4 thick, hence the layer number. Using the template Hotaru is holding, I've etched the pieces onto the ply-card board and trimmed them off. Thicker sections require sanding and gluing two layers together.

Elbow component and Dremel tool accessory 407. Looks like a microphone...

Regarding Dremel use, I found sanding tool #430 to be great for making a radius of 4mm. I used the curve of the sanding tool to form the edges of the parts consisting of the elbow joint. Tool #407 works ok for 12mm diameter curves but needs some finishing with the #430 to get to spec. I found that if you try to sand off a stack 8 layers thick, the edge layers start to peel upwards, creating a non-parallel region that slightly affects performance. I therefore decided it was worth the effort to sand down parts 4 layers thick, double up, then redo the sanding.

It should be noted that the grinding/sanding/cutting process generates massive amounts of Magic: the Card Dust. I've coated my desk with a light layer of this dust as a result of my zealous grinding. Highly suggest doing this in a ventilated room or outside, lest you start breathing in Cloud Faerie fumes. A lot of people speculate that I'm usually on something to think of doing or making these things. I can say that this dust only causes lung cancer, not creative inspiration.

Regarding drilling holes, Being a laminate material, the drill pushing through tends to start deforming and pushing the last layer than cutting through due to the lack of support. For this reason, I used the following process to facilitate hole making:
  1. Drill a pilot hole using the 1/16" hand drill
  2. Use 1/8" tool at low speed and tap both sides of the material. This will eliminate the tearing that occurs at the end if you go straight through with the drill.
  3. Go halfway through with the Dremel until you break through at the center. This also helps reduce the errors created from bad hand positioning, such as non-perpendicularity.
The holes will be slightly larger than 1/8" due to hand movements. Luckily, the joint system allows for this with the undersized bolts and washers.

While on the subject of zealously hacking off chunks of paper, I've done some minor remodeling to Hotaru's face. I've made her nose taller. She's always been looking a bit unusual, due to her head being a very early model. The nose or lack of a proper one, has bothered me for a while. She looks a bit older and more respectable now, hopefully.

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