Coastal Enterprises, manufacturers of Precision Board HDU, is proud to announce a series of guest blogs written by Dan Sawatzky of Imagination Corporation, which will be posted on the Precision Board Blog each month. This month Dan Sawatzky talks about working with X-Edge Tools, a router bit manufacturer, to develop a bit that would cut through 3″ thick Precision Board. Dan lays out his process step-by-step of working with Jay at X-Edge to get just the right router bit for the job!
In Dan’s own words…
In our shop we are always on the hunt for new materials, tools and methods to do our work better and more efficiently. While we discover a few things on our own, most often others in the business are our teachers. Even after more than fifty years in the sign business I find there is so much new to learn! You can teach an old dog new tricks it seems. 🙂
I was talking to our good friend Jay at X-EDGE Tools a while back about a few challenges we were having as we fabricated our signs using Precision Board. Because we use primarily PBLT-30 Precision Board of thicker dimensions than most, we run into difficulties from time to time. There are always workarounds that can get us by, but with the help of others we can often figure out a better way of doing things.
Jay is a master at all things to do with CNC routers and especially routing bits. He also loves a challenge. I mentioned to him that we had been using a 3/8” cutter with a 1.5” cutting edge to cut our 2” thick Precision Board HDU. By chucking it up in the collet a bit shallow (not enough bit in the collet) I could squeeze enough depth out of the bit to go through 2” of material without rubbing the collet. It wasn’t an ideal solution but it got us by for many years.
Jay asked me what I needed. I asked for a 4” long 3/8” bit with a 2.5” cutting edge. Jay had a prototype made and sent me out a 4” long 3/8” RAZOR end mill to try. I designed a file and gave it a spin. While it did the job I wasn’t satisfied. The bit was extremely noisy – a definite sign we were getting too much vibration. I let Jay know and he immediately went back to the drawing board.
A short time later I was delighted to receive a package in the mail with two 4” long – 1/2” Razor end mills. One had a tighter helix than the other. Jay asked me to put them through their paces and let him know my thoughts.
I designed a file that had straight, curved and angle cuts. It measured about 8” x 16” by 2” thick. Then I threw some 2” thick 30lb Precision Board HDU on the router and fired it up.
Generally we do our cutting of 30lb Precision Board in 1/2” increments but since I was doing a test I ran double that with 1” deep cuts. I started at 300 inches per minute at 14,000 rpm (our normal cutting speed) for PBLT-30 Precision Board. The first bit was noisier than I liked which I knew would translate into some roughness. I fiddled with the speeds and feeds through the cut but the results didn’t remarkably improve from my initial settings. On inspection after the cut was finished, the bit did its job and the cut quality was adequate. With a cleanup pass I’m sure it would have been fine. But since we have neighbours close by I wasn’t happy with the noise.
The second bit performed much better. The noise was much less and the cut quality was much improved as well. And I am sure a cleanup pass would make things perfect.
The reality is that in fifteen years of routing I’ve never done a cleanup pass on our work. There was no need, as we always add texture by hand to the edges of our work after we do our assembly.
I of course shared my findings (with pictures) with Jay at X-EDGE Tools. He suggested I try the bit at a higher speed (18,000 RPM) which I immediately did. To my surprise, although it ran quieter, the bit left more tool marks at this higher speed.
So we now have a great solution to a long standing challenge. We can safely cut material that is up to 3” thick with the new bit from X-EDGE Tools. To keep the noise down I would do it in half inch passes in the 30lb Precision Board HDU. If I needed a super clean edge I would do a cleanup pass.
We will keep experimenting with various speeds and feeds to see what is optimal on our machine.
Sawatzky’s Imagination Corporation is a small family company that specializes in the design and creation of dimensional signs and environments. They tackle projects of any size from small signs to entire theme parks. Their work has garnered numerous national and international awards.
Dan Sawatzky is best described as a creative force and visual storyteller extraordinaire. His art career spans almost fifty years of magic. Dan’s passion is to design and create imaginative places that take people from the normal world to a setting of delight and wonder.
Coastal Enterprises manufactures Precision Board HDU, a versatile, cost-effective and eco-friendly urethane sign material that is particularly effective for making professional-looking indoor and outdoor dimensional signs. It is a closed-cell rigid substrate that does not rot, warp or crack. You can request free samples, get a quote or sign up for periodic newsletters packed with helpful information.