Lasers and welders and sanders, oh my!

A couple of things. I’m working hard on pieces for the One Design exhibition – I’m just about done with the titanium pieces, and I’ll be starting on the stainless cut possibly as early as this Friday, so long as my new (cheap) orbital sander arrives on time.

Orbital sander on stainless steel? Are you nuts, Melissa?

Probably, but that’s of no consequence to the matter at hand. (Or perhaps I should replace ‘no’ with ‘little’…)

The cuts I have been working on have a bit of laser spatter over the surface, which, I might add, is quite normal. The job shop I used in Australia would either dunk the finished cuts in acid to clean them, or linish them if they were of a suitable size (or cuts in titanium.) Not owning a lishishing machine, and having been subject to a spatter (perhaps not even – there’s a weird shadow on my cuts that seem to have gone into the metal – see the photo – though once I start cleaning I might find that I’m just not seeing them right and it’s still atop the sheet) or something that’s being a little more persistent, I’ve decided to try sanding them before sandblasting them with fine glass beads.

Ripe for sanding -spatter  'shadows' after holes - upside of lasercut
Ripe for sanding -spatter ‘shadows’ after holes – upside of lasercut
shadows and colouring of side profiles
shadows and colouring of side profiles
Shadows around lines - underside of stainless steel lasercut
Shadows around lines – underside of stainless steel lasercut

If this is not more time effective than changing out the glass beads to aluminium oxide for a first pass then switching back for the finale – ie blasting all of the pieces twice (necessary in some recent earrings) – then that’s what I’ll end up doing instead. Preliminary attempts to grind back the offending marks on the titanium cut, using my diamond abrasive pads (normally reserved for working on enamelled surfaces), were not bad, so I’m crossing fingers that a little more elbow grease (in the form of a machine to actually do most of the grunt work) will be quicker than a double-blasted finish. Which is what I must have done in previous situations. Though I think the more-matte Al-Ox finish was predominant in my earlier works. It makes heat-colouring look more vibrant, but is a little less resilient when worn.

OK, to be less confusing in this next paragraph is a new goal. I’ve already failed… I do backwards sentences well, in case you hadn’t noticed. I’m like Yoda.

I have also been testing out a new laser cutter called Pololu, specifically for the timber cut that I’ve had done more recently. They actually specialise in electronics and seem to have picked up laser cutting to help build the robots they were supplying all the electronics for, and happily they were super fast and super good. And they advertise timber as a preferred medium, so they had what I wanted in stock. The one big caveat? Their site says the thickest stainless steel or spring steel that they can work with is .060″, which comes out at about 1.5mm in my native tongue. Luckily I work in 1mm, so I am going to test them when I next have a cut to do, and I’ll see if they might do titanium for me – I’m guessing I’ll have to provide the sheet, but I’ve done that before.

PUK welded titanium - posts and lasercut Ti
PUK welded titanium – posts and lasercut Ti

Finally, I mentioned welding. Just today I slipped out to my buddy Kirk Lang‘s studio to have a demo of and a play on his super-awesome Lampert PUK welding machine. And what can I say? It’s love. It is a very pretty machine and it welded these titanium posts to these old Sieve parts soooo easily. The reason I still have Sieve parts lying around is because I didn’t have a machine like this to weld titanium back in 2010 (or 2011, or ’12 for that matter). In fact the titanium welding shown at the JMGA conference I went to in 2010 was in a sealed argon environment (looking quite like my a sandblast chamber it necessitated doing the job in gloves whereas the PUK allows one TO USE HER BARE HANDS) that had me thinking that I’d be lucky to play with one in my lifetime. Incidentally, excitement about this technology is why you might have noticed me barking on about the Orion Pulse Arc Welder in previous posts, and I finally saw one at SNAG a month ago and I liked it a lot, but now I’ve seen then Lampert… There’s something about precision German engineering, y’know? And did I mention that it’s pretty..?

It’s a design thing.