For my final fabrication final, I decided to combine pcomp and fabrication.
Paula and I are creating an infinity mirror photo booth that is triggered by a soft-switch chin rest. The photo booth is turns the user into a bear and also contains servo motor spinning bears .
The project revolves around the fabrication of a box that is lined with mirrors and this is what I set out to make for this final project.
To save money, we decided to use silver, acrylic mirrors from Canal Plastics. It also seemed infinitely easier to cut acrylic rather than mirrors.
We decided to cut the acrylic first and then build the box around the measurements of the acrylic to ensure that the panels would fit perfectly. Since the acrylic panels are sold 32”x18”, we decided to make a cube and cut the panels into 2-16” x 18”. Unfortunately, our Illustrator file was off or the laser was and we ended up with 2-16.5” x 18” panels and 2-15.5” x 18” panels.
We held these together with corner clamps to get a better sense of the final dimensions and how the acrylic panels would sit against one another.
For our box, we needed a panel that had an opening for a face to peer inside. We needed the hole to be just big enough for the face as the chin resting on the edge of this hole would serve as the switch. If the hole was too big, it would be more difficult to trigger the system.
Based on our prototype, we decided to laser a 7”x9” hole for the face. Not only did this prove to be too big, but the laser was absurdly dirty and did not cut the acrylic well and as a result, we ended up breaking our panel trying to snap the cut portion out.
We glued it back together with acrylic glue to test it out in the box, nonetheless. This was insanely useful.
We next measured a panel for the bottom so that the side panels would sit on top of the bottom acrylic piece.
The entire next day we dedicated to the actual fabrication of the box using 1/2” plywood. A fellow student, Katie Tackas, who is part time at ITP and works as a set designer at NYU offered to help with the process and even offered use of her shop on Saturday. I’m stating it here for the record that Katie is the Queen of Fabrication!
While we had some help with this project, I undoubtedly learned the most about intelligent fabrication from this project and this woman. Plus we got to use some new tools.
We decided to make a box with beveled edges so that we could build the box exactly around the measurements of the acrylic.
We used the arm saw to cut some plywood sheets down to size. We left some extra material so we could adjust while beveling the edges.
Next, we tackled the infamous beveled edges. We wanted to use the table saw to tackle this job, but unfortunately, the saw was having problems sitting at a 45 degree angle.
For Plan B, we decided to use the Miter Saw. The Miter Saw in Katie’s shop is a compound miter saw which allowed us to angle it at 45 degrees in either direction. Since the side panels of the box were longer than the arm of the miter saw would extend, we had to make an initial cut and then rotate the panel to get the entire length.
After cutting one side in a bevel, we went back and measured exactly where the other 45 degree bevel needed to be so that the face of the panel would fit the acrylic exactly.
While making these beveled edges and working with Katie, it really hit home that nothing is ever perfect and that there are always ways to fix and work with the imperfections…like putty.
We assembled the box using wood glue and a pneumatic brad gun to keep it together. Having pneumatic tools was incredibly useful for this project!
Next, we cut a bottom piece so that the sides would fit on top of this panel and we used the table saw.
Next, we fitted the acrylic to the sides and it fit almost perfectly, except that we had a few extra mm on the sides. To fix this, we added a bit of particle board to the side to account for that extra space.
Next, we needed to cut a hole for the face. To do this, we used a jigsaw, my absolute new favorite tool!!
Next, we started finishing the box by sanding with a power sander and filling in any brad gun holes or misaligned beveled edges with putty.
Last but not least, we used 1/4” plywood to create a top. We wanted the box to be accessible to us easily while we were building it and in case we needed to get in and adjust any elements. Therefore, we decided to add a single hinge to the side using very small wood screws.
—-READ ON FOR FURTHER ADVENTURES IN BUILDING THE BEARBOOTH——-
The next step in our project was mounting motors. We wanted to mount the motors on the back of the box, which meant making holes in both the box and the lining acrylic.
We decided to make perfectly snug holes in the acrylic so that just the front of the motors peeked out and then larger holes in the wooden box for the backs of the motors and the wires to come out.
We first made holes using a drill in the box (and attached particle board).
Next, we used the jigsaw (the best!) to open the holes. We had to use a technique that Gabe showed us which involved running the jigsaw in parallel to the last piece we cut because it was impossible to turn the blade.
Finally, we used the jigsaw to cut a piece in the top for the camera to fit.
Adding the acrylic panels with liquid nails:
We are still in the process of mounting the motors, but I am extremely happy with the way the box came out and very grateful to Katie for her guidance!