My LCC graphic student cover may’ve been blown at LCC in order to use their CNC router. However, after many in-person reminders and emails to the head technician at CSM, today I was able to come in to use their CNC and their wood workshop. Overall, as the project has progressed, I thought this was a natural setup forward—use the smaller CNC router (with less drill bits, speciality cutting, etc) at LCC to prototype the blocks, and for the blocks I want to cut for hand-in, use the facilities at CSM.
If LCC initially wowed me by the potential of CNC milling, CSM takes this to a new level. The machine at CSM has a bed of roughly four to five times the size of the one at LCC, so if I wanted to a small run of blocks, I could place all my planks together and the machine would run through all planks at once. The machine also goes through the plank in half the time it does with the one at LCC, and also less burst-out of the material, meaning less sanding and potential for cracking within the block shapes. (Please mind the sound of the video below).
The workshop technician I was working with, Mark, was also really friendly and accommodating. I’ve decided to use the maple wood I purchased at SL Hardwoods, as it’s a higher quality hardwood for blocks than beech (and who doesn’t like a subtle hint at their home country within their project!). I supplied some extra material of this wood, and several of the blocks that Mark and I found weren’t high standard, we ran this material through the CNC machine two to three times. They also allowed me to use their belt sander and tools to take out the blocks—which relieves some of the stress of processing the blocks at Chelsea, as the Chelsea workshop recently has been heaving with students getting their final submissions ready. Additionally, Wednesday afternoons, the Chelsea workshop is closed for shop maintenance, whereas the CSM still is open until 6:30pm.
This friendliness cannot be said for other CSM workshops. I booked a session with their vinyl cutter in the Digital Printing Studio just before and during the lunch break. While I briefly worked with vinyl during my D&AD prototype, I have no experience with a cutter. There are no written instructions to use the machine, and when asked, technician gave this impression that it was a basically a mistake that I was asking her about how to use the machine.
The vinyl is part of the larger investigation into new colour processes. For my D&AD prototype, I hand sprayed the 82 blocks into nine categories of colour. While I observed all health and safety precautions, I started to have an allergic reaction to the paint. More importantly, this technique is neither cost-effective, nor time-effective. The vinyl, if cut correctly, accurately, and with matt material, could reduce both factors.
I’ve also looked into using Perspex as another option to colour the blocks. The issue with either vinyl or Perspex, is that the material has to fit the block exactly, or else this colour layer looks off, compared to the rest of the block. A solution to this may to return to a lacquer, or use different types of wood with different coloured grain, but these options are considerably more expensive.