I Made Window Boxes on the Laser Cutter!

I made window boxes on the laser cutter!

The front windows have desperately needed sprucing up and I finally bit the bullet and I made some Laser Cut Window Boxes. Pretty cool I think. Here’s what else is cool about them: I used local Sugar Maple slabs that we milled and dried ourselves. This was the first time I’ve tried cutting slab wood on the big laser cutter and it went pretty darn well… mostly. You’ll have to watch and see what I mean.

-Brooke

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Tools

Laguna EX Laser Cutter

Band Saw

Planer

Jigsaw

Random Orbital Sander

Sponge Brush

Materials

Maple Slabs

Total Boat Epoxy Resin 2:1 Medium Hardener

Total Boat Halcyon Finish, Clear Gloss

Charcoal Powder

Pearl Micah

Day 1:

I measured out my windows and roughly sketched out my concept. I liked the idea of polka dots mixed with slab wood because its a little cottage-y house so I thought it would be a take on a cute gingerbread house look, while still being sleek and modern. 

Two of the windows were identical in size, and then the third one was larger. For the purposes of this video I’m going to focus on just the two that are the same size from here on out. 

WIth dimensions and a basic idea in mind I hopped down to the wood room to pick out some sugar maple slabs for this. The house is a dark color so I wanted the contrast of the light wood. Also this is maple we milled ourselves that came down in Concord Massachusetts. I love working with local materials like this.

I planed these down until they were flat and able to be resawed down the middle. 

Day 2:

These are going to need to be precisely ½” thick because it will matter on the laser cutter. I hopped back over to the planer and did these thinner slabs in sequence and got them exactly where they needed to be. 

I zipped through this in the video, but this step took me an entire day because there were so many of them and I really took my time to make sure I had it exact. 

From here I could turn my rough sketch into a perfected vector file that could go over to the laser. I started with an open box template I generated in teh Box-o-matic app; I figured I would keep it easy. And then I added drainage holes in Adobe Illustrator to the piece that would end up being the bottom of the window box. To get the polka dots in place I positioned 1.5” circles along what will become the top edge. 

The final key change I made to the auto-generated box template was extending all the box joints by .1 inch. 

I’ll get into why I did that a little later. 

Day 3

It was time to laser cut some slabs!

After a whole lot of test cuts I found that the best strategy to handle the varying densities and textures of wood present in the slabs was speed:10 power: 40%. This cut through the vast majority of the wood absolutely flawlessly; minimal charring and a tiny kerf. The heartwood along with certain spalted sections was not laser cutting well at all. However, because its such a small portion of the wood I could tactfully position my pattern to minimize where those sections would interfere with the laser… and then head in with the jigsaw to clean it up after. It worked out great. 

This might have been my favorite day of this whole build. I loved watching the alser take on these huge hardwood slabs like they were nothing. AND… its always really exciting to ewatch a digital file turn into something real. 

Day 4:

Time to crack into the resin. I lined my work surface with plastic bags and then picked out the pisces that were going to need to be filled or stabilized. It is critical that this is done AFTER the laser cuts because its a bad idea to put epoxy in the laser. 

On the underside of each crack I put down some painter’s tape to keep the resin from leaking and then tapped some Total Boat 2:1 Medium Hardener over everything. This is my favorite for filling gaps because its nice and thick, sets relatively quickly, and is exceptionally durable. 

I used the extra resin to test out some different black and white colors for the polka dots. I wanted black and white so I poured out some options to think about while the resin set overnight. 

I wasn’t sure about the polka dots AT ALL at this point. (I was nervous theyd be stupid)… but seeing the test pours on the slabs made me finally realize i LOVED it. 

Day 5:

The next day it was time to pour the polka dots. I lined up my pieces in a row to make sure I had a continuous pattern from the front to side pieces and then put tape on the backside of the polka dots.

I pressed painter’s tape on the backside of each line of dots.  It makes a fantastic resin mold for relatively small pours like this. The key it to make sure you have no gaps where the resin will escape, and to press the tape firmly into the wood with a scraper of some sort. 

I knew I wanted the charcoal and pearl pigments so I portioned these out into my cups ahead of time beforehand. I don’t want these to be transparent so I’m putting a generous amount of power into each. I mixed up a big batch of more 2:1 Total Boat to portion into each cup and then poured away. 

… and then let it harden up overnight again. 

Day 6:

Painter’s Tape makes for an unmolding that is as easy as it gets. 

To sand I’m going in with 60 grit first to eliminate the bulk of the excess resin before switching over to 220 for a finishing sand. I’m mainly focusing on the interior side of these before the glue up. 

I did this on all of the resin dot sections and also went in with the same process on those gaps I had filled with resin as well so those were clean and smooth. And then it was time to think about assembly. 

Because this was all laser cut it slipped together really nicely. The exterior is all going to go through the finishing sand process again anyway, so I didn’t bother being clean about my glue drips at all. This is Titebond III Wood gllue because these are going outdoors. 

Michael gave me a second set of hands for speeds as we clamps and whacked this tightly together so it could then set up. 

From here I sanded down the box joints. This is the same process as sanding the resin and because I only extended them ever-so-slightly… it went really quickly and left behind perfect box joints., 

Along the rim there were a few spots that had been cut with the jigsaw. I sanded those so they blended with the laser cut edge, and then did a little experiment. I mixed charcoal powder with Total Boat Halcyon finish and sponge brushed it onto the edge to get it to blend in with the blackened laser edge.

It worked so well at sharpening up the black edge that I went over everything with it. It was a sheer color, but over of the laser edge it made a crisp black. To tackle any smudges I ran the sander along the front faces.

… and then this was ready for finish. 

I am using Total Boat Halcyon Finish. I put an especially generous coat of this on the interior because I want these boxes to last. 

Day 7:

I hung these up once the finish had dried using quick french cleats…. And then my work was done! Time to plant some flowers.

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