Thursday, 15 October 2015

How to Make Laser-cut Finger-jointed Enclosures Without the Finger Joints Showing

laser cutter is a great tool with a lot of potential, and one of the ways they are useful is for making custom enclosures.  Finger-jointed boxes are simple with a tool like Maker Case and a laser cutter.  It's incredibly useful but I personally never liked that "finger jointed look".

Here's a method I use to make the presentation side of the enclosure a bit cleaner looking.

I tried a variety of things, including a variety of corner guards and edging to cover up the finger joints.  Results were usually more trouble than they were worth.

In the end I settled on a very simple method: an additional "faceplate".  A second panel that covered the presentation side of the enclosure and also provided any labels or marking.

So instead of the top of a unit looking like this (note the visible finger joints around the edge):

It now looks like this:

(Image: Timer / Scoring Unit built for a local air gun range.)
All it takes is a second "top" panel that is glued to the enclosure's finger-jointed top.   Instead of concealing all the visible finger joints, we simply give the presentation side of the box a new face.

Separating the "presentation" panel from the enclosure itself has other advantages.  You can use a different material since it's not part of the structural design.  Here's an example of a layered-wood prototype that uses a black-and-white plastic top panel covered with a clear plastic shield.  Using layers of wood for the enclosure itself and a high-quality engraved plastic top gives a really nice result.

(Image: a prototype for a product that went nowhere)

Using a separate, additional panel as a faceplate turned out to be a useful method.  I can keep the utility of finger-jointed or layered boxes but give a much higher quality (and durability, if needed) to the "presentation side".