Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Learning New Processes To Make New Things

I learned a few new things over the past couple of days while working on some projects for myself and my sister.  I own a piece of equipment called a " Tooli " made by Toolbotics.com from Australia.  For those of you who have never heard of a Tooli it is a machine that does a number of things rather well.  It's a plotter, a vinyl cutter, an extruder, an air brush machine just to name a few of it's capabilities.  This week I have been trying to figure out how to have my Tooli machine cut vinyl decals.  I have never worked with this type of material but always felt it would be fun to be able to design and make decals for the projects I build.  So this was the plan for this week.

To explain what I had in mind or should I say what my sister Velma had in mind was that she needed a set of decals for a restoration project that she is working on.  She had come across an older Radio Flyer wagon that she decided to restore.  It has a wooden platform instead of a steel tub and wooden side rails with the name " Radio Flyer " printed on them. The restoration of the wooden parts did  not come without a challenge but the Radio Flyer name on the sides would be gone if she repainted the wagon. So decals would have to be either purchased or remade.  I did some research for her only to find out that the original design and font for the name was no longer available.  So I decided that I would try and see if I could make new decals for her.  It would help her out and get me started in learning how to make decals too.

Here's the what the original Radio Flyer artwork looked like before restoration had started.  My sister had shot this photo as reference for me so I could get the scale correct for the project when I was setting up the new decal. 
From the photograph I was able to create a new drawing for the decal using Corel Draw software.  A simple process of tracing over the original photo to get what I needed.  I tried to find the correct font for the lettering but could not track it down online so I manually had to trace out each letter to get what I wanted.  Again not a hard or long process.  With this step completed I figured I was pretty much home free. This was not the case. 

I had never even seen the hardware used to make vinyl decals until I purchased my Tooli machine.  It was all new to me and I did not have a mentor to instruct me on how to set everything up and get what I wanted made.  Case in point is the strange looking device that is pictured above.  This is actually the vinyl cutter for my Tooli machine. It is only a couple of inches long and believe it or not the blade that is inside of it is sticking out of the rounded off end on the right of the picture.  It took me weeks to find out any information about how to make this little gadget work and set up properly to be able to make vinyl decals.  
  Inside of the device is a VERY small blade that protrudes out of the end of the hollow center of the cylinder. The blade is adjusted using the knurled brass locking ring and knurled aluminum adjustment knob.  The blade only sticks out of this cylinder a very small distance.  Get this..... It only sticks out half the thickness of a credit card!  I'll give you a link at the end of this post to show you the procedure for that one.  
  Anyway after working with the blade mount for a bit I did get it set up correctly and was encouraged to move forward and try and make some decals. 

I didn't want to try and make the wagon decals starting out as I thought I should try something a lot less critical as my first attempt at making decals.  So I decided on this image of Snoopy.  I wanted something fairly simple to make that I could put on just about anything I wanted.  If I couldn't get it to be cut correctly out of vinyl the first time I could try again until I got my machine dialed and or I figured out what I was doing wrong in the first place.  

I lucked out right out of the box and here is where the decal landed. This is my sketch book that I use while working on projects and being as it has a totally white blank cover Snoopy was the place for it. Now I thought I had it made when it came time to create the decals for my sister's wagon project. 

Wrong again.

I got my files together for the cutting of the wagon decals only to find out that my "Tooli" machine was now acting up.  Things were not setting up nicely as it had when I create the Snoopy decal.  I contacted Toolbotix and by this morning I had gotten the answer to my hardware problem with the machine.  I had an adjustment out of whack with the machine and after ten minutes everything was back in order once again. Whew!

I ran the files to make the Radio Flyer decals and here are the results.  They turned out better than I had hoped.  Not flawless but for a first attempt at something this detailed I am happy with the effort.  The photo above would be similar to looking at the decals from around six inches away.  Considering that you will look at the decals from probably at least five or six feet away these will do nicely for the wagon restoration project.

  So with the making of the Snoopy and Radio Flyer decals I learned how to correct some minor problems with my vinyl cutter/plotter if they should happen again and how to design decals in the future that will be cut more accurately which in turn will be easier to clean up when the decal is set up to be transferred from the cutting table to the finished project that it will go on to. So lots of new lessons learned this week. 

Here are the links from Toolbotix.com and USCutters.com

Info about the "Tooli" machine.

How to set up a vinyl blade holder.

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