Proofgrade Walnut Plywood Alphabet Block(s)
Posted by
Lake Ozark, Missouri 
Joined Oct 14, '15 

I have been thinking about this for a while and since I am needing to get stuff to display at the Bay Area Maker Faire, I thought I’d get started on this.

When I was little, we would go visit my Polish grandparents in St. Louis. They had a wooded toy box (about the size of an old beer case, which it probably was). It contained all sorts of small toys, all wooden. I remember the blocks. And I remember the fights we’d get into when one of the siblings inevitably knocked over our towers.

At the moment, I have just painted the engraved lettering. I remember that the blocks we played with had different colored letters on them.I really think that I have to do a lighter engrave and fill the engrave with paint or some type of infill. Although the paint works fine.

I used for the pattern. I entered in a .005" kerf width and it fits very tight and holds together. It outputs a PDF that I just dropped in and printed. Really amazing how fast you can make some cubes. There was one issue. It was missing one small cut on two tabs. Looking at how the PDF was placed in the Glowforge workspace, I can see what happened. One of the sides overlapped the no-go zone and seemed to get split in half. When I moved the design around to fit into some odd shaped leftover pieces, I must have left those little lines out. Easy enough to take care of with a box cutter.

Note how I have selected the tiny side of a tab.

Here is a pic of the one side that got split in half. I’m going to redo this with one of the other box generators. I’d like to have an SVG of the cut file so I can tweak just a bit. I’d like to be able to eliminate how the tabs are proud. We’ll see. The boxes are 1.65" cubed.

I had cut each of the sides in some odd place on scrap plywood, from two different sheets. They behaved fine. One interesting things is that the top and bottom (the pieces that have the four corners with big squares on them (it has a white “X” on it in the picture), fit better with top side in. Part of that is a function of how the laser cuts through a thickness. “Fit” is a relative term. It slid in slightly easier but holds together perfectly.

While the masking was on, I sanded the “Ed Burns” a bit, not really to get rid of the char but more to get make the tabs flush with the connecting side. This particular pattern left the tabs slightly proud. It all worked just fine but if I am going to make a bunch of them, I’d like to work on the design to tweak it ever so lightly for a perfect fit. No glue is needed but I think for permanent use, I’d glue them in case differential seasonal fluctuations in humidity would make them less liable to stick together.

And finally, You need a set of the alphabet in your design space. They come in handy. I can engrave or cut these each individually and put them where I need to. This is an SVG with the text letters changed from stroke to path and broken up to make them pure vectors.

I’ve been thinking about letter placement on the blocks. I thought I would make sure all the vowels got their own blocks and make sure the “q” and the “u” are on different blocks. Might repeat a few of the more frequent letters. An interesting linguistic question: How does one make a set of alphabet blocks for English?

Finally, I have to go pick up one more color of paint so there are six colors for the six sides. I have five bottles of different colored acrylic.

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