It's been a busy week - so let's look at one of our existing products!
Well, there's nothing new this week... we've had a very busy production schedule and several prototypes were delayed for other work. So instead, let's take a look at an existing product.
This is an interesting product from a design and aesthetic point of view. It is made possible by a component known as a 'living hinge'. The hinge is the series of cuts through the wood which allows it to bend and flex. We use this bend to create the guestbook.
So what's involved in creating such an item? Firstly - the design. We'll be honest and admit that the actual living hinge design (the specific pattern that allows the wood to bend) was created by a third party, and we can use it in our products with their permission. Then it's a matter of doing the maths - calculating the length of the hinge to fit the pages in. And then slimming down the length just enough to make efficient use of the raw bamboo sheets - the sheets come in 1200x600mm size, and the guestbook is 590mm x 175mm, making it possible to cut 6 guestbooks out of a single sheet of bamboo.
And then the wood. We cut these from a 1.5mm thick bamboo plywood. The plywood is three layers. It has to be plywood to allow it to stay together after cutting and give it strength - otherwise a 1.5mm thick piece of wood would be very fragile!
The next challenge is cutting it with the machine. Laser cutters work best when the material to be cut is flat - a variance over 0.5mm across the sheet will cause issues. Raw bamboo plywood, however, tends not to be flat until it's finished. The guestbooks get cut in three passes. The first pass just cuts the guestbook cover out of the sheet without anything else - not even the hinge. Each one of the six from the sheet is cut separately, with the remaining part of the sheet being weighed down to keep it flat in the machine.
After the clean covers are cut, a custom designed jig is screwed around the sheet to keep it perfectly flat. It then goes back into the machine and the hinge cuts are made. Then the covers come out and are placed into a different jig. We can then engrave the wording or artwork of choice onto the guestbook. The front cover is first, and then the cover is flipped over to allow us to engrave the inside cover.
The next step is finishing. We sand the cover to remove any marks left over from the laser cutting process. A piece of acrylic is glued in place to allow us to screw on the folder clips, and then the entire book is oiled to seal it. We then close it and keep it closed with a rubber band. After 24 hours, the oil has soaked in, and the hinge is "trained" to remain closed when desired. The plywood also straightens itself out as the oil soaks in.
We now also include an extra device that we make from thicker bamboo, designed to give the hinge some strength when handled directly by the hinge. It's a separate part that can be removed, but prevents the hinge from being crushed when picked up directly.
I do enjoy making these guestbooks for customers - they require a lot of steps but do create a unique result when complete!
So we're gearing up for our move in a few weeks time. We're in the process of dotting the i's and crossing the t's, and planning how we're going to move everything over and where it's going to go. It's all very exciting - a big move for us!