Basic set up required for newbie to cut small 3-4mm thick birch plywood

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davedoublem

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Hi all,

I'm currently work with 3mm and 4mm birch faced plywood. I use a company to cut basic small shapes ie small bookmarks and keyrings. These can measure anywhere from 5cm to 20cm depending on the item.

I don't want to invest in a laser cutter just yet, which I believe the company uses. A cnc router is too expensive aswell, so I'm looking for an inexpensive bit if basic machinery to save me from using a the company to cut these out. Most of what I sell also has rounded corners.

What can I buy that cuts basic squares/rectangles and would also allow me to round the corners without spending an age doing it?

Any help greatly appreciated.
 
Depends on the quantity you want to produce. Most of us not into mass production use the tools we have like bandsaws, scrollsaws, drills and sanders but that takes time and it is hands on for each piece. However time for us is not critical. If you want to mass produce then I think the laser cutter is the way to go. Another approach is simplify the designs to reduce the amount of sanding required. Simple bookmarks as in rectangular could be batch cut and rounding the corners would not take long on a disc sander.
Regards
John
 
A router would be an option, make some templates of your desired shapes and then whizz round them with the router and bearing guided cutter, probably cut several layers at once for speed and efficiency, and will do the straight bits and rounded corners as per the templates you make.
 
All the machines have advantages and disadvantages.Saws will leave fuzzy edges that need cleaning up,a laser will leave charred edges and tiny pieces on a CNC router don't always remain in place.The small sizes mentioned will make the use of a hand held router difficult.

So what might be the best compromise?I would lean toward a desktop CNC router but I do have a good deal of experience with such things.Even with mechanical hold downs it ought to be possible to machine the outlines and with the use of tabs to keep the semi-finished items in place,almost finished parts could be produced.It would take a few moments to clean off the stubs from the tabs,but this could be done while the machine was cutting the subsequent batch.

It takes less force to move a laser but the downside is blackened edges on all pieces-is this a showstopper?
 
All the machines have advantages and disadvantages.Saws will leave fuzzy edges that need cleaning up,a laser will leave charred edges and tiny pieces on a CNC router don't always remain in place.The small sizes mentioned will make the use of a hand held router difficult.

So what might be the best compromise?I would lean toward a desktop CNC router but I do have a good deal of experience with such things.Even with mechanical hold downs it ought to be possible to machine the outlines and with the use of tabs to keep the semi-finished items in place,almost finished parts could be produced.It would take a few moments to clean off the stubs from the tabs,but this could be done while the machine was cutting the subsequent batch.

It takes less force to move a laser but the downside is blackened edges on all pieces-is this a showstopper?

If using the correct blade, a scroll saw will leave little or no fuzz around cut edges. The difficulty with a scroll saw is that it's nor exactly a machine for mass production. But as the OP is only talking about 3 or 4 mm ply, it's perfectly possible to tape or spot glue several sheets together and cut out, say, half a dozen blanks at a time.

And agree, a CNC router would work too, but being out of touch with UK prices, I GUESS a scroll saw would be cheaper than a CNC router. Output speed not much slower, if at all than a scroll saw (a guess again)?
 
The small sizes mentioned will make the use of a hand held router difficult.
Not really :) I would be using several largish sheets stacked on top of each other and moving the template around on the sheet as needed.

Or maybe make a larger template the same size as the sheets being used with multiple item cut-outs, so you don't have to move the template around, just add it to the top of your stack of sheets and off you go.

May only need a small trim type router if not fussed about doing several layers at once, but a standard 1/4" router would be easy enough to handle too.
 
Not really :) I would be using several largish sheets stacked on top of each other and moving the template around on the sheet as needed.

Or maybe make a larger template the same size as the sheets being used with multiple item cut-outs, so you don't have to move the template around, just add it to the top of your stack of sheets and off you go.

May only need a small trim type router if not fussed about doing several layers at once, but a standard 1/4" router would be easy enough to handle too.

I would be more than a bit anxious about any hand held router with templates and a 5cm part.Have I overlooked anything?As for cost,one of the toy 3018 cnc routers might not be so far from the cost of a scrollsaw and will work away while other stuff is being done.A scrollsaw needs constant attention from a reasonably skilled operator.
 
Do you have any pictures of your products? Bookmarks I think we can imagine - but seeing the shape of keyring might help a little.

If you set up a fence on a bandsaw and have a fine toothed blade I'm sure you can turn out reasonable quantities of bookmark shapes.

You'll be surprised how much you can produce.

If they need sanding afterwards - you can tape some suitable sandpaper sheets to a board and put your headphones in and listen to a podcast / music as you are only hand sanding.

Keyrings sound fiddly - maybe a bandsaw for the bookmarks would be an interim step towards moving away from your supplier,
 
Rounding corners - sorry just re-read the op.

A disc sander makes light work or small corner roundovers - you can also find templates and profiles to trace to get you started off.
 
Key "rings"/"fobs" are easy to cut out on a scroll saw, and as loftyhermes has said, at that thickness (or a bit more) it's easy and quick to cut out say 6 blanks at a time. And they don't HAVE to have letters cutouts into them (see below)! That's the really time-consuming bit. And as said, using the right blade, nil, or at most VERY little sanding is needed. It's (as usual), a matter of using the "right" blade.

Edit for P.S. But as said, I have NO idea of current UK prices for a small CNC router. That does have the advantage of "running itself" though (ONCE you've got all the software & templates sorted)! Unlike the scroll saw, which is definitely "hands-on" all the time.

But for scroll saw templates, it's just a matter of scanning or photocopying whatever you like really, then printing out as many as you need - AND with a very good small program from Mathius Wandell (costs about USD 10.00 I think - ask and I'll send you a link), you can make the templates any size you like - stretching over several sheets of A4, or right down to "really tiny".

HTH
 

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Rough cut via a scroll saw, bandsaw etc.., then profile sand with a bearing guided drum. I’d modify the designs to only have large inside corners so the drum can do it all in one pass
 
Many years ago when I used to make toys for a living I cut 3mm ply in stacks about 30mm , 10 sheets, as far as I can recall, about 12" square so they could be turned on the band saw table
Fiddly little shapes cut with fine blade on a bandsaw.
The stacks were held together by dowels in holes drilled through - either in the waste between the shapes, or in some designs through the shapes themselves.
It'd produce a clean cut except for the bottom piece. Can't remember but probably discarded the bottom pieces.
 
I would go laser. Clean cuts and no need for the little tabs you need on a router. I the a good fast cut charring is almost non existent and a very quick touch in an oscillating sander would be all that would be needed if anything
 

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