Friday, August 29, 2008

Behind the Front Panel

Things are about to get interesting. Since the front of the, um... front panel is more or less complete, I can now turn my attention to mounting everything to it from behind. This will require a bit of routing on the back of the panel to allow everything to sit flush with the Plexiglas. I have to route out material around each of the monitor, marquee and speaker openings.

The first thing I did was build a jig to hold the panel in place and also give me more surface area to rest the base of the router on. I need to have a steady hand for this part because the cuts must be precise.

Once everything was set up I laid out the areas where I would be removing material. I want to be accurate but it is more important that the final depth of my router bit is set at exactly the thickness of the MDF (1/2"). I wanted to remove all of the material on top of the plexiglass but I do not want to chip it. The first area I decided to finish was the marquee opening. I busted out my trusty circle jig and carefully removed 1/8" of material around the top edge. The only thing I didn't get to is the area around the volume knob - I'll do that later.

If you look close you can see the exposed Plexiglas area. I had to use a razor blade to scrape away a thin layer of MDF on top of the Plexiglas which took quite some time.

This is just the first of many steps to get this panel ready to be attached to the jukebox shell... stay tuned.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Front Panel: Return of the Template VI

Last night I didn't get much done other than putting a 45 degree bevel on the edges of the black Plexiglas. I used my router again and a chamfering bit and just ran the ball bearing around the interior openings. This is purely for decorative purposes. Eventually, I will have to sand and polish the beveled edge using some high grit sandpaper and the Novus 3 step polishing system to get rid of all the scuff marks left by the router bit.

Over the next few days I am going to concentrate on mounting the monitor into final position and gluing the front panel to the shell. This is going to take some time and patience because I have to remove material around the edges down to the Plexiglas to get the screen to sit as flush as possible (there will be a 1/8" gap because of the protruding wires, which I will eventually fill with black foam) and then I have to remove additional material for the mounting brackets. The goal is to have the screen mounted by the end of the weekend... stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Front Panel: Return of the Template V

Since the plexiglass is now glued to the front of the MDF template I was able to cut it to final size using my flush cutting bit and my router. The ball bearing on the bottom rides along the edges of the panel and the bit cuts through the plexiglass like butter. Here is a shot of how it works:

I had a harder time than I thought I would setting everything up and I had to switch bits in my router to cut out the interior areas (I tried starting with a drill bit and I chipped the plexi and almost had a heart attack!).

The front panel is looking pretty good now - the lines are clean and everything is symmetrical. The rounded corners are a nice touch too, IMO.

The next step is to repeat this process using a chamfering bit to put a 45 degree bevel on the edge. Too bad I can't remove the protective sticker until construction is finished - I'm anxious to see what it looks like!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Front Panel: Return of the Template IV

Here's where it starts to get fun - I actually get to work with a material other than MDF! I glued the black plexiglass (using contact cement) to the front panel. I ordered from US Plastics and it arrived in the mail 2 days later well packaged and in great condition. It was $21.00 for the sheet. It comes with a protective layer of paper on both sides. The first thing I did was trace the shape of the panel onto the plexiglass.

Next, I used a razor to score just outside of the lines and then I removed the paper covering to exposed the plexiglass. Before applying any glue I made sure to rough up the surface of the plexiglass with some 100 grit sandpaper to give the glue something to hold on to.

The directions on the can of contact cement said to wait 15-20 minutes after applying the glue before sticking it together but that seemed WAY too long of a time (it dried pretty quick). I ended up applying a second coat of glue. I put two sheets of MDF on top and then two cinder blocks on top of that for some downward pressure.

It appears to have dried OK but after doing a bit more research I should have waited the 15 minutes. Apparently, the glue actually does dry and then bonds to the other surface when they are attached since you coat both surfaces. This info will come in handy when I laminate the outer shell.

The next step is to trim the plexiglass to the exact size of the MDF template using a 1/2" flush trimming bit. Because the bit has a 1/2" diameter ball bearing it is going to leave a 1/4" radius rounded corner which is exactly what I want. I am getting nervous though because I have about 8 hours invested in this piece and I really don't want to mess it up.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Front Panel: Return of the Template III

Last night I was able to cut the openings for the monitor and the speakers to final dimensions. I used a 3/4" pattern bit (for most of it) with the router and ran the ball bearing along a straightedge.

This was quite tricky to accomplish. There wasn't much room to clamp down the straight edge so I had to get creative. Check out this clamping nightmare:

Also, there were a total of 6 passes to make and right in the middle of cut #4 my router bit basically exploded. I am lucky that I didn't get hurt and also that the router did not cut into the panel and ruin it which could have easily happened. The ball bearing casing just gave out - the bit is a few years old but it was still cutting well. Check it out:

I had to flip everything upsidedown and use a flush cutting but to finish it up (the ball bearing is underneath the bit).

After I finished the edges, I cleaned up the corners using a Japanese hand saw and some sandpaper. Finally, I went over the interior edges of the entire panel with some sandpaper to make sure everything was exactly flat with no noticeable bumps in the corners or anything. This panel will be exactly what the black plexiglass looks like when it is cut so everything has to be as perfect as possible.

I'm making progress even though it is slow going. Tonight I'll be gluing the plexiglass to the front panel!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Front Panel: Return of the Template II

Not much progress today. I rough cut the openings for the monitor and the speakers. With the tools I have it took me a while to figure out how I'm going to cut each of these openings with 1/4" radius corners. I think I've worked it out - we shall see tomorrow when I try to clean this mess up.

More updates tomorrow.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Front Panel: Return of the Template

Here's where it starts to get fun (sort of - more on that in a bit)! I finally got my hands on a Griffin Powermate (which will control the volume of the jukebox once it is up and running) so I was able to take the measurement of the knob [1-11/16"] and make sure the openings for the marquee, monitor and speakers were laid out properly.

This part of the project is very very complicated. Not only do I have to cut out the openings but after I use the template to cut the 1/8" black plexiglass (which will be the front face of the jukebox), I have to remove additional material behind the openings in order for the monitor, marquee and speakers to fit. This is going to be especially tricky for the monitor because the mounting brackets are at a different height so I'll have to set the depth of my router to be as precise as possible.

The first section to cut out must be the curved marquee opening. In order to cut out the curves perfectly you need a pivot point for the circle cutting jig to turn on. If you cut out the monitor opening first there won't be any place for the pivot point!

In order to cut this opening accurately, I use my router, a 1/2" dado bit, a straight edge and my circle jig. It was quite complicated to set everything up and I had to make 4 passes with the dado bit removing about 1/8" at a time to cut through the 1/2" MDF.

I really like working out in the garage with the radio on or whatever but I was at the end of my rope the past two nights. I messed this up on my first try - I couldn't seem to control the router properly. I lost about 4 hours worth of work from Friday night that I had to make up today.

Here is what the panel looks like attached to shell. Pretty cool!

Tomorrow I'll cut the remaining openings which should be a bit easier since they are just two rectangles. Still, I have to be extra careful because I don't want to have to do all this over again!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Making It Pretty

Nothing major to report - last night I was able to clean up the edges that I had rough cut yesterday. I used my router, a straight edge and a pattern bit to make the edges straight. I used a Japanese hand saw to square up the corners. The whole process took less than an hour.

Now the shell is complete and I can start thinking about cutting the front panel and squeezing everything inside.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hollowing It Out

Now I'm getting somewhere!

Since the circle jig is finally complete I was able to remove most of the material in the jukebox leaving only the shell. I used the jig to cut out the arcs on the top of both the front and back panels. I also unscrewed the bottom panel and the interior spacers. It probably weighs less than a quarter of what it did before (it's light!). So far I just made rough cuts with the jigsaw - I will clean it up tonight and make it pretty.

Pointless picture overload:

I did have a concern about whether the shape would hold once all of the material was removed but it does not seem to be an issue. Still, I'd like to get that front panel on as soon as possible just in case...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Front Panel To-Do List

After a few weeks of inactivity on this project it's time to get back to work! I didn't finish what I set out to do in Week 2 since I ended up making the circle cutting jig instead of actually cutting out the front panel. I hope this week is a bit more productive. The steps for Week 3 are as follows:

Hollow Out Shell
- unscrew bottom panel and interior spacers
- using the circle jig, remove material on front and back
- clean up lines with router and pattern bit

Finalize Front Panel Layout
- screen measurement (11-15/16" wide by 8-15/16" tall)
- volume knob measurement (1-11/16" diameter)
- remember to leave room for mounting brackets behind panel
- remember to provide for 1/8" lip for speaker grill behind panel

Cut Out Front Panel
- use 1/4" cutting bit with plunge router base for starter holes
- remember to punch pilot holes first
- use flush bit and straight edge for clean-up

Cut Out Plexiglass Panel
- glue black plexiglass to front panel template
- using the front panel template panel as a guide, cut out black plexiglass to size with router
- add 45 degree bevel to inside edges with router

This is actually quite a lot of work even though it doesn't seem like it so I will be very happy if I can get this stuff done this week.