Can you make Money engraving knives with a Co2 Laser????? 100% YES and even your little K40 can get into this game.
For the most part people think knives are just a Fiber Laser Market, It's not, your Co2 Laser will do great and with a little set up you can run mass production of knives for Awards. I am going to show you how you can set up your Co2 Laser to run knives.
First your Machine, what can you engrave. Lets keep it on the safe side and stick to the trinity of knives..... Wood, Bone, and Horn.
All three of these engrave very nicely under a Co2 Laser, Horn does take fast light passes though, it will begin to char and act like burnt hair if you try to run it to hot or slow. and same with Bone but not as bad.
The Jig Set up
First let's make it easy on yourself, what we are going to do is create a Master Jig template. This will allow you to create jigs that are easy to set up with minimal alignment issues in the future.
you will need to create at least two Jig alignment peg hole on the work bed of your laser.
My laser bed has two holes drilled, one in the top left the other bottom right and another set for single set ups in the center on an 8 inch square.
The Idea here is that when I put my jig down on the bed I take two pins (simple Machine Screws) and drop them into the holes through the jig and into the table. I use this Master Jig as the base template for all my other Jigs. If you use a honeycomb bed that's fine, but for this to work the Honeycomb bed has to stay in the same place all the time, simply mark on the honey comb the hole that the alignment pegs will use.
again it does not matter if you have a big 100 watt machine or a little k40 the only difference will be the number of items you can engrave at one time. You could if you wanted to set up a single item jig.
1. Open Lightburn and create a file called Jig Master or Master Jig Template
2. Measure your working space on your bed--- Remember to leave room for laser head slop, Most Slop errors happen when your engraving is getting to close to the outer limits of your gantry so for example my bed is 12x20 My Jigs are 10x18 This leaves enough room for the scan head to pass through the laser area and reverse back the other direction.
3 As mentioned using your square drawing tool draw a square box the size of the work area you are setting up. So as in the case of my bed I chose 10x18, Then in the far left and far right draw two circles the size of the pins you decide to use as your alignment pegs make sure to keep a tight fit. Once you have drawn out your master with the holes select everything and right click then select "Lock shapes", Keep those shapes locked and never move them
4. Having a rough idea of where those pins are going to land on your work bed take some painters tape and put tape down on those two spots on your bed do not worry to much about measuring we are going to let the laser tell us where to drill because when it cuts the first jig it will burn the tape,
5. Using some 1/8 MDF cut out the base of your master jig and your index holes make sure the that the laser is cutting all the way though and marking the tape under the MDF I just added a couple of extra passes on the holes.
6. Now remove the Master base from the bed and on the tape you should see two perfectly indexed spots to drill.
Now that you have your Master Template and your Index set up you can cut your blank jigs to store for later use or cut as needed, for now cut two more jig bases so we can finish this jig
This next part can take some time but in the long run it will save you a lot of work.
1. open Lightburn and open your Master Jig Template, Click save as and name the file to what you like, I like to name the file the same as the brand and model of the knife, This lets me easily access the same Jig file without have to go through alignment issues every time
So we are going to walk through two ways If you have a lightburn camera set up and aligned you can take a picture of the knife and use lightburn to trace the image. Or you can take a picture of the knife with your phone and import it into Lightburn---- Use a good contrasting background, In this case I just used a sheet of paper. Also make sure to take the picture straight down, try not to angle your shot. This will help keep your dims of the knife as accurate as possible.
Adjust the image so it presents the highest contrast between the different elements of the knife then click on trace image..... Depending on how well the knife elements contrast with each other this can be a breeze or may take some fiddling and adjusting. The main goal is to get the outline of the knife, inside elements Like where the pegs are in the wood, bolsters and such can be a bit of a hassle but the more you do now the less worries you will have later on.
You may need to go into Node Edit and clean the image up some, remember you will need to click ungroup for the node edit to work.
Next using your calipers and the measuring tool scale the image to the same size as the knife... start off with the aspect ratio locked... measure the total length of the knife and match it in the software. Next find some easy to measure cross points and check those, If they are off then unlock your aspect and adjust. Remeasure .... it doesn't have to be totally perfect but get it as close as possible. Now you can choose to double check your work by taking some scrap and cutting the shape out, check the fit I like to leave just a touch of wiggle room because I layer out my jigs so if the knife has a belt clip I can cut a slot out for it, so like this one I will not cut out the black outline just the blue area for the belt clip- so the knife will lay flat, This same idea can be used if your knife has a heavy longer blade or other issue that makes it lay crooked
Once you have your fine tuning done go ahead and array out the cutouts, This first cutout I will use the base Template and just cut out for the clips, then I will cut two more sheets with just the black knife outline Don't forget to group and Lock these shapes into the Jig Template... This way you can use this setup to put your personalization in the layout without accidently moving any part of the index work you did.
Once you have your three layers cutout simply take your indexing peg or machine screw assemble your jig and lay it into the bed,