| HamPlaques: Router Carved CallSign & Shack Plaques
The select hardwoods that we use for HamPlaques come in random widths and lengths 7/8's to 1 inch thick and are usually rough planed. The first step in the process is to cut the blanks to an approximate size 1 to 2 inches wider and 3 inches longer than the target size for the Ham Plaque. The additional width and length is necessary to allow us to clamp the blank down for carving.
Then, we run the blanks through a thickness planer to remove any cuts, gouges, etc. and to eliminate any cupping of the board. Following the planing, the blank is drum sanded, taking it to it's final thickness. That thickness varies from blank to blank, because each piece of wood is different and each blank is carefully planed and sanded enough to remove damage, flaws and inconsistencies in the wood. Finished thickness varies and usually runs between 5/8 and 3/4 of an inch.
When planing and drum sanding are complete, the blank is ready to be carved. Ham Plaques are designed using computer graphics software specifically written for carving and engraving. Vector graphics output from the design program is processed through interface software that converts it to G-Code, the code that runs the CNC Router for the carving. CNC is an acronym for Computer Numeric Control. G-Code is very simply, a text file of X/Y/Z coordinates fed to the router contoller, telling it how far to move up & down, left & right and backwards & forward from the starting point 0/0/0 as it carves and/or engraves depending on what kind of bit is inserted in the router.
A number of different router bits are required to create HamPlaques. All HamPlaques use a 90 degree 1/2 inch v-groove bit for the edge chamfer and a 1/4 end mill bit for cutting out the plaque. The simplest plaques, the Call Sign V-Carve and the V-Carve Shack Plaque, use a 90 degree 1/2 inch v-groove bit for carving. The Call Sign Pocket Ham Plaques, additionally, use the end mill bit for carving out the pocket and a 60 degree v-groove bit for outlining the outside edge of the letters and the inside edge of the pocket and a 30 degree engraving bit to engrave the pattern in the background.
Following the carving/engraving, HamPlaques are trimmed, surface hand sanded and edge sanded. Then, the keyhole slot for hanging the plaque is cut using a router with a keyhole bit and router table.
HamPlaques are finished by hand rubbing them with a tung oil finish and dried overnight. Then, a second, a third and sometimes a fourth coat of tung oil finish is applied, each one day apart. After drying, HamPlaques are buffed and packed for shipping. The process of cutting the blanks, planing, drum sanding, layout design, CNC routing, hand and edge sanding and finishing spans 4 to 5 days.
Laser Engraved Products: QSL Chests, License Frames & Plaques
The License Frames and QSL Storage Boxes are made by some friends of ours in Colorado, using select Red Alder and finished with several coats of laquer. We engrave them using a 60-watt Epilog Mini-24 laser engraver.
The Vintage Scrollwork and all of the Ham Club Plaques are 100% laser engraved, using Red Alder wood plaques that are also made by the folks that make the License Frames and QSL Chests for us.