General Updates

As you may know, I started Big Blue Saw many years ago to help scratch my own itch of building fighting robots. So I'm happy to make TWO exciting announcements today regarding season 2 of BattleBots, TV's top new fighting robot show.

1. Big Blue Saw is again sponsoring Aptyx Designs. Aptyx Designs built Bite Force, last year's BattleBots champion. They've got a big announcement on their Facebook page coming up soon, so follow them there for more details, plus great information about how they put together their robots using waterjet cut parts from Big Blue Saw.

2. In other news, I will be competing AGAINST Aptyx Designs as part of Chaos Corps at BattleBots. Chaos Corps is an all-star team of builders including myself and Big Blue Saw Customer Advocate Julie Simancek. Our robot, Bombshell, packs a wallop and looks beautiful as well.
Stop by our Facebook page, click the Like button. Special thanks to our sponsor, SendGrid, for making this all possible.




The online polls have closed. And the winner is: Aluminum 6061, 1/4 inch thick.  The incumbent sale champion was able to hold off a late surge by the upstart 1/8 inch thickness to stay in office for one more sale.

If you've been with us for a while,  you know how this works. Orders placed online during the sale days (Monday, April 11, and Tuesday, April 12, 2016) will automatically receive a quantity discount for waterjet cutting from 1/4 inch thick aluminum 6061.

Get your designs ready now by trying them out in the online quoting system. Keep watching the mailing list for reminders, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus or right here on our blog.


Over the years, we've had a number of customers and friends detail the wonderful things they've created with the help of Big Blue Saw on the Instructables website. Here are some of the most popular step-by-step Instructables involving Big Blue Saw:

And a trio of Instructables by teamtestbot, AKA the chuxxor:


When we last took a look at the lighting situation here at the Big Blue Saw secret underground base, I had created some translucent P95 acrylic lighting diffusers to cover up our bare CFL bulbs. They were nice, but I had a burning desire to make something even better. As I noted before, I really liked the way the light caught the edges of the lighting diffuser. So of course, I wanted more edges. The original design was a bit difficult to install because it was hard to keep the hooks straight with only one hole per hook in the diffuser, so there was room for improvement there as well.

Adding more edges meant expanding into the 3rd dimension. I had in my head Big Blue Saw themed diffusers like before, but stacked and wrapping completely around the bulb to keep it hidden from more angles. I realized that by using a  slot technique, I could assemble the flat laser cut diffusers into a multi layered shade.

The next step was to fire up Inkscape and get started. I experimented with several designs until I came up with one I liked. Below are the risers. They each contain 6 evenly spaced slots to hold the saw-shaped diffusers. Each has two holes on the top to hold the mounting hardware which will keep the whole fixture in place. The risers are about 9.6 inches in total length, with approximately 6.3 inches between the top and bottom saw pieces.

The next step was to design the 6 Big Blue Saw themed lighting diffusers. I used the same outer shape as on the previous diffuser project, but with a center hole in each one 6.7 inches in diameter to make room for the light bulb. These diffusers ranged from about 9.8 inches in diameter up to about 15.8 inches in diameter. The plan was to put the smallest on the bottom and the largest on the top, that way every piece would be visible since you're typically looking at this from underneath (thanks to Julie Simancek for pointing that out).


The bottom piece was different from the rest, though. It needed to be solid on the bottom to completely hide the bulb. It also needed to keep the risers in alignment. I created a set of slots on the bottom piece running in a circle to keep the risers in alignment while still obscuring the bulb. The slots are also decorative and show more of the edge effect from the lighting.

The whole design was then laser cut from 3 mm thick P95 acrylic.

Assembling the shade was a lot more work than I thought it would be. I actually cracked one of the risers on my first attempt. I eventually figured out that the saw diffuser pieces had to be supported while the vertical risers were slid into place, otherwise too much stress would be placed on the risers. So I slowly built up the shade from the bottom, supporting the diffusers with some miscellaneous parts from around the shop, and clipping the first riser in place to each diffuser.

Having run out of small waterjet cut parts, I switched to Keva planks for my scaffolding. Below is the finished scaffolding with the riser clipped into all 6 diffusers.

If I did this again, I would add slots to the saw pieces to help keep them in alignment while the structure was assembled. I'd also consider laser cutting some stands which could support the whole structure while I assembled the shade.

With the scaffolding and the first riser in place, I slid the risers in and squared up the whole assembly. The finished weight was just over 2.5 pounds

Now the piece was ready to install. I made a few clips from copper wire and ran them through the holes at the tops of the risers. This allowed me to attach the whole shade to the lighting fixture.

Do you have any ideas for improving this design? Let me know in the comments section.

We're not sign specialists, but we do make a good number of signs for various clients, including business owners, interior designers, architects, and builders. See our gallery of signs and stencils for just a taste of the many signs we've helped create over the years. When you're developing your own custom sign, it's important to think about how the sign will be mounted onto the wall, or wherever you need it to be.

You've got a lot of options for mounting a sign. This includes hanging with wire and edge-grip methods. A range of specialty hardware exists to help you out. Rowmark makes an entire line of hardware just for hanging various types of signs in various locations. You can also search the McMaster-Carr website for "panel standoffs".

The most straightforward way to mount a sign is to fasten it to a wall through mounting holes using screws or bolts. It's crucial to make sure that the hardware you're using can hold the weight of the sign.  You wouldn't want the sign falling on some unlucky person who happens to be standing by. For example, when using drywall anchors, check their load rating. If you're unsure about how to mount it securely, it's best to get a contractor or someone who knows what they're doing.

In general, we recommend including mounting holes when designing a sign. This is the easiest and most flexible way to allow a sign to be mounted to a wall. In the photos below, we've mounted an Inkscape logo sign to the wall through its mounting holes.



This holds the sign pretty well. The mounting holes and potentially the hardware used to mount the sign are still exposed, however.

A better approach might be to use decorative hardware to cover up the mounting holes. The thumb screws in the photo below have a fancy knurled edge, black coating, and a smooth machined face. They also have big enough heads to cover up the mounting holes. They are available from McMaster-Carr in various materials including black oxide coated steel, stainless steel and brass. The ones in this photo are part number 90200A547.


The photo also shows several aluminum spacers (McMaster-Carr 92510A767). These are used to offset the sign from the wall and give it a little more depth. This works well with a sign that has internal cutouts, as the shadows the holes cast make the design "pop". When using thinner material, this is an easy way to add some depth to the sign without adding weight or increasing the material costs or cutting time. Even with the 1/4 inch thick aluminum used here, the extra depth helps the appearance.

Photos of the sign mounted with decorative screws and standoffs are below.


Do you have a great sign you've created with Big Blue Saw? Let us know!