Dhruv's Oak and Inlaid Aluminum Map of Manhattan

Posted by Goli Mohammadi on May 23, 2016 6:00:00 AM

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New media designer and ITP master’s student Dhruv Damle recently wrote in to share a beautiful project he made using one of the Othermills at ITP’s Soft Lab: his oak and aluminum abstract map of Manhattan.

Dhruv’s project was conceived for Ben Light’s class on subtractive fabrication, aptly named Subtraction. The final project prompt was to make an object that is meaningful, complete, and valuable in itself, using one of the subtractive machines. An international student from India who came to New York in 2015 to study at ITP, Dhruv fell in love with the Big Apple and wanted to make a memento.

With no previous CNC experience, Dhruv’s first foray into milling was with the Othermill, which he’s been using for about three months now. He says, “Honestly, it was much simpler than what I had anticipated. The best part is that you can use simple 2D SVG drawings and then just assign depths in Otherplan. I also love the BitBreaker Mode; I experimented with different species of wood (birch ply, mahogany, etc.) using the prescribed settings.”

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He chose the Othermill to create the map mainly because of its precision, noting, "The Othermill offers reliable milling outputs for intricate details on small-sized jobs." For this project, in comparison to the larger routers, Dhruv liked that the Othermill requires no sacrificial material and allowed him to experiment with tiny pieces (1"x0.5", for instance) of different kinds of wood, like this oak-in-walnut inlay.

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Dhruv's final map is made of nine oak tiles and 16 pieces of aluminum.  

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We asked what the experience of creating the map had taught him, and he shared:

The project was all about inlaying aluminum into oak. The thickness of the aluminum was an important parameter. I used 1/8"-thick aluminum. I couldn't use thin sheets because the pieces would distort while being inlaid, and I couldn't use thicker sheets because that would’ve taken a lot of time to cut.

The next most important factor was tolerance. The aluminum piece and the corresponding engraving in the oak have a difference of 0.006", which is a big enough gap for the piece to fit in when hammered with a mallet and tight enough so that the piece doesn't fall out. It's a nice friction fit.

Other considerations were the size of the spoilboard (I used 4”x5" oak tiles to make the 12”x15" map), the size of the bit (the 1/8”-inch flat end mill worked best), and making the vector drawing accordingly.

The results were so precise that I didn't have to spend much time in finishing the tiles. The inlaid aluminum flushed perfectly to form a leveled surface with the wood.

Dhruv even finished the map off with an elegant brass and aluminum inlaid compass. 

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Having really enjoyed working with the Othermill and particularly exploring metal inlays in wood, Dhruv wants to experiment with making capacitive touch interactive surfaces next and plans to get his own Othermill. He left us with these kinds words: "Thanks so much for such an amazing machine! In addition to offering an efficient way to make circuits, I think it dramatically fills the void between graphic design and traditional CNC." Thanks, Dhruv!

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For more details on Dhruv's map, check out his site, and to learn more about the inspiring work that Ben Light is doing with his students at ITP, read our profile 

Topics: Othermill Projects, Precision, Customers, Stories, Projects, Wood, Aluminum, Metal