Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Superior Wooden Bathymetry

Paul Meysembourg, a GIS lab manager at the University of Minnesota Duluth's Natural Resources Research Institute and one of my blog readers was inspired by the Wooden Bathymetry blog post to take his scroll saw and cut out Lake Superior.
He used GIS software to give it a high level of accuracy. In the words of the artist:
Being a GIS guy (about 24 years now, I was inspired to try and cut a much more accurate bathymetry map of Lake Superior since I live real close to it (Duluth, MN).   The ones I've seen are are very artistically done but "laughable" with regards to accuracy. Here's a picture of my just completed map. I massaged the DEM in ArcGIS and brought the individual layers into Photoshop to print them at actual cutting size.
Here's a colorized version.

More from the author
I jokingly will call this "My Old School, Green, Navigation Chart"  By the way, the actual dimensions are about 25w by 13h (the biggest I could get in my scroll saw).  Also, I stack cut them, so I have 2 more - I am going to donate one of them to my workplace to hang in the lobby and the other one I may try and sell, but I am not doing this for money.   Some details:  the frame is made from driftwood my son and I picked up last weekend from the shore in Superior, WI (there's a metric ton of it out there now after the big flood we had a few years ago).  There were about 40 island pieces (some really tiny ones) to cut and glue on for each one and I used seven layers of Birch plywood.  I left the guide paper on the top one before gluing it up but I actually prefer the look of the plain wood.
Last month (six months later) he gave me another update:
After that first attempt, even though I said I wasn't going to do another of Lake Superior,  I've completed another.  This time I stack cut 4 sheets at a time.  I also experimented with "pre-tinting" the whole sheets before cutting so the islands cut-out sections would be the same color.  I used water-based stain in increasingly darker shades.  I also upped the detail significantly since my scroll saw technique was much improved.  The problem with the increased detail was that now I had to keep track of about 90 island pieces (times 4) and then glue these pieces back into the correct location!  Some of these teeny pieces can easily get "vacuumed away" as I tried to keep the saw dust somewhat orderly.  It turns out this fine level of detail is making these more of art project instead of a woodworking project, in my opinion and I've never considered myself to be an artist.

Anyway, after all that work, they turned out rather nice.  I have since sold one that was hanging in a small local art gallery. I sold one on Etsy and I have one hanging in my family room and the remaining ones will probably be gifts.

I am planning on doing more, in the same fashion, but I just ordered a larger, hobbyist CNC router device and I am going to see if I can obtain the same detail level using fine router bits in solid slabs of wood.