CNC in Bellingham, WA or close

Hello everyone. In the next few weeks I will be traveling to Bellingham, WA for a job. I need to make a vacuum table to hold down paper flat while it’s being photographed. Probably out of 1" MDF for the base and Acrylic for the surface. Materials are not that important. Dimensions have to be 36" x 25". Would like to mill it there if possible and not have to travel with it from NY. I have it modeled in Fusion. Anyone in or close to Bellingham, WA that can help me mill this?. Checked out Bellingham’s Maker Space but they only have an X-Carve and can’t tell how big.
Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

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Check out BARN?

Thank you @gmack!. BARN looks awesome. Too far maybe. Will not have a car. About 3.5 Hrs via public transportation. Not bad for a visit though. Looks so interesting.

Possibly infeasible depending on what these pieces of paper are, but it’s likely easier to get something like Krylon tack spray to use instead?

@mgavette Thanks. It is possible. It is mostly art paper. Spray glue or any glue for that matter is not possible because the paper is artwork. I have to photograph around 3000 pieces of paper and want to streamline the process. Some artwork is covering the whole surface of the paper, all the way to the edges, which make using magnets also not possible. Also, some of the artwork is drawn on torn paper and the edges are a part of the art and irregular. This is why I think a vacuum table would be the best option. Some sort of table that uses static would also be cool but maybe dangerous to electronics around.

What about re-purposing an air hockey table? You could spray paint the surface a matte neutral gray and modify it so it sucks through the holes instead of blowing.

Just a thought. There are a couple on Craigslist in Seattle right now.

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Something like this?
You could make it there (without a CNC).

@MadHatter Thanks. I had thought of this but seems risky since I would have to buy one and figure it out once I have it. Size is also an issue.

@neilferreri Have been thinking of pegboard also. Need to buy a piece and test.

Report back if you do. Curious to see a photo you take too.

Hey, that’s my hometown! I know of one Shapeoko there, but it’s just a stock 3, and I’m not sure if it’s in working shape at the moment. Without a car, Seattle is going to be practically unreachable, so I’d concentrate on shorter-distance options.

Since you don’t need that much vacuum, you might be able to get by with an aluminum plate over some sort of air-tight enclosure (potentially just a large plastic storage container from Home Depot, even, with silicone caulk). Then hand-drill small holes semi-regularly into the aluminum and attach a shop vac underneath. It won’t look as nice as a CNCed vacuum table, but it’d likely be faster to build. Especially if you can’t find a CNC handy.

According to their website, Carlson Steel in Bellingham sells aluminum plate. I haven’t bought anything from them in ~20 years, but they were reasonably priced back then. I’m not sure if there’s any place better in town than Home Depot for buying MDF and acrylic, but I probably know someone who can find out if you need help.

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I think the only problem with pegboard is the holes are so large that there is a possibility of dimpling pieces of paper if they are thin and/or you apply too much vacuum. Maybe if pegboard ends up being your go-to, put a layer of aluminum window screen over the top to mitigate any dimpling.

Depending on the power of the vac, raw MDF will allow air to pass right through it.

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Thank you all!!

@ScottLaird Although aluminum would make a beautiful vacuum table, I think it would be overkill for what I need. If you still live there would love to share a beer and exchange broken endmill stories!.

@MadHatter Pegboard would be the easiest solution but would require variable speed vacuum to work properly. Depending on other things I might try, pegboard might be a solution I use.

@neilferreri A friend suggested MDF yesterday afternoon. This seems like a great idea and what I will try next. The thinnest MDF my local Home Depot carries is 1/2 in. Might be too thick for the size table I need. I am worried about staining the vacuum cleaner motor too much. Maybe milling a sliding door to let more or less air trough to adjust pressure.

I’ve milled a much smaller vacuum table to test and play around in. Will add the surface this weekend.

There was a design posted here: which may be inspirational.

Also, there was a recent one posted to the unofficial Facebook group which was quite ingenious — used Airsoft projectiles to plug holes which weren’t needed.

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I will not tell you how to do it but since you are dealing with paper, you may have over 90% coverage with ≤10% air holes, the smaller the hole size the better or you may crumple/dimple your paper if it is the least flimsy. A thicker paper or cardboard would not have as much of an issue. If you use a frame to hold the paper taunt, I’m sure it will help too. Something like this variable speed control could also help you modulate the vacuum pressure.

I have used pegboard over a box with a frame for plastics (vacuforming) with success but it is not the best.

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