Driver Panel, Out of Control!

There were some questions about my painted inlay after my last control panel project, so I wanted to do a new one and photo document the steps. I didn’t really need another fan controller but I did need an organizer for a set of Wera Hex Drivers I had, so I mashed them together and came up with this.

I used a simple technique, and probably one that lots of people are already using. It takes advantage of the masking tape layer to fill in the engraved parts. You can see here how clean of a paint edge you get, even though the engraving was run at 270 line resolution.

So here is a run through of my process for those of you that are interested.

First cut your panel out of whatever material you are using without doing the engraving (I’m using PG Med Draft Board). Leave the glowforge app and cut job open.

Then pull out the panel, being careful not to move the rest of the board. I use magnets to help keep it from shifting, but mostly I’m just careful.

Once the panel is free, strip off the front masking and give the board a light sanding with 400 grit.

Apply two coats of paint, letting it completely dry between coats. I’m painting my panels with matte black Painters Touch for an anodized aluminum look, but it could be any color.

Lightly and evenly sand the paint down with 600 grit. I do this because I like the look but it also helps make sure the paint won’t bond to the masking tape. If you are doing a color or a gloss finish you can skip this step, just make sure it is completely dry before you re-mask the panel.

Wipe down the panel to get rid of the dust, then reapply a layer of masking tape.
I’m using a medium tac that I already had for transferring lettering but a high tac would probably be a better choice to keep the paint from bleeding under the tape.

Trim the tape. With a high tac you could probably just trim it to the edge, but with the medium tac I trim it wide and wrap the edge around to the back to keep it from lifting up.
If you wrap it around remember that it has to fit back into the sheet it came from so, miter the corners and make sure there is only one layer of tape thickness on any edge.

Put your painted and masked panel back into the sheet, again being carful not to move the sheet on the cutting bed. Set your cut to ignore and run just the engraving, It should register perfectly… as long as your sheet didn’t move and you didn’t move any parts in the program.

The best engraving for this technique is a shallow one. If you go too deep the spay paint will have a hard time getting into the groove. I have found the HD engrave works perfectly for Draft Board, but it is slow so I have been using the SD setting with the power turned down.

Once the engrave is done remove the panel, check to make sure the masking tape hasn’t lifted up anywhere. If it has lifted, press it back down firmly.

Spray paint the panel with several light coats of your color of choice, I’m using an off white so my panel has a more vintage look. If your engrave is too deep, your lines too thin, or you went too heavy on your paint coats, you may have a problem getting the engrave to fill. If this is the case you can blast some spray paint into a cup to give you some liquid paint and use a small brush to get into any areas that aren’t filling. Work fast and brush away any build up around the engraving, you don’t want the layer of paint on the masking tape and the layer of paint in the groove to form a strong bond as this will make it difficult to pull away the masking cleanly.

Let the paint dry completely but not fully cure, maybe 30 or 45 minutes, then remove the masking tape. You can use the gorilla tape method but I usually just flick the little pieces out with a new exact blade.

At this point it should look great! Congratulations. I find that there is usually still a fine edge of vaporized tape around the edges of my fill color so I press down a layer of blue painters tape and pull it back up a few times to get the edges crisper.

Thats it.
I hope this answered any questions about how I’m getting my panel lines clean and I look forward to seeing how other peoples techniques compare. Would be interested to see a back lit acrylic version if anyone has tried one.


Great write up, cheers

Dude, super bad ass…

I am totally enamored with both your process and the whole concept of combining a fantasy control board with a practical tool holder. That is pure genius!


Thanks, I was going to use cam locs, but it seemed more appropriate to use hex in this one😊 . Plus those things are 3 bucks a piece, gotta come up with something that looks like a an aerospace fastener without the price tag

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Cudos. Thanks for sharing.

Great step through.

Best write up I have seen. Your end result is fantastic. Thanks for sharing this important technique with us.

I 2nd all the people above me in saying great job and thanks for the write-up.

Well done, thank you for the detailed explanation!

Thanks for this; I’ve been banging my head against different types of paint/epoxy inlays without much luck in an attempt to get colored lines…

Looks very cool. Nice write up as well

Can’t wait to do one of these. I do like the practical tool holder as well.

Nice! I have a 5-color project in mind, and it’s awesome to see you use the method I had planned to start with. Thanks for the share!

This looks great, and thank for the full write-up! Nicely explained.

Brilliant again. Thank you for the superb step-by-step and willingness to share your skills!

Definitely a great write up and thanks for your contribution. I’m curious though - is the part about leaving the stock in place on the bed absolutely neccessary? I don’t have mine yet and haven’t even touched the software so I’m geniunely clueless/curious. Could the same end result be acchieved by just making a separate vector file for the text/graphics then aligning (registering?) it to the panel?

I"m only asking bc it seems like that process of letting the paint dry enough to apply medium tac tape to it without it peeling off the paint could be lengthy in high - humidity areas and that could tie up the machine for that duration.

Thanks again for the share! :slight_smile:

The short answer is YES.
But you could use any method to register it. When I have closed the cut job then opened it back up there has been different placement of the elements relative to the cutting bed so I leave the job open to be safe.
They haven’t nailed down the lid camera yet, it is generally off, sometimes as much as a quarter inch, and the scale isn’t all that accurate. It’s worse toward the edges of the cutting area. Sometimes it’s really close and sometimes it’s not, the higher definition camera on the laser will eventually be used for placement I hear but not accessible yet.

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Thanks so much for sharing your technique!

Ahh… I wasn’t aware of the part about the camera not being entirely accurate. Thanks much for the explanation. Your process makes perfect sense now.

Hopefully they get that dialed in soon…