OK, so I thought I would take a few minutes and describe how I went about designing and assembling the final piece. Just a note up front. I made a ton of mistakes and essentially cut everything twice so I would recommend to think about things before as you can waste alot of material.
Materials. I ended up using PG Plexi and the top layer was the maple plywood that came free with the GF. I ended up buying a whole sheet of 1/4" plexi before I decided to use the PG. I also bought a 1/4" Maple plywood and mdf from Menards. I think they call it hardboard instead of mdf but essentially its like the stuff the GF sends. I also bought vinyl decal transfer tape. I’m pretty familiar with this stuff as I used to have a decal cutter. I was going to use it as a protective cover like GF uses. I ultimately didnt use it on this project but I did use it on another one and it worked great.
I started with a map that I requested over a year ago. I wish I remember where I contacted to get it but it was a government office as there were no published surveys of this lake. There are a few ways to take satalite photos and convert them to this but I was at a loss. So I opened up Illustrator and traced out each line using layers so that I could turn them on and off for the different cut lines. This is where I should have spent more time. There were times where I forgot to draw in the right layer and should have just redone it right because I wasted alot of time. If your going to use this route I highly recommend you get a tablet to use instead of a mouse. Once you get a hang of it it is pretty easy. I ended up tracing the roads on the provided map only to realize after a test print that the roads are way off of reality.
20170706102607421.pdf (765.0 KB)
I tried to upload a layer example but it says it is too big. I originally was going to cut just the section needed for the relief and this is were I messed up. I didnt account for the fact that as the layers were more towards the top new areas opened up so I ended up cutting out too much. I tried to do this to fit them all on the product that I got from GF. I ended up cutting out full pieces for each layer as you can see in my original post.
Once I had each of these I took some acrylic paint and diluted it with water. Tested a few areas and decided that I wanted to let it sit for about 10 seconds or so and then wipe it away. I left the wood grain and kept the piece light. I was originally playing around in my mind about painting each layer a differing shade of blue or buying blue plexi and cutting each plexi payer out making the combined areas of blue plexi darker. This would have been awesome but a full sheet of blue plexi is special order in my normal store and super expensive. I said that I would print a test layer of plexi and if it looked good I would do the whole thing. It turned out way better than I thought and would keep the inside from getting dusty.
Then I thought about etching the fish on it. Etching the backside was the way to go but once it was all together I would have changed my placement. If it is not at least 2 layers deep in the lake its really hard to see the fish since the layers show wood grain.
Assembly I used wood glue spread out and tried to keep away from the lake holes as I figured it would be hard to clean out. Glue still got in there and it was hard to clean out. I used Gorilla glue wood glue. I clamped it for about 30 minutes and it was good to go. Now the plexi was another story. Wood glue doesnt dry necessarily clear and in a few spots it messed up the blue paint. Only I could probably pick them out however if I glued the plexi in with that it probably would have looked bad. I ended up using super glue but only on the small pieces. For some reason the plexi fit the wood really tight in areas so the main piece I just left friction fit. That way also maybe I can add some more fish or take it out in the future.
Also not in the pics is the backside. I ended up trying the trace feature. My dumbass used a sharpie which probably would not have been that bad except after I traced it I wanted to use some of the transfer sheet to protect the rest of the wood. I never moved the piece but once you open the door again your image moves. It ended up tracing about 1/2" off and I couldnt sand off the sharpie all the way. Oh Well.
One more somewhat of a problem had to do with my designing. The layers did not line up exactly and each outline cut did not either and this made all of the outside layers look a bit uneven. I wanted to run it through my table saw but my wife insisted the burnt edges looked fantastic and gave it charm. I was unsure if my parents would just place it on a mantle or hang it on the wall so I didnt frame it or make a stand. I may do that later.
That pretty much wraps it up. I hope this helped anyone thinking of doing it. Overall it took a good 3 days and this was alot of failure, trying to learn a map program, whatching videos, reading blogs, etc. If I did it again it would probably take me a day.