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Inlay shaping machine


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I have a buddy who carves slate and soapstone for a living. I watched how he makes the initial shapes of his flat pieces and was totally enthralled with how easy it was to do it with his "Lapcraft" Laser (copyright) blade assembly. Since then I have copied his "machine" and would like to share with you folks if you feel so inclined to build one. I finally splurged and bought a digital camera so I figure I better put it to some good use.

Here is the cutter/shaper fully assembled (right view).


Here is what you need to build it.


1. 115V - 1550 RPM AC electric motor

2. Lapcraft Laser Blade (4" X .012 X 1/2" hole size)

3. Bread pan

4. Motor mounting box

5. Angle bracket screws

6. Angle brackets

7. Plexi/plastic work platform

8. Water shield mounting screws

9. Motor mounting screws

10. Tin (coffee can) water shield

Left view


Bottom view


Laser blade assembly


Lapcraft "Laser" blade


Shaping abalone


OK, thats enough pictures, :D .

The laser blade has a fine coating of diamond grit around its outer edge to about 1/16" towards the center. You can cut AND shape abalone, MOP, marble, pretty much anything you want. Its perfectly safe to use. Just etch out the shape you want on your stock piece and then run it against the blade. Very easy to control. You need to fill the bread pan with water to keep the blade lubricated and eliminate the dust problem. The water shield keeps the spray down, just like a fender over a bicycle wheel, B) . You need to cut a slot in the plastic work surface for the blade to fit and the surface must be perpendicular to the blade.

Attaching the blade assembly to the motor shaft can be tricky. You have to set it up so everything is aligned right or your blade will wobble when spinning. I used an aluminum tube with same I.D. as shaft diameters and drilled/tapped holes for inserting set screws on either end. Make sure both shafts (on motor and blade assembly) have flat landings for your set screws.

I hope you folks will get something out of this. I found its MUCH easier to use than the old jeweller's saw. A lot more accurate and faster too! So far I haven't used it as much as I'd like but plan to "get busy" as soon as I find some time. I was toying with the idea of inserting a rheostat switch, (the type used for dining room lighting) so I can control the motor speed. I'm open for questions/suggestions that will make this work even better.

Edited by Southpa
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The only real expense is the laser blade, which cost me $40 Cdn, disregard the $45 price tag on the package in the picture, that was from one that my friend gave me, it contained a CD, :D . You can do a search for "Lapcraft", they have a website. I bought my blade at a local rockhound shop. I found the motor at a garage sale for 5 bucks. And thats about it, everything else was junk I had laying around the house. I guess there could limits to what you can carve, but a lot depends on how skillful you get with using the shaper. Most really intricate inlays are made from numerous pieces anyway.

I'm pretty sure my friend has a website with some of his work featured. As soon as I can contact him I'll post a link so you can see some examples of his work.

Edited by Southpa
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Nice home made rock saw. I used to have a store bought trim saw along with a slab saw and a four wheel polishing arbor. Unfortunately my ex wife took custody of them even though she had no interest or knowledge in using them. But that's another story. :D

A couple words of caution. While it is very safe for skin that thing will chew through fingernails before you know it. Trust me, I know. B) Also, while water is perfectly fine to lubricate most cutting jobs do not leave the blade sitting in the water or that $40 blade will be a rusty mess. You can get additives to prevent that but is probably not worth it unless you are using it in a production setting. Oil or kerosene is often used especially if you're cutting harder material like agate but it's a stinky mess to work with. Stick with the water but don't forget to dump the water when you're done.

Have fun with it, it's a fun tool. Get a few diamond bits for your dremel to do final shaping and you can do pretty much any shape you can think of. I just might have to add that to my list of tools to build, I miss mine.

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Just curious about the saftey issue - why is it safe for skin but not for finger nails? I'm probably not understanding it but if it can cut through stone, what would keep it from ripping right through a finger?

I'm also confused as to why it's safe to use kerosene as a lubricant when cutting harder materials? Doesn't it heat up and become a risk of catching on fire/exploding?

I'm not doubting that you know your facts - I'm just curious about the reasons behind them.

It looks like you did a great job creating that tool. Thanks for sharing the info.

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I suppose if you held your finger against the wheel long enough you could do some damage but I used to brush my finger against it all the time with no ouchies. Then again my blade was old, a new one might have a little bite to it. The cutting surface is smooth, the only teeth are the bits of diamond that have to work pretty hard to cut a soft elastic material like skin. I would think you would get a friction burn before it ground through your finger. The first few times my finger hit that blade I about jumped out of my skin but I still have all my digits. The only injury my family has had is when my mother brushed against the edge of a sanding disk on the arbor. She still has the scar.

Kero scares me too but lots of folks have used it. I used oil in my slab saw and when cutting hard rock like agate and running it through a little too fast there were some sparks flying. Kero takes a bit to get it to fire up and there is more than enough flow there to keep the heat down but I still wouldn't want to push my luck. Water is by far the most pleasant lube for anything you will be using for inlay.

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