Sculpt-O-Sound wooden front panel howto

Some time ago I promised @AriaSalvatrice and others that I would explain a bit how I make the wooden front panels for my modules. As I was making another module I therefor took a few extra pictures to illustrate the process.

I’ve been drawing circuits in EasyEda for a while now and when it comes to designing a module I often split the circuit in 2 parts. One part will contain the main circuitry and the other will contain all inputs, outputs, switches and pots. The latter PCB is the one that defines how the front panel will look like. But when dealing with simple circuits I combine the main circuitry and the IO on one PCB. Take e.g. this pcb of a trigger-to-gate-converter. The circuitry is on the back, the IO on the front.

The silk screen lines out the components. In EasyEda I then export the silkscreen as a SVG file and import that in inkscape. I then draw in the holes for the potentiometer shafts, switches and (in my case) 3.5 mini jack connectors. As you can see in the picture for the potentiometers (the squares) the position of the shaft is not drawn. As I do not have the exact positions of the components, I then position their holes by eye. For the mini jack connectors there is no problem, as the silkscreen shows the position where the holes need to go.

I then add some text:


Next I use my K40 laser to raster and cut a trial panel.

To not waste any wood I use cardboard to make trial panels. Often I use the packaging of a choclate bar or some other food stuff for this.

I then test whether the holes are in the right place by trying to fit the panel on the pcb with the potentiometers and IO-connectors.

If anything is not lined up I make changes in inkscape and make another cardboard version. I do this until everything fits. Here you see 2 examples of the cardboard samples (between the PCB and the final wooden panel). These are 2 generations of several trials and as you can see on the left one some of the holes were lower than on the right cardboard panel. To speed things up I do not run the engraving on every trial panel.

This iterative process can be a bit tedious and I would like to know whether anyone using EasyEda knows an easier way to achieve this.

Finally I cut the panel from 3.5 mm wood.

The wood contains glue that burns or evaporates when the laser is engraving or cutting it. With some alcohol I wipe this off.

In this case the front panel is fastened to the PCB via the nuts of the potentiometers.