Making A Bathymetric Book By Hand And Searching For An Easier Way

We first saw this Bathymetric Book at our local hackerspace, Sector67, quite some time ago. [Caroline Rose] gave a seven minute presentation on the project as part of the monthly meeting which is open to the public. You can get a pretty good feel for the book that includes a to-scale depth representation of Crater Lake in the introductory post which she recently published. Each page makes up one topographical ring of the lake. Put them all together and you’ve got a really amazing way to explore the watery depths of the deepest lake in the United States.

The book you see above is hand made. She downloaded the depth data from the US Geological Survey, then put it through some processing in order to print one elevation level on each page. That’s when the work really began. She cut out every page by hand! The four-plus hour task was grueling. And just for a bit of added punishment she even made a second book. But at Tuesday night’s follow-up presentation she said never again.

[Caroline] developed a much faster and still accurate technique for producing the bound-book depth maps. She is using a laser cutter and a different binding technique. By using folded packets of paper, rather than individual pages, she is able to cut out three double-sheets at once — including holes for the binding thread and the outline of the finished pages themselves. This cuts the process down to about four minutes of laser cutter time.

For now you’ll have to settle for a time-lapse video of the hand-cutting process (embedded below). But we hope to post an update when she makes more information about the laser-cut version available.

15 thoughts on “Making A Bathymetric Book By Hand And Searching For An Easier Way

  1. Awesome project, and well suited for the site too. I would have guessed that the laser would cause the paper to catch fire or at least leave some nasty edges, but seemed to work fine. Flash heat wtf? :)

    1. Depends on how fast you cut and what power laser you’re using. With paper it’s easy to go very fast with a low power. You just dial it in to the point where you get just enough power to cut through, and go as fast as you can to keep the laser from hitting any particular point for too long.

    1. Wouldn’t the paper tear? She’s making a book with pages that aren’t glued together, so it seems a router might rip the delicate sheets. And it would be challenging to get the depth just right so that it goes exactly through one sheet per layer. Also, she gets the time with the laser cutter down to 4 minutes of laser time, which is probably much faster than one could get the router, and with no runout and higher precision, it’s probably a more accurate process.

        1. Having seen this in person I don’t think you could just mill it into the pages. They’re too thin for the mill to be able to accurately cut just one page per topographic line.

          Bob already mentioned that the laser is fast. The only other benefit of using a router that I can think of would be to mill mass-produced books (assembly line printing of the information and binding of the books before milling). Because this is not a mass-production item that’s not really a benefit.

          1. What? So you are saying that there are no CNC mills with the precision of paper thickness? That is just silly. Even more so considering lasers are significantly less precise.

          2. Having not actually tried it I’m just speculating. But the thickness of every page would have to be very precise, and the table would have to be quite level, in order to route out all of the layers without nicking the page below. But hey, I hope someone proves me wrong and does a demo of this exact thing!

      1. With some trial and error you might be able to do it with a computer-controller paper cutter, like one of the Silhouette machines (e.g. a Silhouette Cameo). With a large enough sheet of paper you can probably get something like 8 pages done at once. Disconnected areas would be a pain in the neck, probably, but I’m not sure how it would be much better for the laser cut version. (Advantage there is the cost of the paper cutting machine is a tiny fraction of a laser cutter).

  2. Build a die rule bender version of the DIWire. Die rule is very thin metal strip with a sharp edge. It’s bent into the shapes and the interior is filled with soft silicone. For cutting paper the die is completely filled. For cutting thicker materials the filling is less. The purpose of the filling is to eject the cut material from the die. Dies can be used without filling but then an active form of part ejection is needed such as compressed air jets or mechanical ejection pins.

    With CNC bent die rule and precise printing of the paper, it would be possible to make runs of hundreds or thousands of these books, depending on what sort of press is used for the cutting.

    1. Yeah my dad works in a printing and finishing company and they use a beautiful old Heidelberg Cylinder letterpress printer to do runs of thousands of cuts using basically the method you mention. You would need to swap the cutter for every page run though, so it could still end up being a fairly pricey book.

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