Bathymetric Map Uses Edge Lighting To Stunning Effect

A bathymetric map is one concerning the floor or bottom of a body of water. It’s the wet equivalent of a topographical map. Combine this with humanity’s inherent taste in seaside real estate, and they can be quite attractive when done correctly. We’d say this effort from [pubultrastar] hits the mark.

Created as a commission piece, the subject of the map is Tichigan Lake in Wisconsin, USA. Made on a Glowforge laser cutter, the design is built of layers of lasercut wood stacked up to represent the natural contours of the bottom of the lake. There’s also a layer of acrylic included, to which special standoffs are fitted. These standoffs hide blue LEDs inside, which allow the acrylic to be edge lit without the LEDs themselves being visible.

The final effect is impressive, with the blue water contrasting artfully with the laser-engraved wood front panel when the lights are turned on. It’s an excellent conversation piece, particularly for those with a waterfaring bent. It’s not the first bathymetric map we’ve featured, either, with this book serving as a particularly stunning example.

8 thoughts on “Bathymetric Map Uses Edge Lighting To Stunning Effect

  1. Very impressive! It would be very cool to have something like that for NH’s Lake Winnipesaukee, which is local to me. Not sure I could afford it, though.

    One ever so slight suggestion to the maker: It might look just a bit more professional if you had shortened the wiring and made it line up neatly in the compartment. However, that’s only a suggestion. It doesn’t take anything away from the awesomeness of the build!

    1. But with Winni being so much smaller you’d want to show all the islands as well as the more notable hazards (Witches, Graveyard, etc). That level if detail would mean a lot of free, non-attached pieces to be placed accurately if done by the above method. You could print a good chart but I don’t know how to get depth representative lighting then.

      Sounds like a good challenge though. I could have my own booth at an arts’n’crafts show! :)

      1. Giving a bit of thought … I see how it might be done. Either print or mill the “base”. It includes the shoreline and surrounding land as well as the islands and rocks and sand bars and underwater contours. Embed LEDs at various vertical depths, around the contour, to light each contour separately. Then mill each acrylic layer of “water” to fit around the base at it’s assigned depth. Stack the layers to fill the lake.

        You could even print layers above the waterline so as to produce both bathymetric and topographical “map”. Seems like I’m “going to need a bigger boat, err, printer”.

          1. Long time vacationer I guess. My parents had a place in Meredith back when mere mortals could afford such things. Father was a school teacher so summers were spent on Winni. Later on I had a place in Alton Bay on the water, until the wife passed. So I’m quite familiar with the lake and area.

            I’m now wondering if much the same effect could be had by using blue translucent film and stacking them, cut appropriately, to yeild depth contours and lighting ? Then all that would be needed is backlighting of the “lake”.

          2. @MacAttack: I’m sorry for your loss.

            I don’t spend any time on the lake myself, but do enjoy getting out and taking pictures of the scenery around here. Belknap Mountain is one of my favorite places for that sort of thing, especially since I can drive most of the way up (I’m nowhere near fit for hiking these days).

            I like your idea of using the film, and think that doing so would probably allow you to make a more detailed view of the various strata in the lake. Not sure if the State maps are as detailed as that, though! (I think they show 10′ depth changes)

  2. That really is stunning. Perhaps a slightly darker shade of blue so the contours are more shadowed when illuminated. Or slightly deeper layers.
    Of course it might look alot better in person on that score. Either way a lovely piece. Can just imagine a wall of these sort of things – Perhaps all the lakes along one river with some compressing and straightening of the less interesting river bits being an awesome light effect – perhaps down the wall on a Narrowboat?

  3. If it can be either back lit by ambient or LEDs, you could make this like the photographs that are CNCed into white plexiglass. Mill out the back side. A sheet of something blue on the front and the plexiglass depth controls the light level coming through to represent the water depth. Enhanced with Blue LEDs lighting the back like an evenly lighted light-table.

    There’s also no need to limit the display to the contour lines – that’s a 2-d printing limitation: the milling depth can be graduated between the lines to represent the depth changing between the lines. Thin black contour lines can be placed on the flat front with old-school drafting tape.

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