I love using Auto Cad for drawings and thought I would give this layout mask idea of mine a try. First I had to lay out little circles at 0.1" centres to simulate a piece of Perfboard. Then I drew in all the component locations in block form. It was nearly like doing a layout for a printed circuit board. And Lord have I done a few of these in my time. Then I simply printed it out at a 1:1 scale. Note that I even laid it out for spacing of the Heat Sinks. then I just used a little contact cement and stuck it on top of a similar sized Perf Board.

The Mask looks great if I do say so myself. Note how the Heat Sinks fit right in for the spacing. I used IC Sockets for all the logic DIP IC's and you can see that I was off on a couple of the IC's. I think I forgot about the Filter Capacitors for the regulator as that is a little off the mark too. All the inputs and the outputs look a little messy as I just used wire loops for connectors. I just got a big batch of smaller screw terminals which should make my prototyping work look real professional in the future.

Making panel masks works great too. Same idea, do it at 1:1 with AutoCad, and print it out on glossy photo paper for real good quality looking front panels. After you stick it on to the plastic or metal and you drill a hole you can rip the paper. If you want real good clean holes print out a extra copy on plain paper and stick that on for a drill guide. Drill your holes and cut your slots. Then clean up any messy edges and stick the good glossy mask on top. Cut the holes out in the glossy Mask with an Exacto knife for a perfect edge.



Now that is a mighty fine looking couple of panel masks. After you do a couple, one gets a feel for spacing etc on the lettering. Like the IN and OUT on my panel on the left where the lettering is a little close to the switch bezel screw. It also takes some experience with using an AutoCAD program. But you tend to learn very quickly when you have a specific task in mind.

Have you ever had to put one of these square switches into a front panel. Well with my idea it is a snap to make a mask and file it out nice and sqaure. Of course they have Green Lee punches for this purpose but they are expensive and you will need a lot of different sizes if you are using surplus obtained switches. those little switches are expensive little beasts. You can see I was a little off on cutting the hole for the DOWN switch but you can hardly notice it.

Remember this stuff is on the PDF and you can really see the detail as you zoom around on it. You can see the smudge marks I made with the contact cement. Whew!

I like the idea that you can a little graphics to the front panels too. This is my logo for the Side Hill Gouger project and I think it gives the machine a great look. More on the idea of making a project look professional is that you don't throw it into the scrap bin that easy. If it has problems you can usually add to it to fix it up and make it work better. It makes you proud of your accompishments.

Just a little philosophy to end up this page is sometimes nice.

If you have any thoughts or comments use my handy contact form to say hi. I am not a blogger or big into this chatting business so a new contact is always welcome.

Revised 2013 by Larry Gentleman