Okay, so here's one I've been debating about making into a tutorial for a couple of months, but decided not to (mainly because it's too derivative of existing tutorials) But I figure that as a tip/trick, it's been a lifesaver on my last and current builds, so I might as well share it here.
Using electro etching/saltwater etching as a layout technique for shaping with hand tools
I'm assuming everyone should have a passing familiarity with salt water etching. There's tutorials on practically ever saber forum I've visited, as well as dozens on the internet/youtube. Now, they're mostly focused on using etching to make something look pretty. But instead, I'm talking about using it to lay out cutting, filing, and drilling marks on your workpiece. Now, the main catch is that to do this, you will need a vinyl cutter. you could try doing all this by hand, but I wouldn't recommend it.
So here goes: Last december, I started my Sith Rose build. I had a fair amount of complicated cuts to make, so I figured that instead of marking them onto the aluminium, I could just use my hackspace's vinyl cutter to make some stickers that I could apply to the aluminium, and then cut around them
It worked. kinda. the caveat was that my vice's jaws would grab the vinyl and stretch it, distorting the cut lines. I nearly screwed up every one of those cuts. That's when I had the lightbulb moment of realizing that for my next series of holes and cuts, I could just use the vinyl stickers as resists, then etch everything directly onto the aluminium. that way, there's a clear delineation between what to cut/drill/file away, and what to leave alone, ie: if it's etched, destroy it, if it's not, leave it alone. more importantly, it it's etched into the metal, as opposed to a line scribed on the surface, the mark will stay on, not matter how hard you manhandle it. once it's etched, it's not going away unless you remove it.
So I went into Inkscape and designed a vinyl sticker that described all the holes and cuts I wanted to make, had it cut, applied it to the aluminium tube I was working on, and etched the holes on. I did have to use a bit of nail varnish (another improvised tool with a million uses, btw) to seal up the gaps in the resist, but everything was good. after that, it was just a matter of cutting, drilling, and filing away anything that was etched.
One thing I learned is that it helps a lot to drill an undersize hole, and then sneak up on the line with some careful file work. you'll work up quite a sweat, but hey, if it's good enough for the guy from Clickspring, then it's good enough for your saber.
I made the three mini-blade holders in the same way. Make stickers, apply to aluminium bar stock, etch, shape.
in this case, I used my drill press to do most of the bulk of the material removal, then cut between the holes with my trusty coping saw, and filed everything to final shape before drilling more holes and final anodizing.
Same thing with my current build: Make stickers, apply stickers, etch, remove stickers, shape
So, there you go, I hope it helps.
...I imagine that now I've written all this up, someone will chime in and mention that this was worked out on some other forum years ago, and they've made every saber of theirs since the late 90's this way.
oh well, can't be the first to discover everything.
Anyway, if anyone is interested in how I go about designing the stickers vinyl stickers, let me know, and I'll try and get a write-up sorted as soon as I can.