M.C. Escher Lizard Counter Top

  • @Nicholas and I have been discussing a project based on one of the designs by Etcher for a while and we have looked into a few different possible approaches to do it. Basically we want to be able to cut a sheet of vinyle in the shape of the lizard, and cover a whole counter top with them. There is an instructable for a small wooden table using this pattern, which also included a dxf file, which is very close to what we want to do.

    We were thinking of cutting the shape out of a hard material, then use the pattern to cut the vinyle by hand. My worry is that it may take a very long time and the pieces when cut by hand may not fit perfectly together. I think I finally have found a potential way to cut those shapes. I am thinking of making a tool that will punch the lizard shape out of a sheet of material in one action-- much like how a whole puncher works. I am not sure if this has a name, if it does let me know!

    I started with the lizard. This one is cut out of 10 ga mild steel.

    I did a few more to check how well they fit together, they still need a little bit of polishing on a few edges, otherwise they are almost perfect

    For this I set the cut profile to inset so that I keep the outside of this shape.

    You can see the two pieces fit together almost perfectly, but it is going to need a bit of help. The piece that says inset on it is scrap, but I put it there for reference. You can see how much thiner it is, that is because the Keft was placed inside the shape. Otherwise the two lizards are cut using the same dxf file.

    I haven’t really planned the rest of this tool yet, so let me know if you have ideas on how to proceed from here!

    @Nicholas can you post the dimensions of the counter top and any other information I may have missed here. I am actually pretty excited about this, maybe we can work on it this weekend :)

  • The name your looking for is punch and die😉 I didn’t realize how rude that sounded until I typed it out! How big are the lizards?

  • @Bishop Cool! I knew it should have a name. The lizards are around 5 inches. The square plate is 8"x8".

  • I have a 12 ton shop press that would be large enough if you guys wanted to borrow it. Shouldn’t take too much pressure to punch through vinyl I wouldn’t think? I would think you would want a sharp edge to cut the vinyl so it doesn’t stretch. If you could accurately grind a chamfer into the edge of the punch you could get a pretty sharp edge.

    If you could get the punch cut on a CNC machine you could use a ball nose endmill to cut just inside the pattern outline to create the sharp edge? You would have to remove the material inside the edge as well to create some clearance too I guess. My little mill has a 4" limit on the y axis.

  • @Bishop 12 ton! I think that might be slightly overkill. I was thinking something that could be operated by hand, kind of similar to a bottle crusher, but it only needs to move the plate a few centimetres.

    CNC machine you could use a ball nose endmill to cut just inside the pattern

    That is actually a really good idea. Do you think the mild steel would be hard enough to last if we make the sharpe edges like that? Do you think we can do that manually on a mill? I am worried with CNC it will be too hard to line up the shape with the existing design, but may be it is possible.

    I can bring the pieces I have on Thursday so you can take a look at them.

  • I was thinking about cutting the full punch part out on the Cnc mill. Wouldnt be a difficult job especially if the G code was already good to go.

  • Wow thanks @arasbm looks good. I did a whole bunch of searching when I started and never found that instructable. I like the punch idea. If you quench the mild steed it should be able to hold a pretty good edge. If it works well I can order up some O-1 or 440 C and make a stronger one. A simple hand press should be easy to make and faster than a shop press oak veneer should not stretch to much with pressing depending on the bottom surface. Probably one of those cheap plastic cutting boards. (I use those for everything). 4 inches was a little small when I was planning to cut them by hand but sot so bad with a punch.

  • Linux

    Neat project. It would be interesting to do something with the metal lizards.

    I’ve been hoping to use escher lizard paving stones in a patio I’ve been dreaming of …
    escher stones

    I want to make the mould myself though so it has not gone very far!

  • Made a lot of progress in the last two years. Cut the lizards on the laser cutter. There is photos on one of the laser cutter threads. The veneer posed a lot of challenges on the laser as it warps and catches the head of the laser. Broke a lot of lizards perfecting a technique. I ended up duct taping the veneer sheet to a spoil board. If anyone wants to cut veneer I can post more details.


    I glued and nailed a strip of oak to the outside edge of the counter top. I then sanded the counter top with 60 grit to level and add tooth for the glue. I cleaned the whole thing with methyl hydrate then glued the lizards on with contact cement. I overlapped the lizards over the edge. I had to trim a lot of the lizards to fit because of the inconsistent nature of the material.

    0_1477271849211_Second step.jpg
    0_1477271995281_Third step close up.jpg

    The edges were rounded with a trim router and inner edges were routed flat. I sanded the surface smooth with 60 grit. I covered the whole surface with wood filler. Then sanded from 80 grit progressively to 320 grit. I then did one coat of pre-conditioner and three coats of stain. The counter was then masked off and coated with a two part bar top epoxy.

    0_1477272114405_final close up.jpg

    A huge thank you to @arasbm and all the other people who have helped along the way.

  • Great job. Would the laser cutter work on plastic laminate?

  • This one is definitely going to win the award for longest makerspace project build :). Come to think of it, I don’t think we even had our building when we started this project. Kudos for sticking with it and finishing it. It looks great!

  • Would the laser cutter work on plastic laminate?

    @bct I would not risk it, unless I was 100% sure what the composition is. But my guess would be that it is not safe.

  • Its made from paper and resin. Probably toxic to cut.

  • Looks amazing Nicholas, I remember talking to you about this idea back in the Red Beard coffee shop days. You always did follow through on things, I always expected to see this completed one day.

  • @Bishop It never gets done fast but it gets done. @Chris I am working on a paver mold. Was reading back through this thread and realized you had mentioned it. Great minds think alike. Will try to keep people posted as that progresses hope it takes less than two years. @arasbm I think I began brainstorming this project in the very early days of meeting at the generator. Come to think of it I don’t think it was called the Generator yet.

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