Astrolabes for fun and profit

By: Rob Adams on February 20, 2013

I’ve been sitting on this post for months because I wanted to do it justice. Pete came in and made an awesome Astrolabe. It was a Christmas present for his granddaughter! Pete has explained its workings to me a few times and I think I’m finally getting it. It is an ancient device used for telling time, as well as times for sunrise and sunset.

He’s been working on the drawings for quite a while now and we first etched and cut them out of heavy paper.

A piece of heavy paper etched on the laser cutter. Etching shows the pieces of an astrolabe.

The first etch. Fell off the side.

As you can see we had a boo boo. The second piece didn’t quite fit on the paper. Then Pete etched the file on some Ivory colored acrylic (plexiglass). You have to look closely to see the etchings.

Laser engraved astrolabe on acrylic.

Etch on acrylic.

Here is a picture of all the parts of the astrolabe. The two armatures are used as pointers.

Laser cut acrylic, all the parts to an astrolabe.

A shot of the astrolabe with all the requisite parts.

One goes on the back of the assembly and is used to convert dates from Gregorian to the Zodiac calendar. The other armature goes on the front and is used to read the time. Here is a picture of the entire assembly.

A picture of a completed astrolabe after engraving and coloring the etchings.

The completed astrolabe.

This piece is one of my favorites to show off to people that are new to the lab. The astrolabe demonstrates both the etching and cutting capabilities of the laser cutter. Pete has since made several different astrolabes. He’s experimented with several different ways of coloring the etching so it stands out. Right now he’s using shoe polish with good results. We as well as other members have tried several other options, like acrylic paint, coloring in with a Sharpie, and other options I can’t remember right now. Really all the options look good, but some have proven to be easier than others.