Personal Water Jet Cutter
by Walt Beardsley August 30, 2019
I’m a retired engineer and a cake decorator. I wanted the ability to cut fondant and other cake decorations with a machine using computer control. An Eleksmaker laser engraver kit was purchased and a solenoid valve installed in place of the laser. Water is fed to a nozzle by the valve and the water from the nozzle cuts the fondant. The advantage over cookie cutters is the ability to scale size up or down instead of having several different sizes of cookie cutters. The advantage over other types of fondant cutting machines is the ability to cut better detail without “dragging” the sticky fondant. See below for more details.
For several years I wanted to cut cake fondant using a computer-controlled machine. Several options were tried including air, a hot knife and water. Water was the only option that succeeded. First attempts were done by hand, using a 3D printer nozzle strapped to a stick resting on wooden guides. Successful cuts were made, but the precision was dependent on the skill of the person maneuvering the stick. But the concept was proved. Still, I had no idea how to automate this process.
Enter the Kitsap CREATE organization. With their encouragement, I purchased a laser engraver and learned the software. The laser was replaced with a 24-volt solenoid valve and water was fed to a 3D printer nozzle. A frame was constructed to hold the engraving machine and store a tub underneath to collect the water. An electric pressure washer was purchased from Craigslist and derated from 1750 psi to 450 by removing the pressure regulator spring.
During early test cuts I quickly learned that fondant sprayed with water becomes gooey fairly quickly. This was overcome by attaching wax paper to the top surface of the fondant, allowing the water jet to cut the paper and the fondant at the same time while protecting the fondant from overspray.
The very first cake decoration cut from fondant was a PAW Patrol logo for my granddaughter’s birthday cake. It’s not perfect, but I was pretty happy.
Searching for other
materials, I came across modeling chocolate. Think about a Tootsie Roll®. It’s hard at room temperature, but soft when warmed. Several items were successfully cut from modeling chocolate, including the Disney castle and a couple of round gears. The castle is about 4 1/2 inches wide by 5 inches tall and was cut in under three minutes.
Desiring a more confined stream of water, the 3D printer nozzle was replaced with a hypodermic needle. The needle seems to generate laminar flow, the water jet is more contained and splatter is reduced (but not totally eliminated).
Continuing my search for other suitable materials, I have now
successfully cut chilled sugar cookie dough, crescent roll dough and pottery clay.
Elapsed time from assembling the laser engraver kit to making my first cut was less than one month. The PAW Patrol logo was made in April, 2019 and other items were cut between April and August, 2019.
I’m curious to see what the future holds for this machine. Cutting the cookies confirmed that mass production of cookies or cake decorations is not realistic. Waste is too high and the process is much slower than using cookie cutters. However, if an item is needed with details that would stick inside a cookie cutter or if using a hobby knife would not allow the desired detail, the personal water jet cutter is a superior choice.