It’s Life Jim, But Not as We Know It

Yesterday got a bit busier than I was hoping, so last night I worked on the computer for a while to fine-tune a couple of vector designs ready for the CNC machine.

The first is a traditional Japanese dragon design, which needed some cleaning up (the benefit of having a reasonable understanding of Adobe Illustrator)


So this morning, I sent the files across to the PC laptop I am using to drive the CNC Shark Pro to get it working.  I had it set to pretty light passes – perhaps a bit slow, but off it went.

And while I was ‘woodworking’, I also managed to do the dishes, cook two cakes with my daughter for her Nana’s birthday, shop for dinner, cook dinner (slow cooker), force feed the cat (long story), and respond to some comments on the blog.  And all the while, the constant buzz of a noisy little router buzzing in the background.

It’s woodworking Jim, but not as we know it.

CNC machining is quite incredible, and opens up all sorts of possibilities.  Not only in what I have been playing with so far in carving and patterns (wooden signs seems to attract a lot of buyers), but also in part fabrication, and repeatability.  A CNC can easily become a cottage industry (as many have discovered).

If I had one of my own, I’d potentially see how far I could head down that track myself, but not to the detriment of my actual woodworking.  This is fun, and the results are mindblowing, but it isn’t an end unto itself for me.  I would see it being an incredible tool to supplement the others in the workshop without question.  Some things can be done easier on a CNC machine, some thing can be done on the CNC that I have no experience in at all, yet it allows me the ability to incorporate them into my projects anyway.

I had the machine running much of the day on a few projects – swear I can still hear the router!

The first came out pretty well – the resulting dragon.

Photo 25-08-13 20 08 36Photo’s a bit blurry, but you can see it came out pretty well.  The material is a laminate of a masonite-like material on MDF.  Makes the designs pop!

My initial reason for using it was the flatness – carving intricate designs needs a very flat surface, otherwise detail can easily be lost.

There were some replication errors – I don’t know enough about CNC to know if the machine deserves the blame, the controlling software, or the V Carve program.  Not too big a deal, but I wouldn’t want to see too many errors creep in if I was looking at selling items.

Onto the second program, and this one was a serious workout.  The Mayan calendar.  Took about 4 hours.

Photo 25-08-13 20 08 55Not the best material for such an intricate design, nor the best cutter.  It came out pretty well considering, but the combination of cutter and machine, and it pushed it a little beyond its limit.  Probably needed to be done in stages, as it developed a bit of a calibration issue as time went on.  There are a number of lines missing, as the CNC shark seemed to forget exactly how low zero was on the Z axis.

It really needed a method to self-recalibrate during the run.  I suspect that a more recent model would have produced a better result (and the high definition CNC Shark even better again). Carbatec now have a newer model (and there was also a high def version – not listed on their website though).  Again, such an intricate design being done in 2-3 parts would have helped in this situation, rather than one long (400,000 steps) run.

A better cutter wouldn’t have helped the creep in the zero point, but could have produced a sharper image.  I will go into that in more detail soon, but just as a heads-up, the In-groove set from will make a real difference to the finish.


So what am I going to try next?  Not sure yet, but looking forward to it never-the-less!  Could be 3d carving, could be cutting out parts – I haven’t begun to find out all the ways the machine can be used.


2 Responses

  1. Hi, bit of info on the in-groove set, I asked Toolstoday why there were 3 x 30 degree inserts in the set and the reply was different tip widths 5thou 10thou and 20thou

  2. I used the in-groove on my machine once and now it sits on my shelf getting dusty. With the extra length in the shaft of the in-groove it causes even the smallest run out issues in your collet or router shaft to be magnified to the point where I had excessive vibration and the tip of the tool broke off. I used an expensive collet from precise bits and it seemed to be even worse. I also have a router speed control (superpid)and even with the speed turned down it really struggled to produce a decent result. In the end I stopped wasting my time with both the precise bit collet and the in-groove. I get better results from the standard Bosch collet that came with my machine. Also had a second router on hand to try and still got bad results from the collet runout.
    Unless you can find a little Bosch router with absolutely no runout issues I wouldn’t recommend the in-groove with its long shaft.
    This is a known issue with just about any brand of router these days, the little Bosch ones were the best but have slowly got worse as production goes on. I’m very disappointed with all the time and money I wasted on this run out issue. I don’t blame the in-groove or precise bits collets its just that these products are really no good at all if partnered with a router with runout, it just makes the problem far worse. My advice is if the standard stuff is working ok for you then don’t bother trying to make it better you will be wasting your time and money. If anyone ever finds a suitable router for the CNC Shark with absolutely no run out issues I’d love to hear but even then I would imagine it would vary a lot if you tested a batch. Would love to see your results from the in-groove, in the mean time I’m not going to bother messing with mine anymore.

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