Adventures in CNC routing #1: Honey-do sign test #1

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Blog entry by Tooch posted 11-05-2017 02:40 PM 1022 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Adventures in CNC routing series Part 2: Fixing and editing tool paths »

Last year I purchased a CNC machine for our school, but didn’t really get passed some basic stuff with the stock files that came with it. I recently decided that I wanted the kids to get more exposure with it, but I first had to teach myself. I gotta tell ya, some people think creating things with a CNC machine is easy, but that is certainly not the case. I’m finding that it is a different kind of “hard”, with lots of time being spent setting up the files, creating tool paths, choosing the right bits and proper depth of cut, etc. So this series is going to document the trials and tribulations of creating with my CNC.

For starters, I purchased a Shark HD3 from Rockler, which uses a standard Porter Cable router to carve. I also have various bits for carving, cutting, and a ballnose bit for 3D effects like the rings on my wine boxes . The software program that came with my purchase is V-Carve 8.0, which does have an upgrade available, but I’m still on the fence about whether I should purchase it or not.

Today’s focus is on extracting a tool paths from an image. Because the manual that came with the software stinks, I had to turn to YouTube to find an appropriate tutorial on how to do this. This was in itself no easy task… Lots of time was spent watching videos that didn’t exactly show me how to do it. After about 45 minutes and multiple videos, I found one that seemed to help:

So I followed those instructions for my wife’s business logo, as she needs a new sign for her shop. Because her logo came in as all one vector, I had to separate it into the 2 sections (text and borders), and creat two separate tool paths. So After another 2 hours of learning about toolpath setup, I was ready to cut. I chose a V-Carve bit, and set the depth to .100”.

The program writes the G-code for you, which is nice because this file had about 170,000 lines of code! The result looked like this when it was done:

At first glance, it looks pretty good. Upon a further review, however, I noticed some areas that the toolpath was a little funky:

Notice all the bumps on the S? Here’s another shot:

So now it’s back to the design stage. I checked the initial extracted path and saw that it was a little ragged. The downside if this is that it took about 3 hours to carve, so that will have to be fixed another day. Thanks for reading and playing along!

-- "Well, the world needs ditch-diggers too..." - Judge Smails

5 comments so far

View CaptainSkully's profile


1612 posts in 4162 days

#1 posted 11-05-2017 04:08 PM

Hey Tooch, I would see if those artifacts are from erroneous nodes in the design.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

23740 posts in 3709 days

#2 posted 11-05-2017 04:27 PM

Wow, Mike, you are way a head of where I would be. I’d still be learning the terminology and then have to find out where things are located. I’ve decided that I will let someone much smarter on the computer do my CNC carving and lasering.

We have a CNC router at school and the robotics instructor has the kids use it all the time. That is one of my sources for work I need done!..15 yr olds!!

I think I heard somewhere that you can’t teach an old dog like me new tricks!!

Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View hoss12992's profile


4166 posts in 2496 days

#3 posted 11-05-2017 06:11 PM

So glad you are doing this blog series. Actually looking at possible getting a CNC in addition to probably a laser engraving machine. Thanks buddy

-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View Tooch's profile


2012 posts in 2480 days

#4 posted 11-05-2017 11:19 PM

Captain Skully- There’s nothing worse than erroneous nodes. I checked the file and realized the bitmap tracing tool didn’t capture a perfect path… most likely because the image was a .jpeg and not a .png

Jim - the kids eat this stuff up. well, some of the kids, that is. It give some of the students who arent’ traditionally “mechanically inclined” the opportunity to make sweet stuff.

Hoss - Like any major purchase, you just have to have the courage to spend the initial startup, then the motivation to be a self-taught learner. I’m kinda lucky that I can slip away during my lunch period to watch a youtube clip or test this stuff out.

-- "Well, the world needs ditch-diggers too..." - Judge Smails

View Boxguy's profile


2862 posts in 2871 days

#5 posted 11-06-2017 06:17 AM

Tooch, good luck on your adventure. It might be faster to let the kids teach you.

-- Big Al in IN

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