Making Stuff Part 5

On the 24th December I finally decided to commit to buying the WorkBee I’d been eyeing up for a few weeks and duly ordered it for a delivery date of 30th January. I wasn’t too worried about the long waiting time as I wanted to prepare myself prior to launching into the world of Computer Numeric Control (CNC)┬ámachine. This included watching YouTube videos about 3D CAD drawing, CNC machining, router tooling as well as researching on Pinterest for suitable projects I could undertake once my new toy arrived.

The Ooznest WorkBee comes in kit form, a bit like a grown-ups Meccano, and you then need to follow the online step-by-step guides to put it all together. There are also loads of videos and online forums to reference as well; I found particularly informative as there were a number of posts from similar-minded people who has built CNC machines. The WorkBee from Ooznest is based on an open-sourced project and so it wasn’t difficult to prepare myself for the impending build.

vectric_0For the design side of things I had tried Fusion 360 but was a bit concerned about the process of converting the projects I wanted to design into the code needed to run on the CNC machine (the WorkBee uses grbl, an open-sourced parser and CNC milling controller) and whilst I could have done some digging I decided to follow the suggested path by Ooznest and buy VCarve Desktop from Vectric. The software is a bit pricy and only runs on a Windows PC but I wanted to ensure I had minimal issues on my journey into this new world of masking things. Of course I only have Apple MAC’s at home so I had to go and get a Windows laptop so I could start practicing with the CAD/CAM software.

Next I had to make some space in my workshop. Fortunately I had some room on the left hand side of the garage and soon got to work clearing the area and building a bench to house my new toy. I also had to add additional sockets to the ring mains as there was no power on that side either.

graham_happy_placeIn the evenings I spend time learning the free version of VCarve (it’s fully functional except you can’t output any grbl) as my paid version would arrive until my machine was delivered. The Vectric website has loads of training videos and I was soon creating all sorts of 3D models and signs. The benefit of this software is that you can see a 3D version of what you’ve created, displayed on a multitude of different media types such as wood, MDF, metal and acrylics.

IMG_2083One of the options that you can purchase at the same time as the WorkBee is a housing that minimises the noise and helps keep dust down from the router. I decided when I placed the order not to bother but then saw the company were selling an ex-demo unit on Facebook so rang and bought it, agreeing to collect it when my machine was ready. At this point I had already had a mail to say that the delivery was going to be delayed to February due to a high number of orders they recently received; clearly CNC machines is the in-thing at the moment.

IMG_2081Finally I received a call in early Feb stating my WorkBee was ready to collect and so I drove down to Brentwood in Essex and loaded my car with the two large boxes as well as the enclosure.

As you can see Rio was interested in what I’d purchased too, although he didn’t hang around for long once I started unpacking the boxes.

My next update will run through the building of the machine and show the first thing I created, which didn’t quite go as well as I’d planned.