Mixing Woodworking & CNC Machining

One of the benefits of having hand tools, woodworking machinery is that when embarking on a small project you pretty much have everything you’re likely to need. In previous blogs I’ve written about making all sorts of things by hand but one of my frustrations is my accuracy of cutting or chiselling wood. I always have good intentions but the finished results never match my expectation.

Hence getting the CNC machine.

Now I have the means to produce accurate pieces with wood and a some modelling software. Knocking up a sign or box using a pre-programmed design is simple and the results always impress. There are limitations of course, as the machine bed has a maximum capacity of two feet square but for most builds that is sufficient.

Whilst we were on a break in Devon last year, I spotted a wine rack in a shop in Kingsbridge and thought it would be a good project to make at home. I knew I had some oak timber that would be perfect but realised that the rack would need lots of joints and they would need to be neatly done or else it would look a mess.

Firstly I worked out how many rails would be required and went about planing them down to the size I thought would be suitable. I then worked out how to make the tenons and mortise using the CNC and also created a jig to ensure I could get repeatable cuts.

The CNC makes light work this type of job and I was please that the rails connected nice and snug and straight. I used a square to ensure the frames glued up true and left it overnight to ensure it dried well.

Assembling the frame to the rails was then fairly easy and soon it was starting to look like a rack. Once again I glued it up and left it overnight. The next day I rubbed down the frame with some sandpaper and added some rubber feet to the legs to finish it off, leaving it a natural finish rather than finish with any wax or varnish.

The wine rack is now situated in one of our downstairs rooms and fully stocked following a delivery of twelve bottles of wine that my team bought for me at Christmas 🙂

Making Stuff Part 8

9F55648E-C851-4F7E-9E6E-DC70671321E7_1_105_cHaving successfully created a clock out of a sheet of perspex, I thought I’d have a go at creating a sign that I could stick on my desk at work. I managed to find some recycled pieces of white melamine MDF and thought it would be an ideal canvas for making a sign.

Using the VCarve software, I created the view I wanted and sent the instructions to my Workbee. Pleasingly the results were excellent and the final sign looked very professional. I then knocked out further signs for my colleagues at work so they didn’t feel left out. When I handed them out, they loved them. I neglected to mention that the wood was recovered from my old shoe rack I salvaged 🙂

F0B676F5-8BAC-4713-9CBD-AB4EFEA3E10F_1_105_cAs well as the signs for work, I also designed a Virgin Media sign using another piece of Stephen’s worktop (those off-cuts  are definitely a gift that keeps on giving for sure!). It now has pride of place beneath my work screen and has received many positive comments.

5585D326-5A7F-4D42-8460-3384256DB82C_1_105_cNext, was a more ambitious project which really did show the power of a CNC machine. Using an off-cut of sapele hardwood and another slab of the oak worktop, I created a crib board that I will be giving to my dad for his birthday next week. The template for this was created by the people at Vectric but I had to adapt the settings in order for it to be produced on my machine. I firstly cut the lid and VCarved his name, but when I came to turning the piece over to cut the reverse I misaligned the timber and when the machine cut out the circle it was not perfect. As it was going to be a gift I started again and the next attempt was much better. I then started the main b57D2D319-F1C7-47D6-A1EA-8566F4A6C75D_1_105_coard. Preparing the slab of worktop took some time as I had to make sure it was absolutely flat to so that it carved correctly. Fortunately, the many machines I’d gathered over the past year made this task fairly easy and I soon had it sized and screwed down on the machine bed. I kicked off the instructions from my laptop and watched in amazement as the crib board slowly started to take shape. It is fascinating to watch the CNC follow the tool-path exactly as instructed and I was in awe when it started to drill the 245 holes, all in the correct place and spaced out exactly as it was shown in the software.IMG_1025

Having had some success with making wooden and acrylic clocks, it was inevitable that I would get a request to make a bespoke one. So when my brother visited a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned he wanted a clock for his ‘shoffice’ with a picture of a fish on it. A quick Google and I soon found an ideal jpg to use and was designing his new timepiece in next to no time at all. Thirty minutes later and he was holding his new pine clock.

d37c5be3-a0b4-4d4a-96d2-275c879b842f 2He was so impressed he suggested that the clocks would be very popular with his fishing mates and easy to sell online too. I wasn’t so sure until Alan sent me a picture a few days later of the clock that he’d painted and now has pride of place in his home office. He said he’d easily sell more of the same so I got to work making a few more, with different fish designs. I’ll share the results in a later post, once they are fully cut and painted.

I also had a request from our neighbour Nick, who informed me he’d just got engaged to his long time girlfriend and suggested I make him a sign to commemorate the union.

IMG_2296Again, I got to work on the design and soon cut a version of the sign out of MDF. Unfortunately the design was a bit intricate and some of the smaller bits broke as I tried to sand it down. Version 2 and I tried using a piece of sapele but this time the text didn’t carve correctly. Version 3 was better as I used a larger piece of MDF, but I was not pleased with the outcome. I tried painting it but that didn’t improve it either so I’m not going back to hardwood and attempting to make it in oak. Watch this space to see how I get on.

EC05B215-873D-4B62-B532-5F75A335651C_1_105_cLast week I got a text from Matt’s girlfriend Chloe saying that her mum’s boyfriend’s daughter had just had a baby boy and could I make him a sign to celebrate the birth. I soon found a teddy bear picture to use as a template and knocked up a plaque with his name, date of birth and birth weight. I have just had a text from Chloe saying they loved it. Phew.

So my exploration into CNC machining is turning out to be very fulfilling and even my family are pleased with the results so far.

Making Stuff Part 7

9FDE377F-98C5-45F3-9DB6-F0E131B0E1D0_1_105_cHaving started my CNC journey in such a positive manner, it nearly all went up in flames…literally!

7CDE102E-C670-4749-8DA2-0C9301547E6E_1_105_cI’d continued to machine some of the designs I’d created in VCarve, inspired by ideas I’d seen in Pinterest and other online sites. As an avid Watford fan I had taken an image of the club badge and imported into the design programme, converted it to vectors and worked out the tool-paths needed to create a 2.5D version of the badge. I then set the machine up to create the model using a scrap piece of MDF, securing the wood down using masking tape and super glue (an idea I’d seen on YouTube).

Considering this was one of the first jobs completed in MDF, I was pleased with the outcome and spurred me on to produce more things. 4706B9E2-D1D8-43A5-A90D-891EB5D14EFF_1_105_c

Another one of the Pinterest ideas I’d seen was a wooden clock with the numbers cut out so I thought I’d give it a go. I used VCarve to outline the design and found a bit of pine which was an ideal size for the job. Again, I set up the tool-paths and sent the instructions to the machine. CF906E97-E64E-4B19-B2B1-9110A049033C_1_105_cI will admit that watching the CNC follow the paths is mesmerising as it slowly reveals the piece you’ve created. I also added some VCarve text to the centre and amazingly I had a completed clock.

I’d purchased a cheap quartz clock from Ebay and soon had a working timepiece hanging from my garage wall.

 

0C39D8C5-4994-4B7D-84D3-341E42A31342_1_105_cBuoyed on from the successes I’d had so far, I decided to try making a newer version of the joined hearts, using a slightly thicker piece of oak. I had changed the design in VCarve to improve the shape and make the base more sturdy. Again, I secured the timber on the board using my tape and superglue trick and set the machine going.

And then disaster struck.

569E0BE3-C5D5-48F3-A435-1D47A3AE10F0_1_105_c As the router began it’s second tool-path run, it suddenly veered off in the wrong direction, slicing through part of the work piece. I stopped the machine and took the wood off the spoil board.

I then ran the file again, without the wood, trying to understand what had gone wrong. This time the machine went haywire, with the router plunging straight into the spoil board. I sent the machine back to home but forgot to switch off the router and it cut a channel the length of the board below and then proceeded to start drilling into the MDF beneath, causing a small amount of smoke. I cut the power to the router, hit the emergency button, which switches off the power to the duet board and killed all processes running.

I then went about testing the safety switches, which should have prevented this incident from occurring and found that one of the wires to the Z Axis arm had been severed by the wheels. This meant the CNC couldn’t detect when the router had reached the bottom of it’s reach and tried to drill through the spoil board and, if I’d not stopped it, my bench too!

I soon repaired the wire, enclosing it in piece of sheathing for added protection and retested the switch, making sure it stopped the arm when it was closed. CB5F309B-7312-4EC4-A46C-BEB2D14FDF73_1_105_cDisaster averted.

Next, was to try the machine out in cutting acrylic (perspex) having bought a sheet of A3 from Ebay for £6. Again, I wanted to have a go at making a clock as I’d seen a great design on Pinterest and thought I could reproduce it in plastic. The router bits I’d bought from Oooznest were idea for cutting acrylic and make quick work of the design I’d created in VCarve Desktop.

56ECDE98-A980-4625-A16D-DF1D87ED4276_1_105_cI used another of the quartz clocks I’d bought from Ebay and presented it to Tina, as she’d said she needed one in her sewing room. I was pleased with the look, although next time I may try to add an LED to back light the numbers, to help them stand out a bit.

So I was really now progressing my designs into reality and getting pleasing results so I decided to get a bit more ambitious and create a crib board for my dad’s birthday, taking the idea from the Vectric website.

More of this on my next update.

Making Stuff Part 6

IMG_2084The first task in building my WorkBee CNC machine was to unpack the contents that Ooznest had provided and check that there was nothing missing. But with over 20 different boxes and 100’s of individual parts, I decided to trust them and hoped they included everything I needed 🙂

IMG_2122I started working through the online manuals beginning at the  ‘Assembling your WorkBee‘ section and followed the instructions, which have been created by the Ooznest guys in the format of building IKEA furniture. These step-by-step guides were really well written and diagrams provided, and with every individual part bagged and labelled it, was a fairly straight forward task of assembling the machine. I’d previously ordered a set of nut drivers and a small spanner and these proved invaluable and made the construction much easier.

Some of the build was quite fiddly and I often had to refer to other Bee builders YouTube videos to get passed some sections, but with some perseverance it all started to come together. In total it took two or three days on and off to complete this part of the build but fortunately all parts from Ooznest were provided.

IMG_2141Once I’d completed the mechanical build I then moved on to the electronics assembly. Again, following the guides and making sure I didn’t miss any steps, I wired in the Duet2 controller board, linking it to the 4 stepper motors that drive the screws and finished of by bolting together the base extrusions which would house the spoiler board.

IMG_2138At last the 100’s of individual parts were starting to come together into a working machine, with only the connecting and commissioning phase to go. Again, the instructions were clear and I soon had a working CNC machine, hooked up to my laptop via my WiFi network. I updated the drivers and then gave it it’s first instructions to move. And amazingly it followed the commands I had entered in, moving in the X, then Y and finally Z direction.

I then fitted the new DeWalt router I’d also purchased from Ooznest and at last the WorkBee was ready to do it’s first job.

Finally I purchased a cheap WiFi webcam which would enable me to watch the cutting process from the comfort (and warmth) of my living room.

So what was the first project I made I hear you ask?

5B92AE8A-FDB9-4353-B07E-02C31ACBDE36_1_105_cE0089A17-6A65-4D67-B32A-A3C84AB3ADCD_1_105_cHaving watched loads of Vectric videos about designing using VCarve Desktop I’d been creating a few ideas of things to try out, and with Valentine’s Day looming I thought I’d have a go at making a sign for Tina. Unfortunately I misjudged the depth of the MDF and had to abandon the sign mid-way through the job. Rather than start again, I then tried a different model and this was more successful.

One of the issues when cutting anything on the machine is how to hold down the timber when making the cuts. There are different ways of doing this including holding the wood down with screws and clamping through the spoil board. Another technique, which I used in this case, was to use masking tape and strong super glue. This method is really effective and holds the work-piece down really firmly but is easy to remove once the cutting has been completed.

11A9CFCF-2EA6-4A68-A503-2665050342FF_1_105_cAnother effective use of the CNC is to cut out letters, joined together so they stay together which creates a pleasing wall-hanging decoration. The example here was cut out of 9mm MDF and then sprayed black. The finished wasn’t brilliant (it was a bit rough on the edges) so I then cut another version using thinner plywood and made it slightly larger. This came out better and is now hanging on our upstairs landing wall.

So my CNC journey has now started in earnest and have already diversified into making items out of coloured acrylic (perspex).

I am pleased with the CNC machine set up, the fully enclosed unit is keeping the dust down and running the router is quieter than the dust extractor so minimal disruption to my neighbours.

My next update will show some more of the things I’ve created and also detail the near disaster I had when a wire on the CNC machine got cut and caused the router, at full speed, to plunge into the spoil board, causing quite a bit of smoke. Fortunately I wasn’t watching the machine remotely and was on hand to switch it off. More of this next time.

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) machine. 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 openbuilds.com 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.

Making Stuff Part 4

892F166C-124D-400A-A31D-E694964C3A27_1_105_cJust before Xmas I’d been given some oak worktop from a colleague at work who had some left over from his new kitchen. These tops were perfect for making cutting boards so soon got to work planing a couple down and presenting them to him as a thank you for donating them to me. I had rounded the edges over and gave them a coat of cutting wax and was pleased with the outcome. Apparently his wife was really pleased too. I’m planning to make more of these in the coming months and will also try to do some fancier designs too.

11E5E9C3-C061-43FC-95AC-DB6EAAFD8C3E_1_102_o

During the Xmas break I decided to put my new plunge saw to good use by building a shoe rack for our under stairs cupboard out of a couple of sheets of MDF. Whilst my table saw is great for cutting down timber, it’s not so great for large sheets so the mini project would be an ideal test for the new Erbauer saw.

Firstly I created a design using AutoDesk free 3D modelling app Fusion 360. The software can be a bit daunting at first but having watched a few YouTube videos and completed some training I soon got to grips with it and managed to create a scaled drawing of the planned shelving unit.

I E3FC27D9-A677-407A-9BDA-95DF246672A7_1_105_cordered two sheets 18mm MDF and a similar sized sheet of 12mm MDF and once delivered starting cutting them down to manageable panels. I decided not to do any fancy joinery and ended up building the unit with screws and glue.

I found some white paint and the shelving unit soon started to look the part. I gave the walls under the stairs a quick paint and then installed the new unit along with some coat hooks, made from re-purposed wood I had left over from another project.

 

As seen in previous posts I’d started to make signs for my family and whilst they had turned out OK, I was never really happy with the accuracy of the hand routing so started to investigate other ways of creating similar effects. I had always been interested in CNC machines and so started to do some digging to understand what options were available. And of course how much worbeeone would cost me.

In the end ordered a WorkBee from Ooznest, based in Essex. I did look at cheaper units from Amazon but having read the reviews, I noted how limited they were and felt if I was really going to make things to a good standard I needed to spend a decent amount of money.

My next post will detail the fun I’ve had building the unit and some of the projects I intend to create.

Building my new workshop

It was around this time last year that I had the notion that I wanted a proper woodworking workshop, with all the fancy machines I’d ever dreamed of owning but never could afford. So when I got wind of a favourable bonus coming my way I got to work on planning how I would spend a sizeable chunk of it.

57AC8EBF-321F-4628-A6F0-2A8433A4D84EFirstly I had to address problem of creating the space; the garage had accumulated so much crap over the years there was very little room to walk around it let alone site a new table saw or router table. IMG_0319The rafters were full of boxes containing kids school books, toys and loads of old training manuals and paperwork from work and the floor had garden furniture, a cross trainer and a bicycle taking up vital workshop space.

Having decided there was far too much to take to the local recycling depot, I ordered a 6 yard skip, confident it would be big enough to cover all my needs. Yeah right!

IMG_0349IMG_2051Eventually though I did manage to reduce the pile of things to keep and set about storing the many boxes back up in roof space above the garage. A quick paint job of the floor gave me a lovely canvas and space to start filling with some machines. Phase 1 completed.

Next job was to tackle the garage doors. The existing doors were the up and over type but over the years had become more and more difficult to use. In fact the right hand one couldn’t be opened due to a fault spring so had to be screwed shut. So the first big spend was to replace them with two roller shutter doors.

I found a local company that could change them out at a reasonable cost and soon had new doors.

IMG_0441And so to start filling the space. I’d researched some of the machines I’d want; I’d always fancied a proper table saw and so went for a 8″ cast-iron model from Charnwood along with a sanding station and dust extraction system from the same manufacturer. This was then followed up by a Lumberjack bandsaw supplied by Amazon and a router table. It wasn’t long before the garage floor space was starting to fill up again, but this time with lots of new toys to play with 🙂

Another part of the workshop build was to create a wall that could be used to hold all my hand and power tools so I set about erecting a french cleat system, using my new machines to rip down the timber and sheets to the right size. I then built an outfeed table for the new saw, which gave me storage to keep other tools. Phase 2 complete.

My next post will continue to run through the evolution of the workshop along with highlighting some of the projects I have undertaken so far.

I’m back…for a while anyhow

Can it really be 3 years since I last added a post…wow!

Having had a bit of a break from blogging, I’ve decided it’s time to get back online again and start covering my woodworking exploits from the past 12 months as well document my impending dive into the world Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machining as I’ve ordered a WorkBee from Ooznest, which arrives (in kit form) next month.

Ooznest WorkBee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve read so much documentation, watched loads of YouTube videos and done lots of CAD tutorials, I’m certain it was be a very straightforward hobby…not!

My next blog will cover the journey of turning our former storage/dumping ground of a  double garage into a state of the art, 21st century, woodworkers dream of a workshop and post some of the projects I’ve completed so far.

I’ll then cover the trials and tribulations in getting the WorkBee up and running and hopefully showoff some of the things I subsequently make (assuming I do get the machine working of course).

So what this space for more updates (and I promise it will be sooner than in 3 years!)