It has been well over a year now since I added a Computer Carving Machine to my woodworking machine inventory. As I mentioned in previous articles, I have gradually been incorporating it’s use into my projects. One of my recent projects was a jewelry stand out of African Mahogany for my future Daughter-In-Law. She wanted a place to store the jewelry that she wore daily, on a small stand for her dresser. The stand had to be small, simple, and functional. I designed the base on my computer with the software that came with my machine. I then turned the posts and pedestal on my wood lathe. The base has two recessed pockets for jewelry storage, and the machine drilled a hole for the pedestal upright. It also routed an edge around the base, and precisely cut out the oval shape which would have been difficult with a handheld router or router table. There is a photo of it in my gallery.
I also recently designed and built a storage box for all of my gun cleaning equipment and supplies. It has a pull out drawer that features a removable tray that contains all of my cleaning rods, brushes, and muzzle cleaning tools. The tray was carved on my Carvewright CNC Machine. It was a custom carve that I designed specifically to fit the drawer. The pocket recesses are exactly the right size for the cleaning items to fit into and it keeps them neatly organized. These precise carvings make use of the CNC, for aspects of the design, that would be difficult to accomplish by hand with my other machines.
The purchase of my machine has caused me to think differently now, about the projects that I create, and the methods that I use to accomplish a task. I can carve designs into the face frame of furniture, carve detailed embellishments into jewelry boxes, add personal messages to make the item uniquely specific for a person, and it allows me to carve my logo on the bottom of anything that will fit into the machine. I also now create wood items that are exclusively designed for CNC carving. This has added a new dimension into my woodworking repertoire.
Like any new woodworking machine incorporated into the shop, a learning curve is experienced, and a skill level has to be attained. The designer software, and the machine itself are both difficult to understand and a certain amount of experimentation is required. Different types of wood carve differently and some are better than others for specific applications. I have found that each project has specific settings that I have begun to write down on a paper pad so I can remember them. These settings are usually applied to the machine, during the carving sequence, and are sometimes very detailed. During the designing phase I have also learned that the machine does some fonts better than others for text carving, so I tend to choose the ones over and over that work well for me.
One thing I like about the design aspect is that I can create an item and save it to my computer. This allows me to return to the designing phase anytime that I want to, for fine tuning and for making improvements to the original design. I have numerous projects stored that are in various stages of completion. As I have documented in other articles, there are several add on software packages that can be purchased and used for designing as well as carving projects. I currently only have the basic software that came with the machine when originally purchased. I do, however, have a complete set of bits that I am only now starting to incorporate into my carves. I will elaborate more about the use of these bits in future articles. I will also photograph my projects and place them into my photo gallery on this website.
The use of a computerized routing machine in the modern wood shop is becoming more common as the complexity of the machines and the cost of their overall operation diminish. Incorporating carving into the design of wooden creations is not all that hard to do if you know how to do it, and you have the ability to infuse it seamlessly into the item. Stand alone wood carved pieces can also be a valuable addition to your shops production. Once you design an item, it can be recreated over and over again, in perfect detail as the need arises, and the market calls for it. The Jewelry Stand that I mentioned earlier will be offered soon on my ETSY Website for sale. The one in the picture is made from Mahogany but if a customer desires, it can be made out of almost any wood imaginable within just a few hours. The turning of the pedestal and posts on my lathe actually take longer than the CNC carving does. Both tasks can be accomplished by me at the same time which utilizes my time more efficiently. While the machine is happily carving away unattended on the base of the stand, I am turning the posts on my lathe. I am currently working on other designs that include wood carving, and I will soon offer them on my website and I will document their development in other articles.