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4 Axis Tutorial - Machinining a gunstock
These two YouTube videos will give a good overview of CNC routing.
The software being used is VCarve Pro [ http://www.vectric.com/WebSite/Vectric/vcp/vcp_index.htm ]
It is a very versatile and provides CAD and CAM in one package.
DISCLAIMER: I am not associated in any fashion with the two companies who's videos and web pages appear above.
There are many aspects to a CNC router that are not evident: First is that there is both the machine and the electronics that run it [see: cnczone.com], and second is the software needed, three types to be exact.
First is computer aided design [CAD] software. The one most regularly seen on this site if Google SketchUp. Easy to learn, fun to use, at least initially, and lots of resources to help with learning and use, at a wide variety of levels. And its free. The additional skill needed to use SketchUp in a CNC setting is how to export in the DXF format. And, its simple; just read the instruction in the online help.
Second is the software that converts a DXF file from the CAD software to G-code, which is the language of a CNC router. G-code is nothing more that distance and direction instructions in three planes: X, Y and Z. There are several of these converters, but one that should appeal to woodworkers is D2nc [http://www.d2nc.com/], as the inventor created a Shape Description Language that is very visual and intuitive. D2nc will also converts DXF files into G-code.
Third is the controller software that takes the G-code and changes it into electrical impulses which are fed to the stepper motors that control the three axes on a typical CNC router: X, Y and Z. The most used controller software for the hobbyist, and for many, many business of all sizes, is MACH3 [http://www.machsupport.com/].
I love and adore my Lie-Nielson block plane and scrub plane, and all the Stanley planes I have rehabilitated, my chisels [Where did these all comes from??!!], various hammers [Yes, I do need 10 different hammers!], bow saws, hand saws [both push and pull varieties], the various squares and other measuring devices, my table saws, routers, bandsaw, planer, jointers, drills, drill presses, miter saw [both power and hand], mortiser, various dovetail and mortise-and-tenon devices, various air powered staplers [framing to brad] [OK, OK, I am just a tool junkie .. I admit it!!], and the small [20"x20"] 3-axis CNC router I built [Both the hardware and the electronics.]. And I have designed, and will be starting to build after Labor Day, a 4-foot by 6-foot 4-axis CNC router [the 4th-axis is a rotary axis; i.e.: a lathe]. The hardware [the frame is extruded aluminum; rack-and-pinion drive], and the electronics will cost about $2,800, and I expect it to take about 50-hours to build.
Was the small CNC router easy to build? NO!! Was it easy to learn the various types of software, and how they interact? NO!!! Has it been easy to effectively use all this technology? NO!!! Has it been intellectually gratifying? Mostly. Am I excited about what I can do with this small machine and the new larger 4-axis machine? I am absolutely ecstatic and in awe of the possibilities!! The future is so bright I gotta wear shades!!!
Here is why. Mind-to-Disk-to-Project. I can take the most complex design that my mind can come up with [What goes on inside my brain pan is scary!!], then take the time to plan it out, piece by piece, with CAD software, see it all fit together, change this, change that, then take those various pieces, run them them though the G-code generation program, then send them off to the controller, and then watch, with great joy, while what was in my mind be reified [Verb: Make something abstract concrete or real.] right before my eyes!!! And all without all kinds of jigs and fixtures, and the accompanying mistakes and frustrations, because these were all addressed in the design phase, and most specifically, with the use of CAD software. It may be virtual reality, but even in this environment, mistakes are still mistakes.
What many woodworkers do not seem to comprehend and/or accept is that woodworking is not just about tools and wood. First has to be the design phase, which incorporates massive amounts of creativity, along with design principles, and a significant amount of art and mathematics before even going into the shop. All kinds of energy and knowledge focused on creating. before one tool is touched.
And it is this design phase that separates the creations of the wood artist from the mass produced consumer goods created in a highly automated factory setting.
The CNC router, and all the software needed make it function, require from its user a significant intellectual commitment, long hours of learning, and being alone [though not lonely] in one's mind. However, the rewards are vast and limitless.
I have absolutely no training or education in engineering of any kind My undergraduate education is in accounting, finance, economics and mathematics, and a graduate education in tax accounting, and a graduate education in the philosophy of history. And about 40-years experience in two different consulting fields. I am 62, and married [only once!!]. I built and rehabilitated houses, these endeavors to help pay for college and graduate school. If I can comprehend all the mechanics, electronics, and software to actuate CNC in woodworking, anybody can.
Rob's a lucky guy!!
I wear a forester's head guard with an integrated ear protectors, though replaced the mesh face guard with a plastic face guard.
Keeps flying dust, as well as larger pieces out of my face and eyes. My glasses are shatter-proof.
I custom made a shop apron, it has a baseball catcher's protective vest under it. I am 6-3, so kick-back REALLY hurts! Only happened once; that was enough. I think the ribbing I took was more painful though.
As much as the whack in the head from the board hurt Rob, I bet the one from his wife hurt even worse!!
A 7th danger is the miter gauge. A sled is much safer and will make for much more accurate cuts.
Make a sled for 90-degree cuts, 45-degree cuts, and any special angles that are used regularly. A small sled to complete special cuts can be made of cut-offs in less than an hour, and it will save hours of frustration.
Overall though, again Fine Woodworking comes though with a great service to its readers, in fact all woodworkers [and tool manufacturers], once again.
This machine looks a lot like Matthias Wandel's:
Ultimately though, it is how best to realize one's vision.
Designing comes before working wood, hence the predecessor of woodworking is an intellectual activity. So, does it really matter what the process is to realize the design?
The design process for a good piece of furniture is more difficult than many realize. The proportions do not just drop from the air. Like many today, my designing is software based [three different programs], though initially all my designs are a few scribbles on whatever piece of paper is handy.
Besides the 4-axis CNC machine I have, which I built, I have planes, chisels, squares, and saws galore. I love my Lie-Neilson block plane. Two tables saw, three router tables, jointer, planer, mortiser, jigs from Leigh and Trend.
A CNC oriented product requires one to disaggregate all the steps from design start to product finish. Think step-by-step about the simple task of picking up a piece of wood to cut it on a table saw.
With CNC, there is the design program, the design to G-code processor, and the servo controller controller program. And Lets not forget about feed rates, and fixturing.
Of course, Mach3 was a real treat to learn. I had hair when I started.
And, having used hand tools and power tools has meant that using CNC to realize projects has been easier. Tearout is tearout whether it is done with a no. 4 plane or a CNC router bit. There is still a right way and a wrong way to machine wood and there is nothing like a plane to teach.
Ultimately though, it is how beat to realize one's vision.
Its is a absolute joy to have followed Matthias' inventive mind for the past decade. This is a manual adaptation of a box joint jig he made with a circuit board, a stepper motor, and an IBM notebook computer.
Would you please publish downloadable items in SU 6?
Google will not allow those of us using anything less than Windows XP to download SU7, for no discernible reason.
We have Windows 2000 on our work station, and have several programs that are not compatible with anything else and are no longer available. As well, there are custom written drivers that are not compatible with anything but Windows 2000. We tried upgrading in the past and it was ugly. After several expensive and time-consuming disappointments, we no longer participate in the over-costly problem-ridden upgrade merry-go-round as the touted, both by the software and hardware companies and by the chattering class, "improvements" that are anything but.
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