Gallery of Projects used with CNC

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This is a collection of projects in which I have used my CNC router in some large or small aspect.  On a typical cabinet or trim related project, the amount of time or effort in which the CNC takes a part is usually fairly small overall.  However, the impact of the effect is usually out of proportion to the CNC machine time.

Unless specifically noted, there are no plans or files offered for anything seen here.

Signs, those projects which consist mainly of v-carved text and embellishments are super easy, fast and rewarding projects.   Presented below without much explanation are a representation of several that I have made.   Name signs and such make particularly good gifts for all occasions, everybody loves them.

(outline is state of Tennessee)

In addition to signs and typical carvings and whatnot, a CNC can be used to make simple to complex objects for more utilitarian tasks.   Three of the items presented below are tool chest drawer organizers.  They are somewhat complex in that they require many different tool paths and some fairly careful (and tedious) planning, in order to be well made.  The beauty in these projects is wholly in the design and their daily use.

It is very easy to add embellishments of all kinds to trim pieces with a CNC, you actually have to curb yourself so you don't over do it.  Even the most simple designs applied to trim can enhance the perceived quality and detail in a room where is is installed.

This is a door header made of Walnut, part of a much larger trim job.  The simple "tombstone" and circle-star vee carved lines were also used in variation on plinth blocks and door jams used throughout the room where this was installed.

This is a multi part piece, the large cove was cut with a 2" diameter bull nose bit which resulted in a very smooth surface as compared to say a cove cut on a tablesaw.

With some design changes this item could have been cut as one piece saving considerable time on assembly.  However a "build-up" is preferred in this case so the grain will be presented as desired. 

Walnut Header
Below is a section of some trim covering a beam.  The beam was cased in Walnut with a large central section having this panoramic landscape carved into it.  The carved area is about 48" in length.  The 3d file was purchased from vectorart3d, it's probably one of their most popular ones.  You can tell this isn't hand-carved and the design is a little "chunky" but it still has a lot of good detail in it.  The potential detail in a carving such as this is directly proportional to the size of the bit used.  In this case, a relatively large 1/4" ball nose bit was used on the final finish pass.  This was done due to the size of the piece and the fact that it is located on the ceiling, far away from the viewers eyes.

Here is a wall of wainscoting and trim mostly made of MDF. Note the "tombstone and circle" pattern used here is the same as the Walnut header above. I've used this pattern in variation several times before. It's reminiscent of classical patterns but not too busy or detailed so it is quick to cut. I used a 120 degree vee bit on this, the wider the angle the better on this big trim.

Since regular MDF was used on this project there is some added work to sand and seal the cut areas before priming and painting; success is largely determined by all this prep work and the finishing phase itself.
For this project, the space was measured and the panel sizes laid out in CAD software. For this small space there are 6 different panel sizes. to make sure "whole" panel patterns are seen.

As with any trim job, it doesn't take a very big room to require many hundreds of lineal feet of trim.  I didn't have any desire to make all this myself when it could be purchased far more economically.  You can see here simple casing and quarter round being used in addition to the carved items.

Also note the extended plinth block used near a door and the carving pattern employed on it.  This is just a couple of 3/4" MDF pieces glued together with some CNC and router table embellishments.

I prefer to use corner and plinth blocks on any trim projects, a CNC doesn't make it any easier to make these components but it's super easy to put a little detail on these parts and really make them stand out as custom work.

I could have made all the wainscoting look like actual frame and panels but chose not to for.  I believe this simpler profile looks just as good in this room.

In furniture projects you can use a CNC router for all manner of tasks.  It just depends on what the project calls for.  It can be used to cut parts out completely or only for simple decorative elements, maybe just shelf pin holes.  It's great for cutting curved components or special jigs for other tools.

This entertainment center was made to go along with the wainscoting trim above.  You may be able to make out a couple of the places where the "tombstone and circle" pattern was applied yet again.

The casework is all plywood while the cabinet doors are made of standard 3/4" MDF.  These have a raised panel profile milled in as opposed to a piece by piece built rail and stile construction method.

They make router bits just for this task but I used a series of standard ball, vee, and end mills to accomplish much the same effect.  A sample file (in crv3d format) is presented here.

This is a wall clock case with a few CNC details added.  The case is all made out of Fir stained with golden oak.   You can see a small vee carved pattern cut into the sides reminiscent of a raised panel profile, very simple to do yet adds a level of detail to complement the project.

The back panel has the family name inscribed within a scroll pattern, something like this just about guarantee's "heirloom" status to the project; also very easy to do.

The back and clock face are clear coated Fir, no stain.  The clock face and it's attendant details are cut in with the numerals and time ring hand-painted in black to make them pop.

Fir tends to tear out easily so a sharp bit and slow feed speeds were used to limit tear out and other problems.

This entire project could have been cut out and milled using the CNC alone.  I tend to use my CNC for what it does best preferring to use other tools for material sizing and simple profiles.  That means using the table saw and router table still.

Click for a larger image
This Cherry vanity employed the use of the CNC quite a bit more than the clock case above but the same sort of build concept was used; that is the CNC helped make parts, not cut them out of "whole cloth".

Most apparent on the piece is the large Walnut inlay. This inlay is not done in the traditional manner with scroll sawn veneer inlaid into shallow recesses and such. This inlay starts out as a typical vee carving in the door and drawer front material. The inlay is milled in a similar manner except you end up with the exact opposite and mirror image. This mirror image will fit exactly into those previously milled vee carved recesses. The overburden is milled off and sanded smooth resulting in the product you see here.
Click for a larger image
In general, I followed the steps outlined here for this.  Believe it or not, this large inlay was only the second I ever attempted, the first being only a simple 4x6 test piece.

Note the curved outline of the drawer fronts and their mating divider pieces, all done on the CNC.  In addition, all the leg mortises were CNC cut as was the curved face frame part. The raised panel sides and their curved frames were also CNC cut.

The panels were first profiled to raise the "field" then cut out. Using the CNC as opposed to a traditional router table allowed me to avoid making jigs or patterns for the curved cuts
This is a large (93" x 23") end panel for a pantry cabinet in a kitchen. All the door frames and panels in the kitchen were curved and so is this end panel frame. The frame itself was built straight and then laid on the CNC for the curved cutouts to be made. In addition to the curved cut outs, there is a cove profile running along the inner edge of the frame.

The entire frame is larger than the cutting capacity of my CNC so the frame have to be shifted and cut in two phases. The joinery for the panel required some careful layout so the curved cuts would not cut through and expose the mortise joints used in construction of the frame.

The panels were also cut out on the CNC from large glued up blanks. A raised field was made on the CNC and then the Cherry blossom inlay work commenced.

The design of the inlay started as a bitmap image traced in CAD software. Detail and changes were made in CAD until the design looked right. The CAM software I use (from Vetric) has the ability to trace a bitmap to make this whole process easier but I have found that it does not produce the high quality vectors I need for a design such as this. Sometimes "easy" doesn't end up being "easy" in the end.

The CAD file is saved as DXF so the CAM software can import it. Once all the basic vee carve tool paths are created and cut assembly can start. The inlay is comprised of 102 separate pieces and was made using Walnut, figured Hard Maple, and Pine. The inlay parts were cut using the general method outlined earlier.

The inlay process yields some rather thick pieces as compared to the traditional method. This is good in a way because you can really bear down when clamping them. The down side (in cases such as this) is that some parts may interfere with others as they are all glued in.

On this project I periodically had to surface off selected areas of the panels to remove this interference so more parts could be glued in. This necessitated going back into the CAM software to create selected tool paths to mill off the "overburden". It took several days to glue all the pieces in because of this

Believe it or not, this is only the third inlay I have ever done. The take-away from all this is that I would never even attempted to do something like this without a CNC (and this method).  Having the CNC allows me to achieve an effect such as this but more importantly it allows me to design whatever I want and execute it.

Panel Close Up 1 Panel Close Up 2

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