I finally srounged up enough time to put together my X-carve CNC by Inventables. It took me the better part of a weekend to complete but wasn’t too difficult to assemble. Previously I had been kicking around ideas for what to make the grandparents for Fathers Day this year, and finally came up with a last minute idea (literally the night before) to make something for them on the X-carve. My wife wanted to do something with our new babies foot print on it so I had suggested we make them keychains. At this point I had just finished assembling the X-carve and didn’t even test it out yet, and to tell her i could make something by morning was pretty silly haha, but oh well.
First things first was getting a foot print that i could work with. This step is easier said than done when you have a 6 month old baby who likes to wiggle and giggle, but we were’t aiming for perfection (at least not after the 3rd sheet of paper lol). The goal here is to get something with a clear enough shape for you to trace in illustrator/inkscape/vector program. I am an avid Solidworks user so i started with that instead to mock up the whole keychain, partly because I wanted to double check that my bit would be able to cut everything out before I went through the trouble of making one. I started by making a rectable the same size as the foot prints measurements. I then added the image and resized it to that rectangle and began tracing the foot with splines. Next I made a general oval keychain shape and imported the sketch into Inkscape to turn into a vector.
After getting a decent vector created I moved to the free CNC software that comes with the X-carve machine, called Easel. Right away easel was easy to learn and only took me a few minutes to get set up and comfortable with its interface. There is an app that is built into Easel for creating an ‘inlay” so i used that to create the shape out of a darker wood than the background of the keychain. For this project i used Pine for the background and Walnut for the foot. Once i had the first one set up and copy+pasted the two designs above the first so i could cut both grandparents keychain at the same time. It should look like this.
Once everything looks ok in Easel, double check the preview it gives you for any red spots. These red spots will show you where your bit won’t be able to cut without losing your artwork. You can also run a simulation to make sure there isn’t anything wonky going on before you actually cut it out. If everything is good to go hit the carve button, setup your home and whatnot, then sit back with a beer and hope nothing breaks. For the most part, everything ran smoothly. I did have to reclamp my workpeices and start over once because I was using two planks sitting side by side and didnt have them secure enough, but overall the X-carves maiden voyage went smoothly. The video below is from the machine running through the cuts with a 3/32″ bit attached.
I did my cuts without tabs and isntead set the depth to just shy of what the thickness of the planks were. You’ll need a pair of micrometers to do this but it worked well. After it cuts you just sand the back of the planks and watch them pop right out. Next you will have to wood glue the pieces together and give them a light sanding and some cutting board oil. I didn’t give myself enough time to make them look perfect but I still think they turned out good enought ( I was literally finishing them up as they pulled into the driveway haha). If i make another one, I think I will cut straight through the pine plank and inlay the walnut so it shows on both sides. I didn’t this time because the wife wanted to write the year and some other information about our baby on the backs of them, but the gifts went over well so I am sure I will have to make some more for the other family members. Swing by my Etsy Store if you want one for yourself!
Check back in soon for my next project where I test the full workspace of my 31″ X-carve CNC machine to make a disc golf basket.