Sep 25th, 2018
I have been a member of the Idea Foundry (IF) for about a year and a half. I took a lot of great classes on the various equipment including both the Shopbot and the Trotec laser engraver. I have no hesitancy using the Trotec, but I have to admit that I was intimidated by the Shopbot and hadn’t touched it in the year since I took my training. Even though I am an aging techie, a long-time AutoCAD user and have even sold CNC software, I worried about, speeds (rpm), feeds (cutting speed), the progression from V-Carve or other CAD software into the ShopBot software, and the type of endmill. I am sure my IF class included these parameters, but I forgot and lost my notes. I also had worries about crashing the cutter and ruining large pieces of expensive material.
This summer I was challenged to make a large LED-Neon sign for Alfred’s Barber Shop in Upper Arlington and I accepted. The sign would be based on an existing neon sign with script lettering that had died. The LED-Neon is ¼ wide and flexible, but it needs a groove to hold it in place. An ideal job for the ShopBot. I downloaded the latest of V-Carve Trial. I had a “maker’s” serial number given to me in the IF class. Using AutoCAD, I traced a photograph of the old “Alfred’s” neon script. I imported it into V-Carve. I made some tool paths.
Then I hit the wall – what to do next, what end mill to purchase? Then I remembered that John Herrel, Mr. CNC, who is a member of Woodworkers Of Central Ohio (WOCO) and he also works at the Idea Foundry. Some time ago, I joined WOCO first, where I met John. He is responsible for my IF membership. He was happy to help. We met on a Monday. John first reviewed my V-Carve file and help me make the file usable with the correct speeds, feeds, end mill diameter and type, and tool paths.
I learned a dozen features about the V-Carve software that will make my next job much faster. We then created a test block from scrap to make 4 test grooves to get the perfect width for the LED-Neon, a little smaller than the nominal 1/4 inch. John showed me how to export the ShopBot code file and load it into the computer by the ShopBot. (Note: the computer by the ShopBot has an old version of V-Carve that will not work with current versions).
We then zero’d both the x-y axes and the z-axis. He showed me how to raise the Z and air cut this test block. It looked ok. So we lowered the Z and cut the grooves. I sighed with relief. It worked – easy. Next, we went back to the computer in the main area and modified the groove width on Alfred’s sign drawing. We attached the 30x34 piece of ¾ Baltic birch to the ShopBot bed. Zero’d the axes and let it cut.
All of the time we were waiting on the machine to finish, John used to tell me about all of the things he learned about CNC over the years – a lot. John's mentorship was well worth it since the first try at cutting Alfred’s sign was perfect! Our collaboration was not only fun, but it provided me the confidence to push the cut “button”.
The Idea Foundry can provide mentors for any machine or process that has you intimidated. Of course, there’s a lot of free help too. Don’t hesitate to ask anyone and when you have a project that must be done perfectly, ask for a mentor.
Here is the completed work and for a great haircut visit, Alfred’s in Upper Arlington, 3237 Tremont Rd!
And to see what CNC, digital design and fabrication classes the Idea Foundry has to offer Click Here.