Machining 3d carvings with your CNC router is a great way to diversify your skills and projects either for fun or for your business. In this project we ran a 3D toolpath that carved the Storm trooper skull out of walnut wood.
In all CNC projects, the first step is to select the material and then the right bit for what we are going to be machining. While the set up sequence for placing and cutting on your i2R CNC machine is the same, it is important to know that the bits and the speeds for the cut to be used are different. Programming and cutting your design will change depending on the material used.
For this example we used VCarve to import a ready-made 3D design – all we had to do was scale it to match our material stock and make sure we had appropriate feeds and speeds for wood carving in walnut with our choice of bits.
Know Your Material: Wood
- Versatile & Varied
- Excellent Textures & Detailing
- Many Creative Finishing Options
Wood is one of the most versatile and varied materials. You can get very nice details and textures with different types of woods, and wood allows us to get really creative with our finishing touches. The natural texture of wood has a vast range of eye catching appeal and also accepts a range of finishes to offer a unique aesthetic that your customers will love and enjoy.
Use Stock Size For Inspiration
Before machining any project, you need to start by measuring and setting the dimensions of your stock material. Part of the fun is thinking through what kind of design will look good with your choice of material. The walnut displayed below is 7” long by 7” wide and 2.5” thick. This made it a very good size and shape for carving a head-shaped relief with a CNC router.
Securing Your Material
As always you need to secure your material so it’s as flush with the bed of your CNC router as possible. All i2R CNC routers feature aluminum T-slots that make hold down clamps or jigs simple and effective ways to secure your wood block.
If the block is very heavy it won’t need much to keep it in place, just make sure that it will stay put when being carved and remember it will get lighter as you cut away the excess.
Your 3D Model
VCarve For 3D CNC Machining
VCarve software makes it easy to load your 3D files and set them up for machining. You can purchase many ready-made models online from sites like etsy. Once you download your design, you simply import it into VCarve and scale the model to fit your stock material.Click on this video link to see how to import 3D Files in VCarve.
Choosing Roughing & Finishing Bits
- Roughing First
- Ensure Sufficient Offset When Roughing
- Finishing After!
I used a 0.25″ End Mill for the roughing tool path. This rapidly removes the excess material that your design won’t need. This is a common way to remove the bulk of material when carving. By using a large end mill we can clear away most of the unwanted material quickly and efficiently, but you have to be careful to leave enough offset to enable fine finishing afterwards.
A smaller diameter bit is used for the finishing tool path to get a clean smooth finish. You can use any kind of ball nose bit to run your finish pass – a tapered ball nose is perfect. I used a 1/32″ radiused bit here.
Feeds & Speeds
When setting your feeds and speeds, it really helps to keep notes on which cutting bits work best on the specific type of wood you’re working with and how fast your feeds and cutting speeds are. You will have different outcomes based on how hard or soft your material is.
- Keep Notes
- Be Conservative!
When working with wood you want to be conservative with your feeds when running your job – you can adjust settings as your machine is cutting to dial in the best results. If the finishing tool path has too aggressive a step that causes gouges and splintering you may end up ruining your project and wasting your material.
This is the toolpath set up that was used for roughing out the Stormtrooper skull. You can see that the stepover, feed rate and plunge rate are much coarser than were used for the finishing toolpath.
For the finishing toolpath notice the change of settings to slower feed and plunge rate for the tapered ball nose bit to ensure a smooth finish.
The End Result
Clean carving finished off with a light woodwash preserves the grain detail and texture. This gives an ultra professional look and feel to the finished work.
Perks For i2R CNC Machine Owners
Remember that i2R CNC owners get free perks. If you have an i2R CNC machine you can download the full project for VCarve in the i2R CNC Owner’s Group. Enjoy!
Document Your Project
With all your CNC router projects record what you do and keep notes in a journal on the settings that worked best for each scenario and project. When you do a project with a similar setup you’ll be ready!
Enjoy & Share Your Experience
All CNC router projects offer potential learning experiences, positive and negative! Your knowledge of your project can be very helpful to other people. Dscuss your ideas and projects in our online forum, and find people you can enjoy sharing your knowledge and concepts with!
For more inspiration check out our social media!