From Idea to Fruition
With my review of the Ooznest WorkBee CNC being published in Hackspace Magazine last week, I figured this would be a good time to run though the general process I follow when designing for, and running jobs on, the CNC.
I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure where the idea for the eventual design came from, I just know I wanted something personal, which could act as a portfolio piece for Monumental Me.
It didn’t start life as a fully formed concept, rather a vague idea of two sets of footprints to represent Lucy and I.
I’m no artist, but I’m slowly getting better at pulling third party assets into (hopefully) cohesive designs. More often than not I find myself browsing VectorStock, which I’ve come to rely on as an indispensable resource, and a further source of inspiration.
This is where the idea of the cat prints going off on their own came from, as the asset already existed, and perfectly represented the head-strong nature of Apricat – so all I needed to do was import the asset and incorporate it into the design.
Affinity Designer is my tool of choice for producing the bulk of my designs. I’m barely scratching the surface of what it can do, but each time I boot it up, I learn something new.
For this particular design, I had an asset which featured something like 10 different pairs of feet, from which I chose the ones I liked the best, being sure to choose different shaped feet for the each of us, and then set about positioning each foot print individually.
The design gets exported from Affinity Designer as an SVG, which I import into Vectric VCarve. This powerful, yet really simple to use tool, makes it really easy to calculate the gcode toolpaths required by the CNC, all while providing a really accurate 3D representation of what the final design will look like.
It’s not a cheap piece of software, but it does a hell of a lot of heavy lifting, meaning that even a complete novice such as myself can produce excellent results.
Back in the real world, after applying a layer of vinyl, I’ll secure the stock I’m using to the spoilerboard on the CNC using some screws (I need a better camping method, but this will do for now), then will run the job via my workshop laptop.
Ear and eye protection are of paramount importance, as is my attention to the job as it runs, to ensure nothing goes wrong. On more than one occasion I’ve had a small miscalculation cause the job to go askew, forcing me to perform an emergency stop. Thankfully, these are becoming more and more rare, as I learn from my mistakes.
This is where the layer of vinyl applied in the previous step helps by providing a mask over any parts of the display we don’t want paint on.
A healthy coat of sanding sealer is applied to the surface to help prevent the paint bleeding into the grain, then I let lose with the spray paint, being sure to apply it from all angles to ensure the whole of the carved section is covered.
Once the paint is dry and the vinyl removed, and I do a light sanding. I don’t want to be too aggressive at this point or I’ll sand away some of the more intricate details of the carving.
This is followed by a coat of Danish Oil, which helps the natural beauty of the wood to show through, while providing a small amount of protection. You can apply up to three or four coats, but I typically leave it at one for anything which is designed for display purposes, rather than active use or handling.
No display is complete without the ability to hang it. I’ve tried using Command strips for mounting displays on the wall in the past, but the Danish oil stopped them from sticking very well, so I’ve started to use these sawtooth picture frame hangers.
Bang a nail in the wall, hang the display on it, step back, and enjoy your work.