Biggest cut yet: 17x30" topo of the SF Bay Area

Spent the weekend working on this piece. I’m really happy with the results:

Measures 17x30" (stock is 1.75" deep), took 9.5 hours for the whole cut out of a redwood slab.

Lot more info (settings, etc) and pics on my blog if you’re interested:


Amazing and inspirational!

I can see my house from here!

Oh,wait, I dont live in California, never mind.

Awesome work! It seriously made me say “wow” out loud.

Wow. Impressive

Thanks for the compliments everyone :slight_smile:

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Easy carve then Phil :grinning:

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terrain2stl is a great resource. I’ve done Denali in AK and Lake Tahoe here in CA as well on the cnc, and some Hawaiian islands (+ and old print of the bay) on my printers. I’ve probably posted some of these before, but here they are again for comparison:

1/8" ballnose:

1/4" ballnose:

3d printed:


I just make sure to add some ‘water drop’ to it, which helps define the shoreline.

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You can drastically reduce the cut time then :wink:


That is amazing work, really something special. Are there any recommendations other than Maya to do the mesh modifications? I suppose I could download the free trial and use that but I was hoping for some open source equivalents.

@MarkShanley : Thanks for your kind words. No you don’t need Maya, I use it simply because… I’ve been using it since 98’, and am pretty comfortable in there :slight_smile:
Technically you could use Blender, which is free/OpenSource, and will do all the same stuff. Note, I personally write a number of tools in (Maya) Python to help me deal with the mesh, cleanup the waterlines, etc. But it could all be done by hand, it would just a take longer. I know Blender supports Python scripting, if you’re into such things.

I love this. Great work! I live in Santa Cruz so this is very interesting to me. Could you please expand on what you mean by mesh modification? when I import my model into solidworks, it imports as a stl graphic, not a solid object. Does Meshcam accept the stl that is generated from the terrain2stl without hiccups?



@EliottBrown: Thanks! I’ve never used SolidWorks, but I dabble in Fusion360: I’ve been unable to get cuts of this size (million+ triangles) to load into it, although much smaller res cuts (less than 20k tri’s) I’ve got to work successfully. Also note the lastest version of F360 will cut ‘non solid’ mesh, previous versions required to to be water tight (boo).

MeshCAM is very forgiving when it comes to the type of mesh it will cut in 2.5D mode: You don’t need a solid at all: All it cares about is some mesh with a ‘roof’ it can project a toolpath on top of. There may be other software that does this as well, but originally I was working on Mac, and MeshCAM was the only software I could find for it that could accept mesh like this.

Most of the ‘mesh modification’ I do, based on what I pull down from terrain2stl is making the shoreline the height I want for the cut, to accentuate it. But, in the case of this cut, I also embellished it with 3d text. Sometimes I make a custom border as well.


Thankyou for your kind reply. At the moment, I am messing with a model of the Monterey Bay haha.

Here were my settings: Water Drop 3mm, base height 7mm and 2.2 for Vertical Scaling.

Do those settings sound at all like they are in the ball park?

It ended up spitting out a huuuge stl (I must of messed up a unit measurement or something) In meshcam I scaled the model down to something that will fit on the x carve. (16x20x.78)

Now time to learn about proper settings for the cut.

Thankyou again

Gent, thanks for your reply. Blender melts my mind with all its features… I’m proficient in F360 but ran into the same issues you mentioned above, looks like I’ll have to start learning Blender! Well done again, such an excellent looking project

@EliottBrown : What the setting should be are entirely subjective to the look you’re after. If it looks good, great, if not, change the settings and re-download :wink:
Yes, it’ll generate a huge amount of mesh you often need to decimate. Either in Blender, or some other software (like MeshMixer, or MeshLab).
As for the ‘size’, it’s all relative too: That’s what the 3d software is for: Load it into blender, then scale it the size you want. Just make sure when you export, you have the software set to the units you expect to cut at. For example, if your cam software expects mm, make sure your 3d software is set to mm during export. Or, if say, it only works in cm, scale you model up by 10 to compensate.

that map is incredible. Those feed speeds are way faster than anything I have attempted. Have you modified your machine at all to be able to get to those speeds? Also I have done a couple small Topo maps (5x7) using many of the same tools you have, and have burned through two z axis belts in the few months I have owned the machine. Have you had this issue? Maybe I have something misaligned.

Thanks for the compliment @MaxHeidrich : I have done a few mods to the machine: Bolted the Y-rails to extra pieces of wood, which are bolted directly into the waistboard. And, I did the X-axis strengthening hack, where you run some bolts through the two extrusions, helping to hold them together better.

When I originally estimated the times for this cut, it was in the 24 hour range, which seemed horrible. So I started doing a series of cuts going faster, and faster. You can see my test cuts and discussion around making it go faster here:

I finally got the estimates down under 12 hours, and that seemed reasonable.
I’ve had my machine for nearly a year and a half now, done quite a bit of cutting on it, still have the original belts, and they appear to be behaving just fine. Yes, something does sound amiss if you’ve gone through two z belts already :frowning:

Is it possible to do the entire state of Alaska. I cant seem to get the red box to encompass the entire state of Alaska. i am working on helping my step son with an alaska history project of sketching out the state of Alaska and thought it would be cool to CNC carve one out of wood.

You’d need to download multiple chunks, and stitch them together in your 3d software of choice. Not hard if you know what you’re doing, but if you don’t, becomes non-trivial. Or make multiple cuts and just join them together upon completion.
Alternatively, I’d seen stl’s for all 50 states here:

However, for AK, they left off the panhandle :frowning: