First project, critiques please

I’m working on developing my X-carve skills. This is a maple plaque with oak plywood inlay. I was trying to learn the appropriate use of a v-bit and inlay parameters.

Design was done in v-carve. I used a 60 degree v-bit for lettering and the profile bevel. Inlay was done with 1/16 2F fishtail uncut and a 1/8 straight up cut for clearing the pocket. My Oramask 813 is still in transit so I coated the piece with polyeurethane, spray painted and then went to town with sanding (80, 150, 400 grit finish).

Any comments on what I could be doing to improve the quality of this type of project would be appreciated. Here’s what I’m thinking of at the moment.

  • Inlay is oak plywood so I can’t expect much until I use decent materials. I didn’t put any tabs on the tail which is why it was damaged during the carve
  • downcut bits are on there way
  • I used a 0.010 “ clearance for the inlay pocket and that seems to be a tad large.

Some questions:

  • Is there a strategy for cleaning up the interface between the pocket an inlay or is this something where I just need to be spot on with the dimensions (and accept the limitations of my machine?)
  • I am noticing some poor quality cutting of my v-bit on some portions of the project. The “G” looks good to me, but “duty” does not have smooth edges. Is there an obvious fix to this type of problem?
  • noob question: how do I “wash” this piece in order to remove the fine dust from the final sanding and what is an appropriate material to provide a shiny protective coating?

The whole of the text is way off. Can you post your cry file here so the settings etc can be checked. How do you zero your Z axis? It looks too deep, too wide or something else. What quality v bit are you using?

Sealing before painting here is also a big issue.

All answers will help you for future carves, but post the cry file first.

guard-cat.crv (1.1 MB)

I’m using Easel as the g-code sender and zero the z-axis manually by decreasing height until a piece of paper is caught, raise it 0.01 in, remove paper and lower it 0.01 in. I set the depth of the letters to 0.15 in for no other reason than I liked the number 15. I don’t know what the “correct” value would be, for this bit, if one exists. The bit I’m using is the 60 degree bit from inventables (1/8 in shank). I also have the 90 degree bit if that is a better one to use for this application.

Using Easel, look at the preview window to gauge the depth/closeness of the finished letters. These look a bit too close together. Using a V-bit, that means you have it set too deep.

And wait till the Oramask arrives before you do any more…it’ll save your life vs sanding afterwards. :wink:

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@Traxxtar true enough about the Oramask; I’m afraid it won’t come in until the semester starts and I needed to get some more fun in during the waning days of summer.

v-carving-simulations.pdf (193.9 KB)

The attachment is a copy of simulations from v-carve at depths of 0.1, 0.15 and 0.20 in, respectively. The simulation text is better spaced, which makes me think that I’m not setting the z-axis zero correctly for the v-bit. I cannot tell a difference in the simulations between 0.15 and 0.20; however the toolpath for the 0.1 in cut is very different with a flattened bottom.

Here is a slightly modified crv file.

Your material is only .375" thick. When using vcarve for the v bit text, let it work out the best depth first without adding flat depth, and see what it looks like. the kerning needed adjusting as well to space the letters a little. (fifth icon down, third across in vcarve).The previews now look a lot tidier.

I’ll run a carve tomorrow to see how it cuts.

After carving text, seal with sealer of choice, let dry, then paint. It will prevent much of the bleed into the end grain, which is what you still see on the picture despite sanding. Harder woods don’t suffer this problem quite as much.

Attached a pic of a simple house name in idigbo, painted and sanded. No bleed.

guard-cat.crv (1.1 MB)

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My guess is that your v-bit does not come to a true point. That will cause the carves to be wider than calculated at your desired depth. You’ll have to set your Z0 at an offset above the surface of the wood. The offset depends on the width of the flat spot on your bit. With a 60 degree bit, you should be close by offsetting the slightly less than width of the flat. For exact offset, I whipped up a basic spreadsheet you can enter your values to get an offset.


That said, raise your zero and just run a couple of tests.

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@PhilStevens Thanks for bringing my attention to the kerning tool, which I had overlooked.

@NeilFerreri1 Your spreadsheet is convenient, thanks. I will have to take a closer look at the v-bit tip but I’m pretty sure the point is true. That said, the way I am setting the z-axis zero, I may be unintentionally digging into the material and setting 0 below the surface. I suspect that would have the same effect as a flat diameter.

No problem Bob

It’s nice to see someone asking for critique, getting it, and then not whining because all is not complimentary.

This is a big learning curve, lots of scrap wood and broken bits till you figure everything out.

I didn’t even try an inlay till months in, then messed it up way more than your first attempt.:persevere:

I found using easel as the gcode sender painful and so use UGS. Try it, or UGS platform, or some people prefer picsender, although I couldn’t get on with it, I may try again in the future.

As a first project it is good. If you like these type of signs here is one to make:

Dogs have Masters
Cats have Staff

Fun idea @GuyDonham. I do indeed like this type of sign.

Bob you did ask for a critique. The bleed in the letters happens a lot. You can try to minimize it by sealing the wood after carving and before painting the wood. I use dewaxed shellac. The dewaxed shellac is sol as the Zinsser Universal Sealer. Put a couple of coats on and it helps seal up the straws that wood is made of. Apply it and let dry then airbrush or paint on your color and it helps stop the capillary action of the wood soaking up your paint. When you apply your letter coloring you can just sand off the excess and the sealer. Since the Zinsser is alcohol based it drys quickly and is comparable with either oil or water based top coats. I like it because it gives a slight yellow or warmer tint to the project. You can use the universal sealer when you carve and fill with epoxy as well.

If you use the sealer you will get a smoother top coat and in less coats. Raw wood with polyurethane takes 2-3 coats before you even start to level out and get a consistent sheen and maybe 4-5 coats total. If you seal first you will only need 2 coats total to get superior results over just poly. If you use water based finish just pre-raise the grain by wetting the surface (damp) and then sanding. This will make a smoother surface when you apply the water based finishes.

@GuyDonham thanks for the suggestion. I did finally find a small container of shellac and will give that a go. Now all I need is for my work schedule to let up so I can do fun stuff…