Has anyone carved Graphite?

Hi all, New X-Carve owner- am just finishing getting my machine up and running. I’m not up and running 100% but am close. Here’s what I want to do:

I am looking to carve Graphite for use in making molds for use in glass casting. I am wondering if anyone has used the X-Carve on graphite? I’m thinking its all about setting up a pretty good dust collection system so the graphite doesn’t get into the electronics. I am planning on making a dust shoe with a centrifugal dust collector before attempting this.

Specifically, I think I am going to build this:
Dewalt 611 Air Diverter and Dust Shoe

And either build a centrifugal dust collector like this discussion

or just buy an Oneida Dust Deputy:

Hardness-wise I think that graphite will be softer than aluminum, so it seems possible. I am guessing I might need to use some kind of cutting oil/coolant on the bit?

Please let me know any thoughts on this.

No cutting fluid needed.I have not cut graphite on the xcarve but i have on a mill and lathe. Very dusty stuff but machines nicely with little effort. But if you do choose to use a coolant or lube you might want to consider baking the mold after machining to remove moisture.

Someone on this forum carving graphite with very good result, you may want to search. I thing the best way, spraying a little water with spray bottle.

The rockler one is just as good and cheaper, http://www.rockler.com/dust-right-dust-separator

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That’s what I’m using. Only I have to modify a little. I made hole on top lid center, insert hose adapter to both end to make suction comes from center. And closed other side hole. This time I have no dust coming out of it.

For materials such as that I am sure it can most likely do it I would almost enclose the XCarve in a Plexiglass housing to contain the particles better but you will know pretty fast if the dust shoe is enough.

Hi All,
The Xcarve is up and running, Dust shoe and Dust Deputy and I got my first 3D carving done. A proof of concept (in MDF) of an open face dump mold for casting hot glass into.

I am about to try carving it in graphite. I plan on doing two passes- The first rough pass with 1/4" endmill, the second with an 1/8" ball nose.

Any depth and speed suggestions? For the 1/4" endmill, I was thinking 1/16" pass depth and 50 inches/min feed rate(I used 1/8" depth and 100inches/min for MDF). For the finishing pass I was thinking 20 inches/min(I used 50inches/min for MDF). The graphite seems very soft so I think this will be adequate. WDYT?

Dust collection.
As graphite is conductive, I’m nervous about damaging the computer and controller/powersource most of all, and also the router/stepper motors. I have yet to box up my power source- ideally I will eventually put it in a housing. For my first attempt I’m going to cover it with a cardboard box. I’m thinking to do this outside and have the wind blowing away from the computer, as well as having the computer higher than the machine, then have both the vaccum/dushshoe going, plus a second shopvac to manually try and catch stray dust.

All thoughts appreciated. Hopefully I try this tomorrow.

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Thanks for keeping us apprised of your endeavors. I have no experience machining graphite, myself, so I can’t give you any advice on machining it, but I too am working on a project where I plan to machine molds out of graphite to cast optical aluminum plates from.

To catch all the stray graphite dust, one idea is to use a vacuum table, which will involve removing any wasteboard and then putting your machine ontop of said table. You could actually make the table yourself just by building a box and drilling a bunch of holes into the top (using your X-Carve will make short work of it). This would surely protect everything surrounding your machine, and the machine itself, as much as possible, and might even eliminate the need for a dust shoe entirely while doing a better job at catching all of the graphite dust flying off your tool. Maybe you could use it in combination with a dust shoe, as a backup capture? I would only be concerned about having both the table and shoe hooked up to the same vacuum and having the table rob all the suction from the shoe, but I guess it would make up for it by catching everything. A valve on the table to control the ratio of suckage between table/shoe might help with that.

Also, where are you sourcing your graphite from? McMaster only has up to 12x12" and I am looking for up to 36x36", or at the very least 24x24", and being that I’m making plates I only need it to be ~1/4" thick.

Good luck!

Reporting back on Graphite carving:

I did my first attempt yesterday and it went great. While I will want to modify my design some, it worked spectacularly:

Roughing pass, done at 60 inches/minute at 1/16"pass depth with 1/4" end mill

Finishing pass done at 30 inches/minute with 1/8" ball nose. It needs some slight sanding bit looked great!

First glass casting attempts worked perfectly!

I see a lot of tweaks I’m going to do for subsequent carves, but am very happy. I’m also very excited about doing custom cast glass time designs!

In regards to graphite dust: the Kent CNC dust shoe (I broke down and bought one instead of making my own due to time constraints)/ Dust Deputy/shop vac solution worked perfectly! With sawdust there was a lot more dust flying everywhere, but the fine graphite dust was 99% sucked up and there was next to no mess at all.

Charles- I bought my graphite on Ebay, but I’m just buying small blocks. Not sure about sources for large sheets.


That’s awesome! Can we get a photo of the cooled glass with different lighting, possibly? I’d like to get a good detail view of how it came out.

How many castings can you get away with using a single mold like that?

As for sanding, you can find various sanding/polishing ‘bobs’ on McMaster Carr that you could just pop into your spindle and do another finishing pass with, automating your ‘sanding’, if that’s what you want. I imagine graphite is soft enough to simply use a felt bob on.

I’m looking for some rather large plates of graphite myself. 24x24x1" in size, maybe thinner, and the actual mold would be for an aluminum plate of about equal size, but only ~1/16" thick. I’ve never casted aluminum before but the goal would be to eliminate the arduous 8 hour CNC jobs that are currently required by milling. I’m also looking into milling a die and directly stamping the plates somehow, that would be even quicker!


That is super cool. Way to think outside the box.

That is so cool!

Attaching photos of the annealed glass. I’m making a modified mold today. Your tip on a buffing pass is a good idea. I am getting some ridges in the casting on the harline, so something like that could be very useful. It just might be better to do that with a dremel as I don’t want to lose detail on the teeth.

Also, for graphite sources, check out Weaver Industries in PA. Apparently once a year they have a clearance sale where they let you in the yard to pick at scraps, but they can cut you any size you like all year long. http://www.weaverind.com/


Fascinating process and end result!

@Fredini What program are you using for the design of the image?

I worked in Zbrush to generate the image, exported as STL which I repair in Netfabb. A friend with Vectric Aspire helped me generate the Gcode for the carve. One thing I’m trying to figure out is what 3D carving cam software to buy. Aspire too expensive for my limited budget, so I think V Carve Desktop at $350 may be what I end up buying- Unless someone else has recommendations for 3D carving software?

If you are doing your modelling in something else and creating your STL files, V-Carve is great. There are no 3d modelling functions in V-Carve. I would try out their trial version to see if it works with your workflow.

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