If it weren't for bad luck

I’m in the process of designing and making a Sequence game board for my daughters for Xmas so in an attempt to expand my horizons, I’m working on making inlays instead of just filling a pocket with resin. I’ve been using a 1/16" Freud bit to do all my work. (Am using Vcarve Desktop for my software)

Bad Luck #1 -

After much research and some experimentation I learn that I should cut out the male parts first since the pockets can always be adjusted larger if need be. I resaw my Burmese Blackwood turning block to get the spades and clubs inlays and have cut out about 30+ of them when I notice the act of having cut so many pieces out of the sheet has weakened the structure and it starts bending as the bit is trying to cut. I try to screw in a stop block to prevent the movement but all I accomplish is pushing against the little bit thus breaking it off. :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

Knowing you need to cut both the pockets and inlays wit the same bit, I suspect I’m hosed and many experiments with using a different 1/16" bit prove it (as they are not all the exact same size). I keep adding .001" of slop into the pockets but when I get one to fit, there is too much gap in other areas.

I ordered several more of the same bit in a hope I can save those inlays but I’m not very optimistic. I don’t know if I have enough of the wood left to start again. I also noticed that no matter how much I oversize the pocket, the little stem of the club and spade do not seem to get bigger. The main part looks good, but that stem always looks way too small. I found another .svg last night with a less complicated stem and hope that will fix part of my problem.

Bad Luck #2 -

In in test carves on scrap pieces of plywood, I notice my vcarving is deeper on the far side so I figure I have a levelling issue. (am using an extra piece of MDF on top of original spoilboard). I whip on a .75" EM router bit and level it out, but you can still see grooves inbetween the passes. Can’t wait to get the upgraded X axis bar to stiffen it up.

It seems every time I want to expand my horizons on this thing, I spend most of my time stuck in a learning curve death spiral. lol That is the most frustrating part of CNC, the learning curve and the amount of time it takes. At least I don’t have much of a problem with small things or if I just want to cut thru something… :slight_smile:

Question #1 - I’m still trying to figure out what to do for the red inlays. Bloodwood turns brown over the long haul. Cherry isn’t red enough. I tried dying maple red, but I am cutting the pieces a little proud of the board and using a drum sander to level it all off (and because my resawing isn’t that great… various widths of inserts) so I end up with the original color. Open to suggestions here.

Maybe Red Oak, Paduk or Sapele?

I considered Padauk as it looks brilliant when first cut, but it turns dark brown over time. I have some African Mahogany left over from a project I may try. I have a box of Honduran Mahogany that’s been sitting around for years but it’s more brown than red. All these darn exotic tropical woods have these great colors when new but they all seem to fade into brown or black. I didn’t think about red oak, may have to give it a try. I tried Black Palm for the dark stuff but that wood loves to split when it’s resawn to about 1/8" of an inch.

Random thoughts:

Why it is always when you are using the expensive wood?

The upgraded gantry is a must, so many of my problems went away after I upgraded mine. I was also having issues with my Z axis. It turns out the lower Z eccentric nut hole had gotten stretched out of shape so it was impossible to keep it adjusted.

Back when I was fighting the extreme gantry flex I found that depth of cut had a huge impact on the force on the bit. You can only slow down feed rate so much as RPM is a factor. So reducing depth of cut instead of speed helped with my flex issues.

I saw someone who was doing inlays with V bits. V carving the pockets and chamfer carving the inserts. It looked weird and they had a large amount sticking out after gluing that had to be cut and sanded off, but it got a clean result with a stronger bit.

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I’ve considered the vbit thing and I haven’t ruled it out. My concern was having to have so much waste to accomplish the plug part (the board has around 100 inlays) I’ll probably give it a test. I’ve got some leftover walnut and mahogany scraps left over from making grandfather clocks. There might be a way to make the plugs very small to maximize yield.

I tried the vcarve methodology inlay and it worked pretty good but will eat up a lot of wood on the plugs and I won’t be able to get my 22"x22" board into the bandsaw to cut off the plugs. I have a flexible Japanese cutoff saw that I’ll probably have to use. Not looking forward to doing 100+ cut offs. lol I will experiment on making the plugs as small and thin as possible.

I have not done inlays myself (yet) but eventually will.

One tip I would forward though, if you use glue that is water based, is to soak the inlay in water prior to glue/clamping it down. Warm water is okay to.
The wet/hot piece of wood will be much softer and conform better to any shape/angle that is a little off.
More tolerable with oversized inlay material also.

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Robert, I like the way you think. I’m guessing you are suggesting a spoil board flattening type of operation to trim off the excess?

Haldor - that is a good suggestion.


You can set your Z to be like 0.01" above your surface then do a 0.01" pocket the size of your board and it should trim everything flat.

Or you could probe to your surface, create a pocket cut Gcode at 1 depth, modify the Gcode to move to 0" Z, then run the code.

I don’t think Easel will create toolpaths at Z=0 and I’m not even sure if Vcarve would either. You could always try like 0.000001" or something else crazy small which should trigger toolpath creation.

I use Vcarve and rarely use Easel so I can just make another tool path like you suggested there.