posts tagged with the keyword ‘make’


Make Getting Started with CNC

I can’t remember the last time I did a book review… Have I ever done a book review? I should, because on rare occasions I do read books. While stuck on a plane last weekend (as well as a horse farm with no WiFi or cellular service) I read “Getting Started with CNC” by Edward Ford. I met Edward many years ago when he came to Milwaukee Makerspace, and I’ve helped build a few Shapeoko CNC machines over the years. So when I saw his name as the author, I was excited to consume his knowledge of CNC machines.

I should state for the record that I didn’t just see this book and buy it. It was part of a Humble Bundle where you pay some small amount and get a boatload of electronic versions of books. I tend to fill my old iPad with these, and read them when I get the chance. Seriously, if you are a fan of any of the Make Magazine books, sign up at Humble Bundle. You’ll mostly get emails about games (boring!) but once or twice a year you’ll get an email about an amazing book deal. Totally worth it.

Oh yes, on to the review! The book itself is about 160 pages, not too long, but just enough to introduce someone to the world of CNC machines. (We’re talking CNC routers, not mills, or 3D printers, or laser cutters, though some of the concepts apply.)

There’s good information about end mills, and toolpaths, as well as software (commercial and free options) and it even gets into G-code a bit. There are also some CAD exercises you can do even if you don’t have access to a CNC machine. There are a number of good photos and diagrams to explain concepts and machines, and there’s a walk-through of a complete CNC project which involves inside and outside cutting, pocketing, and milling down the surface. It’s written in a very approachable manner.

Now, I’ve done some CNC machining over the years, but I am far from an expert. Still, “Getting Started with CNC” was a worthwhile read, and something I’d recommend to anyone who has any interest in using a CNC router to make things.

Make Getting Started with CNC

I do have a few very small complaints. I found a few typographical errors, as well as some images that appear to have had FPOs put in, and never updated. These are things I think I can mention because I’ve served as a Technical Editor, otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned them. ;)


Jay Silver

I’ve seen a lot of people share this post from Jay Silver titled The Maker Movement is Not About 3D Printers, which bothered me, because the Maker Movement can definitely be about 3D Printers, or Robots, or microcontrollers, or laser cutters. It can also be about sewing, and growing your own food, and building furniture, and hundreds of other things.

Why was this titled “The Maker Movement is Not About 3D Printers” instead of “The Maker Movement Is about Freedom”? Oddly enough, the second level heading is The Maker Movement Is about Freedom.

3D Printers provide freedom. They provide to individuals with a few hundred dollars the ability to design things, and make those things into real-world objects in an afternoon, at home, without having to deal with service bureaus or companies who might put restrictions on what your want to create. You can also order a bunch of parts on the Internet, get them delivered to your house, and build a robot. Was that possible 20 years ago? (At a reasonable cost, anyway?)

Maybe the jab about 3D Printers and robots was just there to create controversy, I don’t know… but it seems weird to single them out. I’ve had my ups and downs with 3D Printers, and yes, they do fail, and sometimes suck, but so do computers, and other tools, and people. Nothing is perfect… and maybe that’s a big part of the Maker Movement, recognizing that the world isn’t perfect, but realizing you can change it.



After all of my experiments with recycling various HDPE scraps, I finally got around to milling a piece on the Shapeoko at BAMspace.

Milling on the Shapeoko

The piece I used was close to 0.5″ thick. I added a thin piece of MDF beneath the piece so I wouldn’t chew up our nice looking hold-down surface…


The milling took quite a while. The first attempt with a different piece did not work out well, partly due to too high of feed rate, and partly due to a piece getting stuck after being cut out. (I can see the appeal of a vacuum table!)

GRBL Controller

We use GRBL Controller on one of my old Linux laptops to control the Shapeoko.


Did I mention the milling took a long time? It was about 14 passes at 0.04″ per pass to cut through. I used a 1/8″ bit.


The end results were nice. A little rough, but some sanding and a few hits with a blow touch should clean things up just fine.



We had a quick side project in our “Machines that Make” class which involved designing a piece of jewelry in Rhino. The piece was to be 3 dimensional, and entered into the “Rapid Jewelry 3D Printing Design Competition” put on by the Design Museum Foundation.

I’ve never really designed or made any jewelry before, but Frankie suggested I look at cosplay and wearable things for inspiration. Since I seem to have an (unhealthy?) obsession with hammers lately, I went right in that direction.


The hammer, like so many tools we use, is an extension of the human body, allowing us to do thing we couldn’t do with our bare hands. I wanted to celebrate the hammer as a tool and an object, and what better way than by wearing it on your finger?

Of course this hammer becomes somewhat non-functional, at least as a hammer. You can still move your fingers around to simulate the movement, but don’t expect to pound any nails with it. (There’s also a joke here about fingernails, but I’m still working on it.)

Paper Prototypes

Paper Prototypes

I did a quick sketch and then went to work doing some paper prototypes. The prototype fits well as a “mid ring” (a new term I learned) or as a pinky ring. The actual 3D modeled one should fit on my index finger.

Paper Prototypes

Imagine if you will, a whole bunch of these on one hand. Too many hammers to handle? I think not!

STL File

I learned a few new techniques in Rhino, which should come in handy. I really wish I had more time to dig into it this semester, especially the command line features. Here’s what the plain old STL file looks like. We’ve seen this view a million times before, but I also did some renderings using Keyshot which look rather nice… Check them out below!






Obviously the 3D printed pieces won’t exactly look like this, but it was great to experiment with different materials and lighting in the rendering software. (Of course now I’m tempted to look at the open source 3D rendering applications out there!)


RepRap Prusa i3

We’re making good progress on our RepRap Prusa i3 in our Machines that Make class at UWM.

We cut the Lexan frames on the large CNC router after we wrote the G-code in RhinoCam. There was an engraving, and then one inside cut, one outside cut, and some center drill spots we marked before drilling the holes on the drill press and then tapping them for 3mm screws.

We also cut all the threaded and smooth rods on the horizontal bandsaw and then cleaned them all up on the belt sander. I learned a few new tricks for cutting threaded rod as well.

I’m a bit tempted to rebuild my Prusa i2 as a (laser-cut) Prusa i3, or maybe just build a second printer. I’d like to have a 1.75mm machine at some point instead of just 3mm so I can experiment with more filaments.

I’ve also been working on a few new machine design ideas, one will be a drawing machine, and another is a platform for building CNC machines that trade in precision for low-cost. More on those in future posts.

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