If you can dream it

You can build it!

This past weekend, I spent a few hours running a test to see if I could model something like this


Into this


And I did!

That’s a rough prototype. I only used a 1/16” flat down-cut bit which leaves a pretty rough surface. I had to hit it on the sander just to get rid of a lot of the wood shavings, but other than that this is what pops out of the machine in a single pass. Took about 40 minutes to rout, but the information gleaned was invaluable.

First thing I learned is how to navigate around Autodesk Fusion 360 (which is free for hobbyists!) and create the grip from specs. This is actually much easier in a 3D program like fusion 360 than anything I could do in Illustrator, not to mention that this is dimensional, not just a 2d outline. There’s also the fact that the program handles distances & whatnot for you much better (e.g. I need the center of this hole to be .36” from this edge. It will always be .36”, even if you move the edge). Much fun. Very cool.

Second, I can visualize how to make some really, really, really nice grips, even some with inlays. I have some highly figured walnut that I’m dying to turn into a set of grips with ebony & maple outlines and make a matching pen & pencil set out of. Part of the trick is learning how to swap out pieces without getting misaligned (the XCarve is a hobby machine, not a NASA engineered precision system, so things can get slightly off track if you’re not careful). Once I can successfully remove parts and / or change bits without losing precision, it will give me so many new options for cool things.

There’s also order of operations. For a scale, I need to drill very small holes for alignment on the top & bottom so I can flip them without them getting offset. The bottom holes have a slightly larger radius to allow for a flange and the tops have something similar for the screw head. Manually doing this with a drill is… let’s just say I’ve yet to have success with that. I can use my drill press now, but all three holes are not common sizes & require special bits. At least with the CNC, I can rout out those pockets with pretty good accuracy although holes tend to be a bit wonky (gotta figure out why).

Once I have the holes drilled, I can put it back on the jig and carve out the pockets for any inlays, carve out the inlays themselves, glue them together, then back on the jig for basic shaping. I need to add on about .01” to the overall thickness to allow for sanding and final whatnots.

Stay tuned! Exciting things are coming!

posted by by Robb Allen @
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