Oneshop Redding | Aluminum Cutting Bits | CNC Shapeoko

I recently purchased some new endmills from Toolstoday for cutting aluminum. I bought from Toolstoday mostly because of their Instagram page, where they show off different tools performing different tasks decided to pick up a few.

I've got four here, and each has a different purpose. 

First, we've got a 1/32" vee bit with a ball end. Which is for excellent detail finishes, which moves quickly but with small stepover passes; this allows for smooth 3d surface finish. I've wanted to do some smaller detail projects, and this is perfect for what I've got in mind.
The next tool over from the left is a 1/4" chamfer bit; this isn't as exciting but serves an instrumental purpose; it shapes the corners to get rounded off slightly. With its 90deg tip comes down and barely touches an edge to give it a slight chamfer, I've wanted one of these for some time now as all my previous operations ended with sharp edges. Unfortunately, I didn't see any explicitly for cutting aluminum, so I picked up a steel cutting one and am hoping it will work just the same.

Third from the left is a 1/4" single flute square mill; this is for general use to hog out material and is going to be used probably the most out of all of these. After talking a bit with a local machinist, I realize now that the single flute was perhaps not the best idea with my setup. The Shapeoko 3 has a 3/4 horsepower router, which can't build-up to the speeds sufficient for it to cut optimally. I need to do more research into why it's not ideal, but I've got a pretty good idea.

And last but not least is the 1/8" single flute square bit. It has the same purpose as the quarter-inch endmill but allows to obtain smaller detail. Which wasn't entirely necessary, but it's always nice to have a smaller one lying around.

Oneshop Redding | Lake California Wall Map | CNC Shapeoko

A few weeks back, I started a new project to mostly trying out the epoxy resin. I've seen a couple of people on Etsy make wall maps of local lakes and thought it would be a pretty cool idea to emulate with a local lake that our community is based around.

I needed an overhead view of the lake and convert it to an SVG in which I could use in Fusion360. I first went to the local community website to see if they had a decent photo I could use. The majority of the images they had were of low quality, and I couldn't use them. I then headed to google maps, after zooming in on the area I wanted I was able to capture a snapshot of the screen and bring it into adobe illustrator. There I was successful in converting it into a traceable SVG. 

Once I had the SVG, I was then able to take it into Fusion360 and setup the toolpaths. I initially ran it small to get an idea of what it would look like, but the detail was tough to capture with the tools I had, so I scrapped that and went with the size I wanted. 

I started looking for some cheap epoxy resins I could pick up at stores near me and found that my local Walmart sold small quantities in their arts and crafts department. However, once taking a closer look at it, I discovered that you couldn't pour more than a 1/8" without getting into some dicey territory.

For the wood itself, I wanted to go with something relatively inexpensive, so I headed to my local Lowes and found Poplar would fit my needs. It was cheap, and in size, I was looking for, plus it was almost effortless to cut. The only downside to poplar is it has this weird greenish-yellow color, which in my opinion, is very ugly; I decided to use it anyway and apply a stain and finish to cover it up. I picked out a piece 24"x 16"x 3/4" and cut it down to 16"x 16" stock. The size of the Shapeoko 3 cutting radius is 16"x 16" and so couldn't exceed those limits.

After finding all my restrictions, I started to set up the toolpaths. I decided on a 1/4" depth of cut and only fill it with epoxy halfway, this would give some extent to the finished product. The whole operation only took 24 minutes and turned out pretty good; however, I noticed that certain aspects of the lake cut seemed off. I took a closer look at the toolpaths and found that I accidentally set it to cut with a 1/8" square mill but used a 1/4" square mill. One might think this isn't that big of an issue as everything would be slightly larger than the original, right? Unfortunately, not, since every side was 1/8" more than what was needed, this would give some of the inside details be bloated larger than they are. I didn't have time to go back and start from scratch, so I just dealt with it. 

Before pouring the resin, I needed to laser engrave the wood with a compass and location. I was able to find a compass online and modified it a bit to suit my needs. After putting it together with the name and location, it was ready to go. I set the laser engraver to 400mm/s  with 50 power. The first pass was a bit too light, so I ran it twice more and dug into the wood.

Once all the features machined out and laser engraved, I then moved over to staining and finishing. I started with using a blow torch and lightly pass over the wood a couple of times to give it more texture. For the staining, I found half a can of red chestnut stain and finish and used a paper towel to wipe it on. I then came back with another cloth and wiped as much of the stain as I could off to leave it somewhat lighter than the stain advertised on the can. 

After it dried, I read the instructions on the epoxy resin and started mixing it with a bit of blue pigment. I was aiming for a baby blue but ended up putting too much pigment, and the outcome was a midnight blue, I thought it was just darker in the cup since it was a more concentrated area, but when I poured it, it was only slightly lighter than it was in the container. I poured it halfway, approx 1/8" and took a blow torch to it to remove the bubbles. And finally, I tacked on a simple brass wall piece to mount it.

Overall, working with resin was much easier than I was expecting.

I honestly wasn't expecting it to turn out as well as it did. If I were to redo the project I would definitely double-check the tooling and even use smaller tools to get those smaller details. Also, I probably would have added more details through the laser engraving like streets.

Oneshop Redding | Making a New Wasteboard | CNC Shapeoko

After years of use, the Shapeoko has started to get a little sloppy. Since I started using the CNC machine, I've noticed that after cutting operations, it would often leave a slight onion skin on my part. This means the router is at a slight angle, or your stock is not flat in relation to the bed.

One of my favorite content creators in the CNC world is Winston Moy. He makes a lot of tips and tricks videos and shows his processes when trying new materials and tools. He recently came out with a video on how to properly tune the Shapeoko 3 and making a new wasteboard which is precisely the same machine I have access to at my local makerspace. The main thing that attracted me to his video was his tutorial on how to make a new wasteboard. A wasteboard sits upon the base of your CNC machine and acts as a bed for your stock. The reason it is called a wasteboard is that once you finish your cut on any project, you can then remove a thin layer of the bed to zero it out. Making sure you have a perfectly flat workplace. Part of the design includes using thread inserts coming up from the back of the bed so that you can secure your stock with screws or clamps.

For the 3D design of the wasteboard, I decided to have a 1.5" length in between each pocket that holds the thread inserts. I had to figure out a way to bolt the new bed onto the existing one and to do it without having to make any new holes in the metal base of the machine. I was able to do that by locating four screws and removing them. Then I would need to buy longer ones to pass through the new bed and into the base. The Shapeoko 3 has an advertised bed of 16"x 16" in its X and Y-axis. I did notice, however, that the machine isn't quite big enough to have a 16"x 16" bed, so I had to make it 16"x 15" instead, the router couldn't travel that extra inch in the Y-axis.

While I was setting up the new bed, I noticed the Z belt kept either falling off or just was loose. So I tightened that up and squared the belt so that shouldn't happen again. After securing the new piece of MDF to the existing bed, I used a 1/4" downcut two flute coated endmill from Toolstoday and started my toolpath. I first cut the four holes that would attach the new bed onto the existing one, then flipped it over and cut the holes for the thread inserts. 

I ran into an issue as soon as it started the drill hole operation. I could have sworn I set it up right by having it retract every 2mm, which would prevent the endmill from recutting the same chips as well as chip evacuation. It didn't withdraw like I thought it would, and so the chips got stuck in the hole with the endmill, and it started smoking from the chips rubbing against each other, at which point I shut it down. MDF is made up of wood fibers held together by a resin-based binder and creates a powdery substance when cut. Since it's so fine, it can also catch on fire very quickly, which would have been a significant problem as pretty much everything would go ablaze. The reason the chips couldn't properly evacuate was due to the endmill being a down-cut vs. upcut bit. A downcut bit will move the chips as it cuts them down, and an upcut bit moves them up. I didn't have any upcut bits, so I ended up having it cut only 1/8" vs. the 13/16" I was initially trying, and manually drilled the rest out.

I then took my thread inserts and started inserting them into the wasteboard. I didn't have the proper Allen-key for this, however, and ended up having to fashion my way around it by using a flathead and drill. I ran into an issue right away; the thread inserts were slightly larger than the hole for them. I initially tried just forcing them in by applying pressure on the drill as I wanted to get them inserted. Which only caused the holes to strip and make them useless. I tried just drilling the holes slightly bigger, but even that wouldn't work, I tried using a 5/16" drill bit, but that was somewhat too large. I ended up having to drill it partway through with the 5/16" and then forcing the inserts the rest of the way. It solved the issue, but since I didn't have the right allen-key bits, I couldn't get them perpendicular to the board and so some of them were at a slight angle.

After I got all the thread inserts into the new wasteboard, it was time to shave off a layer and tune the trams holding the router. I started with using a surfacing tool I got off of amazon. This allows me to remove a few thousandths of an inch after each operation, ensuring I have a completely flat workplace. After doing a single pass over the wasteboard, you could visibly see line marks where the tool passed; this is due to the router being at a slight angle to the rest of the machine. This can be fixed by adjusting very sightly the tram that the router sits on forward or backward, depending on what needs to be changed. At this point, it's pretty much trial and error until you're pleased with how it sits. It would require a ton of work and be nearly impossible to have it completely flat without any visual or physical deviation in the wasteboard.

I was able to attach it to an existing bed without a hitch successfully. I then tried to screw in some small clamps to hold my workpiece in place but couldn't get them to work right since the thread inserts were at slight angles, which were amplified through the clamps and couldn't sit flat on the stock. I can't use it with the clamps as I had intended and will need to be remade with the proper tooling to be able to use the clamps, which is a project for the future. As it stands, the new wasteboard will work great for non-clamp related work holding, namely double-sided tape for smaller stock.

Oneshop Redding | Custom Business Ornaments | Laser Engraver

I was recently contacted by a church friend to design and make 50 small wooden ornaments for gift baskets they where giving to their top clients.

I did some quick calculations and looked online for the cost of the wood necessary for the project and quoted her $1.45ea. I found the wood would cost me $12.00 off of Amazon, which gave me five sheets of 300mm x 200mm x 1.5mm, and I could fit 11 per sheet at about 70mm in diameter; this would yield me enough plus a couple extra for mistakes. 

For the wood, I decided upon basswood as it was one of the cheaper materials which had excellent rigidity at about 1/16". If I weren't looking for something so rigid, I would probably go with something to cut faster so the overall machine time would be lower.

For securing the wood to the bed of the laser cutter, I just used some double-sided painters tape, which worked out quite well and was easy to remove afterward.

For the actual design process was very simple, I used adobe illustrator to design everything. She wanted her business's logo on the front and "Thank you" engraved on the back and a single 8mm hole on top to attach a string.

The runtime was 9 minutes for the back and 14 minutes for the front. I started with the end as it would be easier to work with because the text didn't need to be perfectly centered.

After getting the first sheet of 11 done and working out some of the kinks, I was able to whip through the rest pretty quick and sanded the edges where necessary from burn marks and where it didn't cut all the way through.

Oneshop Redding | Setting Up a Coolant System | Shapeoko CNC

After successfully cutting aluminum with pretty decent quality, I wanted to improve the efficiency of it. The major problem I tried to solve was that of coolant. I've tried running the machine without coolant, and it works just not well; it overheats way too fast and leaves burn marks.

With coolant works much better and I sat there and watched the machine the whole time spraying it with compressed air and pure wd-40 lubricant, which was time-consuming and meant I couldn't leave the router to work on other projects.

After posting about cutting aluminum on Instagram, someone mentioned that there was a product just for this issue. I was already aware of its existence, but not sure about the price and how easy it was to setup. After doing a bit of research, I came across this video, which explained how to set up a cheap coolant system with an air compressor and liquid coolant. The way it works is it combines the compressed air and liquid coolant and sprays it out through an adjustable nozzle pointed at the tool.

The video had links to all the different products I would need, and so I purchased them all, and they came in the following week.

The setup was straightforward. The only thing not listed was PTFE tape, which allows it to have a perfect seal, and no air leaks out. I also added for ease of use was magnets. I bought two large magnets from Lowes and attached one to the router base on the Shapeoko and the other to the side of the mist system. I wanted a simple detach system as this machine commonly for cutting wood, and the mist system would get in the way pretty quickly.

I found that the air regulator 20 PSI that he recommended in the video was not enough for what I wanted, so I just raised that to 30 PSI, which worked well for my projects.

Once I started up the machine, I knew I had a problem right away. The magnets I got started sliding around from the vibrations of the router, which was not good. From the vibration, it meant that if I had the nozzle positioned wrong, I could get knocked into the tool which would grind and possibly break it or have an equally disastrous outcome.

A quick solution was to glue some pieces of wood to the sides of the magnets; this makes them sit parallel with each other and prevent vibrations from moving it in the vertical direction. The wood worked to a certain extent, but it didn't feel very sturdy and didn't look very pretty, so I designed a simple brace for the magnets to sit on so they fit inside of each other and keep things sturdy; which I will cut out of aluminum later.