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If you can dream it, we can help you create it. Welcome to You Create Podcast, the show that teaches you how to take the power and flexibility from a Step Craft 3D CNC system and turn your ideas into reality, so let your ideas flow because we wanna know, what will you create?
Welcome to episode of the You Create Podcast. My name is Erick and I wanna welcome you back here this week, thank you very much for joining me again. Last two weeks we had kinda some elementary episodes we talked about what is CNC and a lot of the basic terminology and parts of the machine and things of that nature and I think that’s necessary because every day there is new people getting involved in this hobby/ technology and I think it’s important to give everybody a nice outline, an overview of what these things are.
This week I am going to do something a little different. I wanna talk about a project and just some ideas, how to turn some ideas into a real thing. Now, this past weekend in New England there was big fair that goes on for 17 days every September, it’s called the big E and during the 17 days there is over a million and a half people that go through here and it’s kind of considered like a world’s fair, it’s big. They have a lot of everything from amusement rides to there is a building called a better living building which is booths from different business trying to sell things and you see some of the ad seen on TV stuff. You see everything from companies selling beds to the latest Cham wow and they have a lot of animals and things like that, it was a really good time I love going there. I don’t usually go every year cause it’s kind of the same thing over and over but this year I went with a little bit different mind-set. Given my involvement with Step Craft and having been doing a lot of different projects I went kind of on a mission, a two part mission where consider attending this fair next year and having a booth there which after actually walking around for a whole day, talking to some other vendors I am really excited to be considering to do that. I think it’d be great exposure for our product line, but the other reason I went was just to get some ideas, just to see what people are doing, what different crafts the people are making and selling and what types of things that people come up with for ideas.
Now, one thing that caught my eyes, there was two or three booths, I think they were getting them all from the same manufacturer, when I first saw it I thought they were hand-made by one particular company but then as I walked around I saw several booths throughout the entire fair that were selling the same kind of signs and it just led me to believe that they were buying them from some distributor somewhere and reselling them but basically what they were, they were a bunch of different sayings like ‘Love you More’ or ‘Family is the Best Thing’ things like that and they were all cut out, I don’t know whether they were done on a mill or on a laser, I’m guessing these were mill based on the finished they had and they were all connected so the letters from each of the sayings were designed in such a way that they were overlapping the next letter so when you looked at it and you created a tool path you had one continuous outline, so all the letters kinda joined together to make one sign and they were silhouetted. They weren’t very thick they were maybe an 1/8 of an inch to a ¼ of an inch thick depending on the size of the sign and they were all spray painted black so every one of them was black. Some of them had a stand which was basically a piece of pine maybe a foot long with a channel milled into it so that the sign would stand on a vertical so it would be free standing and others were designed to be hung on a wall. They ranged in size anywhere from 8×12, I saw some that were close to two feet wide by however high proportionally depending on the letters and the phrases. I’ll put some pictures in the show notes of what they had at the fair.
Now this kind of intrigued me because the more I looked at it, I said, ‘wow these are actually really nice’, we had just bought a house and still decorating it and I was trying to get some ideas for things that I’d wanna have in my home and family and things like that are very important to me so I always look for different signs or plaques or things that have to do with family and that sort of thing so I was looking at the pricing on these. There was one that I saw, a phrase that I always tell my daughter and my son it just says ‘Love you More” and I said ‘wow that’s awesome and I looked at the price, I think it was $23.50 for this little piece of thin plywood that was spray painted black it wasn’t like hand painted with any decoration. I was just a plain black silhouette so I was gonna get it, then I started thinking about it, I said, you know, this actually is something I could easily make in illustrator or any drawing programme for that matter and mill out on my Step Craft machine. So I left the fair kinda motivated with doing this project when I got back and then I got home and I opened up illustrator and I was playing with some different letters and fonts trying to see how I can get them to merge together so that the letters are touching so that I would have one continuous tool path and not a bunch of letters just falling apart separately that I would have to assemble somehow. I figured something out on illustrator, I figured out how to do it and by the time this podcast goes live I am also going to have a link to a screen cast that I am doing that will show how I did that, how I made these signs from the basic drawing in illustrator through using cut 2D to set the tool path all the way to how finished it by milling it on the Step Craft 420. I already did the link for that. I have a link set up for the ‘love you More’ sign that I did. When we milled it out I didn’t do a screen cast to show how I did it but I did do a video to show it being milled and the finished product was amazing, it was just like what I saw at the fair but what was interesting was that I spent — I figured itm out for a 4×8 sheet of plywood cause it’s a birch plywood so it was about $24 at Home Depot. Then what I did was I calculate it out how much the 8×16 piece would have cost out of that sheet and it worked out to be about 86cents or so worth of material and ten minutes worth of milling time I had this ‘Love you More” sign that I saw at the fair cut put on my machine and I already had a can of black spray paint but even if you had to go buy it, you are talking maybe $4, 45 dollars at Home Depot and think of how many signs you could spray, you know, this isn’t very big. So I gave it a couple quick coats of black and now it’s hanging in my living room and I love it, it looks nice. So this is a really good example of something you can do with a CNC mill. The possibilities are endless. And if you really look around, it’s funny, you know how the saying goes if you – ‘you don’t notice cars on the road until you buy one’ and then it seems that every other car that’s on the road is that exact car that you just bought. Well, this is the same thing when you have access to a CNC you start to look at things differently. You walk to a craft show or a fair or you walk through Michael’s Craft or Jordan Fabric or a big store like that and you’ll go down the aisle and you’ll see things that are for sale and you’ll look at the price and you’ll say. ‘geez, I can make that in 5 minutes at home and I love that about having the ability to have access to my own CNC, to be able to do that stuff. Another example, as I walk, into Michael’s Crafts one day with my daughter and we were walking up and down the aisles, I am always getting ideas and there was one aisle that had wooden letters and that’s all they were, they were about 3, 4 inches tall they were just individual cut letters out of pine, nothing fancy I looked at the price cause she, her name is Abigale and she’s like ‘Daddy we should get these and put my name up, put it on my wall in my room’ well, they were selling them for $3.50 per letter and again they weren’t very fancy, it wasn’t hard wood, it was just pine, it was no big deal and so to do her name I would have to spend close to $15.00 in letters and they were unfinished so I’d still have to paint them somehow and I told her I said, ‘no, we can do this at home so I kind of made it a project for her and I where we sat down at the computer and we drew the letters to the size and the font that she liked and I was able to take the letters and we did it in illustrator and I moved it over to cut 2D created a tool path loaded a piece of clear ¾ inch pine into my Step Craft 840 and we were able to cut out the letters for her room and presently she is actually painting them, when that project is done I will post pictures of that. I think that they came out great, they require just a little bit of hand sanding after we were done and she is going to town on customizing them the way she wants. So I figure my total expense in pine was maybe $2.75 to give her the letters that would have cost me over $15.0 so these are the types of things that you can look at now when you have a CNC and you have access to it. It could be something as simple as a coat rack, it could be maybe a wall sign outside your office door that says your name, you know you buy a piece engraving material using engraving bit and instead of sending out to Remembered or a store like that to have a custom-made plaque made you can make you own. We were engraving dog tag the other day, which came out awesome, the looked exactly like a standard issue dog tag, again, it took a little while to figure out what font works best and things like that but by the time were done we bought dog tag blanks that were 25 cents apiece and we were able to create dog tags. It’s just one of like a million things that you can do with a CNC. Now if you add 3D printing which is one of the nice things about the Step Craft System I could take the mill out and put a 3D print head on and now I have a 3D printing machine. That opens up another world of options and things that you can create. If you go to a website called Thing averse.com there is literally tens of thousands of project that people design and upload to that website every day and you can download whatever the project is for free and you can print it out and have it on your own machine, not everything is 3D print related they do have some CNC files there as well and I’ve had a lot of good experience with it. We had a problem in my house with my kids and some of you might be able to relate to this where my kids love the go grab a bag of smart food or they’ll grab a bag of potato chips and they’ll take a couple handfuls and an hour later you walk into the kitchen and the bag is on the counter completely open and I partly wanna blame them cause I am like, ‘why didn’t you close the bag and my daughter came up to me and she said dad we don’t have anything to clip the bag close with I say ‘okay fair enough.’ I went to thingaverse and I did a search for bag clip and I found somebody had designed, apparently they have the same problem with kids just like I do, but they designed a bag clip so I downloaded the file, I sliced it and I print it out on my Step Craft Machine, it took about 30 minutes when I was done had a flexible PLA bag clip. I just roll up the bag and I push it over the end and it pinches it closed, now I don’t have to worry about stale chips and it’s easy for my kids to use. So while I was at it I printed bunch of them so I had some extras and I took care of that problem, now we have no more open bag issue. You could see that every day little common problems would be solved because you have access to a machine that allows you to pretty much take any problem and create a solution for it or any idea that you might see in a store or online in a catalogue and using some very simple software most of it free for that matter, you could sit down and you could create your own sign or your own letters or your own project that you could do with your family in a matter of minutes and the possibilities that you have with this technology are amazing and I just wanted to start this podcast off by talking that because I thought it was really cool, this sign thing was kinda of a big deal to me I wanted one for my house it gave me the idea it’s not that I didn’t wanna buy one from this vendor and actually I would have had I thought that they were hand-made by that one vendor but then when I found out that they were made probably overseas some mass production I just couldn’t justify spending almost $25 for something I can make on my own, plus it created a good project and something for me to make a video and kinda show case some stuff with the Step Craft Machine, so that is what I did
Alright, so I wanna share an email that I just received, it’s a support email to Step Craft, and this applies to any CNC owner of a machine and anybody who is looking to potentially buy a CNC machine. This person was asking if we would create some tutorial videos on setting up various tools like our drag knife and wire cutter etc. and I just published a video last night on how to set up our drag knife and how to use cut 2D to create a tool path for cutting vinyl so I posted that last night. I put the link on the show notes as well. Anyway, this person said thanks those videos are helpful, part of what I am not sure about is how to best create my own content, as far as I can tell none of the software included with the machine is actually for creating 2D paths for these tools, the drag knife video shows cut 2D which supports content creation while cur3D does not. I found that Inkscape has a plugin for G code generation but it is very difficult to use. Do you have any recommendations for software that I could use to create content, to drive the drag knife engrave pen etc.?
Okay well this is a great question, and I am sure that it’s a question that most beginners have when they are looking to buy a machine. It’s not like you can just look at the machine and think of something it’ll make, you actually have to design whatever it is that you are gonna create or find a design online that you can download and have converted into G code to run on the machine, so we do a lot with vetrix products, cut 2D, cut3D V carve pro, they are all amazing programmes and the one programme that I recommend for all Step Craft customers when they buy a machine is to make the $150.00 investment and purchase a copy of Vetrix cut 2D. Now, what’s nice about this programme is it allows you to do some very basic drawing, you can draw squares and circles, you could do complex shapes, you could do text manipulation, it allows you to in pour a bit map image and there is an image trace feature which will create an outline path around any bitmap image that you may import into your machine, so it gives you a lot of flexibility. If you just need something to learn to do some basic drawing or simple shapes or if you are gonna use your machine to cut letters like I was talking about earlier cut 2D is perfect for that you don’t need any additional software. Now, I am also a fan of using Adobe Illustrator and I know it’s a paid programme. I have Creative Cloud you can get that for, I think it’s $19 a month, I have the full version which is closer to $50 a month, so that might be an investment that a lot of people don’t want to make and—so you do have options you are fortunate. There is a programme called Inkscape that is completely free, it’s very powerful it’s an equivalent to Adobe Illustrator, it has full vector capabilities a lot of powerful tools you can use to create 3D drawings as well as 2D drawings it’s not something I use on a regular basis mainly because I am a mac guy and it is a windows based programme so for all you guys that are using windows if you don’t mind Inkscape work fine. I happen to use Illustrator simply because I make an investment every month for the Creative Cloud suite. However, I am making it a point to learn a little bit about Inkscape so I can do more videos and talk about it on the podcast because it is a free programme I tend to recommend that people get it and learn it because you don’t have to spend any money, it is pretty simple.
Now that’s good for drawing and manipulation of characters and letters and things like that, but if you wanna look to do really detailed or really specific drawing then you might wanna look to a CAD programme. Now there is tons of Cad Programmes on the market, some that are free and some that cost thousands of dollars and the advantage of a CAD, if you are trying to make a part for something or you are gonna design maybe a quad copter it is something very specific that you need. CAD programme has a lot of features that allow you to do measurements and make things to very precise dimensions and tolerances so I am a big fan of Sketch up, It used to be owned by Google but you can go to Sketch-up.com and check, it out. They have a sketchup make version which is completely free, very easy to use for basic stuff but it does have some powerful capabilities and there is a lot of plugins and things like that are available from third party vendors to expand its capabilities. There is thousands of videos on YouTube, there is training courses from websites like linda.com that you could go through a complete tutorial on how to use it but the programme itself is free and it will allow you to output the files in a format that you could bring them into Vetrix cut 2 D and you could create a tool path for it. So for instance, say I was drawing something like a bird feeder and I am gonna draw all the sides of the bird feeder and I’m gonna cut them out in ply wood, each part is drawn in two dimensions essentially so you are gonna draw each side, you are gonna put the hole in the window, the roof and you are gonna output each side as a separate file. Those files would then be brought into Vetrix cut 2D and you would basically click on the outline of the perimeter of each part and you would assign a tool path to it. For instance, if you were gonna cut one of the side and it’s like rectangular you would click on that outline go into the tool path and if you are using say 8 inch plywood you could pick an ed mill that you wanna use 8th , 16th , it doesn’t matter and you could tell it okay, I wanna cut on the outside of this line and I need to go down an 8th of an inch and I do it in two passes and it’ll create a tool path, it will generate a live 3D view of your part so that you can rotate it and look at it to make sure it looks okay. I wanna say that that’s 99% accurate to what you’ll see when you cut the part out on the machine so if that looks good you could simply save the G code file and load it into your machine and cut it out it is that simple. Now the other thing you can do with Sketch up and Inkscape for that matter; you could draw things in three dimensions. When you are doing 3D printers typically the file choice is an STL file which stands for Stereo lithography and what that does is it takes the 3dimensional part that you draw whether it be Inkscape or Sketchup or any programme for that matter and you can export the file to an STL and then you bring it into the repetier slicing software, any 3D printer has their own slicing software, whatever your printer you are using will have its own software and what it does is ; it analysis the part and it knows how thick each layer is so looks at the part, it basically slices it horizontally and it analysis the tool path for the printer head to move given that thickness of material it is laying down per layer so it’s a very powerful programme and you have the ability with both Sketchup and Inkscape to do that, again, many programmes all the way up to Solid Works which is a very expensive programme you have the ability to do just that. Now the other thing as far as milling, we can do 3 dimensional carving on a CNC mill and to do that Vetrix has a programme called Cut 3D and that programme will also accept an STL file just like the 3D printer would and it allows you to take that 3 dimensional image and lay it on to a piece of material and you can recess it into the material, you can put it up above however you want to manipulate it but what it will do is remove all the material around it will do a very fine detailed carving usually you use a small ball nose like an 8th inch or 16th inch ball nose and when you are done it will keep removing material and it will do a final pass and when you are all done you’ll have a very smooth carved piece of wood that replicates the file that you put in there. So the STL files work as well for 3 dimensional carving as well as 3D printing and so to answer this question, yea, my recommendation I think I already said it, would be Cut 2D for sure because you have some drawing capabilities in there and you have the ability to take a more complicated file from Inkscape or Sketchup or any CAD or drawing programme and import it and use it as a CAM programme basically to assign a tool pass and create the G code, so it is kind of a dual purpose software. For CAD design if you are not seriously doing this as a high end business or you are not a massive machine shop or something Sketchup is great I recommend it Sketchup Make is free, it’ll do —I don’t know I’ve been using it for years and I honestly have not run into anything yet that can’t draw in that programme and either 3Dprint or CNC so I would definitely recommend going down that path and we will talk more about how to do specific things in future episodes and I’ll do support videos as well to illustrate that. Ink scape is another program if you are a PC user running parallel with Windows I recommend Inkscape if you don’t wanna spend the money for Adobe Illustrator Inkscape is a great programme. There is also Corel Draw which is also a commercial programme so you would have to buy that but if you are looking for something for free that is very powerful that will allow you to do drawing and manipulation of character and shading and different line thicknesses and all that stuff Inkscape is a really good programme for that. I am learning it now and I will talk more about my journey with it here in the future but it’s a very good programme and will not leave you limited in terms of what you might be looking to draw and create.
Alright, so that about does it for this week. I wanna thank you again for joining me and I really appreciate the positive feedback and the positive comments that you guys are leaving. I would like tom ask again, if you like the podcast and can see the vision I have and where I wanna go with this please go on to iTunes and give it a five star rating, if you don’t mind I would really appreciate that and that will help the podcast be seem by more people. If you know anybody that is into CNC or 3D printing or is new or is considering getting involved please share the link to this podcast, I’d really appreciate that. If you want more information on the Step Craft Machine please visit www.stepcraft.us and hopefully I will hear more from you. If you have any questions please just drop me an email or leave a comment on the show notes for this episode. So the show notes will be at youcreatepodcast.com/003. Thank you very much and have a great week we will talk to you next week.