21 March, 2010
One of the projects I have wanted to do since initially getting into CNC work a couple of years ago, has been a sculpture. It’s something that you see as a show-off project in videos by the big companies. I roamed around the internet looking for a suitable “thing” to sculpt and liked the Buddha design right away. It’s a very complex design – the fabric folds, facial features – but also fairly simple – there are no tiny patterns in the fabric or jewelery, for example. A perfect candidate. If a design has a lot of tiny details, they will either be lost entirely, look muddy or require a super tiny cutting bit to get them (which increases the amount of time by magnitudes).
But I’d never quite gotten it right. So it became a sticking point. I don’t like having an unfinished project hanging over me, so eventually I had to conquer it. And thus, it has been a bit of a running joke whenever we get a new type of tool, cutter or software: Can this make the Buddha?
So a little explanation on this particular one. It was especially tricky to carve because it’s so deep. I wanted it to be as deep as I could make it, because part of the charm of the design is that it isn’t flat. I used a 1/4″ cutting bit for most of the work – it is a reasonable size and happens to be the highest-quality bit I have in that size range. It is 1.3″ long. This project is 3.8″ deep. The tool has to sit in a tool-holder.
You can see what I’m talking about in this photo I took a while ago:
So you can see, that if you try to move too deeply on too sharp of an incline plane, that the tool-holder will collide with your work. This is one of those problems that doesn’t exist if you are making something by hand, but is a very big deal in a machine. I measured everything very precisely, and then gave myself a tiny bit of wiggle room. I ran the simulations at least 10 times to make sure everything was okay. When it didn’t work, I modified the model and the size and the placement and tried again. Finally, I had something that checked out in the simulator. Time to make sure I did it properly!
Usually when I’m making something, I start it and then walk away. This is great because it is passive time invested in the project. I can’t use the machine for anything else while it’s cutting, but I can do other things. I spent most of the time for this one watching it intently, ready to hit the emergency stop at any moment. I did hit it a couple of times, examined, realised it would be okay, and then let it run again.
Once it was cut out, I did the small engraving and carved out the pockets. This fruitwood is absolutely intoxicating. The smell when cutting it was amazing – I wish I had more of this stuff!! Alas, all I had was this single piece of wood, in this size. (It is about 15″ tall and 5″ wide, and 4″ deep)
The back is finished, because I needed to be sure that it was flat. I left as much natural and rough as I could. I love the finished product. I put a lot of time into this — after it cut, I went over with it various grades of sandpaper for 2 hours to everything smooth and perfect. Usually I would use a smaller sized bit to do the finishing work – but I didn’t have anything long enough to do that.
This piece is for sale! You can buy it here.
I hope it gets a happy home.
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