Basic Bitmap Tracing and Node Editing – Part 15 – Vectric Software for the Absolute Beginner

Part 15 Website Thumb

This article accompanies the fifteenth video in a series on my YouTube channel. If you’re not subscribed to my channel, here’s a link. Come on by and check it out. Hopefully you’ll find something you like. Read More

In this 15th video of the series, I’ll get a bit deeper into Bitmap Tracing within the Vectric software. We’ll import a rather simple color image into VCarve, and I’ll show you how to adjust the number of colors we want to trace in the bitmap. Then we’ll go in and do a little bit of image cleanup using the Node Editing mode. I’ll create a huge mess of everything by offsetting the design in an attempt to create a border for the image. After all of that, we’ll calculate a v-carve toolpath, a beveled profile, a cutout profile, and preview the project.



For the absolute CNC beginner

Don’t stress over any of this. It’s supposed to be fun, remember? You CAN learn this. You CAN do this. It’s not always super easy, but it’s never really super difficult, either. Just like anything else you want to do, there is no replacement for experience – and the only way to get that experience is to practice. Get into your CAD/CAM software, and learn it. Draw in it. Calculate toolpaths. Generate g-code. You don’t’ have to cut anything with it – it’s more important that you learn how to use the software than it is to start making chips.

That’s enough out of me. Below is a link to the 15th video in the series that’s geared toward the absolute Vectric software beginner.

I use VCarve Pro version 9.512 in this video, but all of the information in the video applies to VCarve, and Aspire software – both the Desktop and the Pro versions.

As usual, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to comment! If you don’t wish to make a public comment, click this Contact Us link, and submit it to me privately. I read ALL of the messages I get through my website, and I answer as many as humanly possible – unless you’re a spambot. Spambots get blocked – so there.

Remember, beginners – relax, take your time, and enjoy the process. It’s supposed to be fun, remember? You can do this. I’m living proof.

Summing Up

This is not an endorsement, paid or otherwise, of VCarve Pro, Vectric Ltd, or any other software or company. It’s just a demonstration of how I work. For more information on, or to download a free trial of VCarve Pro, visit the Vectric website at:

http://www.vectric.com/

Remember to click that link up at the top of the page to check out my T-Shirt shop!

Until next time, take care and have fun!

Please follow and like us:

Text Tips & Tricks – Part 13 – Vectric Software for the Absolute Beginner

Part 13 Thumb

This article accompanies the thirteenth video in a series on my YouTube channel. If you’re not subscribed to my channel, here’s a link. Come on by and check it out. Hopefully you’ll find something you like. Read More

In this 13th video of the series, I’ll demonstrate several methods of manipulating text within the Vectric software. I compiled several questions I regularly get on the subject of working with text, and show you a number of solutions to common problems. I’ll show you a few things about vertical text and what the little @ symbol before a font’s name means. Next I’ll show you how to create text blocks of a specific size, converting text to curves, and a few other things. Then I’ll design a fun little project that would look good in the shop.



For the seasoned veteran

I would ask that you please remember that none of us were born with this info. We didn’t just magically start knowing this stuff. Every one of us had to learn it. So if something seems like it should be common sense to you, remember that the person who taught you thought the same thing.

Also remember that none of us have the same equipment. You may have or have access to a CNC that’s capable of operating way outside the parameters I mention in the video. I ask that you please remember that not everyone does. This series is dedicated to the home hobby CNC beginner who may own a Stepcraft, Shapeoko, or X-Carve CNC, and wants to learn how to use it. You may disagree with some of the numbers I present, but please keep in mind that some of these smaller machines aren’t as rigid as the bigger, more robust machines.

While this series might seem like going back to the basics to some, people who are new to CNC and woodworking in general, and CAD/CAM software in specific, are joining Facebook groups and message forums every day. I frequent a lot of those forums, administrate a few Facebook groups, and am a member of several others. As a result, I’m seeing a lot of posts from beginners who have never done anything in CAD/CAM software, asking questions on some of the very basic tasks involved in using CAD/CAM software.

Also, you probably don’t need a lot of the info contained in this video, or even in this series. But if you decide to check it out, hopefully you’ll pick up a tip or pointer here or there, or at least get some insight into what the absolute beginner wants to learn. Maybe you could start sharing your expertise with others as well. This hobby can never have too many teachers.

For the absolute CNC beginner

Don’t stress over any of this. It’s supposed to be fun, remember? You CAN learn this. You CAN do this. It’s not always super easy, but it’s never really super difficult, either. Just like anything else you want to do, there is no replacement for experience – and the only way to get that experience is to practice. Get into your CAD/CAM software, and learn it. Draw in it. Calculate toolpaths. Generate g-code. You don’t’ have to cut anything with it – it’s more important that you learn how to use the software than it is to start making chips.

That’s enough out of me. Below is a link to the 13th video in the series that’s geared toward the absolute Vectric software beginner.

I use VCarve Pro version 9.512 in this video, but all of the information in the video applies to Cut 2D, VCarve, and Aspire software – both the Desktop and the Pro versions.

As usual, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to comment! If you don’t wish to make a public comment, click this Contact Us link, and submit it to me privately. I read ALL of the messages I get through my website, and I answer as many as humanly possible – unless you’re a spambot. Spambots get blocked – so there.

Remember, beginners – relax, take your time, and enjoy the process. It’s supposed to be fun, remember? You can do this. I’m living proof.

Summing Up

This is not an endorsement, paid or otherwise, of VCarve Pro, Vectric Ltd, or any other software or company. It’s just a demonstration of how I work. For more information on, or to download a free trial of VCarve Pro, visit the Vectric website at:

http://www.vectric.com/

Remember to click that link up at the top of the page to check out my T-Shirt shop!

Until next time, take care and have fun!

Please follow and like us:

Vectric Software for the Absolute Beginner Part 8

Part 8 Website Thumb

This article accompanies the eighth video in a series on my YouTube channel. If you’re not subscribed to my channel, here’s a link. Come on by and check it out. Hopefully you’ll find something you like. Read More

While this series might seem like going back to the basics to the seasoned veteran, people who are new to CNC and woodworking in general, and CAD/CAM software in specific, are joining Facebook groups and message forums every day. I frequent a lot of those forums, administrate a few Facebook groups, and am a member of several others. As a result, I’m seeing a lot of posts from beginners who have never done anything in CAD/CAM software, asking questions on some of the very basic tasks involved in using CAD/CAM software.

In this eighth video of the series, we’ll take a step back and look at Climb Cutting vs Conventional Cutting. I’ll demonstrate difference between the two, and give you a basic primer on reading grain direction in a piece of solid wood. Along the way, I’ll show you the difference between and Upcut spiral and a Downcut spiral bit, then we’ll get into the Vectric software and apply everything we discussed to a profile toolpath, a pocketing toolpath, and a v-carve toolpath.



For the seasoned veteran; I would ask that you please remember that none of us were born with this info. We didn’t just magically start knowing this stuff. Every one of us had to learn it. So if something seems like it should be common sense to you, remember that the person who taught you thought the same thing.

Also remember that none of us have the same equipment. You may have or have access to a CNC that’s capable of operating way outside the parameters I mention in the video. I ask that you please remember that not everyone does. This series is dedicated to the home hobby CNC beginner who may own a Stepcraft, Shapeoko, or X-Carve CNC, and wants to learn how to use it. You may disagree with some of the numbers I present, but please keep in mind that some of these smaller machines aren’t as rigid as the bigger, more robust machines.

Also, you probably don’t need a lot of the info contained in this video, or even in this series. But if you decide to check it out, hopefully you’ll pick up a tip or pointer here or there, or at least get some insight into what the absolute beginner wants to learn. Maybe you could start sharing your expertise with others as well. This hobby can never have too many teachers.

For the absolute CNC beginner; don’t stress over any of this. It’s supposed to be fun, remember? You CAN learn this. You CAN do this. It’s not always super easy, but it’s never really super difficult, either. Just like anything else you want to do, there is no replacement for experience – and the only way to get that experience is to practice. Get into your CAD/CAM software, and learn it. Draw in it. Calculate toolpaths. Generate g-code. You don’t’ have to cut anything with it – it’s more important that you learn how to use the software than it is to start making chips.

That’s enough jabbering from me. Below is a link to the eighth video in the series that’s geared toward the absolute Vectric software beginner.

I use VCarve Pro version 9.508 in this video, but all of the information in the video applies to Cut 2D, VCarve, and Aspire software – both the Desktop and the Pro versions.

As usual, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to comment! If you don’t wish to make a public comment, click this Contact Us link, and submit it to me privately. I read ALL of the messages I get through my website, and I answer as many as humanly possible – unless you’re a spambot. Spambots get blocked – so there.

Remember, beginners – relax, take your time, and enjoy the process. It’s supposed to be fun, remember? You can do this. I’m living proof.

This is not an endorsement, paid or otherwise, of VCarve Pro, Vectric Ltd, or any other software or company. It’s just a demonstration of how I work. For more information on, or to download a free trial of VCarve Pro, visit the Vectric website at:

http://www.vectric.com/

Remember to click that link up at the top of the page to check out my T-Shirt shop!

Until next time, take care and have fun!

Please follow and like us:

Vectric Software for the Absolute Beginner Part 5

Part 5 Thumbnail

This article accompanies the fifth video in a series on my YouTube channel. If you’re not subscribed to my channel, here’s a link. Come on by and check it out. Hopefully you’ll find something you like. Read More

first things first

While this series might seem like going back to the basics to the seasoned veteran, people who are new to CNC in general, and CAD/CAM software in specific, are joining Facebook groups and message forums every day. I frequent a lot of those forums, administrate a few Facebook groups, and am a member of several others. As a result, I’m seeing a lot of posts from beginners who have never done anything in CAD/CAM software, asking questions on some of the very basic tasks involved in using CAD/CAM software.

what’s it all about?

In this fifth video of the series, I’m getting a little bit more advanced than I probably should. We’ll get into importing vectors from a DXF file. The main reason for doing so is because I’ve had several questions on the subject lately, and it’s just easier to show than it is to try to describe.

We’ll create a new project, import some simple vectors, and calculate toolpaths to cut the project. I’ll open a new session of VCarve and import some more complex vectors, and show you what to look for, when it comes to joining them. Along the way, I’ll demonstrate how to watch out for 3D DXF files, and show you why they can’t be imported the way a 2D file can.

freebies!

As an extra, added bonus, I’m offering the two 2D DXF files I used in this video as FREE digital downloads! Head over to my SHOP page by following this link and download them yourself.



a few thoughts

For the seasoned veteran; I would ask that you please remember that none of us were born with this info. We didn’t just magically start knowing this stuff. Every one of us had to learn it. So if something seems like it should be common sense to you, remember that the person who taught you thought the same thing. No, you probably don’t need a lot of the info contained in this video, or even in this series. But if you decide to check it out, hopefully you’ll pick up a tip or pointer here or there, or at least get some insight into what the absolute beginner wants to learn. Maybe you could start sharing your expertise with others as well. This hobby can never have too many teachers.

For the absolute CNC beginner; don’t stress over any of this. It’s supposed to be fun, remember? You CAN learn this. You CAN do this. It’s not always super easy, but it’s never really super difficult, either. Just like anything else you want to do, there is no replacement for experience – and the only way to get that experience is to practice. Get into your CAD/CAM software, and learn it. Draw in it. Calculate toolpaths. Generate g-code. You don’t’ have to cut anything with it – it’s more important that you learn how to use the software than it is to start making chips.

get on with it!

That’s enough jabbering from me. Below is a link to the fifth video in the series that’s geared toward the absolute Vectric software beginner.

I use VCarve Pro version 9.015 in this video, but all of the information in the video applies to Cut 2D, VCarve, and Aspire software – both the Desktop and the Pro versions.

As usual, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to comment! If you don’t wish to make a public comment, click this Contact Us link, and submit it to me privately. I read ALL of the messages I get through my website, and I answer as many as humanly possible – unless you’re a spambot. Spambots get blocked – so there.

Remember, beginners – relax, take your time, and enjoy the process. It’s supposed to be fun, remember? You can do this. I’m living proof.

This is not an endorsement, paid or otherwise, of VCarve Pro, Vectric Ltd, or any other software or company. It’s just a demonstration of how I work. For more information on, or to download a free trial of VCarve Pro, visit the Vectric website at:

http://www.vectric.com/

Remember to click that link up at the top of the page to check out my T-Shirt shop!

Until next time, take care and have fun!

Please follow and like us:

Vectric Software for the Absolute Beginner Part 2

Thumbnail pic

Zoom, Material Setup, and The Profile Toolpath

 

This article accompanies the second video in a new series I’m creating on my YouTube channel. If you’re not subscribed to my channel, here’s a link. Come on by and check it out. Hopefully you’ll find something you like. Read More

The absolute beginner series

While this series might seem like going back to the basics to the seasoned veteran, people who are new to CNC in general, and CAD/CAM software in specific, are joining Facebook groups and message forums every day. I frequent a lot of those forums, administrate a few Facebook groups, and am a member of several others. As a result, I’m seeing a lot of posts from beginners who have never done anything in CAD/CAM software, asking questions on some of the very basic tasks involved in using CAD/CAM software.

I’ve often thought that these people were a segment of the home CNC hobby that was being overlooked in the video tutorials provided by most of the major software companies, so I’ve decided to take it upon myself to try to help fill that gap.

The second video

In this second video of the series, I demonstrate several ways to zoom in and out of the 2D view. I then move from the CAD side of Vectric software, and venture into the CAM side by getting into Material Setup, then demonstrating the Profile Toolpath.

Preview of the Project
Preview of the project.

The section dedicated to the Profile Toolpath is LONG. I know that. There’s a LOT of info to absorb in it. I know that too. I did pare it down as much as possible, however the Profile Toolpath is one of the most complex toolpaths in the software, mainly because there are just so many options available. It would be an injustice to the viewer to not at least attempt to talk about the options that are necessary decisions that need to be made in every project. Topics like cut depth, tool selection, machining options, etc… have to be at least described to save the user a lot of grief later.

settle in for a long ride

I know that long videos like this aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. I did get one complaint about the length of the first video in the series. I can’t wait to see what he says about this one – it’s 12 minutes longer. Still, the info I demonstrate in the video is necessary to successfully use it.

I talk about making future videos to discuss several topics and options in this video. You can be sure those videos will be forthcoming, but I’ll try to tie them into a project, so the viewer isn’t just sitting there. I’ll apply those topics to a real life situation.



not a beginner?

For the seasoned veteran; I would ask that you please remember that none of us were born with this info. We didn’t just magically start knowing this stuff. Every one of us had to learn it. So if something seems like it should be common sense to you, remember that the person who taught you thought the same thing. No, you probably don’t need a lot of the info contained in this video, or even in this series. But if you decide to check it out, hopefully you’ll pick up a tip or pointer here or there, or at least get some insight into what the absolute beginner wants to learn. Maybe you could start sharing your expertise with others as well. This hobby can never have too many teachers.

beginners: take it easy

For the absolute CNC beginner; don’t stress over any of this. It’s supposed to be fun, remember? You CAN learn this. You CAN do this. It’s not always super easy, but it’s never really super difficult, either. Just like anything else you want to do, there is no replacement for experience – and the only way to get that experience is to practice. Get into your CAD/CAM software, and learn it. Draw in it. Calculate toolpaths. Generate g-code. You don’t’ have to cut anything with it – it’s more important that you learn how to use the software than it is to start making chips.

let’s get on with it

That’s enough jabbering from me. Below is a link to the second video in the series that’s geared toward the absolute Vectric software beginner.

I use VCarve Pro version 9.015 in this video, but all of the information in the video applies to Cut 2D, VCarve, and Aspire software – both the Desktop and the Pro versions.

As usual, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to comment! If you don’t wish to make a public comment, click this Contact Us link, and submit it to me privately. I read ALL of the messages I get through my website, and I answer as many as humanly possible – unless you’re a spambot. Spambots get blocked – so there.

Remember, beginners – relax, take your time, and enjoy the process. It’s supposed to be fun, remember? You can do this. I’m living proof.

This is not an endorsement, paid or otherwise, of VCarve Pro, Vectric Ltd, or any other software or company. It’s just a demonstration of how I work. For more information on, or to download a free trial of VCarve Pro, visit the Vectric website at:

http://www.vectric.com/

Remember to click that link up at the top of the page to check out my T-Shirt shop!

Until next time, take care and have fun!

Please follow and like us:

Creating a Spoilboard Surfacing Toolpath in VCarve

Surfacing a spoilboard is the final necessary step, after laying one down on the CNC table. Creating the surfacing toolpath sounds intimidating, but it’s actually pretty simple. You just have to remember a couple of things. Read More

Why Surface a Spoilboard?

The simple answer is that we surface the spoilboard to make sure that it’s flat and smooth. Material to be cut on the CNC is mounted to the spoilboard. We want that material to be as flat as possible to ensure smooth cuts of equal depth along every part of its surface.

This is especially important when it comes to v-carving or engraving. If the work piece isn’t sitting flat, a v-bit will cut deeper in areas that are sitting on a high spot, and shallower in areas that are sitting in a low spot.

Assuming you have trammed your router or spindle, and have your spoilboard mounted, we can start gathering the info we need to create a toolpath we can use to surface the spoilboard. If you haven’t trammed your router or spindle, I highly recommend you do so before you attempt to surface a spoilboard. I covered the process in my website article “Tramming the Router on my Gatton CNC,” which you can read here.

Things to Note and Remember

There are a couple of things we need to know before we get on the computer. Chief among them is the physical size of your spoilboard, and its proximity to your limits. We need to be sure that the toolpath we create will allow you to run the surfacing bit over the entire spoilboard without hitting a limit switch or crashing an axis.

When I made my spoilboard, I used a felt pen chucked into my router to draw a line on the table, from one side of my X axis to the other. I purposely triggered the limit switches at both ends of the X axis when I drew that line. I did that for several reasons, but one reason was to learn exactly where those limits were in relation to the centerline of the router bit over the table. It turns out that limit was roughly 1/4” away from the aluminum angle along each side of the table.

I put a piece of t-track right next to that aluminum angle, and it’s just shy of 3/4” wide. My spoilboard actually starts right next to that t-track. That means the left and right edges of my spoilboard are roughly 1/2” inboard of the limits of my X axis. This means I can safely machine the surface of the spoilboard without triggering a limit switch in X.

Along the Y axis, my CNC will run past the front edge of the table by a couple of inches without hitting the forward limit switch. I used that line I drew on the table to aid in placement of the spoilboard pieces, and trimmed the back edge of the spoilboard flush, using a 1/4” straight bit in my router. I know that the router will miss the rear Y axis limit switch by at least 3/8” – probably more.

With the measurements of the spoilboard in X and Y and the distance from each edge of the spoil board to each limit written down, I can get into VCarve Pro and start creating the toolpath.

Creating the Toolpath

Follow along in the video below as I go through the steps needed to create a toolpath for surfacing the spoilboard. I’m using VCarve Pro version 8.5, so some of the screens may differ from yours slightly, depending on which version you’re using.

We’ll be using some of the calculators built into the VCarve software to create the toolpath boundary. Then we’ll calculate a pocket toolpath, preview it, and make any adjustments needed. Finally, we’ll save the g-code.

As usual, if you have a question or comment, leave it in the comments section below. Or, if you’d prefer, go over to the Contact Us page and submit it to me there.

Until next time, take care and have fun!

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Tramming the Router on my Gatton CNC

Trammign the Router on my Gatton CNC

What Is Tramming and Why Would You Do It?

 

Tramming the router means adjusting the router mount to get the router as close to perfectly perpendicular to the spoilboard in the X and Y direction as possible. A router that’s not adjusted properly will cut deeper on one edge than it does on the other, leaving ridges and grooves on flat surfaces. This phenomenon is less noticeable when using smaller diameter bits. When you get into using larger diameter bits, however, it can become very apparent. Read More

In the picture below, you can see an exaggerated demonstration of what I’m talking about. The bit on the left is tilted clockwise, so the cutting edge of the bit is cutting deeper into the material on the right side than it is on the left. This is known as shingling, because when you look at it from above, the ridges and grooves look like rows of shingles on a roof. The bit on the right is running straight and true, leaving a smooth cut.

A gross exaggeration of what shingling looks like.
A demonstration of Shingling due to a tilted router.

Tramming the router eliminates that shingling problem.

Let me say right here that you may or may not need to tram your router. If you’ve been using it for a while and you haven’t noticed a problem, you probably don’t have one. If you mainly use bits and end mills smaller than about 1/4” in diameter, you may never notice a thing. I didn’t notice any problems on my Shoestring Budget CNC until I went to surface a pine slab with a 1 1/4” diameter bit. It was then that I discovered just how badly I needed to tram my router.

If, on the other hand, you plan on surfacing materials like slabs or rough milled lumber on your CNC, you might want to look into tramming your router. In my opinion, I think a person should tram their router even if they just plan on adding a spoilboard and surfacing it. If you’re going to go to all of the trouble of adding a spoilboard, you’ll want it as flat, smooth and level as you can get it, right?

So What Tools Do You Need to Tram Your Router?

 

When it came to tramming the router on my Gatton CNC, there were a lot of options. Edge Technology offers a Mini Pro Tramming System, which consists of an anodized aluminum beam that has 2 dial indicators on it. Basically, you chuck it into your router, and use the dial indicators to get very precise measurements. They run right around $125.00, however, and that just isn’t in the cards for me right now. I may get one further down the road, but for the moment, I need to focus on a cheaper alternative. Instead, I went with a Triton dial indicator, which I ordered online for less than $20.

Link to this dial indicator in the main body of the article.
The inexpensive dial indicator used for tramming.

We’ll also need a piece of glass, some small blocks of wood to hold the glass stationary, and something to use as shim stock.

Why do we need a piece of glass? Well, in order to adjust the router, we’ll need a flat, level plane to measure it against. The piece of glass is going to provide that level plane. You don’t need any special kind of glass. I used a piece of glass from a cheap picture frame I picked up at the big box store for less than $2. I would suggest, however, that you don’t use a piece of glass larger than 8” x 10”. The reason for that is because even though the dial indicator isn’t putting very much downward pressure on the glass, it can be enough to make the glass flex. That will throw off your measurements, and your tramming won’t be very accurate at all.

You’ll also need a way to mount the dial indicator in to the router. In the video posted below, I show you the mounts I made out of scrap. They both worked like a charm.

Tramming Isn’t Difficult

While tramming the router isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, it wasn’t hard to do at all. All in all, it took me about 2 hours to do, but it has taken some other folks I’ve talked to up to 6 hours or more, depending on how far they needed to adjust it. With that in mind, let me offer a few tips that can make things go a lot smoother for you.

First and foremost, don’t lean on the table while you’re taking measurements. In fact, you should completely clear the table of everything other than the glass and shims. You’d be surprised at how much your dial indicator will move if you even rest your hand on the table. Try it and see for yourself.

Adjust the nod of the router first. If you adjust the tilt first, when it comes time to adjust the nod, you’ll undo all of the work you did when you adjusted the tilt.

When measuring the nod of the router, take the reading you get and divide it by two, then use a shim of that thickness if possible. In other words, if you find that your router is off by .012, divide that by 2 and use a shim that’s .006.

For shimming the router mount to adjust the nod, I sacrificed an old blade type feeler gauge. The blades are clearly marked, and you should be able to find one at an auto parts store if you don’t have one. The blades I used tucked under the router mount horizontally like they had been made for that job, and it made shimming the mount really easy.

Other than that, relax, take your time, and take breaks when you need to. Tramming could potentially get frustrating. It’s easy to move the mount too far, then move it back too far. The tramming plates I made and installed on my Z box helped me out a lot when it came time to adjust the tilt. Just remember to take your time. It’s not a race. The point is accuracy, so walk away from it for a while if you need to.

Follow along in the video to see the steps I took to tram the router on my Gatton CNC.

Here are some links to the tools I used to tram the router in my Gatton CNC:

Triton 1″ Face Dial Indicator 

GearWrench Feeler Gauge

As usual, if you have a question or comment, leave it in the comments section below. Or, if you’d prefer, go over to the Contact Us page and submit it to me there.

Until next time, take care and have fun!

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Using the Triple Edge Finder from The Maker’s Guide with the Xylotex Drive Box Part 3

Putting the Triple Edge Finder to Work

 

Easily, the most popular question I get is how I hooked up my Triple Edge Finder (TEF) to my Xylotex Drive Box for use with my Shoestring Budget CNC Router. This article is part 3 of a series in which I’ll explain what I needed to buy, how I hooked everything up, what settings I used in Mach3, and how I use it in normal day to day operations. Read More

This article is meant to accompany my video tutorial, which can be viewed on my YouTube channel right here.

With everything installed, configured, assembled and connected, it’s time to test and put the Triple Edge Finder to work.

We’ll be referring to the Touch Test area of the Mach3 Toolsetter screen, as outlined in the yellow box in the pic below.

The area in Yellow is the Touch Test area we’ll be focusing on.

Testing is very easy. The first step is to turn on the Xylotex drive box. Install an end mill or router bit into the collet of your router or spindle and tighten it up for use as you normally would. Attach the alligator clip to the end mill or bit. Make sure the positive lead is plugged into the TEF. Touch the TEF to the end mill and look at the Mach3 screen to make sure the green LED next to the yellow Z- arrow lights up. If it does, you’re safe to move forward. If it doesn’t, recheck your connections. If it still doesn’t light up, go back into Mach3 and recheck your configuration setting in the Ports and Pins screen. (You did remember to go to the CONFIG menu and click Save Settings when you finished the configuration, right? Don’t forget that you’ll also need to close and restart Mach3 after you do so.)

Triple Edge Finder ready to go to work.

A note here about the bits I use to set my X and Y zero with the TEF. No matter what bit I’m going to use for my first cut on the CNC, I use an uncoated solid carbide ¼” end mill to set my X and Y zero. I use bits of various shapes and sizes for various projects. Some of them are pretty small, while others have odd shapes. I find that it’s just easier to chuck the ¼” end mill into the router and use it to set the X and Y zero for a couple of reasons. Chief among them being the fact that they have the length needed to put the tip of the bit down into the hole in the TEF without the collet hitting the TEF while it’s moving back and forth. Second, they rarely have any non-conductive paint or other coatings on them that would prevent a good electrical connection.

Once the X and Y zero are set with the ¼” end mill, that zero will stay set no matter what other tools you may change to, unless you physically remove the work material from the spoil board and move it, turn off the drive box or computer, or shut off Mach3. If any of those things happen, you will need to set your X, Y, and Z zeros all over again.

With the connections tested, it’s ready to be put into use. Follow along with the video as I demonstrate the normal use of the TEF.

Place the TEF on top of the work material, with the corner of the work material directly underneath the hole in the TEF. Move the TEF so that the work material is firmly seated against the two bosses on the bottom of the TEF.

Move the X, Y, and Z axes to put the end mill into the hole in the TEF, so that the tip of the end mill is down inside the hole, below the top of the surrounding surface. Hold the TEF in place, then click the crosshairs in the center of the 4 arrows, under the Touch Test area of the Mach3 Toolsetter screen. Keep your hand close to your emergency stop, or your cursor over the RESET button, and your finger poised over the left mouse button, ready to abort the movement should the end mill make contact with the TEF and keep going.

The X axis will move first, moving the bit away from the work material at a feed rate of 4 inches per minute, until it touches the inside of the hole in the TEF. It will then stop and move back to its original position at 50 inches per minute. It will then move toward the piece of work material, touch the inside wall of the hole, then move to the center of the hole in the X direction. It will repeat the process for the Y direction at the same feed rates. Once the end mill has touched off all four sides, the bit will move to the center of the hole, Mach3 will set the X and Y DROs (Digital Read Outs) to zero, then raise the bit out of the hole. Your X and Y axis are now set to the corner of the work material.

With the X and Y axes set, move the end mill over the top, flat plate area of the TEF, and bring the Z axis down until the tip of the bit is roughly ½” to ¼” away from touching it. The Z zero script is set to move the end mill down toward the TEF at 4 inches per minute. It’s also set to time out the operation after 2 inches – meaning that if the Z moves downward and doesn’t make contact with the touch plate within that 2 inch measurement, it will stop and abort the move. Moving the bit to somewhere between ½ and ¼ of an inch away from the top of the TEF simply means that you spend less time waiting for Mach3 to move the bit down into contact with the TEF.

Lift the TEF to make contact with the end mill to test connectivity one again (sanity check.) If everything is still okay, click the Z- arrow. With your hand close to the e-stop button or your cursor over the RESET button, hold the TEF in place as the Z starts to move downward.

The end mill or bit will move downward until the tip makes contact with the TEF, the stop. Mach3 will then take the thickness of your TEF (which we entered in the Plate Offset space previously,) then move the Z axis upward the necessary amount needed to place the tip of the bit 1” above the work material surface, then set the Z axis DRO to +1.0 inch.

Your X, Y, and Z axes are now accurately set to zero at the bottom left corner of your work material.

That’s all there is to it. I know that this was a lot to go through for what turned out to be such a simple operation, but you should only have to set everything up one time. Once setup is completed, the Triple Edge Finder should be basically trouble-free forever.

The Triple Edge Finder with the two different sizes of clips I use for various bit sizes.

With all of the changes we’ve made to Mach3, NOW would be a good time to back it up. You ARE backing up your Mach3 folder, aren’t you? Well, you should. You don’t know how? Well, you’re in luck.

Peter Passuello recorded a video for his YouTube channel (CNC Nutz) that covers the topic quite nicely. You can watch it here. I would highly recommend subscribing to Peter’s YouTube channel, if you’re not already. Peter shares a lot of knowledge with his viewers in easy to understand descriptions and demonstrations. His channel is a valuable resource to the whole CNC community and should be shares as often as possible. Check him out – you’ll be glad you did.

 

Disclaimer: This is how I use the Triple Edge Finder with the Mach3 Toolsetter and my Xylotex drive box. I am well aware of the problems that have been reported in using the Mach3 Toolsetter with some systems. I have been using this system for over a year with no problems at all. Having said that I cannot and WILL NOT guarantee it will work on any system other than my own. Proper care, research, and due diligence should be exercised in this and any other modification to a CNC router. I am not and will not be responsible for any damages incurred by anyone attempting to copy these modifications. 

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Using the Triple Edge Finder from The Maker’s Guide with the Xylotex Drive Box Part 2

Connection and Configuration

 

Easily, the most popular question I get is how I hooked up my Triple Edge Finder to my Xylotex Drive Box for use with my Shoestring Budget CNC Router. This article is part 2 of a series in which I’ll explain what I needed to buy, how I hooked everything up, what settings I used in Mach3, and how I use it in normal day to day operations. Read More

This article is meant to accompany my video tutorial, which can be viewed on my YouTube channel right here.

With all of the parts ordered, and hopefully received by now, it’s time to start assembling everything.

The Xylotex DB25_BOB_ST Breakout Board (BoB)

First, we’ll hook the Xylotex DB25_BOB_ST Breakout Board (BoB,) up to the drive box. There’s not much that could be simpler. It all depends on your current setup. If you currently use the parallel port on the back of your PC, you simply need to unplug it from the drive box (with the power turned off, of course) plug the BoB into that end of the cable, then plug a parallel cable into the drive box and into the remaining side of the BoB.

If you use a UC 100 or similar device, plug a parallel cable into the drive box (a 3’ parallel cable came with it from Xylotex,) plug the other end into the BoB, the plug your UC 100 and USB cable into the remaining end of the BoB. You’re all set.

Next we’ll get the Triple Edge Finder (TEF) ready to go. The TEF is shipped with a red banana plug and an alligator clip. The banana plug is for the positive lead, and it plugs into one of the holes on the edge of the TEF – it doesn’t matter which one, so use whichever you find to be most convenient.

The plug may need a lead soldered or crimped to it, so that’ll come next. In my case, I used 16-gauge primary wire because it’s what I had on hand. The size of wire isn’t really important, and it doesn’t have to be anything special. We’re only dealing with 5 volts DC. How much wire you use is up to you. In my case, I had a 25 foot roll of both black and red from another project, so that’s what I used. I got it from my local big box store. Most of them sell wire by the foot, so that’s a good alternative if you don’t see yourself ever using 25 feet of wire.

I soldered a length of red wire to the banana plug, and attached a length of black wire to the alligator clips. I use 2 alligator clips of different sizes – one for .125” and .25” bits and end mills, and another for .5” and larger end mills.

The Triple Edge Finder with the two different sizes of clips I use for various bit sizes.

In the video, I describe the simplest, most basic connection possible with the TEF. Simply pick one of the DB terminal numbers and attach the red wire to it. Attach the black wire(s) to the ground on the same terminal strip. Snug them down, but not so tight that you crack the terminal, and you’re finished.

Next it’s time to measure the thickness of your Triple Edge Finder. Measure it at its thickest part, up on the flat as indicated in the video. I used a set of veneer calipers, but a micrometer is more accurate. Either will do in this case. Again, I used what I have.

Take the DB pin number you connected the red wire to and the measurement of your TEF over to the computer and start Mach3. At this point, follow the instructions on the video to configure the Ports and Pins in Mach3, and enter your TEF’s thickness in the Plate Offset space. Don’t forget to press ENTER after you enter that measurement, or Mach3 won’t save it. Remember that you need to go over to the CONFIG menu and select Save Settings for these settings to be made permanent.

The Ports and Pins window with the Input Signals tab selected. The PROBE settings for use with the TEF highlighted in the green box. Click to expand picture.

Now it’s time to do a little bit of script editing. Here is the Z zero Script file you’ll need. Click the link, and it will open the file, and display the plain text that you will need to copy it onto your computer. To do that, first open Notepad. Click the Z zero Script link in the second sentence of this paragraph. Copy the text and paste it into Notepad. Save the Notepad TXT document with the name Z Zero Script in a location that’s easy for you to find. Click your web browser’s BACK button to come back to this page. Once saved to your computer, you can follow along and make the necessary changes as indicated in the video. Once finished, don’t forget to save the file in Notepad before you close it.

A little bit more info on the need to edit this script in the first place. Thomas (AKA Big Tex,) wrote the Mach3 Toolsetter and its scripts for CNC machines that have a fixed touch plate, a mobile touch plate, homing switches, and limit switches – all four of those accessories. My CNC, and indeed a good percentage of home hobby CNCs, don’t have all four of those accessories. Thomas doesn’t currently feel the need to change his script to make the Mach3 Toolsetter work with machines that don’t use all four of those accessories. In many ways I can see his point. He created his screen set for a specific type of customer. I don’t fit into that category. I would be basically asking him to customize his product for my purposes free of charge, and I can see how he’d be reluctant to do that, and I have no problem with that. So I did it myself, as all customizers do.

When I first downloaded and installed the Mach3 Toolsetter, I had a horrible experience with the whole thing. The X zero and Y zero functions have always worked perfectly. They still do. The Z zero function, however, almost ended in disaster. The first time I used it, the end mill I had in my router touched down onto the TEF just fine, it stopped, then lifted up about ¼ of an inch, then plunged downward onto the top of the TEF, and tried to keep going. It would have tried to drive itself through the table had I not been right there to hit the panic button. Naturally, I freaked out. After I calmed down, I did a Google search for this problem to see if anyone else had experienced anything similar. Yes, it appeared, they had.

What followed was about 3 months of emails, phone calls, and video chats with Bill Griggs (the maker of the TEF,) and Thomas (AKA Big Tex.) Both of them tried very hard to help me, but none of us could figure out what was going on or why. No matter what we tried, it just kept performing in the same way – X and Y zero worked fine, and Z zero tried to bore its way through the TEF and table. Thomas sent me several updated versions of the Toolsetter Screen Set, but to no avail. Finally, we decided that the screen set just couldn’t be made to work with my CNC router.

About a month later, I discovered that the problem lies in the script for the Z zero button. I don’t know what the specific problem is. Nobody does. Several people with years of experience have looked at it, and they can find nothing wrong with it. The author, Thomas, says there’s nothing wrong with it. I believe him. He and Bill Griggs couldn’t find a problem. The short version of this long story is this: I finally replaced that Z zero button script with something a LOT simpler, and now it works on my CNC. It’s worked for over a year, and there have no problems at all. Not a single one. None.

One of the reasons I’ve waited so long to post this video is because I wanted to make absolutely sure I didn’t have a problem with it. After over a year, it remains trouble free. I’m now confident in it enough to let folks know about it.

So now you know why I replaced the script for the Z zero button, and now you know why it took me so long to make this video series.

Follow the instructions in the video to replace the script, save it, go to the CONFIG menu, click Save Settings, then restart Mach3.

Don’t forget to go to the CONFIG menu and click Save Settings before restarting Mach3.

Now we’re ready to fire everything up, test it, and use it.

But that’s in part 3 – Putting the Triple Edge Finder to Work.

Stay Tuned!

 

Disclaimer: This is how I use the Triple Edge Finder with the Mach3 Toolsetter and my Xylotex drive box. I am well aware of the problems that have been reported in using the Mach3 Toolsetter with some systems. I have been using this system for over a year with no problems at all. Having said that I cannot and WILL NOT guarantee it will work on any system other than my own. Proper care, research, and due diligence should be exercised in this and any other modification to a CNC router. I am not and will not be responsible for any damages incurred by anyone attempting to copy these modifications. 

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Using the Triple Edge Finder from The Maker’s Guide with the Xylotex Drive Box Part 1

The Breakout Board and Mach3 Toolsetter Screen Set

This is a companion article that goes with my YouTube video, posted here.

Easily, the most popular question I get is how I hooked up my Triple Edge Finder to my Xylotex Drive Box for use with my Shoestring Budget CNC Router. This article is part 1 of a series in which I’ll explain what I needed to buy, how I hooked everything up, what settings I used in Mach3, and how I use it in normal day to day operations. Read More

To get started, we’ll need to get the Triple Edge Finder itself, obviously. You can get yours over at The Maker’s Guide by clicking this link.

The Triple Edge Finder by The Maker’s Guide.

Next, we’ll need a way to hook up the Triple Edge Finder (TEF) to the computer and Xylotex Drive Box. We’ll do that through a Breakout Board (BoB.) Xylotex no longer makes a pass-through type of BoB, so a BoB will have to be sourced from another supplier. Jeff at Xylotex suggests you search for “D-SUB-DB25-Male-Female-Header-Breakout-Board-Terminal-Block-Connector.” He also recommends searching for that phrase with and without the dashes.  As an example, he suggested this BoB here.

The BoB goes in between the drive box and the computer. It basically gives you access to the wires within the parallel cable that we’ll need to access. How you’ll connect the BoB to the drive box depends on how you currently connect your drive box to your PC.

If you’re using an older PC with a parallel port, and you have your drive box plugged into the parallel port with a parallel cable, you’ll need to get a second cable. There are a few options here. You can order a second 3 foot parallel cable through Xylotex. They’re only 3 feet long, though, and that just wasn’t long enough for my setup. I needed a 6’ long parallel cable. You can shop for them online, and they’re not expensive. I’ve also found them reasonably priced in small, local computer repair shops, and even in thrift shops. Here’s a link to an 8 foot cable that’s available on Amazon.

The main thing to remember in ordering a parallel cable is to get a DB25 Male to DB25 Female cable. A standard parallel printer cable WILL NOT work. Standard printer cables have a C36 connector at one end that WILL NOT fit your BoB, drive box, or your PC.

DB25 Male to Female Cable.

If you currently use a UC100 and USB cable or an Ethernet smooth stepper to connect your drive box to your PC, you will be fine with what you have, and shouldn’t need to get any additional cables.

With the cable situation sorted, we can move on to the next step – downloading and installing The Mach3 Toolsetter Screen Set for Mach3.

As described in the video, head over to the Mach3 Support site.  There you will find the Mach3 2010 screen set and the Mach3 Toolsetter screen set. I chose to use the Mach3 Toolsetter as I like the interface better than the 2010 screen set, but you’re free to use either one. The remaining instructions, however, are for the Mach3 Toolsetter screen set, as I’ve never used the 2010 screen set.

Both the 2010 screen set and the Toolsetter screen set cost $20 each, and I really think they’re money well spent. Once your purchase is completed, the screen set will be emailed to you. Once you’ve downloaded the .zip file, extract it to a location that’s easy for you to find. I prefer to extract .zip files to the same folder they’re located in. They’re easier to find when they’re kept together.

Don’t forget to create a new Mach3 profile specifically for use with the Toolsetter. In fact, I kept the stock Mach3 Mill profile untouched and created a new profile for my CNC before I ever thought about getting a Triple Edge Finder. It’s just good practice to use a cloned profile and make any modifications in it. That way if the profile becomes corrupt for some reason, you have the original to create a replacement from.

UPDATE: 3/26/17

In the video, I clone the factory Mach3 Mill profile. This was done on a computer that is not hooked up to a CNC. I STRONGLY suggest you DO NOT clone the factory Mach3 Mill profile to set up the Mach3 Toolsetter. INSTEAD, clone the profile you’re using NOW. If you clone the factory Mach3 Mill profile, you will have to set up Mach3 to work with your CNC all over again.

Bottom line: Clone the profile of the Mach3 profile you’re using now!

 

In the video, I named the new profile CNC Router, but you can name it anything you’d like. Just know that installing the Toolsetter into that profile will affect that profile only. The Toolsetter screen set will not appear in any of the other profiles on your computer. If you want to use the Toolsetter in any other profile, you’ll need to copy and paste the macro into that profile’s folder in the Mach3 folder, then activate it in the View menu in Mach3 like we did in the video.

The Mach3 Toolsetter by Big Tex.

Follow the Mach3 Toolsetter installation instructions in my video and you should be all set. Once the Mach3 Toolsetter is installed and we have all of the parts and supplies in hand, we’re ready to go out into the shop and start hooking things up!

But that’s in part 2 – Connection and Configuration.

Stay Tuned!

 

Disclaimer: This is how I use the Triple Edge Finder with the Mach3 Toolsetter and my Xylotex drive box. I am well aware of the problems that have been reported in using the Mach3 Toolsetter with some systems. I have been using this system for over a year with no problems at all. Having said that I cannot and WILL NOT guarantee it will work on any system other than my own. Proper care, research, and due diligence should be exercised in this and any other modification to a CNC router. I am not and will not be responsible for any damages incurred by anyone attempting to copy these modifications. 

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