Using the Easel CNC Software to carve layered designs. Easier than you think.

Our community at has a lot of great contributors. We will be featuring some of their work, and sharing their tips & experience using the X-Carve and the Easel software

Phillip Lunsford of PawPaw's Workshop, a lifelong woodworker, joined our CNC carving community about 4 years ago. He has been a great contributor to the community, sharing thoughts, designs, and advice. Today, we are sharing his video on creating layered signs using the Easel software. 

You will hear Philip mention several times, “It looks more complicated than it is.” 

One thing we hear from people who are interested in CNC carving but haven’t jumped in yet is that it looks kind of difficult. One of the great aspects of the Easel software and the X-Carve is how well integrated they are. Of course, you can use Easel with other machines too, but the two together make for a great CNC carving experience.

Below are some broad steps and takeaways from his video. Watch the video for important details. 

1) Create a new project in Easel, and decide how big

He set his dimensions at 24x6 inches by ¾.  Of course, this varies by project.

3) Start by building the bottom layer, or the base, first. You are “building” the design from the bottom up.

Be sure not to carve too deep. 0.1 inch is actually deep. The deeper the cut, the more time the carving takes. Try to keep the cuts as shallow as you can while achieving the aesthetics you are looking for.

4) Add the next layer setting the depth to less than 0.1 inches deep. At .05 inches, Phillip set the second layer halfway down. 

In this project, he is carving two layers of text. So, this layer needs to be substantive enough to "hold" the next layer and still be visible. He is using a heavy, bold text on this layer.

Each layer should be clearly distinguishable through the layers above. Sometimes, when we design our CNC project, we see it through our own eyes only. Since we know what each layer is, it is easier for us to “see” them. Try to view the design through the eye of someone who doesn’t know what it is before they see it. Will they be able to distinguish each layer?

Look for the Easel trick in the video using the lock aspect ratio when resizing text. This may be easier than selecting the font-size.

5) The final layer has a depth of cut set to zero. In other words, leave the material depth alone.

6) Preview the design by sliding the preview window out. 

In the Easel preview, you will be able to see how the slope of the cuts will look with different bits. If you're not familiar with the different bits, preview 60 degrees, 90 degrees, or other bits. This will help ensure you achieve the aesthetic you want before you start carving.

Some carving helpful tips...

With large, deep carves like this, you will want to use a two-stage carve. Each stage will use a different carving bit.

The first pass, or rough pass, is with a larger bit, removing the bulk of the material. The second pass is the detail pass, with your v-bit.

The two-stage carving process will provide a faster carve time. 

Be careful not to fall into the trap of just using the largest bit you can in the roughing pass. 

Depending on the level of detail, the larger bits may leave quite a lot of material for the detail carve to handle. It may be better to have a smaller bit on the roughing pass, taking more time, but leaving less material (it can get closer to the detail cut elements). While the rough pass may take longer, your total carve time can be much less.

To see the difference in carve time with different bits, you can simulate the carved pattern in Easel and see the estimated carve time.

Experiment with fonts. A great feature of the Easel software is the variety of available fonts and the ease with which you can change the font and immediately see it in the design. 

Notice that the Easel software lets you add color to the carve elements to get an idea of the finished product. You may have the design elements and color working together differently than you imagined. This Easel feature lets you play with things a bit to get what you want.

Take a look at PawPaw’s Workshop Youtube Channel, or the Inventables discussion board to hear more from Phillip. Of course, if you have any questions, our customer service folks would be very happy to speak with you as well.


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