5 Mistakes YOU WILL Make as a CNC Beginner
Like any artistic or technical endeavor, CNC machining isn’t about avoiding mistakes but rather, learning from them. And as a beginner, you are sure to make a lot of them.
Here are five mistakes that almost every CNC machinist makes early in their journey and some tips and tricks on how to correct them.
Incorrect Bit Speed
One of the most intimidating aspects of running a new CNC machine is managing the speed of your bits.
No matter what type of bit you’re using, carving your material is going to generate a ton of friction. And a ton of friction means a ton of heat; so much so that you will most likely burn a few bits or pieces of wood before you learn how to control the speed of your bits.
In order to minimize the amount of heat your cuts generate, you need to balance two factors: feed rate and speed rate.
Feed rate is the speed at which the bit moves through the material. Speed rate is how fast the bit rotates, measured in RPM.
The ideal rates will vary depending on the bit, the type of cut, the material you’re using, and other factors. One of the many benefits of using the Easel CNC software is that we built in guidance for speed settings based on the project. To see the cnc machine-specific recommendation, set which machine you are using in Easel.
For the X-Carve Pro, Easel automatically sets the RPMs for the spindle based on the bit and material.
If there is not a recommended setting in Easel for your particular bit, here is the formula:
Feed Rate = Spindle Speed X Flutes X Chipload
Since the X-Carve Pro spindle speed can be controlled by Easel, the settings will be implemented for you. With the X-Carve, if you want to change the RPMs, you will need to make adjustments on the router itself.
This chart shows the setting for the RPMs, and you can make needed adjustments to the feed rate within Easel to get the right speed and feed rate settings.
But just remember, it’ll take time, practice, and experimentation to get it right so don’t get discouraged over burnt material. That’s just part of the learning curve.
Using Incorrect Material
Every material will mill differently and each has its own unique properties that better suit them for different types of projects. It’ll take some time to learn what material or wood species is best for particular kinds of cuts.
Plywood and softwoods like pine, for example, aren’t great for 3D carving because you’ll end up with chipped layers or a fibrous cut. But they are great for testing out carves or for simple cuts because they won’t wear down bits as fast.
Hardwoods, on the other hand, carve very well because of the tightness of the grain. Their high density better suits them for detailed carves.
Experiment with different materials and get to know how your machine interacts with them, what feed rates and RPMs work best, and what your personal tastes are.
Holding or Clamping Work Improperly
Another aspect of the CNC learning curve is figuring out how to best hold your material properly. There are so many work holding options and many beginning CNC’ers will spend a lot of money on clamping systems, trying to find the right one.
This is where experimenting with different methods of holding your work is important and there are many inexpensive options out there.
For instance, screwing your stock into the wasteboard will work great if you’re cutting elements out of a board and don’t need to preserve the face of the piece. You can also use double-sided carpet tape to hold your material down.
Different methods will work better for different projects. Experiment and figure out which ones work best for you. Be sure to check out our various clamping sets.
Not Choosing the Right Projects
When deciding what projects to start on, many new makers face choice paralysis. With the X-Carve, there are so many things to make and directions to go, how do you decide where to start?
All too often, beginners will attempt a project they’ve seen that looks really cool, only to quickly find themselves way in over their head.
The best advice here is to start small. The first few weeks or even months of carving will most likely be spent simply learning your way around the machine.
Use each successive project to focus on getting the hang of a new aspect of carving. For instance, use each type of bit or a different material and how the carver reacts, try a new kind of cut or different mounting scheme, and work your way up to more complex projects that require different sets of skills.
Charging Incorrectly for Your Work
Many X-Carve owners purchased their machines with the intention of selling their pieces. However, one deceptively tricky skill that many beginners run into is learning how to price their work.
Many people wouldn’t think of pricing their work as a skill however, if you want to be successful and get the most out of your CNC machine, you should definitely start thinking about it as such.
Effective pricing often requires detailed recordkeeping to ensure that you’re operating within your desired margins. Over time, your pricing estimates will become more accurate and you can produce products and sell them at prices that will satisfy both you and your customers.
Like any other skill, CNC machining requires practice, patience, and time. Understand that there is a learning curve you’ll need to overcome so don’t expect to become a master of the craft within a few months of receiving your X-Carve. Over time, you’ll be able to sharpen your skills and hone in on your preferences and be able to produce work your proud of and sell them at prices your customers will be happy to pay for.