Diamond Drag Engraving with my CNC Router

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This shows how I use my CNC Router with a diamond drag engraving bit to engrave anodized aluminum. I’m making a credit-card-sized map ruler, which I designed for Fortune Bay Expedition Team, as a trinket that we can leave in geocaches when we’re out practicing our navigation skills.

Engraving Feed and Speed

I tried a few different feed depths, which is the distance the Z axis plunges the bit “below” the surface to compress its spring-loaded tip. A depth of 0.5mm gave good results, because it didn’t apply too much pressure and was far enough that it wasn’t significantly affected by variations in the surface height. So I zeroed out the Z axis when the diamond just touched the surface, and then set the depth of cut in VCarve to 0.5mm.

After trying a range of travel speeds, I settled on 1500 mm/min as the fastest speed that gave good-looking results. This has a lot to do with the rigidity of my machine, or lack thereof, as faster speeds gave lines that had more wiggles in them. I think the diamond bit itself could give good results with a faster speed on a more rigid machine.

Vacuum Fixture Details

The vacuum fixture is made from MDF, and I sprayed it with two coats of polyurethane to seal the pores. Probably any type of clear finish would work fine, polyurethane or acrylic for example. It’s not going to seal the material perfectly but it does result in MUCH less air leakage versus unsealed MDF.

It took some trial and error to get a good fit with the 3mm diameter rubber seal, and in the end I cut the groove 2.85mm wide. That gave enough snugness to hold the rubber in place, but not so much that it was hard to put in. The side-to-side compression of the rubber squishes it up a little, so the groove is a full 3mm deep but the rubber gets squeezed above the surface in order to make a seal against the card.

Stuff That I Used

Here are links to the diamond drag bit that I used, plus the parts for the vacuum fixture and the 0.8mm thick business card blanks.

CNC Diamond Engraving Bit 90-degree

The above link takes you to this item on eBay, where the manufacturer sells it for a little less than on their own website at engravingbit.com.

RDZ Engraver For CNC Machine

This is a similar alternative that’s somewhat less expensive on Amazon. I haven’t used this one but I would expect very similar performance.

Foam Rubber Weather Strip

I used the 3mm size for this vacuum fixture, and I also got some of the 4mm size to use for larger parts in the future.

Air Tank Valve 1/8″ MNPT

These work well for making an air outlet fitting attached to the vacuum fixture, and my vacuum pump hose has a quick connector that just clips on. Remove the valve core to use as a vacuum fitting.

Metal Business Cards Anodized Aluminum Plaque Plate 86X54X0.8mm (Blue, Blank,10PCS)

You can find much thinner blanks at lower cost, but the 0.8mm thick ones are stiff and worked better for my application.

Metal Business Cards Anodized Aluminum Plaque Plate 86X54X0.8mm (Black, Blank,10PCS)

Black is perhaps the most common color, and it’s available from many different vendors if you shop around. Just pay attention to the thickness.

Metal Business Cards Anodized Aluminum Plaque Plate 86X54X0.8mm (Green, Blank,10PCS)

Green is somewhat hard to find but it’s an attractive color.

VCarve Pro Project File

If you have Vectric VCarve Pro and want to make something similar, you may download my project file below. It was created with VCarve Pro 11.5 and may or may not work in earlier versions of the software.

CNC Epoxy Inlay Backgammon and Cribbage Board

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I’m using my CNC router to make a travel-sized backgammon and cribbage board, inlaid with epoxy and colored mica powder.

Part 1 – Milling Stock, Cutting Pockets

In this first installment I introduce the project, mill the wood to size, and set up the CNC router to cut the inlay pockets on the backgammon board.

Part 2 – Backgammon Inlay

In the second installment I mix the mica and epoxy, and pour the inlays.

Part 3 – Special Details

In the third installment I add gold edges to the points on the backgammon board, and make the inlay and holes on the cribbage board side.

Part 4 – Finishing It Up

In the fourth and final installment I dye the wooden playing pieces and build the finished boxes with splined miter joints.


Here are links to some of the tools, materials and software that I’m using in this project:

AutoDesk Fusion 360 for personal use
Blender software
Next Wave CNC Shark Router
Carbide 2-flute Down-cut end-mills
Mica Powder for Epoxy Resin
West System Epoxy
Wooden checker pieces
Wooden cribbage pegs
Keda Aniline Dye 5 Color Kit

CNC Feeds & Speeds

UsageBitRPMDepth of
Roughing0.1250″ (3.18mm)
2-flute downcut
250003/32″ (2.38mm)500800
Finish0.0313″ (0.80mm)
2-flute downcut
250003/32″ (2.38mm)200250
Drill0.1250″ (3.18mm)
4-flute upcut
250000.25″ (6.35mm)
200n/aPeg holes
Engrave0.1250″ (3.18mm)
30-degree point
25000Variable400400V-carved text

Wood Dye Info

I dyed the playing pieces using a Keda Aniline Dye 5 Color Kit, and I mixed it following the manufacturer’s instructions but with a higher ratio of dye to water to get more concentrated colors. Here are the amounts of dye I mixed with 3 ounces of warm water:

Red: 1/8 teaspoon
Blue: 1/4 teaspoon
Green: 1/8 teaspoon yellow + 1/4 teaspoon blue
Purple: 1/8 teaspoon red + 1/4 teaspoon blue

Next time I use the blue dye, I’ll mix it with hot (not just warm) water in hopes of getting it to dissolve better.

3D Printed Ornaments

Watch how I use my 3D printer to make unique ornaments to give away to family and friends.

If you have a 3D printer and want to print these ornaments yourself, here is a 10MB zip archive containing STL files for the four 3D models that I created:

Quick Mount Camera Boom

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I made a quick-release mount for this 7-foot camera boom to shoot videos from various locations in my workshop.

Here are links to the parts that I used:

Impact 7 ft HD Wall-Mounted Boom Arm
DMKFoto Heavy Duty Ball Head with Quick Release Plate
Konsait Black Camera 323 Quick Release Plate
IRWIN Step Drill Bit, 3/16-Inch to 7/8-Inch

The ball head listed above is inexpensive but its quick-release is not compatible with Manfrotto quick-release plates, which I use on all my gear. So I changed out the plate for the quick-release listed above. You can also get Manfrotto ball heads that come with their quick-release plate, and they’re a bit more expensive but good quality.

My main cameras are a Panasonic GH5 and a Panasonic G95, and prefer to use the G95 on the camera boom because it’s lighter weight. I also have an older Canon EOS Rebel SL1 that I used to shoot many of my previous videos and that’s what I’m showing on the camera boom in this video.

Portable Wood Fired Pizza Oven

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This video shows how I built a portable wood-fired pizza oven that’s inexpensive, easy to build, weighs only 7.5 pounds, and can be carried easily in a backpack. And it makes fantastic pizza too!

Also see our Cooking with Fire event where we used this oven along with some other great fire cooking techniques.

Materials List

Here are the materials I used to build this oven. I recommend getting these materials locally but in case you can’t, I’ve included links to amazon.com.


These are the tools I used for this project, again with links in case you have trouble finding any of these items:

How to Use a CNC Router for Shell Inlay

Here’s how I designed a shell inlay for a guitar headstock using Fusion 360, and cut the inlay using my CNC router.

Part 1 – Design in Fusion 360

Part 2 – Cutting Shell Material


Here are links to some of the tools, materials and software that I’m using in this project:

AutoDesk Fusion 360 for personal use
Next Wave CNC Shark Router
Carbide 2-flute Down-cut end-mills
1/32″ Carbide shell cutter
Phenolic backer board

CNC Feeds & Speeds

UsageBitRPMDepth of
Wood pocket0.0313″ (0.80mm)
2-flute downcut
250000.5mm roughing
0.2mm finish
Shell0.0313″ (0.80mm)
shell cutter


Far and away the main thing that comes out of my workshop is shavings and sawdust, although my portable lathe lets me do most of my rough turning outside now so I don’t spray shavings around the shop quite so much. Here are a couple of shots Liz took of me making a 14″ black willow bowl on the lathe:

Here are some bowls I’ve made from catalpa, spalted beech, and spalted paper birch:

And these are black willow, ailanthus (tree of heaven), and silver maple:

Here’s my first “real” woodworking project, a Sheraton table in butternut that I made for Liz; and a couple shots of the cherry sewing cabinet we made for my Mom:

I’ve made about 20 Native American flutes but I haven’t figured out how to photograph them well. They’re just too long and skinny to make a “normal” shaped picture. But here’s one of my earliest and still one of the most dramatic-looking, made from a piece of spalted apple wood:

Welding Cart

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I built this welding cart to hold my new Everlast PowerPro 205S TIG Welder and Plasma Cutter as well as my Lincoln MIG Welder. The cart features a large work surface and five hitch-style attachment points for mounting accessories such as a bench vise and camera supports.


I used SketchUp software to design the cart, and here is the model file: WeldingCart.skp. You are welcome to download this model and customize it any way you like.

Here’s a link to the Menard’s Masterforce 30-inch Five-Drawer Mobile Tool Cabinet around which this cart is built.

I used a 4 in. Swivel Vise with Anvil from Harbor Freight. It’s an inexpensive vise but the quality is good enough for my purposes.

Also from Harbor Freight I bought the 8 in. Deep Throat U-Clamp and 12 in. Deep Throat U-Clamp for under $10 each. The 12-inch clamp is deep enough to reach almost anywhere on the 25-inch wide work surface of my cart. Their quality seems pretty good for the price.

Powder Coating

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This video shows how I powder-coated the steel housing of the 4th Axis that I made.


I used my Eastwood Dual Voltage Powder Gun to apply the powder coating, andthe color is Ford Dark Blue.

My air supply is filtered with this Coalescing Filter and desiccant dryer combo, which supports the high airflow that I need for plasma cutting but it’s larger than would be needed for just doing powder coating. I added a small pressure regulator and replaced its gauge with a low-pressure 0-15 PSI gauge so I can accurately adjust the pressure to about 8 PSI / 55 kPa.

For masking the areas that I didn’t want to powder coat, I used Polyester Hi-Temp Masking Tape.

The video shows the Temperature Controller that I used along with a Solid State Relay to control my kiln. These are widely available and most any of them would work for an application like this, provided that you get a relay able to handle the maximum current of the oven.

Potting Bench

I designed this bench to be used for potting plants and general outdoor use. The top is 48″ x 30″, and the lower shelf is 70″ wide.


I used preservative-treated wood for mine, and a rot-resistant species like cedar or cypress would also work well. The table is made entirely from 1″x4″ (nominal size) boards andyou can substitue lumber of another size such as 1″x6″ without changing the cut list, except that you would need fewer boards for the top and shelf. The following pieces are needed, with all measurements in inches:

Quantity Length Description
4 44 Frame long
8 27.75 Frame short
8 34.5 Leg*
4 5.25 Foot
8 70 Shelf long
2 44 Shelf short (rip to 2.25″ wide)**
2 21 Shelf cleat
8 48 Top

*The specified leg length gives a 36″ high table when using 3/4″ thick boards for the feet and top (adjust if desired).
**Don’t be tempted to leave the short shelf pieces full-width and notch them so they extend beyond the front of the frame, or your shins will be sorry. Guess how I know that…

You can cut all the pieces from 17 boards 8′ long with minimal waste as follows:

Boards Cut 1 Cut 2 Cut 3 Cut 4
4 48 – top* 48 – top*
2 34.5 – leg 34.5 – leg 25.25 – frame short
2 34.5 – leg 34.5 – leg 21.25 – shelf cleat 5.25 – foot**
2 44 – frame long 44 – frame long 5.25 – foot**
1 44 – shelf short 44 – shelf short 5.25 – foot**
6 70 – Shelf long 25.75 – frame short

*It’s okay if the top pieces are slightly under 48″
**This cut list yields one extra foot piece – this lets you discard one in order to cut around bad knots etc.


Start by making two frames as shown from the 44″ long pieces and 27.75″ short pieces. I used 2 deck screws at each joint. The inner short pieces are 14″ on center from the outer pieces.

Assemble four legs, offsetting the front boards 1/2″ in from the edge of the side boards. An easy way to do this is to lay a scrap of 1/2″ plywood on a work surface to support the front board, then stand the side board on edge and screw together. I used 5 screws for each leg.

Place the top frame upside-down on the floor and attach 4 legs, with just one screw per leg joint at this point. Then support the shelf frame at the desired height, which can be adjusted as you wish.I spaced them 16″ apart to give 15.25″ clearance after the shelf boards are attached, which is enough to fit a 5-gallon bucket with a lid on the shelf. Attach the shelf frame with just one screw per leg, and then square everything up as well as possible before fastening with more screws. Use plenty of screws for each of these joints to make the table rigid. I used 1-3/8″ deck screws here so the sharp ends don’t protrude through the other side. Attach the feet to the legs (these help prevent the table from sinking into soft ground).

Flip the table over and attach the shelf boards as shown. I used two screws at every joint, to help keep everything flat. Attach a cleat under each end of the shelf to hold the ends even:

Finally attach the top boards, spacing them evenly across the top: