Tuesday, March 23, 2010

At Last: a Robot to Do My Bidding

Well if not my bidding, at least it can do my whittlin' for me. A little while ago I picked up a Craftsman Carvewright, a computer-controlled carving machine that can carve patterns into wood, foam, and a variety of plastics:

After reading and re-reading the owner's manual, I finally went ahead and built a test project. I grabbed a small scrap of mahogany and set up the machine to carve a handful of pictures and some text onto it. Here I am looking happy about it:
Shiny New 1
I made it a point to include as many small details as I could. It managed to cut them all, but since the ball-nosed carving bit had a 1/16" tip, I was making it work a lot harder than it was designed to. While there were some problems with some of the smaller details on some of the pictures, the text came out great:
Shiny New
Having found the limitations of the device, I started making pieces and parts. Here's a rough draft of the replacement insignia I'm making for my father's RatRod built from an International Pickup truck:
Testing the Machine
For those of you who don't know, "Cornbinder" used to be a somewhat common nickname for International trucks. I didn't know either.

I'm also using it to make a few parts for the HALO project. Here's the prototype for the inner thigh part:
Inner Thigh Prototype

Now I'll be painting this piece and making a silicon mold to pull copies in urethane foam rubber. Painted black, they'll look like so:

There's also a function that lets me import 3d models, slice them into pieces that can be carved from flat stock, and make parts that can be stacked and glued together to make a 3d object. I'm building up to be able to make one of these:

Done right, this thing will be about six feet long. Fun!

In the meantime, I'm still trying to think up a name for my new robot shop assistant.

Stay tuned...


  1. Can you integrate the 3D slicer program with Google Sketchup? Just started learning it this week and it is pretty cool.

  2. Yes I can. Google Sketchup saves files in its own unique format (called ".skp") but I've found a conversion plugin so I can turn them into the .stl files that the Carvewright software can import.