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IndustryArena Forum > WoodWorking Machines > DIY CNC Router Table Machines > Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds
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  1. #1
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    Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    I have placed my thread here cause it has the best fit. (mod feel free to correct as needed)
    I am building a small desktop router to investigate the possibilty of creating limited use leather punch dies.
    My wife and I operate a smal business created custom hand made leather products ( we ONLY use Australian leather) and todate I have limiterd the dies to our logo and pretty ordinary type face for product personalisation like initals. To upgrade to multiple brass fonts in a couple of sizes is very costly.
    A logo cost me $40AUD from china and 5 to 6 weeks.
    So I thought I will acquire a CNC router from ebay with a small working area See attached image.
    I am thinking I will glue 3 mm polycarbinate to an aluminium base place that I can then route a logo or letter.initals or even whole names.
    I will then see how many punches I can get before it needs replacement.
    BTW We will charge a set up fee for this personalisation.

    This thread will detail my journey.
    The milestones I have set are as follows:
    • Acquire base hardware
    • Determine how to convert logo image ( my graphic artists uses JPG or PNG) to a routable file
    • Determine most suitable control software.
    • Create tooling base plates
    • Have fun do this



    I am very open to contributions and advice.

  2. #2
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Thats a new use for a router in my experience and it should work well.The only polycarbonate routing I have done was following a pattern with a hand held router and it machined quite well.It certainly didn't have as much of a tendency to weld itself in a fuzzy mess behind the tool in the way that acrylic does.For software you might consider a couple of free applications since I believe they will do most,or even all,that you need.Gimp is for image editing and does just about anything that Photoshop does and it works on various platforms it will take an image and allow you to save it in a huge number of different file formats.
    If you are looking for something to produce the Gcode I can recommend F-engrave as it will pick up the outline of a .bmp file and turn it into Gcode.For the kind of embossing tool you are planning to make you will have to invert the process and all it takes is a tick in a check box.There are other check boxes to specify the size of the tool that clears the remainder of the material and the precise geometry of the tool following the outline.There are some very useful videos of the process on youtube.It was remarkably generous of Scorchworks to create this program and make it freely available.

  3. #3
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    May be worth spending a little more on the CNC router and you may be able to slowly cut soft metals.
    7xCNC.com - CNC info for the minilathe (7x10, 7x12, 7x14, 7x16)

  4. #4
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    If you want to make a good impression on leather, I'd advise metal punches rather than plastic ones. But you can test this out for yourself. Copy one of your existing brass punches in polycarbonate by hand-carving, and try them side by side. If you're really happy with the results, go ahead with your router plan. But if not, start looking for a small CNC milling machine, which is meant for cutting metals, not just wood and plastic.
    Andrew Werby
    Website

  5. #5
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Hi,
    there must be hundreds of CNC machines in Australia lying underutilized and as many operators/owners desperate for work
    for them. Have you given any though to supporting your local artisans/craftsmen/tradesmen? You clearly value and support
    the local leather industry....why not others?

    Craig

  6. #6
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Quote Originally Posted by routalot View Post
    Thats a new use for a router in my experience and it should work well.The only polycarbonate routing I have done was following a pattern with a hand held router and it machined quite well.It certainly didn't have as much of a tendency to weld itself in a fuzzy mess behind the tool in the way that acrylic does.For software you might consider a couple of free applications since I believe they will do most,or even all,that you need.Gimp is for image editing and does just about anything that Photoshop does and it works on various platforms it will take an image and allow you to save it in a huge number of different file formats.
    If you are looking for something to produce the Gcode I can recommend F-engrave as it will pick up the outline of a .bmp file and turn it into Gcode.For the kind of embossing tool you are planning to make you will have to invert the process and all it takes is a tick in a check box.There are other check boxes to specify the size of the tool that clears the remainder of the material and the precise geometry of the tool following the outline.There are some very useful videos of the process on youtube.It was remarkably generous of Scorchworks to create this program and make it freely available.
    Thanks for the input.
    I am a proficient Gimp user.
    I'll check out F-engrave, it sounds like it will suit my needs.
    Matthew

    Sent from my INE-LX2 using Tapatalk

  7. #7
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Quote Originally Posted by pippin88 View Post
    May be worth spending a little more on the CNC router and you may be able to slowly cut soft metals.
    I see your point, however I want try a low cost option first, particularly as the punches may only be used once or twice.
    M.

    Sent from my INE-LX2 using Tapatalk

  8. #8
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Quote Originally Posted by awerby View Post
    If you want to make a good impression on leather, I'd advise metal punches rather than plastic ones. But you can test this out for yourself. Copy one of your existing brass punches in polycarbonate by hand-carving, and try them side by side. If you're really happy with the results, go ahead with your router plan. But if not, start looking for a small CNC milling machine, which is meant for cutting metals, not just wood and plastic.
    I have a couple of timber punches that work OK in some leather, but I find buy decent timber is getting harder.
    M.

    Sent from my INE-LX2 using Tapatalk

  9. #9
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Quote Originally Posted by joeavaerage View Post
    Hi,
    there must be hundreds of CNC machines in Australia lying underutilized and as many operators/owners desperate for work
    for them. Have you given any though to supporting your local artisans/craftsmen/tradesmen? You clearly value and support
    the local leather industry....why not others?

    Craig
    You make an excellent point. I would if they made it easier to contact and find. I simpler am not aware of any locally.
    I use a IT guy for my Web stuff in Port Elizabeth cause he advertised his skills and availability.
    Is there an "UpWorks" for machinists look for short jobs?
    M.

    Sent from my INE-LX2 using Tapatalk

  10. #10
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Hi,
    I suspect a post on the NZ/Australia board asking for assistance will generate any number of replies.

    (Note how I VERY CUNNINGLY place NZ in front of Australia!!!)

    Craig

  11. #11
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    F-Engrave Rocks!
    I have been playing arround with ths morning and can see it will be very powerful for my needs.
    Initially I will stick with Monogram personalisations.

  12. #12
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Its nice to know you have got a bit further along the path.The final piece of the jigsaw will be verifying that the Gcode from F-engrave won't upset your machine.I use it with LinuxCNC and it works really well,most of the basic ebay machines seem to arrive with a demo version of Mach3.I expect that with so many of the machines spread around the world and with an even larger number of Mach3 users,it shouldn't be too hard to resolve any problems should they occur.

  13. #13
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    F-Engrave is a gem. Surprisingly powerful and free. I was going to buy V-Carve but, so far, there isn't anything I wanted to do that F-Engrave didn't work for so I didn't. The author responds to email and is proactive in fixing bugs (not that there are many).

    If you are using it with a GRBL controller, you'll need to edit the preamble sequence.

  14. #14
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    I am excited. The baby CNC arrived this morning is now ready to tweak.
    I feel nervious not having end stops - I am assuming I can add some if I want to - should I?
    I also want to add a way to zero the Z axis.
    Using GRBL Control, I jogged X,Y & Z axis. Although I noticed the Z Axis direction seems to be reversed. hitting the UP arrow move the router down.

    May the fun begin.

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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    it is encouraging you found F-Engrave so useful. I am yet to decide how to control it.

  16. #16
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Unless you believe your programs contain Gcode that will move the machine outside it's envelope it is quite possible to work without end stops.As you may have noticed,F-engrave displays the size of the work area required at the bottom of the screen and you will know whether this will fit within the limits of the machine.If you use other software to generate the program it may be necessary to run a simulation of the operation and this may give the size of the work area.Most CAM programs will simulate the operations on your screen but some may take a lot longer to run the simulation than the machine will take to cut the part.If you need simulation software Camotics is free but I have never found it fast.

    I highly recommend generating a cutting sequence or two,running the simulation and then, once you know what it is going to do,send the sequence to the machine and run it in fresh air.Before you reach this step you probably ought to reverse the connections on the errant Z axis so it does what it should.It is entirely possible to manually edit a program to reverse the Z axis movement but it isn't sensible.What you have to determine is whether connections have been wrongly assigned in the GRBL setup of if the machine was wired by a colour blind electrician.

  17. #17
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Congrats.

    Reversed direction is common and easy to change. Read up on GRBL but there is a direction control register and you flip the bit associated with the axis in question. For Z it's the 3rd bit - change it from 0 to 4 (or 4 to 0). The GRBL wiki has a lot of info and worth reading. bookmark it, you will refer back a lot. Also, find a GCode reference and look up all the codes that will be sent to your machine so you understand what it's doing.

    End stops on a tiny machine may be difficult and take up valuable cutting space.but as was said, you can be careful and run with out them. I would make an E-Stop switch - that way you can stop your machine with the press of a button when it's running off the the work area.

    Zeroing the Z axis is something you do for each run. The simplest is to use a piece of paper on the workpiece and lower the bit until it touches the workpiece and the paper shows just a little resistance to moving. Better is to make a probe but I'd do that later.

    Make sure you go through the configuration, set up and calibration of your machine.

  18. #18
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Interesting thread!

    I suspect that I will have to agree with others that a CNC router might not be the right choice. I’d seriously consider going the CNC mill route.

    Why? Well there area number of reasons.

    #1 is that the work pieces are small and would benefit from a stiff machine.

    Second; while you might get by with expendable punches for one off specials you will want to fabricate steel punches for logos and other frequently used punches. Steel or even brass will not machine well on a low end Chinese router even with the use of engraving tools. You could build a stiffer router and pay attention to the spindle but the cost will quickly match the cost of doing a conversion mill. You could also buy a complete mini CNC mill from China relatively cheap.

    Third; most of the low end or small routers from China need work. Often this means electronics replacement, software updates and possibly mechanical rework. Buying by cheap from China often ends up being very expensive. Yes u need to shop real carefully here.

    This is a DIY thread so most of the machines discussed here are DIY machines (often one offs) that don’t reflect what one experiences with a Chinese machine. DIY builds can be absolute shoe string efforts or very high quality professional machines. There is also a section on milling machines in this forum, most of which are DIY conversions. What I question is your desire for a turnkey system of r if you want to put DIY efforts into a machine? If you want turnkey consider looking into the threads for specific machines.

    One last thing to consider is your expectations! You may very well have people tell you that XYZ machine from China can do the job, that reflects their expectations not yours. If you are not familiar with machining it can be hard to understand what you need to meet your goals. There is no easy answer here, however if there are machining related tech classes around, hands on can really help.

  19. #19
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Quote Originally Posted by wizard View Post
    Interesting thread!

    I suspect that I will have to agree with others that a CNC router might not be the right choice. I’d seriously consider going the CNC mill route.

    Why? Well there area number of reasons.

    #1 is that the work pieces are small and would benefit from a stiff machine.

    Second; while you might get by with expendable punches for one off specials you will want to fabricate steel punches for logos and other frequently used punches. Steel or even brass will not machine well on a low end Chinese router even with the use of engraving tools. You could build a stiffer router and pay attention to the spindle but the cost will quickly match the cost of doing a conversion mill. You could also buy a complete mini CNC mill from China relatively cheap.

    Third; most of the low end or small routers from China need work. Often this means electronics replacement, software updates and possibly mechanical rework. Buying by cheap from China often ends up being very expensive. Yes u need to shop real carefully here.

    This is a DIY thread so most of the machines discussed here are DIY machines (often one offs) that don’t reflect what one experiences with a Chinese machine. DIY builds can be absolute shoe string efforts or very high quality professional machines. There is also a section on milling machines in this forum, most of which are DIY conversions. What I question is your desire for a turnkey system of r if you want to put DIY efforts into a machine? If you want turnkey consider looking into the threads for specific machines.

    One last thing to consider is your expectations! You may very well have people tell you that XYZ machine from China can do the job, that reflects their expectations not yours. If you are not familiar with machining it can be hard to understand what you need to meet your goals. There is no easy answer here, however if there are machining related tech classes around, hands on can really help.
    I'm pretty torn on this topic. One side says pretty much what you said. Lots of people buy these cheap chinese machines only to discover a fair amount of work to get them going and even then they have some pretty severe limitations. Had the question been asked before buying, I probably would have advised against.

    The other side is that a true mill is going to be overkill and probably way more money than the OP wants to spend. And machining metal is probably way more of a learning exercise than he is prepared to do. Since he already bought it there is no harm in pushing forward. And the difference in cost between his cheapo chinese machine and a true metal mill will probably more than pay for a small number of metal punches which he has already had made. I think he will be able to make it work for his intended use.

  20. #20
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    Re: Small Desktop Router for Leather Molds

    Given that the machine is now in place,it becomes a question of getting good work from it.Since the OP seems to be the sole (!) person with leather working experience on this thread,I think we have to assume he has given consideration to what will work for his purposes and if a hard plastic will be suitable.The next part will be generating toolpaths and in his shoes I would be wanting to see the machine moving in fresh air before too long.The actual business of machining the plastic will probably take a bit of learning regarding ideal speeds for the job and what the machine can actually cope with.It isn't very helpful to use feeds,speeds and depth of cut that will stall the machine.One other important aspect will be finding cutters with the best geometry and maybe some very small cutters for any fine detail work.The chips should soon be flying.

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