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Seth B
10-08-2011, 01:38 PM
Hi all,

I am hoping some of the expert luthiers here will find this thread.
I am currently a small custom builder and I am looking to take things to the next level and develop a small range of "standard" models and to speed up build time and increase accuracy. At present I just use a hand router and jigs for neck joints/pickups etc and the rest all by hand.
I have been toying with the idea of getting a Desk top CNC router for various parts of the build, and was wondering what views are with regards to CNC vs pin router and copy carver ? Or any recommendations for a small to mid size workshop set up on a sensible budget.
Any information on pro's and cons would be most welcome.

Thanks

sondich
10-08-2011, 09:37 PM
I read this blog post from Decibel Guitars a while back that may provide some useful info.

http://decibelguitars.com/why-the-controversy-over-cnc/

Steve

simon_62
10-09-2011, 05:05 AM
I'd prefer to have a CNC at hand to reduce the leg-work (and cost) on certain aspects of builds. I enjoy the making process but there are times when things would be so much more straightforward to be able to CNC them instead....

Seth B
10-09-2011, 05:22 AM
Thanks for posting guys. I read the Decibel blog, I also found an old thread on here discussing CNC with some great contributions from some great luthiers such as John Suhr, Anderson, Briggs, Thorn etc. A very interesting read. It seems a good way to go if quality and accuracy are your number one priority and also I like the idea of doing less donkey work and concentrating more on the finer hand details.
Exciting ....

corn husk bag
10-09-2011, 05:32 AM
Hi Seth,
Good luck to you on your venture! Can you post a photo of one of your builds? Where are you located?

Kind Regards,
Steve

Eagle1
10-09-2011, 07:43 AM
Absolutely .
You should spend the hand work time doing the things that need it.

Crash-VR
10-09-2011, 02:49 PM
Once I was talking to Jason Schroeder and he said that he's already suffering from the physical strain of hand carving everything. When I was a steal fabricator I had similar physical pain. All I can say is work smarter not harder....

_MonSTeR_
10-09-2011, 03:06 PM
Darren at Decibel knows a lot about guitars and I trust his opinion greatly.

Jaden Rose who's a very "up and coming" British builder also uses CNC in his workshop. His guitars are amongst the highest caliber I've ever tried in my 30 odd years of playing. I've always wondered why there's the objection to CNC, if it's "ok" to use a power saw, why not the next step?

Maybe we should moan at luthiers who don't scratch out the basic body outline with their own fingernails? ;)

Seth B
10-09-2011, 03:33 PM
I agree totally. I agree about the physical toll of hand building guitars. I can feel it to a degree all ready. My step father has been building guitars for 45 years totally by hand and is feeling the burn a lot these days. I also was reading up about pin routers and read something by Juha Ruokangas saying his pin router is nick named the thumb router as he lost his thumb on it. Ouch !

So with the obvious accuracy benefits and the physical well being side of it, I think I have decided to start the process of moving in that direction.
There is so much good information and communication on this forum. Glad I found it.
I see a whole new set of challenges coming up though to achieve the goal of making the best guitars possible. The 3D programing side of things looks a little daunting but I'm up for the challenge !
And I am glad that after investigating it more that there is so much hand work involved still. I didn't want to feel disconnected from the guitars and that is where my strength lies, in the hands and the fine details of things.

Krayon
10-09-2011, 03:34 PM
I'm not a Luthier. but I know one locally thats building some very nice stuff.

He and I have had several indepth conversations about his experience with CNC over the last 4 years..

his opinion is its a must in order to compete in the current market.

But the equipment and the learning curve is very high, and he still maintains that "handwork" in the "right areas" is still very critical. and no CNC could ever really replace that.

he also points out that some builders use their CNCs for nearly everything and thats not always very efficent, so a combination of hand. modern power tool and CNC is needed. with the emphisis on accuracy, speed, consitantcey, and playability being the focus. and if the builder also has the "old world" traditional woodworking skills as well. then he should be able to build some very fine instruments.. quickly.

sidenote; if you REALLY want to hang out in a forum where the pro builders actually talk shop and show you how its done.. then go to "My Les Paul Forums" and look in the "luthiers corner" you wont believe the wealth of info there.

Seth B
10-09-2011, 03:46 PM
Yeah that's what I was thinking, it is nearly impossible to make a living, hand making electric guitars unless you have a huge reputation and a huge price tag. It's good to know I am on the right track, makes me feel much more confident about making the leap. I don't underestimate the learning curve, I also have had similar thoughts about using for particular jobs rather than trying to do the whole thing. It seems to be the best marriage then of technology and skilled hand work. I know I could never replicate the accuracy of a cnc for neck pockets/joints or bridge placement or fret slot cutting so it seems it can only improve my guitars in these areas at least.
I am also very interested in exploring the inlay possibilities, hand cutting inlays is very satisfying but I wouldn't want to do it all day long. It will breed a whole new kind of creativity in my work.

Sawarow
10-09-2011, 03:48 PM
Not sure what your definition of desktop CNC is, but I would not get one with less then ~30" travel in the long (X on mine) axis and less then ~16" in the other axis. You want the longer travel to be able to cut an entire neck and the other to have enough width to cut a body with e little travel to spare. One with less travel could be made to work by moving the work piece, but that is time consuming and adding the possibility you could have indexing problems.

Unless you invest in a large milling machine, the smaller CNCs can be accurate, but not necessarily cut fast. If you're not building lots of guitars, this may not be a huge issue, and you certainly can be doing something else while the machine is running. I can do things with my CNC that would be difficult with templates, but overall I'm not sure it is much faster.

It does have a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it and make a few parts, it is not too bad. One cool thing in having one is how useful it can be to make jigs, etc.

Seth B
10-09-2011, 04:03 PM
Yeah I was looking at something like maybe the cnc that Luthier tool make. It would be nice to buy one from someone that has built it for a specific task. Building guitars. I realize that a machine like this won't cut quickly like the big ones. It's fine for me, I will not be making huge numbers anyway. A friend of mine pointed out to me earlier that it would also be an incredibly accurate way to make jigs. And presumably scratchplates and back plates etc .....

meangene
10-12-2011, 01:33 PM
Love the buggers big or small, K2 CNC makes a great entry level machine ran on 120v single phase power, but HAAS rules although requires big dough, space, and 3 phase power. My K2 has a 38x22 table great for guitars 5 inch Z, the HAAS VF4SS 50x20 and a die hard worker. eBay gets some great deals on used Fadal's or HAAS machines if you can find a place to put one. Very accurate and reliable machines, hard to hurt them. Once you get to know one their your best friend and ya wanna play with them all the time.

Seth B
10-24-2011, 01:29 PM
Thanks Gene, I appreciate your advice. I love your B3 guitars, beautifully made.
I'm convinced now, just need to shop around a bit and choose the right thing. A whole new world of things to learn ! Did you find it hard to get your head around the 3d design software/programming ?

Seth B
10-24-2011, 01:32 PM
Hi Seth,
Good luck to you on your venture! Can you post a photo of one of your builds? Where are you located?

Kind Regards,
Steve



Hi Steve,

I am just finishing a new build now, I'll post some pictures tomorrow. I'm originally from the UK but recently moved to Portugal for the sunshine !
Thanks for your interest.

jfalcs
10-24-2011, 08:27 PM
his opinion is its a must in order to compete in the current market

I agree with a lot of your post but not that. Having had experience with a CNC, its not always the best option and certainly not the only one in order to be successful. Thoughtful jigging/fixturing and a well thought out process are just as important. The advantage of CNC is easy "tweaking" of your design and excellent accuracy. That being said, there are a lot of builders using well maintained analog machinery doing just as accurate work. I'd argue that you could build templates and fixtures and be up and running in the same amount of time it takes to learn the software and get everything working. I think that an "all CNC" expectation is unrealistic.

octave1
10-26-2011, 01:03 PM
I agree, I think there is a misconception that building with a CNC is "easy" and "hand building" should therefore command a premium over it. With the prevalence of software everywhere now including every person's pocket, people assume the CNC software does the hard part for you. It overlooks the skill required to setup and program each build action, as well as the risk of code or logic problems causing malfunctions which trash wood. And you have still have to design it right to begin with, do the frets, electronics, finish, and setup.

Terry McInturff
10-26-2011, 01:17 PM
CNC is great in the right hands. Ive always run 100% analog, but have been tempted periodically to get a CNC.

The only thing about CNC being used on a TCM neck..I dont know how a neck could be made via CNC and maintain the dimensional specs that I require. Im sure that it could be done but handwork would have to intrude at certain stages in order to maintain certain specs and to accomodate for wood movement. That would remove many of the CNC advantages.

I have a very strict neck methodolgy which has produced thousands of necks with zero warantee returns and very very very few in-house rejects.. Ive thought this thru many times...I do not know how my methods could be transferred to CNC and maintain that standard.

Seth B
10-31-2011, 08:08 PM
Thanks for your input Terry, I appreciate it. Out of interest what aspects do you think the CNC couldn't deliver for you ?
I am seeing it as a good roughing out device for neck shapes etc with all the final work being done by hand still. I think for me it is a question of combining skills to come up with the most accurate consistent work. I know it is not for everyone.
I work with my step father Andy Manson who has been hand building acoustic guitars for 45 years and you couldn't do things more analog, in fact he could pretty much get there without electricity even ! His work is absolutely stunning and consistently brilliant. I guess it is really about finding a method that works for you and enables you to do your best work. For me I can see it only adding to the quality of my guitars, obviously coupled with a lot of hand work still.

dr.morton
11-01-2011, 02:52 AM
In a recent interview Uli Teuffel showed his CNC machine and explained that he uses it to get an accuracy and consistancy difficult to match by hand.

But in the production of his guitars the CNC is only responsible for 5% of the work.
95% of the overall bulding process are still done by hand.

Seth B
11-08-2011, 05:48 PM
http://andymanson.com/seth_baccus_galleryHi Steve,

I am just finishing a new build now, I'll post some pictures tomorrow. I'm originally from the UK but recently moved to Portugal for the sunshine !
Thanks for your interest.



Here is the most recent one Steve, pleased with how it turned out. Sounds great with the 3 P90's and a 5 way.
http://andymanson.com/seth_baccus_galleryhttp://andymanson.com/seth_baccus_gallery

Denyle_Guitars
11-09-2011, 05:01 PM
CNC is great in the right hands. Ive always run 100% analog, but have been tempted periodically to get a CNC.Ditto. I have a small cnc mill for non guitar related duties and it's enough to realize it's not for me. The set up, programming etc involved takes up more of my time than I care to admit. I actually went so far as to acquire most of the parts to build a nice 50x50x8 machine but lack of time, space and interest has it on the back burner. So for now, I'm analog right down to the clock on the wall.

John Coloccia
11-09-2011, 05:09 PM
I would love to have it just for drudgery work like routing body shapes, chambering, pickup pockets, control cavity, rough top carve, etc. It would be great to pop in a blank and out pops something that I can start using right away. It would save me hours and would sacrifice nothing other than I can be doing other things while the machine is essentially removing all the excess wood. It seems like far more trouble than it would be worth on the neck, though I could see using it for specific things, like maybe creating the basic neck blank with a truss rod slot.

scott
11-11-2011, 03:36 PM
I wouldnt do it again without one. For years I was die hard "by hand builder" then I decided I was sick of beating up my body carving and routing everything by hand. Im tall and there is a lot of bending and contorting to carve a top or neck(for me anyway).
However, the main reason I got one was for consistency and acuracy. Once you see inlay done with a cnc its impossible to go back to doing it by hand. For me its faster and more accurate. Precision was my main reason for switching over.
Ill never go back to building totally by hand if I can help it. I still carve some tops by hand and my necks are only rough carved by the cnc, I finish up all of them by hand.
There is a misconception that all you have to do it throw some wood and glue in one side and a guitar will come out the other side. Thats not how it works, there is still a tonn of detail and handwork to be done after the cnc has had its way with the wood.

oxtone
11-14-2011, 07:06 PM
Watched the YouTube's "Factory Tour" of Suhr guitars last night, and John Suhr likes the CNC machines, but he said his guitars are all hand worked after that. It was an eye-opening set of video's to watch. John certainly knows what he's doing. Highly recommended:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmJN_ZtP1_4&feature=relmfu

RS Custom Guitars
11-28-2011, 02:49 PM
This is the age old question with penty of thought on both sides of the table... Router table.
I have had been down this road with the Brian May fans over and over again. When I do a Red Special guitar there is so much routing that needs to be done that it takes more then a few patterns to just do the inside chambers of the guitar.
If we are doing a run of guitars say 6 at a time it would take forever to do the bodies. Using a CNC router increases the number of guitars you can do but it Reproduces the same parts everytime.
So I have the process down to were we can cut parts for 6 months and have them reday to use when we need them.
Now there is the MOJO factor.... If I use a pin router and push the wood around on a pattern the guitar will sound look and feel the same as if I took it off a CNC.

http://i81.photobucket.com/albums/j205/bhm153/Brian%20May%20Build/0703250072.jpg

http://i81.photobucket.com/albums/j205/bhm153/Brian%20May%20Build/0703270001.jpg

But I have to back track a little bit now as I have just started to do more in my shop at home with the pinrouter again for a new Relic Model I'm working on.
Reproduction of the Red Special after the refinish and used again.

So I guess if me pushing the wood blanks on the pin router gives me a better sounding guitar......:huh I will have to make more of these RS Custom Guitars....

Really I say if you have the money and the machines to build a better guitar and do it safely then I say do it.
As your line of guitars become more popular you will need to find ways to do the builds better and faster....

I'm sure that there are some out there that will say if its not cut out with a chisel and a hammer then its not a Red Special.... But remember that guitar took two years to build and they only did one...:omg

dougk
11-28-2011, 06:43 PM
There is absolutely one fact that can not be argued about CNC's, they are MUCH safer in regards to ones hands than a pin router setup. That alone makes me appreciate mine very much.

dougk
11-28-2011, 06:46 PM
But in the production of his guitars the CNC is only responsible for 5% of the work.
95% of the overall bulding process are still done by hand.

Exact truth. If it takes say 100 hours to build a particular guitar mine, my cnc is probably actually only run for maybe 3-6 of those actual hours.

Krayon
11-28-2011, 07:15 PM
I agree with a lot of your post but not that. Having had experience with a CNC, its not always the best option and certainly not the only one in order to be successful. Thoughtful jigging/fixturing and a well thought out process are just as important. The advantage of CNC is easy "tweaking" of your design and excellent accuracy. That being said, there are a lot of builders using well maintained analog machinery doing just as accurate work. I'd argue that you could build templates and fixtures and be up and running in the same amount of time it takes to learn the software and get everything working. I think that an "all CNC" expectation is unrealistic.

if thats what you got from my post. then you missed the whole point.

I never advocated an "ALL CNC" method. all I repeated was that my friend said that the "use of CNC is a must" in order to compete in todays market.
how much "use" is always going to be up to the builder.

there are many points in an instruments build that hand work could never be as accurate or repeatable as a CNC can deliver. That said, there are other points in a build that a CNC could never deliver the accuracy AND the speed that a well built, fixtured and dedicated analog styled Machine can provide.

which is why My luthier friend has stated that it would require the right combination of all of those elements to make consistant quality, highly accurate, and tonefully Artistic instruments. AND make them at a market competitive price range.

if one removes any of those elements as you did, then yes, my earlier statements make no sense.

but when you keep them all together.. then you can see its a extremely tall order no matter what methods you use.


also I went back to him as asked about your "tweaking" comment. and He said that there is nothing "easy" or fast about "tweaking" a program for any CNC. it can take a week to build a trial program. test it, debug it, then tweak it, then proof the tweaks, tweak some more and proof those, and then set the program in stone and implement it into a production run. once set, that last thing you would want to do is any further "tweaks"
and reguardless of programming. CNCs are known to "glitch" from time to time. without warning, rhyme or reason. so to expect a flawless run of parts over and over is not reasonable.

I've seen this firsthand and He's very much correct. it took 4 days to go from drawing to "workable" but imperfect part with a Haas VF3 CNC, when I have seen the same luthier go from a drawing to perfect working part in 1 day with only hand labor and convetional power tools..

the real issue is speed. how do you build faster AND maintain your standard of quality and accuracy.. in that arena a CNC CAN provide a partial answer... but ONLY a partial answer.

jfalcs
11-28-2011, 09:00 PM
if thats what you got from my post. then you missed the whole point.


I'm not sure what I missed. You asked if CNC was the way to go. Your friend said it was a must in order to be competitive. I was simply disagreeing with that statement. CNC is not a must in order to be successful. Granted, successful means different things to different people but you do not need to own a CNC machine to operate a guitar company.

Concerning "tweaking" models, I still think this is one of the strongest aspect of a CNC. Depending on your software, you could change from humbuckers to P90's or a hardtail to a trem for instance in a few minutes, I've seen it done. Certainly an entire model takes time, but that's not a tweak.

so to expect a flawless run of parts over and over is not reasonable.
To me (and just about any production machine shop) thats the point in a CNC. Why invest the money if you can't expect this?

Sawarow
11-28-2011, 10:41 PM
so to expect a flawless run of parts over and over is not reasonable.
so to expect a flawless run of parts over and over is not reasonable. so to expect a flawless run of parts over and over is not reasonable. so to expect a flawless run of parts over and over is not reasonable.
To me (and just about any production machine shop) thats the point in a CNC. Why invest the money if you can't expect this?

My CNC rarily has had hiccups where it has detroyed a part. The few issues it had I figured out what it did and fixed them. What I had to do was learn not to make dumb mistakes myself, like clearly naming the cutting files so I don't select the wrong wong one - the machine is as dumb as you are and will gladly hack a nice top into firewood if you tell it to. I guess my point is the more I use it, the less mistakes I'm making.

Ian Anderson
11-28-2011, 11:53 PM
There is absolutely one fact that can not be argued about CNC's, they are MUCH safer in regards to ones hands than a pin router setup. That alone makes me appreciate mine very much.

That's the truth however I spoke with a CNC manufacturer a while back who fold me he gets sued 3 times a year from folks getting seriously injured or killed. You would be surprised how many people grab the tool before it stops. Imagine a 3/4 endmill breaking off at 18k. The enclosed mills we used at Taylor had bulletproof plexi panels. 3/8 on the machines that run tecnaras. I have some good stories about fretboard radius drums with tecnaras being run up to 10-15k. That's about 15 lbs of tool being spun and coming loose at 10k.

dougk
11-29-2011, 11:39 PM
That's the truth however I spoke with a CNC manufacturer a while back who fold me he gets sued 3 times a year from folks getting seriously injured or killed. You would be surprised how many people grab the tool before it stops. Imagine a 3/4 endmill breaking off at 18k. The enclosed mills we used at Taylor had bulletproof plexi panels. 3/8 on the machines that run tecnaras. I have some good stories about fretboard radius drums with tecnaras being run up to 10-15k. That's about 15 lbs of tool being spun and coming loose at 10k.

Well... you know what they say, about idiot proofing ;)

No you're absolutely right. A little common sense though will go a long ways towards making a CNC a heck of a lot safer than standing there feeding parts with your hands on a pin router.

I was having a discussion today about how every single tool in my shop has emergency stops placed in absolutely useless spots. :bonk

2leod
11-30-2011, 12:03 AM
I'm not a luthier, but I design, model and build compaction tooling, and CNC machines are critical to that process - much more so than when I started in the trade. What these machines have done is redefine the process, the modeling and toolpath generation is the skill that separates the good from the exceptional and I see this as the biggest stumbling block for luthiers looking at this technology - there is a steep learning curve to go beyond the basics to take full advantage of working in dimensional space like we do intuitively working with our hands.

John Hurtt
11-30-2011, 12:03 AM
if thats what you got from my post. then you missed the whole point.

I never advocated an "ALL CNC" method. all I repeated was that my friend said that the "use of CNC is a must" in order to compete in todays market.
how much "use" is always going to be up to the builder.

there are many points in an instruments build that hand work could never be as accurate or repeatable as a CNC can deliver. That said, there are other points in a build that a CNC could never deliver the accuracy AND the speed that a well built, fixtured and dedicated analog styled Machine can provide.

which is why My luthier friend has stated that it would require the right combination of all of those elements to make consistant quality, highly accurate, and tonefully Artistic instruments. AND make them at a market competitive price range.

if one removes any of those elements as you did, then yes, my earlier statements make no sense.

but when you keep them all together.. then you can see its a extremely tall order no matter what methods you use.


also I went back to him as asked about your "tweaking" comment. and He said that there is nothing "easy" or fast about "tweaking" a program for any CNC. it can take a week to build a trial program. test it, debug it, then tweak it, then proof the tweaks, tweak some more and proof those, and then set the program in stone and implement it into a production run. once set, that last thing you would want to do is any further "tweaks"
and reguardless of programming. CNCs are known to "glitch" from time to time. without warning, rhyme or reason. so to expect a flawless run of parts over and over is not reasonable.

I've seen this firsthand and He's very much correct. it took 4 days to go from drawing to "workable" but imperfect part with a Haas VF3 CNC, when I have seen the same luthier go from a drawing to perfect working part in 1 day with only hand labor and convetional power tools..

the real issue is speed. how do you build faster AND maintain your standard of quality and accuracy.. in that arena a CNC CAN provide a partial answer... but ONLY a partial answer.

Sorry..but I have to strongly disagree with much of this. I supervised a semiconductor shop for eleven years that had six CNC machines. My programmer has setup and tested much more complex designs than a guitar body/neck in 8 hours or less. CNC software allows you to model the run with incredible accuracy, and if you know what you are doing you can make fairly substantial tweaks quickly and accurately. A properly maintained and programmed CNC machine does not "glitch" from time to time, anyone who is saying this has either machine/software issues and needs to get them straightened out. We used to set up pallet changers and run our CNC's unmanned overnight or over the weekend and turn out hundreds of parts to a much higher precision than needed for guitar manufacture. Parts being scrapped was a rarity in the shop, and since we were using aluminum, titanium, stainless steel and copper it was incredibly expensive when a part scrapped.

If you are going to turn out any decent quantity of parts that are accurate, reproducible and hands off...CNC is the way to go.

enharmonic
11-30-2011, 12:20 AM
I think that the process of creating an instrument should be as enjoyable for its creator as possible. If CNC facilitates that, I'm all for it.

The love of the craft is what will ultimately produce the superior instrument regardless of the tools used. :)

fast98dodge
11-30-2011, 12:33 AM
I guess it doesn't matter how you get from A to B as long as the end result is there. I could care less if someone uses a sophisticated laser or a rock to build it...

2leod
11-30-2011, 12:39 AM
The love of the craft is what will ultimately produce the superior instrument regardless of the tools used. :)

I spoke with Jeffrey Elliot (amazing classical builder) at the Portland instrument show and he said this very thing. Though he could see the benefit of NC machines, what really gave him joy was carrying on a tradition that goes back hundreds of years and adapting his methods to accommodate this technology would make it a whole lot less fun for him, begging the question of their use for him.

dex17
11-30-2011, 09:20 AM
I have worked in a shop for 25 years that has roughly 30 CNC machines. I am the programmer/repairman for lasers, mills, lathes, and machining centers in a factory that produces stainless steel parts and I have never seen one have a glitch. Maybe it's because we use high end equipment (Okuma, Amada, Mazak, Hitachi Seiki) but in my opinion if a CNC machine does something screwy, it's operator or programmer error.

I don't build guitars for a living, but if I decided to, a good cnc machine (designed to do the job) would be the first piece of equipment purchased.

PhilF
12-01-2011, 04:36 PM
Sorry..but I have to strongly disagree with much of this. I supervised a semiconductor shop for eleven years that had six CNC machines. My programmer has setup and tested much more complex designs than a guitar body/neck in 8 hours or less. CNC software allows you to model the run with incredible accuracy, and if you know what you are doing you can make fairly substantial tweaks quickly and accurately. A properly maintained and programmed CNC machine does not "glitch" from time to time, anyone who is saying this has either machine/software issues and needs to get them straightened out. We used to set up pallet changers and run our CNC's unmanned overnight or over the weekend and turn out hundreds of parts to a much higher precision than needed for guitar manufacture. Parts being scrapped was a rarity in the shop, and since we were using aluminum, titanium, stainless steel and copper it was incredibly expensive when a part scrapped.

If you are going to turn out any decent quantity of parts that are accurate, reproducible and hands off...CNC is the way to go.


My primary occupation is prototyping and i have an ME background. I work at a small company where I have the luxury of using Solidworks, Surfcam, and some decent CNC mills. I have built 4 guitars for myself and I made a program to cut out a guitar body in a little over 30 minutes. Granted this was a 1 off and I wasn't going for absolute production speed, as the body probably took a few hours to do, but either way...it doesn't take weeks to get a great program.

Given my background I have no doubt that if I ever ventured into guitar making I'd be using CNC quite a bit. I personally used it to cut out everything on the body except for any hole that would go in parallel to the front of the body (output jack hole, strap button holes, etc). The only thing I did to the bodies after I cut them out was sanded them. As long as the neck fits its ready to finish right there.

Also, I don't mean to come off as a luthier who owns his own company in any way, just someone who has an engineering background and higher tech machining background who also enjoys making guitars.

Hogan/Guitars
12-05-2011, 04:09 AM
What we're talking about here mostly,I assume is solid body electric guitars,The very essence of which the favoured basic constucted style being established over 50yrs ago -is not on par with say the technical difficulty of making a DVD player or some such thing.

I can fully see the benefits of CNC in lutherie especially when making batches of something. We've all seen amatures undertake a first or second build with only hand tools favoured in the 1800's and come out with a beautiful end result. Also at the other end of the spectrum there are plenty of $300 CNC factory made guitars that are horrible.

Whether its planes and draw saws to hand held routers and jigs to full CNC -the weapons of choice play a small outcome in the final quality result -such as wood selection,glue up,fretting etc.

There is one area where I see CNC having a quality advantage and that would be fret slots. However what has worked for many many years prior (and still currently) and many sought after vintage instruments -it may be a moot point.

czook
12-06-2011, 06:17 PM
I am a hobby guitar builder. I could not justify a CNC for my builds and instead use a router, a router table for the outside edges and templates I have made out of MDF.

I have no problem with CNC, but I would rather just buy a perfect body rather than spend thousands to do the same thing. I route and carve and no two are exactly the same.

Krayon
12-14-2011, 10:53 AM
I'm not sure what I missed. You asked if CNC was the way to go. Your friend said it was a must in order to be competitive. I was simply disagreeing with that statement. CNC is not a must in order to be successful. Granted, successful means different things to different people but you do not need to own a CNC machine to operate a guitar company.

Concerning "tweaking" models, I still think this is one of the strongest aspect of a CNC. Depending on your software, you could change from humbuckers to P90's or a hardtail to a trem for instance in a few minutes, I've seen it done. Certainly an entire model takes time, but that's not a tweak.


To me (and just about any production machine shop) thats the point in a CNC. Why invest the money if you can't expect this?


wow! OK since when does "Successful" and "Competitive" automatically equate when talking about an unknown?
you have have made a lot of assumptions.
its completely possible to be "competitive" and NOT be "successful"

useing a CNC is all about being "competitive" and really not much else.

do you have to own a CNC to be a "successful guitar builder? of course not! but in todays market, with everyone beating prices the way they are. building a "competitive" product is not to be easily ignored.

and even though you may "have seen it" I'm gonna bet, that what you saw was a fully tested and proofed program that was written long before you came and "saw it done". and the facts are there might have been several hours or even days in the proofing of that program that you never saw as well.
thats the Illusion of CNC. NOT the facts.

the simple truth is. to write a program to generate say a 2 humbucker rout on a body, usually requires a minimum of 2 hours to draw up the routs, check your placements, set all your depths, assign the tool paths and generate the machine code. THEN you can start your testing in real material.. and if your good.. then you get a perfect proof on the first shot.. but thats not always the way it works.

now, you might wish to call that fast.. but I've seen a luthier walk over to a bench grab a template and rout those same humbucker holes in less than 15 minutes.. I'd call that much quicker than a CNC.

the real trick my friend was trying to point out is that you will need a balance between CNC and the old techniques. use the highly repeatable and never tiring CNC to do the jobs where those qualities count the highest. and the labor intensive hand work where its value shines best.

jaydawg76
12-14-2011, 11:02 AM
the simple truth is. to write a program to generate say a 2 humbucker rout on a body, usually requires a minimum of 2 hours to draw up the routs, check your placements, set all your depths, assign the tool paths and generate the machine code. THEN you can start your testing in real material.. and if your good.. then you get a perfect proof on the first shot.. but thats not always the way it works.

now, you might wish to call that fast.. but I've seen a luthier walk over to a bench grab a template and rout those same humbucker holes in less than 15 minutes.. I'd call that much quicker than a CNC.


Sorry, but you're waayyyyyyy off base with your time estimates. If it takes someone 2 hours to draw up, program and cut 2 humbucker routes then they are simply not very proficient with the machine or software.

Lublin
12-14-2011, 11:05 AM
Working with CNC's on a daily basis, all I can say is YES.

Lublin
12-14-2011, 11:06 AM
Sorry, but you're waayyyyyyy off base with your time estimates. If it takes someone 2 hours to draw up, program and cut 2 humbucker routes then they are simply not very proficient with the machine or software.
Seriously. That's either a beginner or someone that has never seen a CNC before.

Ron Thorn
12-14-2011, 11:30 AM
.. but I've seen a luthier walk over to a bench grab a template and rout those same humbucker holes in less than 15 minutes.. I'd call that much quicker than a CNC.
.

How long did it take him to make the template?

Sawarow
12-14-2011, 12:19 PM
the simple truth is. to write a program to generate say a 2 humbucker rout on a body, usually requires a minimum of 2 hours to draw up the routs, check your placements, set all your depths, assign the tool paths and generate the machine code. THEN you can start your testing in real material.. and if your good.. then you get a perfect proof on the first shot.. but thats not always the way it works.

now, you might wish to call that fast.. but I've seen a luthier walk over to a bench grab a template and rout those same humbucker holes in less than 15 minutes.. I'd call that much quicker than a CNC.

the real trick my friend was trying to point out is that you will need a balance between CNC and the old techniques. use the highly repeatable and never tiring CNC to do the jobs where those qualities count the highest. and the labor intensive hand work where its value shines best.


I will agree with your main point that there are processes that a CNC is not the best method, creating HB routes is not a good example. I can redraw a HBer route in less then 10 minutes and create the G code in a few more and be routing in a few more. The advantage the CNC has over a template is that if I am not happy with it, a tweak is less then 15 minutes away, not creating another template.

To create my guitars without a CNC would be difficult due to their internal construction, which is why I built my CNC. For the small shop (and mine is small, believe me) my CNC doubles as my jointer and planer and sometimes workbench. Sure, having a separate jointer and planer would be more efficient for these tasks, and I intend to get these tools when production needs justify them, but right now I'm getting by with a CNC, a table saw, a drill press, and a bunch of hand tools.

It is also great for creating specialized jigs needed to drill Electrosocket holes or trussrod holes.

John Hurtt
12-14-2011, 01:52 PM
and even though you may "have seen it" I'm gonna bet, that what you saw was a fully tested and proofed program that was written long before you came and "saw it done". and the facts are there might have been several hours or even days in the proofing of that program that you never saw as well.
thats the Illusion of CNC. NOT the facts.




Dude...several people (including myself) have first hand knowledge of CNC equipment and have followed the process from start/finish. You obviously don't have the knowledge, and are going off what "your friend" told you.

Seth B
06-02-2012, 06:01 PM
Very interesting topic guys. Thankyou for all the info and opinions. I just ordered my first small CNC and have started mucking about with CAD software so it's all very exciting. I can already see how it will benefit me massively once I get my head round it all.

JimboMansonMB-1
06-02-2012, 06:11 PM
Hey Seth, didn't know you posted on here! My name's Jim, I've got one of Hugh Manson's electrics and I'v been following your activity as well as Andy's and Hugh's for a while now. Great work on that black doublecut you did a little while ago, I liked it a lot!

I've got nothing useful to add to this topic, unfortunately, but I wish you the best! :)

Seth B
06-02-2012, 06:41 PM
Thanks Jim ! I'm looking forward to exploring the new possibilities and working on my new designs.
This forum is a great way to stay in touch with other builders and share ideas.

Seth B
10-29-2012, 01:23 PM
Hi Guys,

So to follow up ...... I got the CNC and have done some machining with it with very good results. And for making jigs and templates it has already become indespensible.

But I do have one question if anyone has any ideas -

I thought I would run past you a problem we are having and see if anyone of you CNC builders had any suggestions.

We are using solidworks and solidcam and Mach 3 and have been having a problem with the symmetry of the body outline. There seems to be a twist occuring around the arc of the bottom bout. Throwing it out by up to a 1.5mmm. The model shows perfect symmetry so it must be happening post Solidcam. It's causing us a problem because we're relying on the symmetry to locate the body to work on the back and then the front. We posted on a CNC forum to see if anyone had any ideas and they came back with the possibilty of it being to do with running in CV mode rather than exact stop and also the acceleration and velocity settings. We have changed those to the suggested but still with no joy. It's a real head scratcher ! Here is the link to the forum post by my friend - http://www.machsupport.com/forum/index.php?PHPSESSID=g4alks715fj95li5g4un84jcn3&topic=22702.0

Any ideas welcome I have hit a blank with trying to figure it out so far.

Thanks in advance !

Ron Thorn
10-29-2012, 02:58 PM
Is the "twist" located at the exact point the axis changes direction? If so, sounds like back-lash in the screw/nut assembly, or in the thrust bearings that support the screw.
Most programs have a back-lash parameter that you can set depending on how tight your assembly is.
Tool deflection is another factor, but usually minor.

What kind of machine? What type of spindle?
I'll assume it's a gantry style. If so, grab the collet (with everything "off" of course) and give it a good tug and pull. Deflection in the side walls, slop in the Z axis slides, or play in the thrust bearings...it can all add up on a small machine that might be a little under-engineered for heavy cuts.

Ron

Ian Anderson
10-29-2012, 08:26 PM
What Ron said.

Also, I have run into a similar situation where the machine simply was not accurate past a feed rate of 75 ipm. For reasons unknown. This was an $80k gantry router! I had to slow down, or cheat my geometry which is a half assed way to do things. A VMC like a Haas or Fadal will cut to .0005 @ 250 ipm all day long.

Are you using arcs or splines? Splines are interpolated at 100s of points per inch where arcs are endpoints and radius. Thats way more lines of code which can mess things up if your controller is not fast enough.

More details are needed like what type of machine, speeds and feeds..

2leod
10-29-2012, 09:39 PM
It is puzzling that your discrepancy seems localized in a zone - I'm tending to lean toward something goofy in the CAM selection, like an absent check or drive surface rolling the tool into the profile. Just a guess though, without seeing the results of the toolpath.

Saul Koll
10-29-2012, 11:00 PM
I'm totally confused!?!! I thought you just press the "go" button to make a guitar on a CNC.

2leod
10-29-2012, 11:09 PM
That's true! It's so easy to push the green button, any monkey could do it.


The tough part is telling "Machine" where, and how, and from which direction, and how fast, and what path to go...


:)

Ian Anderson
10-29-2012, 11:12 PM
I'm totally confused!?!! I thought you just press the "go" button to make a guitar on a CNC.

You are almost there Saul. You just need to put the numbers in there first then you are good to go.

Neil Morgan
10-30-2012, 08:02 AM
The trouble with CNC's .................................... is that they're so damn addictive :D and the better you know your machine and the software the better it gets. I've morphed from being a guitar junkie into a CAD/CAM/machining junkie.

Like most builders I started out with a combination of hand tools and hand controlled power tools, then it was the pin router. That was quickly followed by a K2 gantry CNC which served me faithfully for six years before moving on to a full size VMC - in my case Fadal. Could I go back, absolutely - would I go back, absolutely not.

Next step will be a CNC lathe (with live tooling) to help with the metal work followed in a few years by a five axis machine - well that's the plan anyway :rotflmao

I generally find that those who post negative comments about CNCs and their role in guitar making do so out of ignorance, not surprising really as it's a big complex subject that requires another independent skill set with a pretty steep learning curve. Paying for the machine is the easy part, tooling will cost $thousands more and software can cost tens of $thousands again. However the time investment is by far the largest part when starting from ground zero.

When I use to route a body with templates and a hand controlled router it used to go something like this (after the blank is prepped).

Set the RPM (as I do on the CNC)
choose the point at which I enter the wood and depth of cut (ditto)
control the direction and speed at which I cut (ditto)
for a multi depth cut decide where to plunge, how deep and how to move from there (ditto)
Decide if it needs a cleanup pass (ditto) and move on to the next feature to rout (ditto).

With good software you have so much explicit control you decide exactly how each piece is cut. What you don't get is covered in sawdust (that comes later), deafened, an aching back or risk any body parts coming in contact with a sharp spinning tool.

Please note I am not implying that a CNC makes a better (or worse) instrument, IMHO that should only be judged on how the guitar looks, feels, plays, sounds to you. For me it makes for a better, more enjoyable and more productive building process.

jackevorkian
10-30-2012, 08:59 AM
Curious which machine and software everybody is running? Also, how large of a machine? I'm looking at a 48"x48" Camaster Stinger II with VCarve Pro software. Anyone know about these? They seem like a pretty solid 'starter' machine.

Neil Morgan
10-30-2012, 10:15 AM
Curious which machine and software everybody is running? Also, how large of a machine? I'm looking at a 48"x48" Camaster Stinger II with VCarve Pro software. Anyone know about these? They seem like a pretty solid 'starter' machine.

Starter for what? the table size and software choice would appear to be more suited for sign making. Gantry machines suffer from rigidity issues to a greater or lesser degree, for the same design a shorter axis usually equates to better rigidity. Whilst workable, 6" for a Z axis is a little stingy. The shopbot buddy looks to be a better design with an extendable Z axis

http://www.shopbottools.com/mProducts/shopbot_buddy.htm

However I have no experience of either shopbot or camaster. For guitar making my personal recommendation would be the K2 KG3925, mine served me well for six years without a glitch and I know there are many others on this board who are pleased with theirs.

http://k2cnc.com/product_kg3925.aspx

When it come to software how much do you want to spend? There are so many choices (and pitfalls) that it's wise to take your time and choose carefully.

Many many beautiful guitars have been designed in Rhino. It has great surfacing tools and several choices when it comes to integrated CAM. It doesn't have good history/parametric tools however which essentially means that if you want to change something you have to redraw that bit.

Solidworks is well known throughout all sorts of industries and is a very capable modeller that is parametric, change a dimension and the model updates - usually! It's ok at surfacing, its surfacing tools aren't quite as good as Rhino's for example, but it gets the job done and is used by the likes of PRS and Suhr (in conjunction with Rhino I believe). It has a wide choice of CAM options, both integrated and stand alone, but we're starting to get into serious pricing now.

Solid Edge is the best mid priced CAD software IMHO but it has no current integrated CAM (although it's coming very soon). Similarly priced to Solidworks it's gaining market share rapidly as Dassault (Solidworks parent company) has been a little unclear and possibly disingenuous about Solidworks's future direction.

Autodesk's Inventor is very also capable and very popular in education, probably due to Autodesk's free education provision. It's very similar in capability to Solidworks with similar pricing and has almost as many CAM options.

Alibre is a parametric modeller at a great price point with a loyal following that also has a few CAM options.

Then there's a few more, including Ron Thorns favourite Ashlar Vellum or the amazing surfacing tool that is Alias. Then you get into stand alone CAM vs integrated (where available) etc, etc. - are you still with me :)

For somebody starting out - Personally I don't think you can go wrong with Rhino and madCAM

http://www.madcamcnc.com/start_page.html

The price is right and it's a very, very capable (that word again!) combined package.

Me, for now, I have a Fadal 3016 - 30" x, 16" y and 20" z. It's a capable, reliable, accurate mid range machine favoured by the likes of Taylor, PRS, Carvin etc. As soon as the budget permits I'll be replacing it with a DMG DMC1035.

I started out with Rhino and RhinoCAM, swapped RhinoCAM for madCAM and added tSplines. I then used Solidworks for a year in conjunction with Rhino and found it very good but just over a year ago I changed to Siemens NX CAD/CAM and haven't looked back. It's top end software with a learning cliff (as opposed to curve) but I found myself with some downtime last year after breaking my knee/femur and dedicated myself to learning as much as I could. I'm still learning but the more I use it the more I love it. I still keep Rhino/madCAM/tSplines on hand but these days it's mostly for the tSplines freeform modelling capabilities.

Did I say I was a CAD junkie :rotflmao It's a huge subject - I've barely scratched the surface.

Husky
10-30-2012, 01:57 PM
Hi all,

I am hoping some of the expert luthiers here will find this thread.
I am currently a small custom builder and I am looking to take things to the next level and develop a small range of "standard" models and to speed up build time and increase accuracy. At present I just use a hand router and jigs for neck joints/pickups etc and the rest all by hand.
I have been toying with the idea of getting a Desk top CNC router for various parts of the build, and was wondering what views are with regards to CNC vs pin router and copy carver ? Or any recommendations for a small to mid size workshop set up on a sensible budget.
Any information on pro's and cons would be most welcome.

Thanks
Don't waste your time with a budget router, that has bit a few of my friends in the ass and taken down their business with the wrong machinery purchase being a boat anchor.
Go get a used Haas direct from the factory
You will save yourself a boatload of aggravation.

A second option is to look at a good Pinrouter and a Laser.
With the laser you can quickly cut all your pin routing templates, a skilled worker can do everything this way but I would still trust CNC'd fret slots the most. Naturally you can buy boards preslotted from sources such as Luthiers Merc.

cardamonfrost
10-30-2012, 02:31 PM
I was thinking of buying (or building) a small CNC so I could make compound radius fretboards with minimal problems. You can build anything with them if you want though.

C

jackevorkian
10-30-2012, 07:14 PM
Thanks for all this info. That K2 looks pretty good for the price...so does the Shopbot. I'll need to look at these more closely. The Shopbot has an optional 12" Z axis and some sort of extendable table technology, which might make it the most versatile for the money. Not sure about it being on casters, but that could always be changed to make it more stable.

I'm not a guitar builder, although I'd definitely get into it if I had a CNC. Right now I use the CNC at a production woodshop for fabrication of all sorts of architectural design elements, as well as prototyping. The bigger the bed the better...at a minimum 2x4.

Starter for what? the table size and software choice would appear to be more suited for sign making. Gantry machines suffer from rigidity issues to a greater or lesser degree, for the same design a shorter axis usually equates to better rigidity. Whilst workable, 6" for a Z axis is a little stingy. The shopbot buddy looks to be a better design with an extendable Z axis

http://www.shopbottools.com/mProducts/shopbot_buddy.htm

However I have no experience of either shopbot or camaster. For guitar making my personal recommendation would be the K2 KG3925, mine served me well for six years without a glitch and I know there are many others on this board who are pleased with theirs.

http://k2cnc.com/product_kg3925.aspx

When it come to software how much do you want to spend? There are so many choices (and pitfalls) that it's wise to take your time and choose carefully.

Many many beautiful guitars have been designed in Rhino. It has great surfacing tools and several choices when it comes to integrated CAM. It doesn't have good history/parametric tools however which essentially means that if you want to change something you have to redraw that bit.

Solidworks is well known throughout all sorts of industries and is a very capable modeller that is parametric, change a dimension and the model updates - usually! It's ok at surfacing, its surfacing tools aren't quite as good as Rhino's for example, but it gets the job done and is used by the likes of PRS and Suhr (in conjunction with Rhino I believe). It has a wide choice of CAM options, both integrated and stand alone, but we're starting to get into serious pricing now.

Solid Edge is the best mid priced CAD software IMHO but it has no current integrated CAM (although it's coming very soon). Similarly priced to Solidworks it's gaining market share rapidly as Dassault (Solidworks parent company) has been a little unclear and possibly disingenuous about Solidworks's future direction.

Autodesk's Inventor is very also capable and very popular in education, probably due to Autodesk's free education provision. It's very similar in capability to Solidworks with similar pricing and has almost as many CAM options.

Alibre is a parametric modeller at a great price point with a loyal following that also has a few CAM options.

Then there's a few more, including Ron Thorns favourite Ashlar Vellum or the amazing surfacing tool that is Alias. Then you get into stand alone CAM vs integrated (where available) etc, etc. - are you still with me :)

For somebody starting out - Personally I don't think you can go wrong with Rhino and madCAM

http://www.madcamcnc.com/start_page.html

The price is right and it's a very, very capable (that word again!) combined package.

Me, for now, I have a Fadal 3016 - 30" x, 16" y and 20" z. It's a capable, reliable, accurate mid range machine favoured by the likes of Taylor, PRS, Carvin etc. As soon as the budget permits I'll be replacing it with a DMG DMC1035.

I started out with Rhino and RhinoCAM, swapped RhinoCAM for madCAM and added tSplines. I then used Solidworks for a year in conjunction with Rhino and found it very good but just over a year ago I changed to Siemens NX CAD/CAM and haven't looked back. It's top end software with a learning cliff (as opposed to curve) but I found myself with some downtime last year after breaking my knee/femur and dedicated myself to learning as much as I could. I'm still learning but the more I use it the more I love it. I still keep Rhino/madCAM/tSplines on hand but these days it's mostly for the tSplines freeform modelling capabilities.

Did I say I was a CAD junkie :rotflmao It's a huge subject - I've barely scratched the surface.

jackevorkian
10-30-2012, 07:18 PM
Are there any 5 axis machines in the 10-15k range?

django49
10-30-2012, 07:29 PM
I recently saw an interview with Nik Huber. He said he would make no apologies for using CNC to cut the large laborious pieces (notwithstanding his reputation for great hand work) so he could put his attention into doing the more important parts of his builds personally).

Makes sense....He gets more product out the door (Still pretty small production) and he is better able to meet demand----Shorter wait times and it has to help hold down costs.

Saul Koll
10-30-2012, 07:42 PM
Curious which machine and software everybody is running? Also, how large of a machine? I'm looking at a 48"x48" Camaster Stinger II with VCarve Pro software. Anyone know about these? They seem like a pretty solid 'starter' machine.


I'm using a K2-3925 and it works well for me. I'm not doing heavy production, mostly tooling and jigs and one of a kind parts. Ok, maybe two of a kind sometimes.. My friend Gene Baker has one as well and used it for years to do actual production until he got the mighty HAAS which is kind of like getting a full size pin router after using a dremel. Night and day.
But one was about 10k, the other maybe 100k. Now the K2 in his shop is dedicated to specialized things like aluminum parts and tooling.
For CAD, I'm using Rhino, then Visual Mill for CAM and MACH3 at the machine.
Gene loves his BobCAD which I believe includes the CAM.
I have a friend Jeff Kosmoski who designs with SolidWorks and it is pretty amazing what someone skilled can do with that parametric stuff. Wow.

At this point I'm barely using the capacity of my software or tooling. It is strangely addictive. I can't get enough. The learning curve is super steep, at least for someone slow and old like me, but I'm really enjoying the challenge. Like so much in guitar making there are a million ways to do something. As I design stuff on a screen instead of a drawing board, I'll often hit the wall and can't figure out a command. That's when it takes a new creativity to figure a work around. Later when you figure out the "correct" way to do something, you get that "aha!" moment. It is at once majorly frustrating and thrilling. I'm always busy with making guitars and don't really have a lot of time to study, but it has become my new hobby. I'm enjoying the process. It is a constant pursuit of excellence in the craft.
My first guitars were made with pocket knife and handsaw. When I got a handheld router and an exacto knife, everything changed, and for the better. Later a bandsaw, thickness sander, etc. When I got an industrial pin router there was a big change for the good. Now I have the CNC and guess what? the guitars are better than ever!
It just happens to be the next step in the evolution of my tooling technology. I'll always reach for the sharpest "chisel" in the shop.

dougk
10-30-2012, 09:51 PM
I just added a Shopbot Desktop to the line up tasked solely with carving neck profiles. My main machine (SCM Tech99l) just can't keep up with demand to run bodies, fretboards, roughing necks ect all day and it didn't make sense to add a giant machine to run 1 single purpose.

So far I'm very pleased with the quality. Wouldn't be my first choice for high production running bodies but their larger machines would probably be ok. Lots to be said for choices both good and bad.

BTW Saul it can be just as frustrating for us "young guys" too ;)

Saul Koll
10-30-2012, 10:08 PM
I just added a Shopbot Desktop to the line up tasked solely with carving neck profiles. My main machine (SCM Tech99l) just can't keep up with demand to run bodies, fretboards, roughing necks ect all day and it didn't make sense to add a giant machine to run 1 single purpose.

So far I'm very pleased with the quality. Wouldn't be my first choice for high production running bodies but their larger machines would probably be ok. Lots to be said for choices both good and bad.

BTW Saul it can be just as frustrating for us "young guys" too ;)

Guess I asked for that one!

That new Shopbot looks sweet Doug. Probe me baby.

Husky
10-31-2012, 12:40 PM
I use Solidworks because I need chassis capabilities. Amazing tool for building a complete amp cabinets and all. It is fun to draw and model guitars in Solidworks but you still have to disassemble and make it more CNC programing friendly, parametrics are wonderful if you know your design intent and terrible if you dont think ahead. I can usually get something done much quicker in Rhino, our Modern was done 100% in Rhino, I did our setneck in SW. I could get by with Rhino alone and probably would if I didn't need to do chassis and amp work too or if the maintenance was a price issue (more than 2x the cost of Rhino per year !). Nothing you cant do in Rhino3D and the support is top notch for free. I have 2 HAAS VF4s. Everything gets converted down to Rhino before CNC and we were using Mastercam currently switching to RhinoCam. Also use T-Splines for Solidworks and Rhino (great for neck blend type of stuff) which really helps with surfaces. I do most complex surfaces in Rhino if I cant draw it in Solidworks. All splines get broken in to tangent arcs in Rhino otherwise you can get short line segments and bumps. Rhino is an unbeatable conversion tool even for exporting CAD to AI or Corel for our lasers. Also use Dezignworks and a Romer Infinite 2.0 for digitizing. I have a small MITS PCB router making machine I cut inlays on since the head spins at 60K. One thing is I'll warn that the learning curve of using CNC and CAD can be very steep if you don't have the head for it. I've been using SW since version 2001 and still learning.

mike@switchback
10-31-2012, 01:05 PM
Curious which machine and software everybody is running? Also, how large of a machine? I'm looking at a 48"x48" Camaster Stinger II with VCarve Pro software. Anyone know about these? They seem like a pretty solid 'starter' machine.

I have a Camaster Stinger I. Solid starter machine is a good way to describe it. It is as rigid and heavy as a machine that size and price can reasonably be which I think is a good thing. I'm just a one man show building one at a time so it works for me. Nobody will ever mistake the machine or its output for a Haas, but if you have realistic expectations you'll be alright. For a very small shop it is a step up from a hand router and templates. Software for me is Rhino3d, MadCAM. VCarve is great for signmakers but you would run into limitations pretty quick as far as guitar building.

All IMO YMMV blabbity blah.

Ian Anderson
10-31-2012, 01:22 PM
John, The PCB router intrigues me with the 60k spindle! I used to run air turbines at Taylor of various speeds up to 60k for various inlay pockets and binding channels. Pretty cool stuff. got to play with some pretty amazing things there.

I do everything in Mastercam including drawing surfaces and solids. It's pretty archaic but I know my way around it very well. One of these days I'll be switching to Solidworks and a new CAM program thats more affordable, but at this point Mcam is a part of my brain.

I use a small desktop machine for the majority of my work with the small parts and tooling and then rent time on a Motionmaster 4x8 Gantry router for the big stuff. That works well but it's no VMC. The cool thing about the routers is the huge vacuum pump that can suck right through a partical board base plate. I also use phenolic vacuum fixtures to hold everything down.

I know what you mean about having the head for it. Luckily I do. I've been cad drawing since the '80s so it came pretty naturally for me, but there were plenty of guys in School who really struggled with it. I think it's alot like math. I just wish I had more time to learn some different software. You really have to have the drive to learn this stuff.

Husky
10-31-2012, 01:40 PM
hey Ian
unfortunately the table isn't good for anything but PCB's and inlay but it works killer for that, we score the wood on the laser for inlays and remove the wood by hand. Need more CNC's!
I wouldn't recommend SW for guitars personally. I would just use Rhino and T-Splines. Way more flexible and would be much more intuitive for you coming from Mastercam. I am curious of any comparison of Madcam to RhinoCam for those who have switched.

Back at Fender I did all my CAD work at home and plotted it using Vellum and a MAC. Then brought it to work and made hardboard templates for the pinrouter, yuck

Here is the MITS PCB router, 60K spindle is an option (not air driven) been reliable for 4 years
Still one of my best purchases for quick prototyping and custom amp work, indispensable really..
http://www.mitspcb.com/edoc/fp21t_ie_suhr.htm

John, The PCB router intrigues me with the 60k spindle! I used to run air turbines at Taylor of various speeds up to 60k for various inlay pockets and binding channels. Pretty cool stuff. got to play with some pretty amazing things there.

I do everything in Mastercam including drawing surfaces and solids. It's pretty archaic but I know my way around it very well. One of these days I'll be switching to Solidworks and a new CAM program thats more affordable, but at this point Mcam is a part of my brain.

I use a small desktop machine for the majority of my work with the small parts and tooling and then rent time on a Motionmaster 4x8 Gantry router for the big stuff. That works well but it's no VMC. The cool thing about the routers is the huge vacuum pump that can suck right through a partical board base plate. I also use phenolic vacuum fixtures to hold everything down.

I know what you mean about having the head for it. Luckily I do. I've been cad drawing since the '80s so it came pretty naturally for me, but there were plenty of guys in School who really struggled with it. I think it's alot like math. I just wish I had more time to learn some different software. You really have to have the drive to learn this stuff.

mike@switchback
10-31-2012, 01:52 PM
hey Ian
unfortunately the table isn't good for anything but PCB's and inlay but it works killer for that, we score the wood on the laser for inlays and remove the wood by hand. Need more CNC's!
I wouldn't recommend SW for guitars personally. I would just use Rhino and T-Splines. Way more flexible and would be much more intuitive for you coming from Mastercam. I am curious of any comparison of Madcam to RhinoCam for those who have switched.

Back at Fender I did all my CAD work at home and plotted it using Vellum and a MAC. Then brought it to work and made hardboard templates for the pinrouter, yuck

Here is the MITS PCB router, 60K spindle is an option (not air driven) been reliable for 4 years
http://www.mitspcb.com/edoc/fp21t_ie_suhr.htm

I can't really directly compare RhinoCAM and MadCAM because I've only tried the demo of RhinoCAM. But one thing that sold me on MadCAM is that the demo will actually let you generate and save your toolpaths. So you can actually make chips and find out if you like what it's doing. Unlike most demos that I've tried that won't let you get all the way to saving something that you can actually cut.

I'm curious about T-splines. I struggle with things like contoured heels and upper fret cutaways...surfaces that are more involved than forearm and belly cuts. I was ready to jump off a bridge by the time I modeled my first neck carve-to-headstock transitions. Will T-splines help?

Husky
10-31-2012, 01:58 PM
I can't really directly compare RhinoCAM and MadCAM because I've only tried the demo of RhinoCAM. But one thing that sold me on MadCAM is that the demo will actually let you generate and save your toolpaths. So you can actually make chips and find out if you like what it's doing. Unlike most demos that I've tried that won't let you get all the way to saving something that you can actually cut.

I'm curious about T-splines. I struggle with things like contoured heels and upper fret cutaways...surfaces that are more involved than forearm and belly cuts. I was ready to jump off a bridge by the time I modeled my first neck carve-to-headstock transitions. Will T-splines help?
T-Splines is excellent. It runs inside Rhino and has a plug in for Solidworks. So... once you have a Tsplines Surface and import in to SW you can still use many of their tools, SW is not needed of course. Here is a demo on an old version they did for me to convince me I needed it.
It is touchy feely for sure but that is what those surfaces are anyway
IXkw-2hn7bo

mike@switchback
10-31-2012, 02:05 PM
1:43, mind=blown! :thud

Husky
10-31-2012, 02:23 PM
1:43, mind=blown! :thud
Yeah that is when they smooth
Download the demo, nothing really is like it except for Clayoo which has a long ways to go but is free

jackevorkian
10-31-2012, 03:41 PM
Thanks for all this info! I use Rhino, AutoCAd, Revit, Sketchup, PS and Ai pretty much daily, so I don't think learning the software will be to much of a challenge...it's just a matter of picking the right one.

It's looking like Rhino, T-Splines, and either madCam or RhinoCam.

I'm going to talk to the folks at ShopBot about their machine.

RandK
11-04-2012, 09:59 AM
John - MADCAM 4 is all G01's even in 2.5d so you may not like that. They are in beta with their V5 so perhaps they'll support G02's. Rhinocam will do better with that. I'd want to know exactly what their HSM will be and price uplift for 2013; can't imagine buying a CAM without HSM anymore. I have 1st gen Rhinocam and it was very bumpy, went to Onecnc: fast easy programming, powerful, HSM, great simulation etc. They all have a bunch of bugs and pecularities to workaround and they all charge maintenance or nail you to upgrade to keep current and charge for versions skipped when you do upgrade. Most of us would lust after Mastercam and you want to switch. Why ?

Husky
11-04-2012, 11:36 AM
John - MADCAM 4 is all G01's even in 2.5d so you may not like that. They are in beta with their V5 so perhaps they'll support G02's. Rhinocam will do better with that. I'd want to know exactly what their HSM will be and price uplift for 2013; can't imagine buying a CAM without HSM anymore. I have 1st gen Rhinocam and it was very bumpy, went to Onecnc: fast easy programming, powerful, HSM, great simulation etc. They all have a bunch of bugs and pecularities to workaround and they all charge maintenance or nail you to upgrade to keep current and charge for versions skipped when you do upgrade. Most of us would lust after Mastercam and you want to switch. Why ?


Our Mastercam is older, updating is like a new seat which is pretty costly. Also seems like way overkill for what we do with it especially given the fact I cant stand drawing in it.

Ian Anderson
11-04-2012, 04:23 PM
This software maintenance thing really pisses me off. Mastercam never had it before. Once you paid your $12k you were good to go. Now there is a 10% per year fee just to keep updated on their bug fixes and more stuff to "keep you competitive" that you don't need in the guitar biz anyway.

Husky
11-04-2012, 05:08 PM
This software maintenance thing really pisses me off. Mastercam never had it before. Once you paid your $12k you were good to go. Now there is a 10% per year fee just to keep updated on their bug fixes and more stuff to "keep you competitive" that you don't need in the guitar biz anyway.

Yeah I feel the same way about Solidworks, it is like $1800 a year.
Rhino3d on the other hand is free support and 0 maintenance and 0 for upgrades. Major upgrades are dirt cheap.

2leod
11-04-2012, 05:45 PM
I'm on the fence on the maintenance packages - they are pricey but at 10% it's as if you get a new program every 10 years. Having gone through a major AutoCad/Inventor upgrade that was replacing 10 year old software with multiple seats, I can see the benefit of maintenance especially from the the perspective that you don't own the software, just a licence to use it under defined conditions. Im sure you've looked at the Solidworks for Mastercam package, it runs pretty slick from what I've seen. If we weren't tied into Inventor for the modeling it's something I would be looking at, but it seems to me there's oportunity for a package strictly for this market which is is like a router/3D mill hybrid. Mastercam's high speed toolpaths are second to none in my opinion for being able to tweak your approaches and contours.

RandK
11-04-2012, 06:30 PM
MECsoft has started to charge maintenance and like Solidworks they charge you to reinstate if you let it lapse. I don't mind paying for new features I can put to good use, but paying maint and still having to step around a bunch of old bugs they never fix (SW) makes it tough to write the $2k check. Rhino is excellent software, at a very fair price and they fix it promptly when something doesn't work properly. They have a unique business philosophy for the CAD market. I don't know if ADSK will start maintenance for T-splines or if it will just wither away like a lot of their other acquisitions.

John Coloccia
11-12-2012, 06:35 PM
Well, I'm dipping my pinky toe into the CNC world. I've pretty much settled on Rhino for CAD, and will possibly add T-Splines based on what I saw here. I am curious about madCAM vs RhinoCam, though. Seems like madCAM will make me happy at 1/4 the price of RhinoCAM but I've never heard of madCAM.

edit: Rhino for CAD...not settled on RhinoCam at all yet

Ian Anderson
11-12-2012, 07:58 PM
Yeah Solidworks and Mcam are the 1,2 punch and as close to the standard in the industry as you are going to get. A few major guitar manufacturers use this combo.

Some friends of mine have been using Bobcad for years and it works good. It's another one to take a look at and reasonably priced compared to some others.

Anyone use Surfcam?

jackevorkian
11-12-2012, 08:04 PM
Well, I'm dipping my pinky toe into the CNC world. I've pretty much settled on RhinoCam, and will possibly add T-Splines based on what I saw here. I am curious about madCAM vs RhinoCam, though. Seems like madCAM will make me happy at 1/4 the price of RhinoCAM but I've never heard of madCAM.

Which CNC are you going for?

RandK
11-12-2012, 08:34 PM
Novedge has a sale on entry level madcam for $690 and you get their V5 upgrade at N/C when released. This sounds like a killer deal for somebody getting started. Plenty of guys use it and their entry level has nice features that Rhinocam standard $1200 doesn't because they want to sell you the $5k version for that. Husky and Ian are guru level and if John is satisfied that he can run his thriving business on Rhinocam then that's that. Do the trials and decide what you like and are willing to spend your money on. I still get calls from Bobcad 8 years later... Very short calls...

John Coloccia
11-12-2012, 08:48 PM
Which CNC are you going for?

Looks like I'll be starting off with an XZero. It's not a turnkey system by any means, but in my former life as an engineer I did an awful lot of robotics and other controls work, so I'm quite comfortable around this technology, and a stepper driven gantry XYZ robot is about as dirt simple as it gets. I don't know much about the CAD/CAM side, though. That will absolute be a major stumbling block.

Anyhow, it's not a Haas, but it's more than I actually need right now and will get me going quite nicely.

John Coloccia
11-12-2012, 08:51 PM
Novedge has a sale on entry level madcam for $690 and you get their V5 upgrade at N/C when released. This sounds like a killer deal for somebody getting started. Plenty of guys use it and their entry level has nice features that Rhinocam standard $1200 doesn't because they want to sell you the $5k version for that. Husky and Ian are guru level and if John is satisfied that he can run his thriving business on Rhinocam then that's that. Do the trials and decide what you like and are willing to spend your money on. I still get calls from Bobcad 8 years later... Very short calls...

Thanks, Rand. That's exactly what I was thinking looking at RhinoCam vs madCAM. I really don't want to spend $5000 when $1200 worth of madCAM will make me happy.

RandK
11-12-2012, 09:44 PM
madcam is not equivalent to Rhinocam (yet) but it certainly will work. Like anything they each have their advantages and shortcomings. For getting started at $700 you can throw it away in a year and not lose a lot of sleep over it, but you shouldn't have to. Do the demos first eh? There were a lot of guys chasing that XZero guy with spears in hand because he wasn't delivering so do your homework on that. No idea how rigid their machines are. Big heavy machines are good. My Techno is beefy but light and it will flex a little. On the low end I think I'd look at Camaster stinger, the Techno US and new Chinese (made mechanicals their electronics by the looks of them) and the Laguna (Chinese) but they all have short Z travels to minimize flex, maybe too short for me.

John Coloccia
11-12-2012, 10:13 PM
madcam is not equivalent to Rhinocam (yet) but it certainly will work. Like anything they each have their advantages and shortcomings. For getting started at $700 you can throw it away in a year and not lose a lot of sleep over it, but you shouldn't have to. Do the demos first eh? There were a lot of guys chasing that XZero guy with spears in hand because he wasn't delivering so do your homework on that. No idea how rigid their machines are. Big heavy machines are good. My Techno is beefy but light and it will flex a little. On the low end I think I'd look at Camaster stinger, the Techno US and new Chinese (made mechanicals their electronics by the looks of them) and the Laguna (Chinese) but they all have short Z travels to minimize flex, maybe too short for me.

I decided on the XZero specifically because it seems to be very stiff according to those I've talked to....stiffer than much of the competition in that range. That's partly what's held me back...I was concerned with the stiffness as many complain about their lower end machines. I feel comfortable at this point that the XZero machine will serve me well.

I'm familiar with the delivery problems. You're about the 4th person to mention that to me. I'll be picking mine up in person in a few days. It's worth the 18 hours of driving there and back to guarantee a smooth transaction, and also to see the machine up close and be able to ask any relevant questions.

RandK
11-13-2012, 10:15 AM
Sounds like you've done your homework. If you are going to pick it up have him show you that it is in near perfect square across the length of travels (X-Y) and Z trammed. Table flat etc. No specific knowledge of problems with his machines but some of the small machines do not arrive very well aligned.

John Coloccia
11-13-2012, 10:24 AM
Thanks again for the advice, Rand. Do you know anything about KFlops and KStep? I'm thinking of going that direction with Mach3 as the front end. It's not the absolute cheapest solution, but it's only a couple of bucks more and seems like a step up from Mach3 and Gecko.

John Coloccia
11-21-2012, 04:20 PM
I use Solidworks because I need chassis capabilities. Amazing tool for building a complete amp cabinets and all. It is fun to draw and model guitars in Solidworks but you still have to disassemble and make it more CNC programing friendly, parametrics are wonderful if you know your design intent and terrible if you dont think ahead. I can usually get something done much quicker in Rhino, our Modern was done 100% in Rhino, I did our setneck in SW. I could get by with Rhino alone and probably would if I didn't need to do chassis and amp work too or if the maintenance was a price issue (more than 2x the cost of Rhino per year !). Nothing you cant do in Rhino3D and the support is top notch for free. I have 2 HAAS VF4s. Everything gets converted down to Rhino before CNC and we were using Mastercam currently switching to RhinoCam. Also use T-Splines for Solidworks and Rhino (great for neck blend type of stuff) which really helps with surfaces. I do most complex surfaces in Rhino if I cant draw it in Solidworks. All splines get broken in to tangent arcs in Rhino otherwise you can get short line segments and bumps. Rhino is an unbeatable conversion tool even for exporting CAD to AI or Corel for our lasers. Also use Dezignworks and a Romer Infinite 2.0 for digitizing. I have a small MITS PCB router making machine I cut inlays on since the head spins at 60K. One thing is I'll warn that the learning curve of using CNC and CAD can be very steep if you don't have the head for it. I've been using SW since version 2001 and still learning.

Have you tried any of the parametric plugins for Rhino, like RhinoWorks? I've just started playing around with Rhino and madCam (SW + maintenance is just way too much for me right now) and I'm about to try the RhinoWorks demo because I DO miss the type of modeling I've gotten used to in SW (though I hardly miss anything else about it). I wonder if something like RhinoWorks brings just enough parametric and constraint based modeling to Rhino for the work you're doing? I presume that what you're really missing in Rhino is being able to make parts and then assemble everything and push and tug things around until everything fits right, check alignment features, screw holes, etc etc.

Husky
11-21-2012, 04:51 PM
Have you tried any of the parametric plugins for Rhino, like RhinoWorks? I've just started playing around with Rhino and madCam (SW + maintenance is just way too much for me right now) and I'm about to try the RhinoWorks demo because I DO miss the type of modeling I've gotten used to in SW (though I hardly miss anything else about it). I wonder if something like RhinoWorks brings just enough parametric and constraint based modeling to Rhino for the work you're doing? I presume that what you're really missing in Rhino is being able to make parts and then assemble everything and push and tug things around until everything fits right, check alignment features, screw holes, etc etc.


I've never tried that, I'll look at it.
Other plug in worth looking at is TSplines is a must
Grasshoper3D
Rhino parametrics
Virtual Shape looks real cool

But then if I add up all these cool plug ins that would be fun to have the cost actually becomes MORE than Solidworks !
Oyyyy

You know usually I enjoy Rhino for the sake of not having parametrics. Even after using Solidworks for 12 years sometime I still dont realize my design intent correctly and the implications of relating something to something else.
Then you make a change on one piece of geometry and the whole thing goes to shit. So... sometime Rhino is refreshing in that way. Now a history tree in Rhino would be refreshing, I love that about SW. I can always go back and see exactly how I did that ! Also I'm glued to Solidworks due to using Dezignworks which costs as much as the SW package. I use Dezignworks to interface my Romer Digitizing arm an Infinite 2.0. Rhino's digitizing interface is too weak for my purposes.

Another Program I thought was way cool is SpaceClaim, worth a Check out for something between the two. It eliminates the need for Parametrics
But again since it has no digitizing interface options it really could not replace Solidworks for me.

John Coloccia
01-28-2013, 11:14 AM
Holy cow. I just downloaded the TSplines demo. Not that I really want to spend another $650, but it's incredible. I think I'll fool around with it for about a week or so, but I can't imagine NOT buying it after using it.

FWIW, now that I'm in it a couple of months, I'm very satisfied with my choice of Rhino for this kind of modeling. I bought some training videos from Infinite Skills to get me up to speed. They are very well done. I've basically gone from zero to my first body/neck model in less than two months. Very happy camper here :D

For those not familiar, watch this...absolutely incredible. Even *I* can handle this. 37:30 and on is just incredibly impressive.

REBp96UJR_U

PhilF
01-28-2013, 02:01 PM
Holy cow. I just downloaded the TSplines demo. Not that I really want to spend another $650, but it's incredible. I think I'll fool around with it for about a week or so, but I can't imagine NOT buying it after using it.

FWIW, now that I'm in it a couple of months, I'm very satisfied with my choice of Rhino for this kind of modeling. I bought some training videos from Infinite Skills to get me up to speed. They are very well done. I've basically gone from zero to my first body/neck model in less than two months. Very happy camper here :D

For those not familiar, watch this...absolutely incredible. Even *I* can handle this. 37:30 and on is just incredibly impressive.

REBp96UJR_U


As an engineer that has used ProE, Catia, Solidworks, and other 3d programs...that is a pretty awesome tool. One thing he said that hit home was something like.."You don't have to deal with fillets bombing on you after making a change". Worst nightmare.

PhilF
01-28-2013, 02:08 PM
So I have a quick question for everyone here that is currently using CNC.

I've just ordered a CNC router from K2. Ready to run machine, should be here in a couple weeks. This is going to be for hobby use for now. I have a seat of solidworks. It is free to me, and legal mind you. It's a home license from work and i've gotten an ok to use it for personal use. I'm looking at getting a CAM program for myself, and there are god knows how many options available. At my old prototyping job we used SurfCAM. That is way out of my price range at the moment.

So, what I want out of a CAM program is for it to be standalone. I know tons of companies offer plug ins, and I actually prefer it not to be. So, any ideas on where to start? I'm trying to keep this at more of a 1-2k cost.

Neil Morgan
01-29-2013, 07:02 AM
Here's a couple to get you started

http://www.bobcad.com/products/milling

http://www.mecsoft.com/visualmill2012.shtml

Deed_Poll
01-29-2013, 08:06 AM
Yeah Solid Works is very good in its parametric nature. But it is, IME, less stable than Rhino so you still need to save your work often.
The other thing is that if you screw up one model, it will sometimes screw up lots of other models as well because they are linked in assemblies etc. Although this can be really useful for lots of applications, like for instance if your screw size changes and you have like 400 screw holes it will change them all automatically.
SW is better for certain things but I find organic shapes are much more achievable on Rhino. SW makes it too easy to fillet and blend curves IMO, it always ends up having a certain aesthetic. Rhino takes more work but can look more natural, just IMO.
re: OP, I have this debate constantly with my luthier friend who builds great steel strings. He says "it's not a hand made instrument". I say it actually gives you more time to develop skills in choosing the right woods and other processes, and lets you make a more competitive instrument for the cost. Plus, as others have said, where do you draw the line? Can you really call it handmade when you used a router or a power drill, or a laser-cut jig?

Husky
01-29-2013, 10:53 AM
Even though you use Solidworks (as do I) Solidworks is not a great path to CNC but Rhino is. I Export my geometry to Rhino out of Solidworks and use RhinoCam inside Rhino for toolpaths. Rhino and RhinoCAM I believe will be less than 2K, Rhino is a program you will never regret and is WAY better at surfacing than Solidworks. I usually export the trouble surface to Rhino and then bring it back in to Solidworks or I just finish the project in Rhino and go to RhinoCam if I use Solidworks at all. You can get the full featured standalone Visual Mill but it has no advantage and you would benefit greatly by having the Rhino3D. Solidworks is really best suited for less organic solid modeling. Plus in Solidworks you are really creating a lot of unnecessary geometry only good for a pretty picture. Your main concern for most instruments is a perimeter, some pockets and a few surfaces.
2013 Solidworks is rock solid by the way. At least on my computer. Granted with Rhino you dont need the processing power you do with Solidworks so SW can be hard on computer requirements.
I also pay over 2K a year for Solidworks support, Rhino support is free and included as are minor updates. It is a steal compared to everything else. Great company, I cant say enough about their support either.

T-Splines is wonderful but really a bit too touchy feely and difficult to great accurate geometry especially when blending in to existing geometry. I recently picked up the VSR Virtual shape modeling for Rhino. This is way better suited to create class A surfaces and an excellent tool although a little pricey. At my prodding they are working on a Strat style neck blend tutorial for people with Rhino and their tools.

Now the best advice I can give anyone for creating smooth perimeters to cut with CNC is never draw a guitar perimeter in curves but use a spline with the least amount of control points possible, then since CNC controllers dont understand splines (usually) break that spline into tangent arcs in Rhino (convert curve to arcs). You will wind up with 100~200 small curves but the perimeter will be flawless. Naturally back up the spline to another layer since once broken in to arcs you cant modify it easily.

Also if any of you guys need digitized points, perimeters etc etc. I have a digitizer (Romer Infinite 2.0) and occasionally job myself out for that mainly since I love doing it. I can just hand you back the points you need to create.
So I have a quick question for everyone here that is currently using CNC.

I've just ordered a CNC router from K2. Ready to run machine, should be here in a couple weeks. This is going to be for hobby use for now. I have a seat of solidworks. It is free to me, and legal mind you. It's a home license from work and i've gotten an ok to use it for personal use. I'm looking at getting a CAM program for myself, and there are god knows how many options available. At my old prototyping job we used SurfCAM. That is way out of my price range at the moment.

So, what I want out of a CAM program is for it to be standalone. I know tons of companies offer plug ins, and I actually prefer it not to be. So, any ideas on where to start? I'm trying to keep this at more of a 1-2k cost.

John Coloccia
01-29-2013, 11:47 AM
Nice to hear you talk about Tsplines. The one thing I'm still struggling with is accurately modelling the parts that need to be precise, though I love how it handles the transitions. I'm going to check out the VSR product too. I just sent off a note to see if they have a demo available.

John Coloccia
01-29-2013, 08:21 PM
Well, I downloaded the VSR demo. WOW. It took me all of 30 minutes to figure out how to make a really nice neck to heel transition. At $1700, it's a bit rich for my blood right now, though. I do see what you're saying about T-Splines...hey, I don't mind being talked out of software, although T-Splines is so cool that I may just get it anyway.

RandK
01-29-2013, 09:16 PM
Tsplines is very cool but very different than the build the accurate geometry then the surfaces/solids approach I'm most familiar with, and it has not been something that I have HAD to use. They recently rewrote the tskin command and improved the match command and I haven't played much with it lately. It is good that ACAD announced there would be a version 4. Maybe Neil can offer some good advice. VSR looks cool too.

Husky's recommendation of using Rhino+Rhinocam as the path from Solidworks is good if you don't want an add-in. Change management can really bite when using multiple programs whatever they are. Visual mill (standalone parent product of Rhinocam) is reasonably priced but clunky. Solidworks can make excellent surfaces but it will also make ugly areas that must be replaced with clean which takes extra steps. HSMworks express (Autodesk) is a free SW add-in for 2.5d work if you just want to play with something but their full 3d version is big bucks.

GEARHOUND
01-31-2013, 11:52 AM
We have a couple Hass CNC here at work and also mastercam and soildworks.They cut steel all day but was thinking of trying to do some late night work and maybe cut some bodies up...Would I need to buy all new end mills for wood or are they all the same ?

PhilF
01-31-2013, 11:57 AM
Even though you use Solidworks (as do I) Solidworks is not a great path to CNC but Rhino is. I Export my geometry to Rhino out of Solidworks and use RhinoCam inside Rhino for toolpaths. Rhino and RhinoCAM I believe will be less than 2K, Rhino is a program you will never regret and is WAY better at surfacing than Solidworks. I usually export the trouble surface to Rhino and then bring it back in to Solidworks or I just finish the project in Rhino and go to RhinoCam if I use Solidworks at all. You can get the full featured standalone Visual Mill but it has no advantage and you would benefit greatly by having the Rhino3D. Solidworks is really best suited for less organic solid modeling. Plus in Solidworks you are really creating a lot of unnecessary geometry only good for a pretty picture. Your main concern for most instruments is a perimeter, some pockets and a few surfaces.
2013 Solidworks is rock solid by the way. At least on my computer. Granted with Rhino you dont need the processing power you do with Solidworks so SW can be hard on computer requirements.
I also pay over 2K a year for Solidworks support, Rhino support is free and included as are minor updates. It is a steal compared to everything else. Great company, I cant say enough about their support either.

T-Splines is wonderful but really a bit too touchy feely and difficult to great accurate geometry especially when blending in to existing geometry. I recently picked up the VSR Virtual shape modeling for Rhino. This is way better suited to create class A surfaces and an excellent tool although a little pricey. At my prodding they are working on a Strat style neck blend tutorial for people with Rhino and their tools.

Now the best advice I can give anyone for creating smooth perimeters to cut with CNC is never draw a guitar perimeter in curves but use a spline with the least amount of control points possible, then since CNC controllers dont understand splines (usually) break that spline into tangent arcs in Rhino (convert curve to arcs). You will wind up with 100~200 small curves but the perimeter will be flawless. Naturally back up the spline to another layer since once broken in to arcs you cant modify it easily.

Also if any of you guys need digitized points, perimeters etc etc. I have a digitizer (Romer Infinite 2.0) and occasionally job myself out for that mainly since I love doing it. I can just hand you back the points you need to create.

John,

I'll give rhino a shot. I downloaded a demo of it the other day and I can't stand modelling done in a similar way to auto cad as opposed to 3d solid modelling like Solidworks, ProE, Catia, etc. The idea of using solidworks and then just importing the model is definitely an option though. I'm definitely going to be modelling in solidworks as I'm pretty proficient and I've modelled some seriously complex stuff in the world of rapid prototyping.

I also opened my mind back up to a solidworks plug in and downloaded a demo of SolidCAM last night. I'm liking it so far.

Anyway, I appreciate the sugestions.

BTY Guitar
02-01-2013, 05:19 AM
We have a couple Hass CNC here at work and also mastercam and soildworks.They cut steel all day but was thinking of trying to do some late night work and maybe cut some bodies up...Would I need to buy all new end mills for wood or are they all the same ?

I use the same end mills mostly. If fixtured properly, you can fly through wood. Two or Three flute for roughing. Four our more for finishing allows for maximum speed and finish. Finishing end mills should be sharp and "nick-free" for the best surface finish.

Watch for sharper corners and thin areas in wood where tear out is an issue. You may have to pre-cut these areas before contouring the entire chain.

GEARHOUND
02-01-2013, 11:05 AM
Thanks for the tips BTY...now I just need to bribe the set up guy's wtih a couple 6 packs to stay after hours :drink...

MSW
02-01-2013, 03:11 PM
T-Splines is wonderful but really a bit too touchy feely and difficult to great accurate geometry especially when blending in to existing geometry. I recently picked up the VSR Virtual shape modeling for Rhino. This is way better suited to create class A surfaces and an excellent tool although a little pricey. At my prodding they are working on a Strat style neck blend tutorial for people with Rhino and their tools.

Hey John. I work for SolidWorks, and was sort of surprised to stumble across this thread when I was browsing a few minutes ago. You might be interested in the new Power Surfacing plugin that N Power Software introduced last week at SolidWorks World. Some of the guys who do a lot of surfacing are really impressed with what they've done. It looks like they have a demo version you can download too.

http://www.npowersoftware.com/PowerSurfacingSWoverview.html

Ian Anderson
02-01-2013, 05:02 PM
Thanks for the tips BTY...now I just need to bribe the set up guy's wtih a couple 6 packs to stay after hours :drink...

Organic material in the coolant may be a big stinky problem. Duct tape over your coolant drains and clean up very well. Sawdust in coolant is not a good thing!

Ron Thorn
02-01-2013, 05:21 PM
Organic material in the coolant may be a big stinky problem. Duct tape over your coolant drains and clean up very well. Sawdust in coolant is not a good thing!

Oh man! Ain't that the truth.
I remember machining my first batch of bridges on the HAAS with coolant, cleaning up, then going straight back to wood work.
A couple weeks later I swore something died in my shop.
Had to tear down the whole way-cover system, cleaning everything with bleach...gagging the whole time.

BTY Guitar
02-01-2013, 06:17 PM
Great advise guys. I work on a couple mills that cut mostly metal during the week and I'll cut wood on the weekends. It is very important to keep the wood out of the machine and keep the oils off your workpiece. I've found that a shop vac is not enough to keep the wood dust out of places in the mill. Painter's plastic has been my best friend. I cover all surfaces with the plastic before machining. Cleanup is a breeze. Also, clean the bottom surface of the spindle before starting. Coolant and spindle oil like to cling to this surface and it sucks when a drop lands on your smooth finished wood part.

PhilF
02-01-2013, 06:48 PM
Great advise guys. I work on a couple mills that cut mostly metal during the week and I'll cut wood on the weekends. It is very important to keep the wood out of the machine and keep the oils off your workpiece. I've found that a shop vac is not enough to keep the wood dust out of places in the mill. Painter's plastic has been my best friend. I cover all surfaces with the plastic before machining. Cleanup is a breeze. Also, clean the bottom surface of the spindle before starting. Coolant and spindle oil like to cling to this surface and it sucks when a drop lands on your smooth finished wood part.

Haha is this a post from Dexter Morgan?

On another note, I've been trying SolidCAM the past 2 nights and man is it an easy software to learn, and so far seems beyond what I'll ever need. If I can negotiate a good price I'm going to go with it.

BTY Guitar
02-01-2013, 07:07 PM
Dexter stops by to read the oil splatters on my work.:rotflmao

Neil Morgan
02-02-2013, 09:03 AM
On another note, I've been trying SolidCAM the past 2 nights and man is it an easy software to learn, and so far seems beyond what I'll ever need. If I can negotiate a good price I'm going to go with it.

Before you commit I'd suggest you also try HSMworks, beautifully integrated (you'd swear it was developed by solidworks), great toolpaths with simple and clear shop docs + tool library.

GEARHOUND
02-05-2013, 12:53 PM
Organic material in the coolant may be a big stinky problem. Duct tape over your coolant drains and clean up very well. Sawdust in coolant is not a good thing!

Thanks for the tip...we've had coolant turn on us before...man it smells like something done died.:barf

John Coloccia
03-27-2013, 06:26 PM
Can anyone guess what's cool about these pictures? Scroll down for the answer:

http://i913.photobucket.com/albums/ac335/jcoloccia/DSC02301_zps8ff04bf1.jpg

http://i913.photobucket.com/albums/ac335/jcoloccia/DSC02302_zpsc1b9f432.jpg

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Give up? Probably not what you think:

This body was made about 8 months ago. The pocket was cut using a Myka style jig for one of my handmade necks. That neck turned out to be particularly nice so I used it as a rough guide for my first prototype CNC neck.
http://i913.photobucket.com/albums/ac335/jcoloccia/DSC02303_zpsb71f0544.jpg

Talk about a little bit of luck on your side. The odds of taking a handmade thingy, modelling it in a CAD package, sending it though the machining steps AND somehow ending up with an absolutely perfect slip fit are practically zero. Obviously NOT exactly zero, but it's got to be close. Remember, this wasn't digitized....it was modeled from scratch.

Of course, not everything went perfectly....
http://i913.photobucket.com/albums/ac335/jcoloccia/DSC02304_zpscb0b6195.jpg

There was a, uhm....SLIGHT....problem with one of my toolpaths that sent the machine crashing through the headstock at full speed a couple of times. I think I have the post tweaked now so my rapids actually move in a straight line. LOL. It's SUPPOSED to look like this:

http://i913.photobucket.com/albums/ac335/jcoloccia/DSC02305_zps4cf54545.jpg

Still, not bad considering it's the first real shape I ever attempted cutting. I made some holes for jigs, but that was about it, so it was a lot to bite off for a first attempt, but all in all I'm pretty happy it went as well as it did. So there you go....tears of joy and tears of pain, all at the same time, from a CNC newbie :)

RoneB
03-28-2013, 08:30 AM
Without question CNC is the way to go if you are looking to introduce a standard or even limited line. Once you are up to speed it will become easy to make changes and produce one off variations of the standards. Something to consider, many people go out and buy a used or even new machining center without any thought of the support equipment required to use it. Vises and or a vacuum system for holding the work, Tool holders and maintenance supplies. How will you produce your programs ? If you are new to CNC and plan to write them by hand then M.D.I. your code you are in for a steep learning curve. A decent CAD/CAM package like Master Cam can run thousands of dollars but there cheaper alternatives such as Bob Cad. When considering a used machine condition and age is very important. Make sure the company is still in business and will support the model both mechanically and electronically. A great deal on a fifteen or twenty year old machine can go bad quick once an axis board or servo motor goes down and you can't find a replacement. Or even worse you can find a replacement but it costs half what you paid for the machine. Then comes the issue of the actual repair, who's going to do it ? These guys run 80 bucks an hour from the time they leave the house in the morning. Do your home work and consider everything from having the proper amount of space, the electrical requirements of the machine, Work holding fixtures, Tool holders, Programing and DNC communications, Support and replacement parts availability. It's far more involved than just laying down the cash for a good used machine it's a commitment to learning a new way to work and the time required to get it all up and running can be significant for a rookie or first time user of the technology. The distraction and unplanned costs can put your current business in a deep hole real fast. I have seen more than one shop get a great deal on a nice used machine and end up with no more than a $20K boat anchor. Do your home work !

Update: I guess it helps to read the 10 pages before I jumped and chimed it, I thought it was a new thread :) lots of good stuff here.