Archive for the ‘CNC’ Tag

I Keep Making New Stuff   Leave a comment

This is a pot pourri of recent boards that made it to the finish line.

The first cutting board was a special order, and it’s the first piece I’m completed that uses Mesquite. Further down in this group is a Lazy Susan that better showcases this wood that’s uncommon in Southern California.

At the bottom of this group are a pair of “Family” signs that are the first of the true 3D carving signs that I’ve gotten to the finish line. Both of these are made from Hard Maple, though one of them is made from a dark wood that’s got some curly figure in it … unusual for Maple.

I got disorganized enough that a few pieces made it out of the shop and to last week’s event … and were sold before I got their pictures. That has not happened before!

I’ve got 4 more Lazy Susans in the shop that just might be finished for this weekend’s event … but I’ve got several custom orders that will be my focus this week.

A New Twist On Powerful Words   Leave a comment

The “Word Blocks” that I created on the CNC continue to evolve. Here’s my third finishing style.

As you may recall, the original Words were made from Cherry, and then simply oiled. The results were great, I thought, but I was informed that they were very traditional, and that modern decor required things to be less natural & more colorful.

Well, OK, then. Can do.

As I completed these Word Blocks, it took me back to painting sets at the University of Missouri. I worked my way through school doing set building and lighting: it’s where I first used power tools. Mr M’s Woodshop exists because of my experience at Mizzou.

It’s also where I first used a paint sprayer to mix multiple colors and deliver a visually textured surface. Those paint skills had gone dormant, save for a fling with painting our living room 20 years ago. Luckily, I could call upon the experience again to make these Word Blocks. Can’t wait to see how they are received, as compared to the other styles.


New: Powerful Words

Powerful Words Can Be Pretty, Too

Powerful Words Can Be Pretty, Too   2 comments

I’ve been making my word blocks, and saw that natural wood was not the only way to go. It’s time to switch it up.

For the first time, I’m offering painted wood for sale. That’s a big idea for me.

In this case, I’ve made the 3 dimensional carved words on the CNC, just as I did the original batch that premiered last month. Those words were made from Cherry, and finished with mineral oil. These new words are made from Redwood, and I’ve teamed up with a couple of artists to help me paint them.

I’ve helped the artists by making frames for their fine art canvases … they’re helping me by bringing their sense of color and composition to the Woodshop.

It takes a village.

Here are pictures of the frames that will soon be adorning the homes of the discerning art collector community. They’ll be covered with canvas, of course: these are not art, no matter what a woodworker might think!

But I digress.

These new words are unique; no two are alike. I think you’ll agree that these unique expressions have power. After all, words do.



New: Powerful Words

Trays To Serve   2 comments

I’m calling this a win.

I started out making 3 serving trays, as a reaction to my failure as a teen-aged woodworker. You can read that story, here.

Those 3 serving trays sold at 2 events. That’s a fairly good result for a serving piece … especially a serving piece made by someone with a checkered past making a serving tray, like yours truly.

So, there was nothing to do but go back to the shop and make some more and see if I could replicate the success. These 10 serving trays were the result. Now, I have 2 different styles of handles and a wide, wide range of woods featured in these 10 boards. There are woods from 5 continents being used!

I’m enjoying making these serving trays, and I’m hopeful that the teen-aged me didn’t make an appearance when I was making these in the shop. If that happened, the result could be less than ideal.

Somehow, I’m not worried.

If any of these catch your fancy, you’ll find all of them this weekend at Santa Clarita’s Fine Craft Show in Old Orchard Park. Hours are 10a – 5p on Saturday, and 10a – 3p on Sunday. Hope to see you there!

Cutting Boards, Bears & MBOs   2 comments

It’s go time.

The holiday season is UPON us, and the shop has been humming to try and keep up.

I’m failing, mind you, but I’m doing my best.

This week, I’m focused on cleaning up loose ends, and moving things to the finish line as QUICKLY as I can. And, again, I feel like I’m failing, but I’m doing my best.

I’m staring at 5 weekends of events. Every weekend through 12/17 is booked … 8 events in 5 weeks.

I think I’ve earned my crazy, how about you?

And, that doesn’t include the corporate gifts and movie industry general purpose boxes (“apple boxes”) that I’ve agreed to make, either.

So, I’m a bit wacky these days. I’m counting down to 12/24 … and praying I don’t miss any deliveries too badly. Just about everything has to be delivered by Christmas, and I’m focused on making that happen!

New: Powerful Words   2 comments

When I decided to buy a CNC, this was one of the first ideas that I wanted to make.

After spending most of my career in journalism, I have an affinity for the written word. And I’ve always been struck by the complexity and beauty of the type setting machines first employed by newspapers. (See what I did there? Struck by typesetting? Humor, coming at you!)

Words are powerful.

These word blocks are 3-dimensional carvings. Each requires about 30 minutes on the CNC, which uses 2 different routing bits when I make them. All of these shown are all made from Cherry, AKA Black Cherry or American Cherry. There’s a 2nd batch now in production made from Redwood … but that’s a story for another day.

I’ve made over 30 words, which I have in stock. You can buy these, or you can order your words as well. I can still make special orders for holiday delivery.

I struggled with how to price these (by the letter? by the inch?), and finally settled for simplicity. Each block is $35, regardless of length. There is a volume deal: 2 words for $60, and 3 words for $75.


Posted November 16, 2017 by henrymowry in Woodworking

Tagged with , , , , ,

New: Trivets   3 comments

It’s not an uncommon question when I am at an event: “Can I use this board as a trivet?”

The quick answer is you could, but you probably would not want to. Wood can scorch, and a solid board has no way to dissipate heat. I fear putting really hot stuff on a cheese board or cutting board will eventually cause the glue to fail. The board will crack.

Then I saw the work of my pal Betsy, who makes and sells boards in the Houston area. She makes trivets similar to these using templates that she’s developed … but I thought there should be an easier way.

I pushed the button.

After spending some time in my CNC design software (I use Aspire), I finalized this design. I glued up 4 different wood designs … and I now have trivets!

These are just in time for this weekend’s big event, the California Avocado Festival. If you’re out and about this weekend and find yourself in Carpinteria, please come see us. If you can tear yourself away from staring at the World’s Largest Vat Of Guacamole, you’ll find us in the handmade section, of course.

Trivet 17 – 04. Cherry. 8-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ x 3/4″.

Trivet 17 – 01. White Oak. 8-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ x 3/4″.

Trivet 17 – 02. Hard Maple & Black Walnut. 8-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ x 3/4″.

Trivet 17 – 03. Hard Maple. 9″ x 9″ x 3/4″.

New: Cribbage Boards   1 comment

It’s my 2nd most requested game board.

Note that I still haven’t finished any of my most requested game board, but those are coming soon, honest.

I tried to make cribbage boards several months ago using a plex template and a drill press … the results were less than spectacular. I put those efforts on the shelf while I thought about my next step.

Then, I bought a CNC.

Then, I found this template with my google machine.

Then, I pushed the button.

These are simple boards. Coming soon, I’ll be using a different template with some 3D carving & personalization available. Big plans!

Cribbage 17 – 01. Goncalo Alves, Hard Maple, Cherry, Red Oak, Yellowheart and Black Walnut. 6″ x 16″.

Cribbage 17 – 02. Bubinga. Non-skid rubber feet. 5″ x 15″.

Troubleshooting & Tips For Setting Up Your Probotix Nebula   2 comments

Saturday afternoon was not about the CNC; it was prep for our pizza oven to get back into action. It was worth it.

It was set up, but we didn’t know what to do with the left over cables.

It was Friday night.

I told the Engineer that I would have recommendations by morning from my people. I put a post up on, upon whose members’ recommendations I had put significant weight towards my decision. I also put a post up on Facebook in a CNC group that I’m a member of.

The Engineer asked me what I thought the solution would be … what was wrong? My answer is that I thought we had done something wrong in our ignorance, based on the obviously poor instructions that we had received. My guess is that it was a fix that could be figured out by the smart people I was in touch with, and then we’d be OK.

I was right.

Getting CLOSE

By Saturday morning, I had multiple answers from both groups I had questioned. Another theme was there, as multiple people told me to get in touch with Len, who I knew as my – and the – sales guy, and he would fix me right up. By Saturday evening, Len had responded to me, copying support, and telling me that the problem was probably that we had put the parallel cable in the wrong parallel slot.

And that is what had happened. Come to find out, there were two parallel slots, and the computer shown in the directions was different from the computer in my garage woodshop. The Engineer had plugged the cable into the parallel port that he thought was most like the illustration, but he chose poorly. We swapped ports, plugged the other, newly identified parallel cable that controlled the Tool Length Sensor into the other slot, and booted it up.

We were golden. Everything worked. Everything. Worked. Plug & play, indeed.

Sometimes, it is about who you know.

First cut.

I have now used the CNC for several hours. Love it. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve broken bits. I’ve had to go back and watch a few videos over. And over.

And, once the machine was wired correctly, it has been absolutely what I expected. It’s plug & play. It’s perfectly predictable & repeatable.

And, I haven’t made a perfect piece yet. I’m still working on that, in my spare time. I still have to feed the monster that my out-of-control hobby is. I need to make cutting boards, in addition to the blanks & pieces that are needed to feed the CNC learning process. I will get there – quickly – but it will take some time. Stay tuned.

So, that stated, here are some things I have already learned that would have helped had they been on my checklist a few weeks ago. If there’s a CNC in your future – especially a Probotix CNC, which I wholeheartedly recommend – then you might benefit by checking off this list before there’s a CNC in your shop.

  1. Power distribution. I never asked where the power for the unit needed to be, and I should have. I had an electrician install a 220v circuit, and it was properly placed. Unfortunately, the power inverter came with a 6′ pig tail, and the plug barely reached to the new power cable I had installed. Further, the inverter runs 24/7 if there’s power to the unit, and I don’t have an off switch other than the breaker panel. Ooops. All of the power needs to be delivered to the shelf under the front of my CNC, which was not a problem … but could have been. I could have asked, but didn’t think of it. Now, you will.
  2. Lighting is essential. I installed my CNC in a dark corner of the shop, so I installed additional lighting before it arrived. If you can’t see it, you’ll have trouble making it. Get the lighting right, first.
  3. Building a stand. As previously reported, I didn’t consider building my own stand, and I probably should have. That way, I could have had a full shelf under the table (why oh why does Probotix not do that?). The time to build the stand would probably have been about what it took to assemble the Probotix model, though it would not have been as spiffy.
  4. The computer needs a mount, too. I bought the computer mount offered by Probotix, and already don’t really like it. It has a very limited range of motion, and I would like to have more flexibility than that. You’ll need a way to have the computer monitor, keyboard & mouse adjustable to move around in your shop as needed. Getting it up out of the way is essential in my small shop, too.
  5. No game controller. There was no game controller with my Nebula. I don’t miss it; I  thought it was gimmicky when I saw it. Still, I expected it and it was not in the box. Nope.
  6. You need oil! The drive screws need to be oiled daily. Some of Probotix’s info says they send lubricant with the unit, but they don’t.
  7. Dust collection. CNCs create a lot of sawdust. A lot. Be prepared with a dust collection solution out of the box. I wasn’t … it just slipped my mind. If you’re buying Probotix, then you may need a 1.75″ hose to mate with the magnetic dust boot for your spindle. Love the magnets! In addition, of course, you’ll need an adapter to get the 1.75″ hose to whatever dust collector you use (in my case, I’m going from 1.75″ to 2.5″). I ended up ordering that hose from Oneida (no clue why Probotix does not offer it!), and the adapter from Peachtree. I’m still not quite sure how I’ll mount the hose to the spindle, the gantry and then the table, but I’ll figure that out when it’s in hand.
  8. Where’s your storage? I’ve already got several CNC bits, 10 collets for the spindle as well as the 2 wrenches to secure the bits in place. There’s the dust boot. The 3-in-1 oil. The job summaries. The jigs. They’ve got to go somewhere, so get ready. Solutions don’t have to be permanent in the beginning, but those expensive CNC router bits have to go somewhere!
  9. Mounting your work piece. There’s no wrong answer here. Double stick tape is how I mounted my first cut … and the tape failed before the piece was done. I’ve read about some DIYers that use super glue and masking tape, and they’re welcome to that. The advanced class will go to vacuum hold downs, and that’s where I’m going when I have the time and money to build it. Meanwhile, I’m making MDF jigs with push clamps, and screwing the jigs to the spoilboard. This works, though it’s not without its own idiosyncrasies, which I’m working through. Whatever you do, you’ll need the solution in hand before you turn on the machine.
  10. Cut scrap at first. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to have problems. Don’t cut expensive work pieces until you know what you’re doing. Cut MDF, or plywood, or even the 2x4s from the shipping crate that your CNC arrived in. Until you know what you’re doing, cheap is good.
  11. Other tools. I have brass brushes to help clean fuzzies off of the workpieces that require it. A large brush is great for clearing shavings, as is a portable dust collector hose.



Installing The Probotix Nebula

Buying A CNC: The Probotix Nebula

That’s No Garage, That’s My Shop

Installing The Probotix Nebula   3 comments

It’s here!

After more than a year of shopping, deciding, saving and waiting, the Probotix Nebula was in my driveway.

Now what do I do?

The shipping instructions were very clear: refuse the shipment if the crate was damaged. And, of course, it was. They put what I would call furring strips on the seams of the crate, which was made out of particle board … and those furring strips provided almost no structural integrity to the crate, especially when broken and splintered by the fork lifts that have moved the crate.

The crate wasn’t on a pallet; it was balanced on 4x4s that were strategically placed to mimic a pallet. Until they come off. Further, the broken furring strips resulted in the bottom of the crate sagging open. I could see into the crate as it sat in the truck.

I decided that the damage was not significant, and accepted the shipment. I was proven correct … but not before the delivery guy tried to give me heart failure by balancing the crate on 2 of the 4x4s and rocking it onto the lift gate until he could almost get it to fit, with 2′ hanging out over the front. “I do this every day,” he said.

Not with my new CNC, you don’t.

As the Bard said, however, “All’s well that ends well.” The crate didn’t crash off the lift gate, the delivery guy put the crate at the top of the driveway, and we moved on to the main event: setting up the CNC.

I popped the lid of the crate, and then opened each of the boxes that were carefully packed on the internal framework of the crate. I opened the boxes inside of the boxes, and got to work.

I found a Quick Start Guide in one of the boxes – similar to one that I downloaded from the Probotix website. This one had more pages, though.

Too many.

It had pages for different configurations. It had pages for different equipment. It had no table of contents. It had conflicting information. And, it had the directions on how to build the rolling stand for the CNC to sit on … which I found only by reading a page with no title and no way to tell it was directions for the rolling stand. I was dumbfounded.

These directions were absolutely horrible. They were apparently written by an engineer who knew what he/she was describing … and I, the ignorant customer, was supposed to just catch up. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what a 60/60 extrusion was. I did figure it out, inferring it from the instructions that were written with a certain panache, shall we say:

6) Next step you will slide the corresponding amount of T-nuts into the 30/60 extrusion to be able to secure the 30/60 extrusions to your 60/60 legs. Measure the bottom of the 30/60 extrusion to the base plate to ensure your shelf is at the desired height, and start with bottom extrusion while securing them down as you will not be able slide T-nuts further past your top most extrusion. Place the top 30/60 extrusions level with the top of the 60/60 extrusions.

I read this point many, many times and still didn’t understand it. I did finally figure it out: bottom of the extrusion is NOT the same as bottom extrusion. “Desired height” is never explained in any way. The format and grammatical errors, well, I guess those are just for fun.

There were 16 points to the assembly instructions for the rolling stand. There were pictures after the first 2 points, and then no more. I finally figured out that if I turned the page, after the instructions, there was an illustration showing the extrusion lengths, which was helpful once I knew what an extrusion was. The page after that indicated, somewhat incorrectly, how to place the CNC onto the stand for attaching.

I had the cart most of the way assembled when the Engineer showed up to help. We did the rest of the cart, rolled it out of the garage woodshop to the CNC that was still sitting on the crate bottom, and started the main event.

Getting the CNC onto the stand was easy. Attaching it took quite a while. We had to tweak, and loosen, and adjust, and get level … it took both of us, and we could have probably used help. We worked all around and under the table. I only got one muscle cramp, and lost a little bit of blood, before we were done.

I bought the Probotix Nebula because I wanted a plug & play solution. At this point, I gave the instructions to the Engineer & asked him to wire it. He would plug so I could play. Sounds fair.

I mean, wouldn’t you? He’s the one with two engineering degrees from prestigious universities. Time for him to sing for his supper, if you will.

There are 7 pages in the instructions that show how the CNC should be wired up. Of those 7 pages, only 5 were relevant to our setup, and we had to figure out which 5. Of the 5 that we were to use, 4 of the 5 had errors or misinformation on them.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The Engineer finished the wiring, and only had 3 wires left over. Ooops. One was the yellow plug for the router set up that I was not using (I knew that I had the extra set up when I approved this unit for shipping). Then, there was an extra parallel plug, and an extra black wire with a spade plug. What were those 2 for? No clue. Both were unlabeled.

The black wire seemed like it might be the earth ground to the machine frame, but it was not labeled in any way. Neither of us wanted to plug an unlabeled wire into the new machine just to see what might happen. But, it was “just” a grounding wire, so we determined we would be OK to turn the machine on. And …


There we were, late on a Friday night, and the machine did not function. The computer booted just fine, but it did not control the Nebula. And it was Friday night, so tech support was a very long weekend away.

Next up, and coming soon: Troubleshooting & Tips For Setting Up Your Probotix Nebula


Buying A CNC: The Probotix Nebula

That’s No Garage, That’s My Shop


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