Case Study - Michael Schwartz Designs


Michael Schwartz is an avid woodworker and visual artist based out of Waitsfield, Vermont. He has recently opened a small gallery within his shop to showcase his work. Equipped with Vectric's Aspire software paired with a ShopBot router, Michael was able to create a number of projects that are featured at his studio. We asked Michael to explain his CNC setup and choices of equipment and software...

MSDesign Sign Element 2 MIchael Schwartz Design MSDesign Sign Element 1

"I purchased a ShopBot PRS Standard 48x96 router about 2 years ago. My primary motivation was my interest in computers. I started out using PartWorks (VCarve Pro) which came bundled with my machine, and later decided to upgrade to Aspire. The ease of use of Vectric software is simply unparalleled. The other software packages I tried seemed to be geared towards those with decades of experience with CAD/CAM software. I am a woodworker, not a professional draftsman or machinist so the relatively short learning curve of Aspire is greatly appreciated.

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I set out to build a range of samples to demonstrate the interior signage that my business offers. My plan was for the following signs to serve a function at my gallery, while acting as displays. I decided to use a range of techniques that would take advantage of the flexibility of Aspire as my goal was to demonstrate the value that I can offer to potential customers.

My first example (left) is a sign based on my logo. The background texture was modeled in 3D by creating a dished relief using the create shape function. The texture was added to the relief by using Aspire sculpting tools. After cutting the sign on the ShopBot I refined the texture by hand using a pneumatic die grinder, and carving gouges. The sign was finished with acrylic paint, and waterborne top coats."

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Michael's second example, found at the top of this page, was a sign cut from brown maple featuring four lines of text inlaid in walnut. The logo was inlaid in cherry in the center. For this sign, Michael utilized the V-Carve Inlay technique. The 4 arced string inlays were fit by hand into grooves cut with the ShopBot. The sign was designed entirely within Aspire and no third party software was used for layout or typesetting. The rails and stiles for the frame, miters included, were also drawn in Aspire. The sign was finished with various waterborne coatings sprayed with an HVLP gravity gun. Michael continues...

"The third and final sign which is much simpler was created using 2.5D techniques. I started by machining a pocket with an endmill and then added V-carved text, and a graphic.

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For another project I designed a business card holder to be cut on the ShopBot. I modeled the card holder with Aspire using the 2 rail sweep function to create a pair of 3D shapes. The card holders are then machined in 3D and finished by a series of cuts on the table saw. The top and bottom edges are shaped by hand on a stationary belt disc sander. Finish is pure tongue oil on cherry.

The aprons for this shaker entry table (below right) were also built from cherry, and were laid out in Aspire. The finish is danish oil (natural)."

Finally Michael showcases a set of credence tables (below right), that feature carved aprons on all 4 sides. The arched moulding profile that borders the relief was modeled using 2 rail sweeps to resemble the churches architecture. The moulding profile was machined using 3D offset toolpaths. The cross was cut out using a V-Carve prism tool path, and the relief was machined using a pocket toolpath with an endmill. The combination of 2.5D and 3D machining is what helped make carving all 8 table aprons practical. The tables are built from quartersawn white oak, and finished with hybrid dye/pigment stain followed by danish oil, and paste wax. This project was one of Michael's earliest jobs that he tackled with Aspire.

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"From a marketing standpoint, CNC capabilities seem to stir up interest. People are generally curious, especially other artists, and creative professionals. My customers seem to enjoy learning about CNC technology and its applications. My ShopBot is a serious production tool that also doubles as a great conversation piece. I also like to talk about the work I do in Aspire and the topic of 3D computer modeling seems to impress clients"

"As I market my products and network within my local community my business seems to take a new direction with every turn. The key requirements to keep up in this regard are flexibility, and the need for my company to remain agile as it develops. I do feel that my investment in CNC technology has helped spur the growth of my business. My router and Aspire have certainly expanded the horizon in terms of the opportunities and inspiration that I am able to act upon." Michael Schwartz.

To learn more about Michael Schwartz Design's, please visit


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