For this month's case study we talked with Shane Smith, a professional woodworker who is currently employed as the designer/woodshop manager at The Wildlife Gallery Inc.
Over the years we have seen a variety of impressive projects that Shane has created then kindly shared on the Vectric forum, and in this article we learn more about how some of them were made. We also go on to discover how Shane's woodworking benefitted from him using the CNC & Vectric software and showcase more of his projects in a mini-gallery; finally Shane expands on what the future holds for himself and The Wildlife Gallery Inc.
Shane starts by telling us about the first time he started using a CNC...
"It was around 15 years ago in my old workplace that the question was raised as to whether we should purchase dentil molding to trim out a room, or instead, buy a CNC so that we could make the molding ourselves. We decided it would be better in the long run to buy a CNC (plus I was always fascinated by computers and math in school so this was actually an easy choice to make).
We settled on buying a cable driven Shopbot router and never looked back. At that point in time we started out by hand coding our toolpaths, eventually to make the process more efficient we decided to search for some CNC design and toolpathing software. After researching what was out there, we purchased Vectric Aspire online which has since been involved in almost every project we have worked on.
I hardly do a project that doesn't involve Aspire, even if it's just cutting a circle. It made it very easy for me to design the Veterans Desk project (further details below). The 3D previews and 2D views with measuring scale that the software offers has saved me so much time in not having to vocalize my ideas to clients. Instead I just present my ideas to the customer who wanted certain elements like the business logo, Bible verses and product names within the desk. This way we can go back and forth a couple of times until we arrive at the final result."
Shane continues by telling us more about a few projects that we highlighted after browsing his portfolio. You can view images of these pieces and learn more about the production for each one below.
Veteran Desk (as above)
"I got this job because our sales team and another colleague, Rob (the Veteran), wanted to surprise one of our customers who has been more than supportive to us. Rob wanted to gift him his flag from Afghanistan and some of the sales team wanted to surprise him with a desk - that's where I came in. They asked me to design what turned out to be the desk you can see in the pictures.
For this job I used a style that I started to add to show booths, like the Parkey's Taxidermy Sign below. The style mixes woods like walnut, mahogany and in this case wormy maple. I love the contrast and the others involved also liked the idea of me mixing the woods.
One of the coolest things that unfortunately didn't turn out on this desk was that I designed the feet to be a turned bun style foot that you can see in the first Aspire screenshot (above left). This design actually inspired me to hook up an indexer to my CNC. Being new to the indexer, along with the time constraints we had on this job, meant that I didn't have time to learn everything I needed to about indexing to achieve the look I was going for. Therefore the feet ended up a squared tapered foot. It still looks great and since finishing the table I have turned some cool pieces thanks to Aspire."
Parkey's Taxidermy Sign
"This piece is used by one of our off site taxidermist's as part of a show booth. As mentioned before, I really enjoy using the wood color as 'paint'. The design of this sign was the customer's logo, so with that readily available all I needed to do was recreate it physically and in a unique way.
As you can see, I used a variety of woods for this sign. The main background is Knotty Pine, the mountains are Paduak, the Parkey's text is Walnut with a Satinwood background, the Taxidermy text is cut out of Wenge and the address is Walnut. All the colors are natural and sprayed with a high gloss lacquer finish. These pictures were taken right after spraying, so the actual finish does dull out a bit, I just liked the super gloss and wanted to photograph it that way. The sign turned out 72" x 26"."
"This project actually came from a collaboration of designers. One person I worked with on this piece was Terry Vinning who is an excellent replication artist. Terry helped create the cape buffalo horn sculpture that holds the African shaped top that I created. After finishing the glass design in Aspire we sent that specific piece off to another shop that had a water jet so they could cut the glass safely for us.
Once we got the glass back I started to create the walnut frame that would surround it. I cut the frame into four pieces which I then pieced and held together with pocket screws and glue. Once it dried, I lay the connected piece out on the CNC and created a pocket for the glass to sit in. Because the glass was made on another machine, I slowly made the pocket wider and wider until the glass fit comfortably into the dado leaving enough room for a lacquer finish. Once this was complete we sand routed and finished the top and bottom circles and send it off to Terry. He then sculpted and fits the Cape buffalo horns to fit and level the Africa top."
Isabella County Road Commission Sign
"This job is one from my afterhours gig. I do the odd sign every now and again and this specific client found me after seeing my other work from around the area.
This design was a logo the client used on the trucks and they wanted a sign to match. Similar to the Parkey's sign, I just had to '3D it up'.
The sign was made from HDU Sign Foam then painted with One Shot and spray paint for the fades. The coolest part of this project was figuring out how to create the texture behind the sun. Aspire does a great job creating the hand sculpted look along a line, but I wanted the texture to actually wrap around the sun. It took some editing, but what I did was create a bunch of random circles that got larger as they go out from the sun and then added some nodes and deleted spans. Then I used the Texture Tool path using selected vectors as pattern and that gave me an awesome sun effect. The finished sign measures 72" x 40"."
We finish the case study by asking Shane to summarise his experience using CNC, Vectric software and what he thinks the future holds for him,
"My life and business hasn't been the same since I threw a CNC into my mix of tools. I have used other expensive CAM software but Aspire is one of the most affordable out there and worth every penny. Alongside the software I love the Vectric User Forum for support and ideas; I really enjoy seeing what other people are creating."
"In the future our business will be moving into the wholesale market, so our focus right now is on time and materials as well as keeping up with current orders. With our little bits of free time we are trying to slip in more custom designed furniture like the Veteran Desk you saw above. Other than this we are looking to invest in another CNC and who knows from there..."
We would like to thank Shane for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak with us, and for sharing details about the projects he created above. To conclude this case study we have created a mini gallery below showcasing other pieces you would find in Shane's portfolio...
If you would like to try our Aspire software for yourself, then you can find out more about our free fully functional trial downloads (no registration required) by clicking the button to the right.