Case Study - CarveOne and then another...


ImageLocated near Roanoke Rapids in North Carolina, Aspire user Richard Odom spoke to us about the interesting mix of work he's producing with his CNC. Richard spent most his working life in the engineering and design industry, when it came to retirement though he did not want to allow his skills to get away from him and he decided to take on CNC machining as a full time hobby. It was inevitable from Richards past that his work would carry great technical craftsmanship and in addition look great too. As he tells us about his life and work we learn that Richard's interest in creativity runs deeper than first anticipated…

I'm a 69 year old retired guy who has been a hobbyist of one kind or another all of my adult life.  Control-line model airplanes, R/C models of all kinds, leather working, target shooting, gun stock making, computer builder, woodworker, and finally, after I retired, got interested in CNC wood routers and woodcraft made with them.  I don't run a business with the CNC, just make stuff that makes my family and a few friends happy.  Some is for the workshop display-wall and for the trips to McGrews Aspire Camp and a few are sold for cost of materials used to make them.

I adopted the CarveOne CNC Woodcraft name for my big CNC machine just in case I do eventually move into a business environment, though production work is not my calling.  I also use it for my web site.

My working past was in the telecommunications design and manufacturing business after electronics training in the USAF;  first as a development engineering lab technician and later as a non-degree design engineer.  I worked with a friend full time for 5 years building wind tunnel models of commercial and military aircraft, and some small UAV/RPV related projects.  After retiring, I still help him with some occasional parts machining and mold making work.


ImageWith his eclectic background of hobbies Richard has now turned his attention to CNC machining to make some very interesting projects. CNC machining is a complete contrast to his previous past times of leather work and computer building, so we asked Richard, what influenced you to start using CNC?

I knew of CNC machines for many years while working in the telecom business.  A bookmark for CNC Zone found its way into my bookmark list.  When I was building wind tunnel models before retiring we used molds made by a contract company that were made on a 5' by 10' Shopbot for the projects that they contracted us to build.  We made fiberglass/epoxy lay-ups using the molds.  I wanted to be able to make molds myself for R/C models and cut foamy R/C model parts at home.  When I retired I went nuts building and rebuilding CNC machines until I had two machines that I was happy with.

So unlike many hobby CNC users Richard had known about CNC machining for quite some, time prior to building and rebuilding his own. After telling us about his build projects and his engineering career we knew that Richard would have used a wide spectrum of tools. With this in mind we wanted to find out what traditional tools he uses and also the Software and Hardware Richard has for the CNC...

ImageI have owned general purpose hand tools for most of my life and in the past 8 years I have improved on that. For machinery, I have disk and belt sanders, 13” planer, two dust collectors, spindle sander, 6x26 knee mill, 9x49 bench top mill, two metal cutting band saws, 14” woodworking band saw. I have added 3 axis digital readout and power feed on the x and z axes of the bench mill. Also I have put a 6” riser kit, detensioner, cobra coil, and ball bearing blade guides to the woodworking band saw.

As for the software I use I have Mach3 machine control and Vectric Aspire for project design development. Vectric software was recommended by CNC Zone machine builders. I tried the Vcarve Pro trial for a short while and purchased it based on that. When it was time to buy the latest release I decided to upgrade to Aspire instead.

Having upgraded from VCarve Pro to Aspire, Vectric software must be offering something to the way Richard works, so we asked him if he had found any specific benefits from using the software…

Yes, I found it easier to learn to use. I had long been interested in being able to make 3D models and Aspire has been great so far. I will be happy to buy the next upgrade.

With Aspire amongst his arsenal of tools, Richard has created some very original projects which he has showcased on the Vectric User Forum under the name of CarveOne. This is where we saw one of his most eye-catching pieces which, many at the Vectric HQ would find a place for at home…

I am not a guitar player or luthier, but wanted to build guitars anyway.  My cigar box guitar projects came about when I found some books on the subject in Woodcraft and Klingspor Woodworking store bookshelves.  I found that there are free apps for smartphones that allow a novice to tune them. 'An Obsession with Cigar Box Guitars' by David Sutton is the book that started it all for me.  The rest is recent history.

The first neck design was a simple 3/4” x 1-1/2” piece of red oak that took less than one day to lay out for tuner hole locations, pocket location, and fret location for the CNC machine to cut one.  The second angular neck was a half day modification of the first neck file.  This one will be my standard neck design for a while.
I sourced the red oak from the local Lowes home improvement store.  I collect the bocote, cocobolo used on these guitars, and many other species on trips to distant Woodcraft and Klingspor Woorking stores when I get the chance.  I have become a certified colorful “wood-aholic”.

Most of my projects use feed rates in the range of 100 to 250 IPM depending on the tool and the wood being used.   I use mostly 60 and 90 degree V-bits, 1/16” and 1/8” tapered ballnose bits, and 1/4” down spiral cutters. I find a lot of Aspire functions good to use when I’m working on a project but my favorite tool is the Extrude and Weave modeling tool because so much can be done with it.  It can do many interesting things with fonts converted to vector lines using other shaped vectors, I like how it works with open and closed vectors too.

One of the greatest things about creating such unusual projects, just like the guitar cigar box, is that you are able to learn from process. We asked Richard what he thought worked well with this project and what he would do differently in the future… and if he had any tips or tricks to share with us?

I feel the gang nail sound holes, the embedded fired pistol primer fret locators, the shot shell base and ring of sound holes turned out great. They get a lot of interesting looks around my area.

In the future I will try everything that's possible to dream up as long as it has a remote chance of sounding ok. There are no rules for building these things. People make them with with standard hardware, unusual hardware, non-guitar hardware, no CNC operations, and some do not even require a cigar box!

Generally for CNC work I use a Whiteside #1550 1/2” diameter V-bit, 60 degree, as a very small very stiff ballnose cutter when a 1/16” tapered ballnose cutter doesn't give fine enough 3D model details. For small text I use a Whiteside #1540 cutter for small VCarve text and lines. Also I find it useful to Convert fonts to vectors and use the Extrude and Weave tool with shape vectors to see what you can do with fonts to make them look very different.

With a back catalogue of really impressive and creative work we wanted to find out what Richard had planned for the future?

Well, at the moment I’m working on a lot of different things. Ships wheel clock, Aztec calendar and Mayan Haab clocks, functional western style water canteen made of red oak for a horse rider, tack box for horse rider accessories, new Cross design. As for the future, I plan to continue making whatever I find to be interesting for as long as I can.  Build a rotary axis for the big CNC machine and replace routers with spindles. 

So that sounds like we may be talking to Richard again soon to find out more about the things which are keeping him busy now he's "retired"! We would like to thank Richard for taking the time to write this article and share his story and knowledge with us. For more of Richards work and contact information please visit his website at

You can read in detail about Richards Cigar Box Guitar project and also download files used in the making of them on the Vectric Forum.

Websites useful for creating Richards guitar cigar boxes are listed below:

There are many other sites for videos, how to play, cigar box guitar (CBG) music, parts, etc.

If you are not a Vectric user but would like to see how easy to use and deceptively powerful the software is to work with, then you can download a free trial today - no registration required.

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