Case Study - Father Ed and Sacred Art



For this month’s customer case study we bring you the inspirational story of Father Ed and his charity program ‘Sacred Art’. For many years Father Ed has been running traditional woodworking classes at the Emmaus Centre, a volunteer run homeless resource center located in Maryland (USA), but in 2013 he introduced CNC machining to his program and now he has taken everything to a whole new level. The class produces religious themed pieces using their CNC machine and a copy of Aspire V8; they are then able to sell them to raise money for the Center. The aim of this is to create a self-supporting learning environment to teach skills and provide a sense of pride to the participants. Father Ed was kind enough to take some time to tell us about their setup and show us some of the artwork they produce at the center.

Before we take a look at the gallery of work we asked Father Ed a bit more about what equipment they use…

At the center we have a very well-equipped non-commercial wood shop, with a good selection of quality power and hand tools. About 2 years ago we purchased a CNC Shark (Rockler’s 60th Anniversary edition) and with that came a copy of Vectric VCarve Pro, I wanted to offer 3D technology in adjunct to my woodworking classes at a homeless resource center. Recently we started working with Aspire 8, we also use PhotoVCarve and then Adobe Photoshop for some image work.



With a selection of Vectric software to learn and with a class to teach we asked Father Ed if he has faced any challenges transferring his knowledge to his class…

The biggest challenge is the absence of experience.  There seems to be little lacking in the software that creates a challenge. My sense is that the tutorials are quite informative and most helpful in expanding the software applications.  I have not found myself lacking in any area of application that I could not find the answer to in the tutorials, forums or Facebook. I must also add what a tremendous benefit I have had in a CNC mentor (Michael Mezalick), who has been incredibly helpful and one of the major reasons we have made such good progress in this past year.

Making full use of Vectric’s ever expanding free support material, Father Ed has been able to train himself and his class in any aspect of the software which they need help with. It is evident from the work that is produced by the Sacred Art program that they are continually honing their skills, so we wanted to know more about their projects and how the software helps them get creative, we also asked Father Ed if he had any Tips to share with other users.

We mostly produce sacred art carvings in the form of plaques typically using wood, either Poplar or Sapele which we purchase from an online store. Icons are probably a personal favourite. It is so helpful in the design stage to have the clipart as part of the program.  The drag and drop aspect is nice….a real time saver.  It’s also very nice to have the huge variety of clipart that is included in the software, I think it’s a unique feature with Vectric; it is very much appreciated.  One feature that we love is the split screen visualization of the work project being created, it’s most helpful and the ability to see how it will turn out prior to milling is priceless.

I’ve learnt quite a few lessons since we have installed the CNC machine in the workshop. There definitely are things which I would love to have done differently. I would certainly view the majority, if not all the tutorials before jumping in and doing the work. As most of the work is of extreme detail I have now got into the habit of planing the surface before any v-carves. Also like any beginner starting out should, I would have created simpler and smaller projects in the beginning to minimize costly waste. What has gone well? The transition from creating highly detailed 2D carvings to now working with 3D models. I am now learning how to create my own models with Aspire, which is a goal I have set myself to give projects an even greater bespoke touch. Hopefully this will lead me on to making my own library of ancient Christian icons.

Fathers Ed's finishing tip: Use shoe polish for burnishing.  After the project is completed, carved, sanded, stained and sealed, you can use contrasting shoe polish (wax) to bring out the detail. Once the polish is applied, take a shoe polish brush and buff it.  If the piece darkens too much from the polish, take very fine steel wool (00) and remove the darkness from the high areas. Works very well!

ImageIn the pictures you can see some of the excellent work created by Father Ed and the participants in his woodworking program. Its great to see such nice work being created in a teaching environment so it can then be sold and help to make the program self-sustaining. With Father Ed's dedication we're sure this will continue to go from strength to strength and help many more people along the way. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Father Ed, his co-workers and the rest of the volunteers at the Emmaus Center for taking the time out to work with us and sharing their story and give the last words to Father Ed to describe the real benefit of what they are doing…

Without going into a lot of detail, we have evolved from serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to a fully functional kitchen that offers breakfast and lunch (free of charge) to anyone who walks in the door. Most of the food we receive is in the form of donations. "Day old" bread, grocery stores with unsold, dated products, fast food facilities that freeze unsold daily products, etc. And then we have food banks and even the U.S. Naval Academy sends us trays of leftover food.  We have come to realize that our cadets at the Academy eat rather well.

I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Serve someone a fish and you have fed them for a day. Teach someone to fish and you have fed them for a lifetime."  Well, that is the foundation of what we do with our CNC program.  Oh, 3D technology is important, yes. But it's not nearly as important as building the self-esteem of those who come to us and join our learning center. And that is where Vectric shines so powerfully. The software you have developed is both simple and complex.  Heck, I was carving the first day I received the shipment of the router and software. Truly!  And today, more than a year later, I see how much more there is to learn…

Please scroll down to view a small selection of work created by the crew at the Emmaus Centre. Alternatively, if you wish to see more of their work on their website then follow the link below.


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