Dan Miller

Have you ever looked at something and thought to yourself “I could make that… but better”? Well, this is exactly what inspired this month’s customer case study Dan Miller to make his fantastic ‘Salt Box’ that he shared on the Vectric forum. The semi-retired coal plant control room operator has used his technical background to jump into the world of CNC, but before we look at the project that caught our attention, we wanted to find out about Dan’s tools…

I discovered CNC just over 10 years ago in 2008. I wanted to route some circuit boards, built a small Allthread machine out of printer motors, and made my own control boards. It could only do about 10 inches square. I didn’t want to ruin a good circuit board, so I put on a piece of wood and wrote my name… I was hooked.

From there I now have a Joe’s Hybrid CNC. I built this myself, then expanded it to 4x8. Then I made a channel in it the length of the machine 12” wide and 12” deep so I could do mantels, and that’s where my rotary stays. The nice thing about building the CNC machine yourself is you’re not afraid to modify it. As well as my CNC machine I have many other tools in my workshop like, a super hydraulic lt40hd sawmill, and all the attendant equipment. A sawstop, several Woodmaster planers, Woodmaster panel sander and all kinds of woodworking tools I’ve collected over the years.

As for software I use CorelDraw sometimes for designing and Mach3 for my CNC, but most of the time I use Aspire (currently version 9.5). Vectric’s upgrade as you go is great, I started out with PhotoVCarve, then bought Cut2D, and from there, every time I had extra money from paying jobs, I upgraded.

Dan’s workshop clearly sounds like it has more than enough tools to create a solution to any problem he has – and this is exactly what he has done for the project he posted on the Vectric forum…

This idea all came about while I was in the kitchen with my wife. I saw the saltbox the wife was using as she was complaining about having to use two hands to use it, I thought to myself “I could make a better one”. I suppose that’s the mindset you gain when you have a well kitted workshop.

This project didn’t actually take long at all from start to finish. 15-20 minutes drawing it up, maybe 15 minutes cutting out the first one, then modifying and cutting again. Once I got the pattern down and in place, I used a piece of cheery wood to carve into. I didn’t need many tools for this job, just a ½ ball nose, then a ½ endmill to cut out. I saved myself a toolpath run by not doing a roughing pass as I didn’t think this job would be a strain on the tool.

What I did learn from this project is that cherry wood machines so well. Also, a tip for anyone who needs to cut circles, I had to offset the ½ Ballnose inwards ½ the diameter to get the circles to carve with no ragged edges.

Dan’s project is an example of how having a CNC and the right software can not only enable you to let your creative juices flow, but can help you solve day to day problems. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Dan for giving up his time to share his story with us. If you would like to have a go at making this project, Dan has kindly allowed us to share the project files with the Vectric community. Please CLICK HERE to download the project files. Before we let Dan go, we would like to ask him what he has planned for the future…

At the moment I am making an Oak double rocker and modifying it for my daughter, so she can have a cradle on it. Then when the baby is big enough take off the cradle and put the double rocker on the front porch (she’s having twins). I also want to tell everyone to not only look at your CNC’s forum, and the Vectric forum, but look at other machine’s forums too. I visit the ShopBot forum, Joes CNC and CamMaster to name a few. Everyone does a job slightly differently, and by seeing it, you can come up with your own style.

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