One of the things that CNC machines do well is V Carving. V Carving is a type of carving that uses a “V” shaped bit to create cutouts that vary in width, with the cut being narrowest closet to the tip and wider towards the top. The deepest point of a V Carved tool path is along the center of the letter or figure being carved. When you create V Carved letters you also raise the router bit as you exit the letter so that the carved center line disappears inside the letter.
V Carving is popular because it adds a feeling of depth to the signs. Since the carved portion vary in depth the shadows created give the illusion of even more depth. Many high end sign makers use Gold Leaf to decorate their V Carved signs and charge high end prices to.
MANUAL vs. SOFTWARE
You can use CNC software to create V Carving toolpaths but V Carving can also be done manually. Personally, I think it is much easier to do V Carving with software, but it is a skill you can learn to do manually. If you would like to learn how to do it manually I can recommend a book Making Wood Signs.
If you choose to create V Carved projects by hand you will need a variety of Wood carving chisels to carve the details into the wood. Wood chisels come in many sizes and shapes and can produces some interesting results. I suggest you consider investing in a good set of hand chisels because quality does matter.
If you are hand cutting the toolpaths or making them with the CNC router, you will need good router bits. One of the best bits I have found for V Carving is the CMT Laser Point bit. I have used this bit on many projects and the results have always been top notch.
If you choose to go the software route, my software of choice is VCarve Pro from Vectric. VCarve pro is software specifically designed to not only generate V carving but also many other types of CNC toolpaths and functions. VCarve Pro will let you type in text and convert that text to V Carve toolpaths that you can cut on your CNC Router. It will also allow you to manipulate the spacing and angle between letters or create V Carved Pictures from scanned images. Here are some of the features of VCarve Pro:
• Complete set of 2D Design and Layout Tools
• Layer control, Guide lines, Snap Grid
• True Shape Nesting maximizes material usage minimizing waste
• Text Editing + Single Line Engraving Fonts
• File Import – DWG, DXF, EPS, AI, PDF
• Image File Import – BMP, JPG, TIF, GIF
• Vectorize images to create vectors for machining
• Robust V-Carving
• Raised 3D Prism machining
• Auto-Inlays with multiple options
• 3D Random Texturing Toolpath
• 2D Profiling with Interactive Tabs / Bridges, Lead and Ramp options
• Pocketing with optimization for 2 cutters
• Drilling with option for Peck Drilling
• Beveled Letters
• Custom Molding and Form Cutters
• Wrapped Rotary Axis Machining
• Multi-color Toolpath Previews
V Carved toolpaths can also be used to create pictures. Using a different program like PhotoVCarve you can create unique pictures. Photo V Carvings are created using a series of close lines with varying depths to represent the picture. High lights on the pictures are represented by shallow cuts while shadows have deeper cuts.
You can change the look of a V Carving just by changing the bit angle. A bit with a high angle will leave a shallower letter than a low angle bit. A 30 degree bit will cut deep into the wood while a bit with a 120 degree angle will leave a wide shallow groove. By careful selection of the router bit you can use the same tool path and get several different looks. One trick I find gives interesting shapes is to create a VCarve toolpath and then substitute a ballnose bit instead of the V Bit. This creates a softer, less defined look.
V carving is used predominately for sign making but it can also be used to personalize crafts and furniture. A child’s name can be Vcarved into a toy or cherished piece of furniture and this turns it into a really special gift. Picture frames can be customized with a favorite saying or phrase V Carved into the surface.
VCarve pro cost $450 and is available at http://vectric.com. There are many videos and tutorials available online which explain how to use VCarve Pro to its fullest. There is also a very active forum that shares projects and tips about Vectric products.
If you would like to receive a free chart that shows samples of VCarve projects you can do with the software just follow the link. If you would like to contact me with a question I can be reached at @BillGriggs on twitter.