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Posted: Friday, September 29, 2017 12:49:08 PM
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Joined: 11/17/2006
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Monster Truck!

What in the world could a radio control chassis...
be doing in wood shop?

Scott is at it again. Knowing that there is only one week remaining in the quarter, and that he will soon be changing classes in the rotation, Scott hurries to complete this Monster Truck.

His first plan was to disassemble the chassis and use the parts for his creation, but reason and time both made him rethink that and I can't wait to hear back about how it works at home.

Posted: Friday, September 29, 2017 1:12:16 PM
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Joined: 11/17/2006
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Now I've had high school students make Plinko games for math class before, but never as elaborate as this 7th grade student's creation. Marshall decided to give this a try and has never wavered from working to complete it no matter what got in his way...including me. I wasn't too thrilled about it because of past experience.

Undaunted, Marshall carefully measures out where to drill for the pegs, then brings it over for me to check before proceeding to the drill press. I'm looking at it and telling him something is not quite right... let's draw a few diagonal lines. Yep, they were a little off and after making the lines, he quickly adjusts where to drill 1/4" peg holes.

Next comes the cabinet parts. After I cut grooves on the table saw for the top, sides and bottom, Marshall heads to the drill press and scroll saw to cut the slots.

Now we try fitting the cabinet parts together making sure everything lines up. So far, it seems to be alright.

And... to me it is impressive to see the puck bounce around plinking its way down the peg board during the test. It works way better than the high school ones thrown together by students needing extra credit to pass math. Their Plinko games were larger, but somehow a bunch of screws instead of actual pegs made them look awkward. They just didn't look or work very well.

No one has been more motivated than Marshall is... as he gets the newly purchased Plexiglas to the school the very next day. I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone get materials for wood shop this quickly. The bottom trays are completed, the Plexiglas cut to size and installed and boy does it look and work nice. All that is left to do is assign points to the tray bins.

Impressive is what everyone thinks... as he takes it out of wood shop to his next classes. So impressive that he is asked if the school can use it in the fall festival. Now that's saying something.... and their plan is to put candy in the bottom trays that kids will be able to win during the festival instead of assigning points. Now there's a good idea.

I am so impressed by Marshall, and the way his project works that I may just have to try one for myself...Um ...I mean for a class prototype.
Posted: Sunday, October 15, 2017 3:58:05 PM
Rank: Newbie
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Joined: 11/17/2006
Posts: 0
How to project a thriving multi-level woodworking program.

I recently rediscovered this collage image that was included with our grant application. I was hoping we might already have the funds, but not yet.

Although we are still in the running for a significant private grant for a whole shop exhaust system, a laser engraver, and a SawStop, the process is slowly working it's way to completion.... hopefully in our favor. At least my wish is to have good news soon.

As usual, I'll keep you posted.
Posted: Friday, October 27, 2017 10:55:49 AM
Rank: Newbie
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Joined: 11/17/2006
Posts: 0
Weighing in on a new X-Carve software option called Easel Pro

As X-Carve begins the take over of the planet... just kidding... or maybe not!

Early access

Inventables keeps improving their Easel software and recently added a new option. Having been invited early access to try out this new option for a month before it was launched, I had the chance to experience what I thought should have always been a part of the Easel package. It's called Easel Pro and is specifically designed for business to speed up the process and cut more of a 3D image using a v-bit. It reminds me of (but still falls a bit short of) the $100 add-on Center-line text software that CarveWright came out with.


My first Easel Pro project didn't go as planned and no one seems to know exactly why. Here is what happened. I got my software trial notification with a sample coaster design that looked kind of like something we at Franklin Phonetic School might like, so I tried it out, and unfortunately had a disappointing outcome.

I did make a couple of changes that shouldn't have altered the carve too much, as I switched the letter to a B for Bockman and took off the 2nd stage cut out. It was fun to watch the machine move in new mysterious ways and it looked as if all was going well, until about a forth of the way through the carve when Easel announced it was "complete".

Hummm.... doesn't complete mean doing the entire carve?

***UPDATE*** 11-4-17 I have since seen where other early users have posted that they have had this same issue, so it wasn't an anomaly.

Understanding that it was eventually going to be a subscription based service, I started experimenting with other software to see if there was a way around having to pay for Easel Pro which didn't seem to be working on my end anyway. If you have been following my progress on this thread, you know my school would never be able to afford a subscription. If they could, then why do I continually dumpster dive for materials behind the cabinet shop?

And, Easel Pro sounded so good until that incomplete carve incident, and of course our Fall break got in the middle of it too. I didn't feel like spending the break at the school playing with what may have gone wrong, but I did try to contact someone at Inventables. I never got an actual reply beyond the customary e-mail form letter acknowledgement. Disappointed when I didn't ever hear more, I vented my frustrations on one of the Inventables threads and one of the Inventables staff asked a little bit about what went wrong, so they did eventually get my message through a different avenue. The good news is Inventables listens to their customers and makes changes accordingly.

So is there a work around?

While on that same thread, I made contact with one of the most prolific non-staff commenters. He actually approached me first with suggestions on ways to work around Easel. He probably has more on-line comments at Inventables than anyone and he runs a business called, "Designs by Phil, LLC". Phil went out of his way to be helpful. He doesn't have to do that, but by golly he does it anyway and I can't thank him enough for all he did for me and my students.

Phil introduced me to F-Engrave and gave me a tutorial he made on how he actually uses it to generate G-Code and import it into Easel. F-Engrave also recognizes all the True Type fonts you have on your computer.


F-Engrave is a little more complicated than Easel and it is much harder to see on screen results before a carve as the viewing pane doesn't show the material size or even the carve location. You have to rely completely on the home position which I had to adjust so the carve would not hug the edges, but instead be somewhat centered.

It can be a bit more confusing

I wasn't sure which download to choose, but took a chance and downloaded the one that looked the most like what I should use and then worked through his tutorial setting each item before saving it to G-code.


Before I show the product of that G-code carve, let me first show you what Easel and X-Carve does without the Pro add-on. It engraves with flat bottom results. This 2" high LOVE was carved in about 20 minutes with an eighth inch 60 degree V-point engraving bit. It looks very nice and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it other than how long it monopolizes the X-Carve during class.

After importing G-Code

Using the same eighth inch 60 degree V-point bit (I didn't have a better bit choice on hand at that time), here is what processing it through F-Carve does in about 4 minutes. I had to adjust the home position to properly center the carve. The students who saw this sample... preferred this one over the other samples. It does look better in real life than the photo. The V-groove is deeper and creates a good shadow that the flash doesn't show here.

This worked much better than I thought it might and one big advantage is that students can't change the G-code, so it will carve the same no matter what, as long as it is never erased. Since it is a separate program and kept in a folder on your computer instead of on-line, students wouldn't even know how to erase the original.

Easel projects stay on-line, and are easier to change or delete.

Watch out!

In Easel, your saved projects are kept on-line and if a student happens to save a project, but leave it open on the computer when they walk away, then another student can change it... not knowing they are ruining another students project... and it is then lost forever.

Not only that, but if the project happens to be oversized, it may look the same size on the screen, but because I use a quick release jig system, students can accidentally run the bit into hold down clamps and metal screws not realizing this project size difference they can't see on the screen is going to run the bit where they don't expect it to go. We have seen this happen twice!

***UPDATE*** 11-4-17 Easel Pro creates a whole new issue in that you can't make a copy when using new fonts or V-bits. The problem with that is not being able to shortcut the process since you have to manually re-enter all the settings. This causes more complications as it can get confusing for young students. Previously we could make a copy and make a few quick changes before running another student's project. That ability is gone (at least until they fix it) and that means more time on both my part and the students part. Bummer!

Using a larger V-bit

This next X-Carve experiment is an 8 minute V-Carve using a 1/2" 60 degree V-bit which adds depth. In other words, it is not a flat bottom but a V groove. It was created in Easel Pro and this carve ran to completion, so Inventables must have found and fixed the problem I was having earlier.

I try to be proactive and have since purchased Phils favorite... a Whiteside 1540 V-Groove 60-Degree 1/4-Inch True point router bit. Phil reminds us that most V-bits do not come to a true point. Now I'm ready to experiment more with Easel Pro... but can't see paying for it once the trial period is over.

***UPDATE*** 11-4-17 I upload this photo of the same project using the new 1/4" bit. The 1/4" bit in Easel Pro did an awesome job in less than 7 minutes, .05 depth... making the best looking out of the test set. The 1/4" V-bit is perfect for this particular use.

In X-Carveland dreams can come true!

What is this...? Can it be true? I made on-line comments of how this should be free to schools, and in my wildest dreams... during their live web announcement, they said education will have unlimited free access. Business will pay $19.95 per month and all other Easel users will get 4 free consecutive days of Pro per month and I think they may also have a plan where you can purchase just a few extra hours. That means non-business users can design and save up projects to carve all at once if they like. Cool!

***UPDATE*** 11-4-17 Watching someones video made me notice something I previously missed. The feed rates can be changed during a cut so if you see the project is running smoothly, you can speed it up and make the run time shorter, if you are also keeping the same quality output. I have yet to find and try this feature.

Skip all the way back to the first X-Carve post from January 4, 2016.
Posted: Friday, November 10, 2017 9:51:11 AM
Rank: Newbie
Groups: Member

Joined: 11/17/2006
Posts: 0
What a Kick!

I found this idea on-line and thought the kids might like it. It's a Karate phone buddy as I have shown on the phone buddy post. I'm just getting around to making the prototype because the 2nd quarter students are starting to want Christmas projects and I thought they might like some simple phone buddy alternatives that work.

***UPDATE*** 12-1-17 ... I have remade this to include a mortise to attach the kicker to the base. Now there isn't even any glue involved, just a dry fit, tight, snap together project.

This is another alternative phone buddy.

Here is another idea I made into a prototype and is is quickly becoming the new favorite project.

I like keeping many project choices to hold interest, create fun, and provide motivation for any and all students.
Posted: Saturday, November 18, 2017 6:59:01 PM
Rank: Newbie
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Joined: 11/17/2006
Posts: 0
Jewelry Box

Sage is in the middle of making her jewelry box. Having mastered making the corner finger joints, she has also found a way to incorporate the X-Carve.

We have since routed the top edges, and started the base. I will update this post with more photos as she moves towards the finish.
Posted: Saturday, November 18, 2017 11:19:49 PM
Rank: Newbie
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Joined: 11/17/2006
Posts: 0
A New Take on the Old Penny Bank

One of our 8th graders has really gone out on a limb preparing this Gear Penny Bank and he doesn't even know if it is going to work. The gears were cut on the X-Carve. The slot delivers the coin right to the center of the upper gear. He is expecting the pennies to drop onto the paddles which as it is turned, will deliver the coin down to the next level and so forth... as long as they don't get caught in the gears.

It was somewhat of a trick to get the turning crank made as someone walked away with the first one. I have to say that's a first... having someone take something off the project shelf like that. Perhaps they just weren't thinking when they took it since it was separate of the shaft at the time. Here is a remake...

The "hand-shaped" handle spins freely on the screw and works well.

Below is a close up of the gears. The drive gear is the small one on the bottom right. Washers help reduce friction and a simple straight sewing pin is pushed through the shafts to keep the gears in place.

Jose has also provided a few spacers and ramps with the hope they will coax the coin to go the right direction downward and stay out of the gears. It's going to be very cool, even if it ends up not working.

I'll keep you posted.

***UPDATE*** 12-1-17 Here is the final product and it works! Sorry about the glare. It's too bad I didn't see that until I enlarged the photo.

If you haven't taken the time to look back at some of the updates I have been making to each post, then you are missing out on some really great stuff. I recently figured out how to make links within this site, that will go directly to each post. Slow connections or Internet speeds might require a little patience to load, but using the back browser arrow brings you directly back to where you left off reading. For example.... here is a direct link to the crankyman automata post and the back arrow brings you back here.

These links help clarify or point out ideas without a lot of fumbling around on your part. Now this makes me wish I would have made the posts smaller, concentrating on a single concept/issue/project, but doing that creates more pages. However, I could further direct teachers to these concepts in greater detail... so maybe some day I will be able to break it up into smaller sections. Doing this as an after thought would not keep them in chronological order. That order is part of what I think makes it more fascinating.... to watch a budding program thrive from day to day, week to week, etc... and work within the constraints of the times.

It's also too bad that DivShare has messed up their site. If any of you have been trying to get material on the broken links, let me know. I found my stash of material on one of my external hard drives, so I should be able to send them over e-mail. As I have time in the future, I would have uploaded this material to photobucket and remake the links, however, photobucket changed the free user agreement and I'm unsure as to what will work and what won't. Contact me so I can send material directly over e-mail.

Here are some general page short cuts for you...

Go to page 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 5... 6 ... 7... 8

A message to new wood shop teachers who may have stumbled onto this site!

Because of spam... this site has been closed for quite some time now, but if you would like to join, we could use some new blood. The older guys have been retiring and thinning out the ranks. I didn't ask permission to post this, but I found out from a new member that he did this to gain access.... Send an e-mail to NOSPAM september_fleming. I've purposely mixed it up, so put the name first and make an e-mail address out of it without using the NOSPAM. I have noticed that this is helping new members get into the site while keeping the spammers out.

I've seen at least eleven new members have signed up since making this notice.
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