Tool Talk

Compucarve

CompuCarve r^rMV/lDI ITCD- JL

COMPUTER-CONTROLLED CARVING FOR LESS THAN $2000

Moving with speed and precision, the cutting head dances effordessly across the wood. Its spiral bit plunges up and down, producing a shower of fine chips as it creates intricate carvings. The operator must be a master woodworker. But no! It's a 14-year-old freshman student in my beginning woodshop class. Welcome to the world of CNC (Computer Numeric Control), where woodworking doesn't nec essarily require years of experience or even a shop full of tools. Now anyone with a computer and a block of wood can produce finely detailed carvings.

How It Works

The Compucarve is a computer-controlled carving machine that comes with a powerful, user-friendly Computer Aided Design (CAD) software program. Designed by life-long woodworkers (who moonlighted as NASA robotics engineers) it's a small—and much less expensive version of an industrial CNC machine.

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Use the software to create a design on your computer. Transfer the design to the CompuCarve's on-board computer (Photo 1). Once you've loaded the work-piece, CompuCarve's computer walks you through the set-up procedure. It automatically measures the work-piece to make sure it's the proper size as it determines the optimal cutting positions and locations. It lets you know how long an operation will take and how much time remains to complete the task. It also posts reminders about mundane maintenance issues such as greasing the flex shaft. Basically, CompuCarve does all the work. You simply remove the finished piece.

The CompuCarve looks like a benchtop planer. But instead of a horizontal cutterhead with knives, it sports an upright head with a single bit. During operation, the head's side-to-side movement resembles a desktop printer (Photo 2). The on-board computer synchronizes the head's movements with the workpiece's feed rate to create the carved design that's loaded into the memory card.

In addition to running carving programs, the CompuCarve's on-board computer can measure, rip, crosscut, joint and square an oversize blank. It cuts miters, bevels, and curved or routed edge profiles. Carving and cutting bits are supplied with the machine (Photo 3). Profile bits are available as additional cost accessories (see Sources, page 42).

The CompuCarve handles stock up to 14-1/2-in. wide and 5-in. thick. It accommodates boards of almost any length. For best results, plan to allow an additional 3-1/2-in. beyond the carving at each end of the board. I use sleds to safely run undersized pieces.

User-Friendly Software

There's no need to be apprehensive about learning to use the CAD software program (versions are avail-

1 Transfer the programmed design from your computer, using the supplied memory card.The CompuCarve's onboard computer guides setting up and running the program, via the machine's LCD display and touch pad.

Lifting the hood reveals the carving head. It moves laterally, like the ink-cartridge on a printer and vertically, like the needle on a sewing machine, as the workpiece feeds underneath. A flex-shaft cable attached to the motor drives the bit.

3Two bits are supplied with each machine: a tapered bit for carving and a straight bit for cutting boards to size.

The CarveWright Woodworking System, by LRH Technologies, is identical to the Craftsman CompuCarve. LRH Technologies supplies CompuCarve machines to Sears and provides technical support and accessories for both machines.

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