How To Create Your Own Wasteboard Surfacing File

Surfacing the wasteboard is an extremely important task when setting up or providing maintenance to your CNC machine. Surfacing your wasteboard can also extend the life while saving you money from buying a new board was too soon.  Whether you just installed a new board or cleaning up your current one after it starts getting a lot of carve marks, this will be your step to step guide to flattening your workspace! 

 So lets start! Firstly we need to get a large surfacing bit which is no more than a large endmill. I use a 1 inch Whiteside 6210 (click here to purchase) so that's the bit I'll be using through this article. You can however use your own if you have one already, you'll just need to update your toolpath file. 

This tutorial is written using a Shapeoko 3 XL but will likely be the same across machines, you'll just need to translate the information. Having a Shapeoko, all Carbide machines come with a basic cad program called Carbide Create. There are several other great programs out there, I personally use Vcarve by Vetric but this is generally the same process across platforms. Because Shapeoko provides Carbide Create, we will use that program for this tutorial. 

  • First lets open up our program, again we are using Carbide Create for this tutorial, and lets select the cogwheel button near the top left. We are going to make sure our settings are correct. This is the Job Setup screen, Stock size will be the size of the material we are carving, in this case the waste board. 


    Next is the thickness, using calipers, measuring tape or a ruler of some sort, get as close as possible to the correct thickness of your wasteboard.
     
    I always start the toolpath zero in the bottom left, but this will be personal preference for you and your machine setup. 

    Choose your material, in my case I'm using MDF as my waste board and then choose your machine. This will change the size of the example box on the right. 

    Your retract height will be how high the tool climbs back up the z-axis after each cut. When you are satisfied with the options, click Ok. 
  • Next lets open up our program and find the Create Vector box in the top left. (This may be different for other cad programs) and lets find the square. Click the square and make a box the size of your work area. You may need to use the adjust and resize tools in the top left to get it just right.

     
  • Next in the top left, find the toolpath button and click. 
  • We are going to choose the contour option, if you are using another program, you may have to select the toolpath we just made, and find an option to create a pocket. In Carbide Create, we are going to choose contour, then change the tool to our surfacing bit by clicking on Edit at the top. 
  • We created a new library, you can use an already established one from Carbide, or choose new library and select your material. In the new library you will see a list of bit types "End Mills, Ball Mills, Vee, Engraves." Right click on End Mills and we are going to add a new tool. 
  • Fill in the information at the top with what matches your surfacing bit, and in the geometry make sure it matches the information from your toll vender. The tricky part is your feeds and speeds. I will add a tutorial in the future for calculating these entries, but in the mean time I suggest using the feeds and speeds recommended by your toll vender. On their website, they usually provide a basic feed chart. Depending on your machine and material this can all change as well. In the boxes I have chosen was works well for me and this tool. 
  • After you are finished click Ok and choose your tool from the list. Then make sure the settings are good and click Ok again. No move down to the next box for Cutting Depth. We are going to on take a little off the top to clean up our board or level a new one. So in this tutorial I will leave the max depth alone at 0.0750in as that is enough for me. You may need to go deeper depending how deep your carve marks go into the board.

    We are then moving down to the next box and this is where we will choose the pocket option. Other programs just have this as a native tool path outside of any contour option. 
  • As you can see the blue lines on the example to the right has changed. This is showing you how the pocket toolpath will look. It is going to carve in an offset that covers the entire surface. After you have done this click Ok.

    The screen will no go back to the toolpath main screen and you should see your new toolpath in the list with an approximate carve time. 
  • Lets now scroll down the left windowed section and you should see a button to save GCode. Save your GCode to a location you can easily find, this will be the file that the Carbide Motion program uses to run the toolpath we just created. 


  • And that's on creating a surfacing file! 

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