Carving signs - what am I missing?

Considering moving to another CAM program - initial thoughts because I tried EstlCAM for a quote engraving, but the tool went haywire into the material and didn’t produce anything legible to read - just a bunch of nasty grooves. Here’s a bit more before heads pop up asking about tool parameters, etc.

Tool: Freud engraving bit 1/4" collet, 7.5 degree angle, 3/4" cut depth (available). Set up in EstlCAM without any Trochodial settings. Set only to cut a depth of 2mm
Quote: Several lines in multiple craft fonts on MS Publisher, exported to PNG, into EstleCAM and automatically scanned into as a Carve for toolpath - I was not given much choice - it was either carve or laser and since I didn’t have a laser, I chose carve; off it went in sorting out the cut.
Saved the CAM over to RH and saved to print on SD card.
Moved to the practice board, plugged in the card, zeroed the LR2 - including adding in a second set of zeroing in the gcode.
Off it goes! and blah, into the depth of the 3/4 practice stock. just one horizontal line going deeper and a little wider here and there then dives down, moves a little erratically widening the holes - like it’s drilling - then I just stopped the cut.
I’ve been stammered to a halt. I don’t want to try and pick it back up since this happened - failure to fail again I suppose. So I surrender and here I am with het in hand seeing if I ought to change CAM programs or dive into learning more before I start out. I realize this V1 stuff is meant for those who wish to tinker. There is a small part of me that wishes all the tech backend stuff would just be obvious to me.

You need to convert it to vector art. Inkscape’s trace bitmap function will do this for you. There are many yt tutorials on it. Then CAM will follow the lines instead of trying to create a depth for each pixel.

Try to examine the preview before getting to the machine. This should have been clear from the preview. Unless I am not understanding the problem.

I’ll give that a try. I did pull down a copy of inkscape but I haven’t started with it yet.

ESTLCAM is a brilliant piece of software and I would recommend sticking with it. It is has a good balance of simplicity and functionality and I think covers off most I what we would want to throw at a MPCNC or Lowrider.

I tried to use it out of the box and struggled until I watched a few of the Estlcam YouTube videos to get to grips with the basics and suggest you look these up.

Some tips I would have found useful:

In Inkscape you need to trace BMP as Jeffe stated
If you create text in Inkscape you will also need to select the text and then “Object to Path”
Then save to SVG or DXF (I reccomend the latter make sure you set Base Units to mm on export)
Open the DXF in EstlCAM (and check the units are in mm)
Select View - Work Area and draw a work area that is the correct size to double check you have something that is appropriate to your bed
Make sure you setup the tool list correctly
Make sure your start level for the carve is 0mm
Make sure you zero out the machine (G92 X0 Y0 Z0) before hitting go!

Good luck!


Estlcam exports to GCode, and gives you a preview of what it’s going to do. You can use that to check that it’s reasonable. If that looks OK you can run the machine ‘air milling’ to check that it matches the animation.

It does jump around a bit, pre-drilling some deep spots, then cutting some lines in two sections, then tidying up the corners. It all looks a bit random and inefficient, but apart from taking slightly longer it works out in the end.

Saved the CAM over to RH and saved to print on SD card.

Why not just save the GCode from Estlcam to the SD card? I thought RH was for streaming commands to the machine?

Also, Estlcam appears to have a fairly simplistic approach to depth steps in V-carving, taking equal size steps even though the bit is triangular and taking larger cuts with each step. The first cut is just the tip of the tool, the next (at twice the depth) is 3 times the cross sectional area and the next is 5 times, then 7, etc. It’s quite easy to reach the point where there’s too much load on the bit and it either misses steps or is deflected.

I found that lots of things in Inkscape have a steep learning curve but it’s not a very high curve. Many problems looks impossible when you first try but 5 minutes watching a tutorial is all you need.

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I’m carving signs on the lowrider with ESTLCAM, did it engraved and embossed letters. Still refining it but most of my problems are the wood itself. I find the instructions you get when hovering over a field useful. Make sure your carve has limits. Either depth or width limits with the vbit