V-Carve Inlay Using Estlcam (But Technique Can Be Used With Any CAM Software)

I was in the process of working on a little inlay project (my second) when I saw this post pop up from @dpenney

Mind Blown

My project isn’t as impressive I think but I use Estlcam with really good results by setting the start depth for the inlay carve below the surface of the inlay material.

If you have 10 minutes and have masochistic tendencies satisfied by CNCs here’s the video!


The results there look great, and a relatively simple process. I have to admit I was holding my breath between the blind gluing of the inlay blocks and the final reveal!

Excellent video production too: all the important parts without dragging out the more tedious segments.

I’m curious how you do your alignment between cuts: switching from the 1/8" to the v-bit, you must have had an accurate re-alignment zeroing out X and Y with the block. Was that just an eyeball approach to the corner of the block or something more automated?

Great question.

What I’ve done evolved over time but works out to this:

  1. My machine is square to the end of my table before I start.

  2. The point where the corner of a rectangular piece would be in XY if the piece is set against the bench dogs is something I measured and recorded a long time ago. I’ve created a macro in CNCjs that sends me there when I run it. So now I can repeatedly get to the corner even if I have to restart the machine.

  3. I set XY to 0,0 at the corner and then jog to where I want the origin of the carve to be (could be center of the piece). I record my XY coordinates so I can always get back to that origin. Sometimes I have an accurate version of the workpiece size in Inkscape and I can just move to the appropriate origin XY as measured in Inkscape. Set XY to 0.

  4. At this point I sometimes record the XY origin coordinates in Machine Coordinates (G53). Then I can completely bypass the going-to-the-corner step if I have to reset the origin. This can be done in conjunction with steps 2 and 3 so they’re not mutually exclusive methods.

In this case, I changed the bit from end mill to v-bit while the machine was powered up so I didn’t reset anything in XY between runs. The tricky part I still have is setting Z0 to the top of the piece. That’s a manual process involving shaking a piece of paper under the bit until it stops moving.

Not sure if I explained all that clearly or not. Let me know.


Little touch plate is pretty easy to fab up. Someone here even uses a spatula!

Great work on that video!

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Yeah the touch plate has been on my to-do list since I built the lowrider.

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Gj on the video! Nice to see estlcam is also quite capable. Earlier today I read through another tutorial using f360, and another with carbide create. I’m just learning inlay methods this week so haven’t seen pros and cons between the options available, but I’m guessing at some point there will be some weird geometry that plays better on one platform vs the others. At first glance though, I gotta say carbide create is promising.

Edit: bummer… the free version of carbide create does not allow exporting gcode… yay, then figured out version 6 is still available to download, and it does allow exporting gcode.

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@Darwin Nice job! So do you have an idea why the adhesive failed? Wrong type, dirty surfaces, too small of a surface area to adhere too…

Probably a combination. I cleaned the area on the table with another piece of tape first but my spoilboard has some cuts in it there that reduce the surface area for tape to stick. The tape was completely stuck to the block even after coming off the table so it was the spoilboard side that released.

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I tried it as well but couldn’t do it. Too stupid for that. I now use F-Engrave, which works pretty well too and seems a lot easier. :slight_smile:

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I went the opposite route.
I used F-Engrave first and it worked but seemed overly complicated. This time I used Estlcam with this technique and it worked great.

On the plus side…it’s fantastic that there’s more than one option.


I did it like you did with Estlcam and the starting depth, but I wanted to do a cutting board with 6mm deep inlays and 3mm DOC in one go, so the option to out the starting depth at -2mm was out. I ran the program twice then, once “normal”, once with 2mm starting depth. It did work but took a looooong time. :smiley:

Going to use your technique for a project with a 2mm deep carving. Will keep you posted. :slight_smile:


It seems to work well for those shallow depths, with the only downside being that large inlays really, really fuck you over if your machine isn’t completely square. I cut 25x20cm inlay and it just would not fit. I then cut out the middle part and glued them separately and it worked (at least I think it worked, didn’t see the result yet). But see the picture: the gap is 2mm wide on one side, 0mm on the other one, so my machine is off by 0.5mm which does not matter for small inlays but for big ones it does. Hmpf. So next jobs will be divided from the start or, like this, cut later to make it fit. :slight_smile: (Now don’t tell me to fix it not being square, 0.5mm is nothing I think I can fix. :D)

Looks good so far, but does not fit… Uff.

If you zoom in on this one you can see the gaps I am talking about. Maybe it’s even a little more than 0.5mm.


You could try the “diagonal flip” method that will be less sensitive to squareness problems. It is sensitive to overall dimensional problems if X and Y don’t have the same scale, but the overall size is easier to get precise.


I won’t tell you to fix the 0.5mm

I think I don’t understand how would f-engrave do better on this. My thought was that it was effectively doing the same thing, just coded differently.

That said, my inlay had lines that were 1mm or less.wide so 0.5mm out would be a problem for me. I’ve also seen some videos where they do the large inlays and they also seem to break up the process into smaller sections.
Probably prudent

Post pics when you get it opened up!

It does not, my wording wasn’t great. Sorry.

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Oh, I remember that post in the back of my head. I somehow can’t get it to work in my head? Bottom right is just mirrored, top right is diagonal, is it?

Yes. Instead of mirroring along a horizontal or vertical axis, it’s like drawing a 45 degree diagonal mirror, and flipping relative to that diagonal mirror.

This is equivalent to mirroring horizontally or vertically and then rotating the flipped one by 90 degrees. Horizontal flip and 90 degree rotate is simple to do in Inkscape or whatever artwork manipulation program, whereas diagonal flip might not be easy, but conceptually that is what you are aiming for.


The direction of the rotation doesn’t matter. The 45 degree flip line can be +45 or -45 and it will work either way.


Thanks, that helped. :slight_smile:

Great tutorial I have used both Estlcam and F engrave, I did an inlay with F engrave that turned out great.
For those wanting to use either a big help is to understand why things are done it the order them are. There are very good YouTube videos explaining the process which really help to clear things up and help you learn how and why they work.
If you CNC table will not cut accurately it is because it is not rigid enough or you need to recalibrate your steps per

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