As a hobbyist I find that I want to use my CNC more but the projects in the hopper are all big time sucks and I never have the shop time for a 4 hour cut.

I think I and a lot of other weekend warrior types would benefit from some structured challenges that allow us to hone our skills and compare notes. Kind of like the speed test you guys ran a few months ago. I think all of us learned a lot from that even @Ryan about what the limits of the MPCNC truly were.

I propose that we create a monthly challenge to create something that can be designed and cut relatively quickly but has some kind of twist to take us out of our comfort zone a bit. It would need to have a deadline to motivate people to get it done. Something like:

Make a coaster using at least 2 bits
create a box utilizing 2 different joints

What do you guys think?


I’m in.

Lets try to expand on this a bit.

-Do we make a new thread for each “challenge”, or is there a better way to show our participation? Instagram or twitter hashtags could work as well.

-Should there be a prize of some sort (Fancy forum title for a month, sticker pack, discount, free endmill with an order)? If so I think it would need to be random, so each participation post (picture, hashtag, whatever) gets you an entry.

I just did my first finger joints, they went perfect and I wished I did so sooner. I think you are on to something. Get pushed out of your comfort zone a bit and learn as a group. Learning at the same time could be really beneficial, correct CAD offsets, CAM strategies, work holding…


This is a really great idea. I think a forum title is awesome, anything more is icing.

Maybe a new forum subsection with a new thread per project for explanation, ideas, help, troubleshooting, and a separate thread for results only with a link to the first post for reference?


I’ll leave the forum organization details up to you.

I don’t think there needs to be a prize involved except maybe the esoteric forums titles or something silly for bragging rights. I was thinking more of a show and tell session than a contest with prizes.

I’m really just curious how people approach a problem from different angles. Some of the best innovations come from creating artificial constraints and forcing the imagination to work with a smaller set of variables.

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A new forum category would be great. Is it possible to lock it so only Ryan can make new posts in it? Otherwise, we can move posts that don’t belong.

A forum title would be cool. I feel like adding any kind of valuable prize could make it worse. But maybe that is me being pessimistic.

You can do a random winner, or a poll, or give out participation ribbons (CNC field day?).


I like this idea. I also like the idea of each challenge being in it’s own thread in a sub-forum.

This would allow new people to the forum a place to go get ideas for things they can do to practice with their machines.

I think allowing people to post their pics and information into the thread will help keep everything in one place. I do think a stickied thread at the top for ‘ideas for challenges’ would allow everyone a chance to put in recommendations for what challenges we can do.

Ryan can either pick challenges based on what he’d like to see, or randomly.


Oh a whole new category, that makes sense.

I think I can make certain restrictions, or we can move wrongly posted stuff. I will take a look.

Sounds like this might end up being added to the docs as well. Little mini tutorials. How to do a chamfer, dogbones for things like finger joints, basic tool changes. Then add a link to the challenge thread to see how others do it as well. But lets start with the threads first.

Is challenge the right word or is that too aggressive, skill builders?


I think a friendly sense of competition is fun as long a it stays friendly. I kind of like how does it that there are always competitions going on but each one has a finite cutoff date for entries. It creates a sense of urgency to get it done vs ending up in the maybe ill get to it one day,


The time scale is an interesting aspect. I like the idea of a limited time to provide motivation and get interest to be more “concentrated” so there is more chance for collaboration. But at the same time someone could come along a year later and build the same project and have more to add or questions to ask, and the knowledge on finger joints for example could expand over time, and that would be valuable. So perhaps a target date and a deadline for the “prize” of being highlighted in the gallery or something, but the threads could stay open indefinitely and people can pick up the projects much later if interested.

I am also wondering if there should be a path for these projects to emerge organically from the “Things You’ve Made” category, rather than (or in addition to) being declared up front.


Skills Builder Challenges catches both the “things to help you get better” and “light competitive” aspects.


Perhaps to get the ball rolling, people could peruse the gallery and approach makers of intriguing projects to author a challenge.

I’m thinking it might be helpful to have a basic template that spells out the goal of the project (e.g. cutting 45* inlay parts and pockets), ball-park setup and cutting time estimates (2 hours CAD, 30 minutes CAM, 45-120 minute cut time), required tools/materials (45* cutter, MPCNC/LowRider/OtherCNC spindle) and the skills to be built (tuning your machine’s dimensional accuracy, overcome work holding challenges, aligning material grain to planned cut geometry). This could then allow for folks to search for things they wanted to get better at, things that matched the tools they’ve got on hand, and the time they’ve got to invest in the tasks.


In @ttraband 's example above I’d just leave the competition open ended like:

Create an inlay using 2 different materials with a total cut time under 60 minutes.

Let the poster show how they accomplished the feat and their methods. Maybe someone does full thickness square inlays or pours molten aluminum in a carve or some other non-conventional method that inspires someone.

This is a very eclectic group and I think we are all going to come up with some off the wall ways of doing things. and THAT is the AWSOME!


Guys and gals, this sounds like a great idea that can only benefit everyone involved… especially if it’s just a cool forum title for prize. The name I fee should include the timeframe somehow. Maximum PC Gear of the Year for example… Method of the Month?

I was also thinking how long each contest remains open will be important. A shorter turnover could be better for those who don’t have as much time to put into optimizing things… vs like allowing the whole month for submissions then the winners may have put in 50hrs by then. I mean, even a 2minute cut can benefit from hours of thought. It is not that those thoughts are not relevant or wanted, but there could be missed insight from talented folks who won’t have to time to invest in winning the badge. So along the same lines as Jamie, I think the threads should be left open for further/deeper learning.

(Edited out a sentence that I missed deleting before posting, which made zero sense.)


Maybe the first one should be nice and simple, like a 3d carve. Lots to learn, hogging out vs finishing pass stepover, waterline vs linear. Tool change not required but allowed? A small carve can take a long time if done excessively, so a small simple design people might take a few tries at?


Never carved anything 3D before should be fun and somewhat ugly!

Okay I made a note. Let me poke around today and see if there is anything I can think of that might be useful, challenging, small. I think for this one it is going to just be a funky shape to run some good tests with, unless there is another suggestion.

How about wooden nickels? Lots of possible variations and it’s small enough that fine detail is possible without too much time investment.


Sounds good, but can they be redeemed for free drinks? :wink: :beer: :tumbler_glass: :crazy_face:

Sure… just add a $20 bribe to the barmaid to take them :smiley:


If anyone gives me a wooden nickel you made yourself, I will buy you a beer (some restrictions apply, I’m not made of beer).