Lots of hours on toolpaths...

Say what you will about Estlcam, but the program works if you have the patience to deal with it (especially after using it for months for free… is there a limit on that counter?)


I thought some of you might like this. This is easily the most intricate piece that I’ve done on the MPCNC yet. Tools used were 1/8th inch single flute flat, 1/8th inch three flute 100(?) degree pointed, and 1/8th inch 10 degree engraving bit. Z step limit on all tools was set to 2mm, except the engraving bit which was set to 1mm. 15-30 mm/s feed rate. The material is ‘Select Pine’ from Loan Depot. Only one coat of poly in this pic.





[attachment file=“120188”]


That is really great detail, especially in pine. Too bad the lower right got all blue and blurry :).

Is all of that from a 2D drawing? Even the eagle’s wings?

Boy, I sure would like to see some step by step instructions on how to do a project like that. I think a lot of people here would really get into it.


Very nice! Excellent work.

I bought that svg a while back and put that project on the back burner… After seeing this, it’s coming off the shelf for a Christmas present.

Thanks for sharing!


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I really wish I had time to do a full write-up. Honestly, the wings came out that way on accident - I didn’t realize how much material would be left behind by the 10 degree bit. I did step the pocket down about a millimeter per horizontal row of feathers… more or less. In the end it turned out to be an impressive effect with the particular grain of the wood. The feathers near the top of the eagles head were set for a carving depth of 0.5 mm - I almost stopped the machine because I thought it would be too subtle but I let it go and things worked out well once the poly hit the wood.

I had to create the vector image myself by tracing it out in Designspark Mechanical from another image found courtesy of google and wikipedia. That took a lot of time but worth it I’d say.

The deepest cut was the profile at 21mm. The deepest pocket (between the emblem and the rounded text) is 7mm.

I had one failed run before carving this one. Wrong toolpaths with the wrong tools.

(I thought I posted this yesterday - looks like I forgot to hit ‘submit’…)



So you used a 10 degree bit… can you tell us what other tools and sizes you used. Did you do a pass with a larger end mill to hog out material?

Thanks for the depth info and thanks in advance for all the info!

Actually, on my first run I had a serious derp moment - I ran a carve toolpath on the larger areas to a depth of 7mm with the 10 degree. It was unnecessary and time consuming. After the whole thing had been carved I ran the 1/8th single flute flat end across the background plane at 6.5mm - thats why there’s a horizontal line texture across the background. You could get a similar result from running the flat end mill first and then switching to the 10 degree at a depth of .5mm deeper than the flat cut. It would be much faster.

The topmost plane of the piece is untouched and unsanded until after the poly went on. That includes the rope, the top of the eagles head, his talons, the ribbon, and the surround.

Most of the cuts are done with the crazy sharp 10 degree carving bit. The three fluted bit, I think came with my Makita Router (could have been the dewalt though…) 1/8th inch diameter - it’s got a very shallow point but I don’t know the exact angle. I just used it for the profile cut around the outside. I ran engraving toolpaths for the detail in the ropes - I think doc there is 4mm or so. Also for the outline of the talons and legs, but not as deep - maybe 1 or 1.5mm.


You guys really deserve a full write-up. I’ve got to refine my G-Code and put everything in the right order. As soon as I’ve got it squared away, I’ll start on a well documented breakdown. I’m just crazy busy at the moment and gotta pay some bills.

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[attachment file=“120309”]

The three fluted mill.

Single flute top (source: V1 shop)

10 degree carving bit bottom (source: somewhere in China)


Seems ESTLCAM is a bit underrated, and it’s pretty easy to use also. I ended up buying the license, as I have major OCD and can’t stand waiting on anything. I also try to support guys like Christian when I can, I’m sure he put a lot of work into ESTLCAM. Nice looking plaque BTW. I’m looking to try that same carving on one of the US flags I’ve been making, I hope my detail comes out as good, but I dont think I’d have the patience to use such a small bit and wait that long. Lol


I ended up buying ESTLCAM also. I’m in agreement with you - I’d much rather give my money to a small or independent developer. And ESTLCAM is underrated, though the program desperately needs some polish and perhaps a few features added to round it out. Don’t get me wrong, it does what it says it will do, but the shape detection and manual tool path layout options are painfully lacking. It also REALLY needs some Ctrl-Z support! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally deleted the wrong toolpath after spending 20 minutes or more tracing out a tricky toolpath that the shape detection won’t pick up.

I’m a programmer myself, so I know that these aren’t necessarily small things to implement, but it would go a long way to making the program feel more finished and certainly less frustrating to use. That being said, I haven’t run across a CAM program that is as straight-forward and verbose (tooltips) as ESTLCAM.

I’ve since refined the toolpaths that I use to make these - pocketing certain areas with a flat endmill first and then hitting it with the engraving bit. Recouped a lot of time that way. Unfortunately the wood that I’ve been using is hit or miss with regard to whether or not the smaller details cut properly or chip and tear off. I’m on the search for a more consistent medium than what I’ve been using. So far pine and poplar have both proved to be poor choices.


For me personally, the only 2 things that would speed up my process would be a way to automatically center my stock to my work area, just for spacing certain things, and a way to ungroup svg’s and actually delete parts of anything I import. You can do this on Carbide Create, but I’m unable to get a gcode file that will work GRBL. This may be totally user error TBH. It adds a few more steps, but I create certain things in Carbide Create, then export it as a SVG, and then import to ESTLCAM for my toolpaths. I will probably pick up another UNO today and see if I can get the controller on ESTLCAM to work.:thinking:

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The geometry to do all of that must be infuriating, and for the most part, it has worked perfectly. There hasn’t been any cases that I can remember of Estlcam doing a shape terribly wrong. It does sometimes fail to find a complete shape, but the manual controls are easy enough. I never had to find a youtube tutorial for that, for example. I think Christian cares a lot, and it shows. I think the UI is simple, and effective. If there were a lot more UI features, that would mean more mistakes, more documentation needed, etc. At least, that’s what I tell myself. I wish it was written in something more platform indepentdent. Undo would be nice, and a quit button in the menu would make my life easier (I hide my close buttons in my windows manager, but that’s pretty unique).


Alt-F4 doesn’t close the program? I know it does in windows and I was pretty sure it worked the same in most linux desktops - though I still spend far more time in windows than linux.

For the record - I really don’t mean to bag on Christian or his software. I bought the license and that removed a HUGE amount of the frustration of using the program. Where I run into the most aggravations is generally not the fault of the software - it’s from using poorly made vector images that don’t have connecting nodes where they need to be, which causes the shape detection to get a little carried away.

That undo feature you talked about though? Man, that would save me HUGE amounts of time - I’m constantly hitting Ctl-Z only to remember, “Oh, yeah, no safety net!” I really do like the software or I wouldn’t have paid for it. I hope Christian continues development of it. Another neat feature would be the ability to override the tool attributes (stepover, feedrate, etc) at the tool path level. That way you could avoid the need to create a whole new tool record for the same cutter just to get a different behavior for the same tool. Would also preclude the need to manually edit out the M00s from the final gcode file. I could go on all day about little things here and there that I’d love to change (and very well might, if the source code were accessible), but the proof is in the pudding - I’m still using Estlcam and will continue to do so until it stops working for me.

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@christian-knuell we demand an undo function for your amazing program!!! Seriously though an undo using control-z would be an awesome feature and estlcam is completely underrated. Your STL features has done wonders for my topo maps so thank you.

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I use i3wm, which lets me do whatever terrible things I want to do to myself. Including not mapping alt+F4, and hiding the decorations, so there is no X. The main reason I’d like quit is just because I keep one hand on the mouse in Estlcam, and I don’t want to go back to the keyboard to quit. It really is just for me, really.

I’ve wanted to try the 3d carve feature and have started to time and again only to figure out a more efficient way for the cuts that I needed done. Do you have any examples of some of your work that you’ve done where you’ve used it?

So, so far I have only done topographic maps which I have found it to really excel at due to some the STL files I have being 650 mb and I’m doing it on a VM on my mac. Christian on his videos for STLs shows huge gummy bear mold.

here is one I made:

Here is a yellowstone topo that I have made.

I plan on doing more but the project list is so long!

Yeah, Ctrl+z is the absolute missing feature in Estlcam. It would make things much better if it was available…
I always screw up once designing paths, so it’s a real pain to have to start all over again.
Not sure why it doesn’t have this function, all the other programs I use have it so you wouldn’t think it’s that complicated.

you wouldn’t think it’s that complicated

From a code standpoint, it requires storing every action the user takes and the state of the project before and or after every step. It’s not quite as straight forward as you might think. That’s likely why it’s not in the software already. Most of the software I’ve written doesn’t have an undo feature either, just because implementation can be cumbersome and time consuming. That being said, most of the software I’ve written hasn’t been quite as ambitious as Estlcam.

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This is beautiful work. It seems I’ll have to take a harder look at that feature.

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Yeah, and depending on how the code is structured, it may be that toolpath objects quickly lose their original “low memory” origins and are just large objects with tons of vertices. If that is the case, undo can make large copies of them, even if you don’t use the feature. If it was important to support from the start, then it would probably have not been any worse, but adding it later may be a major refactor.