3 sided carve with vcarve

Has anyone done any 3 sided carves? I am looking at building some pinewood derby cars for some kids at our church. My skills are limited, I can barely do one sided carves but have sometime and some extra pine blocks to practice with in the next few months. Just looking for some pointers and or advice.

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I’ve never tried anything beyond a two sided carve with VCarve/Aspire. It should be possible, though work holding might become tricky after milling a side or two of one of those pinewood derby blocks. You may want to use a larger block of wood and carve a pinewood derby size model within it.

If you’re planning on doing it as an indexed rotary job, DeskProto CAM software is fairly inexpensive and I’ve had some good results with it. Has a bit of a learning curve, since you have to define the machine, bits, etc. Did an 8-sided (to experiment with settings) table leg carve the other day. Though, I did end up deciding it took too long and bought true 4-axis software for future jobs.



Yea, I was thinking of just using nice 2x4 and cutting it a little longer than the 7 inch those blocks that come with the kit has. That way there will be more material to hold down with flipping it around.
I wish I had a rotary for my 1F, should be my next purchase down the road.

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What true 4-axis software did you end up buying, Dan, if you don’t mind my asking?

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I bought Rhino 8 and RhinoCAM Pro (currently 20%off). Actually impulse bought yesterday, so I have some learning to do.

Now, I just need to build a proper table and throw out the QCW, so my Foreman will stop shaking during y-axis moves and I can actually use the thing.


That is exactly was I have been thinking about for month now.

I have Rhino 7, amazing software, at least as good as Fusion 360 and way cheaper (no subscription), about 1000 times more powerful that designing in Vcarve.

I currently use Vcarve (for creating toolpath only), but that is really more of a hobbyist software, and really not capable of creating 4 axis toolpath that actually do work.

About the three sided cut, I did some 4 sided cutting without a rotary:
I created a key and lock system system. My model was connected at the extremities to keys, basically square blocks. I created a lock system that would hold the keys, basically work as an indexer, so I could mill the object from 4 sides.
That is quite sophisticated and will take a lot of thinking time, I would not recommend it, but is is possible. You could also buy a manual indexer, but I did not find anything I liked that would easily work on a CNC table and do simple 90 degree rotations.

The is a youtube video of a guy machining a fish using an indexer he build, very well done in my opinion.


I now own a rotary and am planning to make a 3D cut, rotate the stock by 90 degree, etc, basically indexed 4 axis cutting. It has the advantage that you can cut below the center point of the A axis, which is tricky on a regular rotary.


Which version of RhinoCam did you buy?

I have the same shaking QCW, it was ok with the buildbotics controller, but since upgrading to the Elite I too have those vibrations that really impact the finish quality.

You can try to reduce the acceleration by a factor 20 in the settings for each axis and reduce the cutting speed of the finishing toolpath dramatically, if I remember correctly from 500000m/s2 to 25000m/s2. That will slow down the machining time marginally, but direction changes are smoother.


I bought the Pro version of RhinoCam. Unfortunately, this puts me into the category in which I’ve spent more on software than hardware ( Rhino+Aspire+DeskProto > cnc+rotary+tool setter+bits+etc)… Probably will never be worth it, since I don’t sell stuff, but maybe I’ll be able to make what I try to make.


Rhinocam pro, $3750, that is expensive.

I was looking at the RhinoCAM Expert, which has 4 axis indexed milling

I did not know they have it reduced by 25%, it might be time to buy it.

Had I known beforehand how simplistic VCarve is, I would have bought RhinoCam right away.

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I might be missing something, as it often happens, but I’m not quite sure what the concern is when it comes to carving three sides of a workpiece, as opposed to just one or two sides. Except for the obvious mounting of something like a cutting board on the long side where you would need vertical clamping.

To clarify, I’m primarily discussing the process in VCarve, as I haven’t had the chance to experience other software options in action.

For two-sided carvings, I’ve explored both methods: using the “Double Sided” radio button when creating a new file, and simply creating a second “Sheet” or an entirely separate file. I’ve even worked with work areas of different sizes for each side.

In either approach, the key aspect, in my opinion, is how you define your X-Y-Z zero points for the additional sides. Essentially, the software and CNC machine don’t inherently recognize whether you’re flipping the workpiece over or introducing a completely different one. You’re essentially generating GCode instructions to instruct the CNC machine to start from “here” and move to “there.” While VCarve’s “Double Sided” feature offers a convenient button for flipping sides and automatically mirroring the second side, there’s nothing particularly unique about carving another “side” beyond this convenience.

For instance, consider the case of creating an inlay cutting board:

Step 1: Design and carve the female pocket for the cutting board.
Step 2: Select the vectors and duplicate them for the other side or create a separate worksheet for carving the male plug in a different wood.
Step 3: Utilize the mirror tool to reverse the vectors for the male plug.
Step 4: I usually position the vectors at the lower-left corner of the worksheet, unless the wood for the inlay piece is small enough, in which case I center the vectors.
Step 5: Place the inlay wood for the male plug on the CNC and set my zero point, either at the lower-left or center.
Step 6: Execute the carving.
Step 7: Realize that my settings were completely off and, with a sigh, restart from Step 1.

If I wanted to carve on another surface of the cutting board, such as adding my logo to one of the long edges, I would create those vectors on a separate worksheet, determine the ideal zero point, secure the workpiece, and commence carving.

Sorry for the wall-of-text, and if this is scary, you should see my emails I send at work o_O