Steve Nelson – Candle Holder

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Here at Vectric we take great pride in seeing what the community have made using our software and their CNC machine, it seems like every time we scroll through the Vectric forum something catches our eye. This month is no different, we were taken back by the beautiful craftsmanship of Aspire user Steve Nelson (stevenelson46). Rotary work is becoming even more popular with CNC users and once mastered you can create amazing works of art just like this incredible candle holder.

Before Steve tells us about how he created this project, we wanted to know what lead him in to the world of CNC…

I’ve been a hobbyist woodworker for more than 45 years. Although I have sold and contracted a few things over the years I primarily do it just for fun, my family and friends have been the recipients of most of my projects.

In December of 2006 I was doing some shopping in Sears and while in the tools section I saw a Craftsman carving machine on display with a video that demonstrated some of the things that it could do. I was intrigued with the idea that there was a machine for a two-car garage hobbyist that could carve shapes and signs in wood. Impulsively, I bought it! Usually when someone buys something on the “spur of the moment” the novelty wears off quickly and it winds up occupying space and collecting dust. That was not the case for me this time. Even though it was another woodworking tool I was completely consumed by its amazing capabilities and tried to use it in almost all of my projects.

2A couple of years later I purchased the STL and DXF add-ons for the Carvewright system and that allowed projects designed in other programs to be imported and carved. Then, in 2011 I discovered Aspire. After that I was designing most of my CNC projects using Aspire, exporting and then importing them into the Carvewright Designer.

With many years of experience in the workshop Steve has been able to use his traditional tools along with a combination of software packages and a CNC machine to create his projects.

In 2018, Steve decided to upgrade his Aspire software to the latest version (9.5) which introduced powerful rotary tools and in turn lead to him being able to create this incredible candle holder. We’ll let Steve tell us all about it… 

In November of 2018 I bought a Camaster Stinger with a rotary ornamental lathe. I had been using the rotary attachment for the Carvewright for a while, so I wasn’t new to rotary projects but was intrigued by the recent addition/improvements to the rotary sections of Aspire. I discovered a candle holder project on the Legacy CNC website[link?] that was similar to what I wanted to do so I used some of their techniques and ideas along with the training videos from Vectric. Then, using Aspire, I designed my own version of a candle holder that was about 1 1/2” in diameter and 12” tall with a double spiral twist that was hollow in the middle.

I started off with a 14 inch blank of a Douglas Fir 4" by 4" fence post that I bought at Home Depot. Until I perfected the design and techniques, I didn’t want to waste a lot of money on expensive wood, so I just started with the cheap stuff. The blank was then trimmed down to about 1 5/8" square and rounded to 1 ½" using the rounding gadget toolpath in Aspire.

There are many ways and techniques to create the spirals, but I chose to create a bit in the tool database and assigned that bit to follow each of the spirals vectors that were generated by the wrapping gadget. Since I was going to use a raster 3D finish carve, the bit didn’t really have to exist. I just calculated the width and spacing first and then used trial and error to fine tune the final shape. I used the same created bit to do the round overs at the top and the bottom.

A component was then created from the toolpath preview along with an additional 2-rail sweep component for the rim of the candle bowl at the top. These components were used to create the 3D toolpaths that were sent to the machine.

To create the hollow effect, a 1/4" end mill was assigned to the same vectors as the spirals to a depth of ½ of the diameter of the blank plus a little extra to eliminate some sanding. This toolpath was also sent to the machine. Then a ½" end mill was used to create a ½" tenon at the bottom and a “part-off” at the top. 

For the base, I used a 4" length of the same 4” by 4” fence post. After rounding to a 3 1/8" diameter I used a 2-rail sweep to create the shape and cut it on the rotary lathe on the Camaster.  A 3D roughing toolpath and a 3D finish toolpath was used. After removing it from the lathe I used a drill press to drill a hole to accept the tenon.

After sanding everything with 120 through to 220 grit sandpaper; I applied 2 coats of rattle can shellac and 3 coats of Mohawk lacquer with some light sanding with 400 grit sandpaper between coats.

It’s evident from the final candle holder that Steve was able to use his vast knowledge of woodworking and design skills to approach this project in an unconventional way. I think I speak for everyone by saying we are truly inspired by the way he thinks and achieves such incredible final projects. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Steve for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his story with us all. Before we leave, we had to ask Steve what he has planned for the future? 

In the past I have made many projects. Some large, like kitchen and shop cabinets, and some small. But, it’s the small weekend projects like this one that I enjoy doing the most. I really don’t plan most of my projects. If I see something that I think is interesting and that I’d like to make, I’ll either design my own version or make one similar. Part of the joy of being retired is not having a schedule.

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