So I had the thought the other day about blending some carving from my X-Carve to do a piece that blends the skyline of my hometown city of Columbia (nearest city with a skyline that is) with the name of said city. Below is a quick tutorial on getting the project produced with the Inkscape, X-Carve, and Easel.
CAD/CAM software (Easel takes care of this in my case)
Inkscape (free software download for PC and Mac)
Any hardwood (dimensions can vary; but I used 6" x 14")
Any clear slow setting epoxy
Acrylic paint (color is your choice)
Sand paper (80, 120, 220 grits)
Step 1: Locate the Skyline Image
So after doing a little searing on your favorite internet browser I was able to find and save out my skyline image over to Inkscape with just a basic copy | paste.
Step 2: Convert the Image to Path
One of the great things about Inkscape is that for a free graphics design tool, you can take images like .png, .jpeg, etc. and convert to paths which will be needed in order to create an .svg for Easel to read. (if you're new to importing into Easel, here is a quick link to the help page on that topic) Below is the key function that you'll need to use inside of Inkscape to accomplish this step. I've also embedded a video from YouTube that does a pretty good job explaining these steps in the first 4 minutes or so of the video. If this is your first time doing this it's probably worth the time.
Step 3: Merge with the Text in Inkscape
Now that the image is covered to a path, it's time to write out the text and merge with the image. Depeninding on your experience with vector arts, you may need to refer to Inkscape help on how to merge the typed text into the existing path of the skyline image.
Step 4: Save as .SVG and head over to Easel and Configure
I'm not going to do a deep dive on the use of Easel software for X Carve but if you need help, feel free to check out their help section which does a good job of getting you through their very intuitive software.
Step 5: Carve
In this step, just step back and let the machine take care of it's work. Depending on your carving setup, wood choice, bit selection the amount of time will all vary. In my case the total carving time was under 15 mins. Depending on the precision of your planer, I recommend no deeper than .100 in. The deeper the cut, the more epoxy fill you need to use and ultimately we'll just take off the very top layer and any deeper doesn't really matter. After the carving is complete I just just a little cleanup of the interior cuts with a sharp craft knife.
Step 6: Fill / Plane / Finish
This step is where everything comes together visually. If you actually want to skip the entire fill process that is fine if you prefer the engrave look. To do the fill, you'll certainly want to experiment first because you'll need to use very little acrylic paint to tint the epoxy. Too much paint and it'll disrupt the curing process needed between the resin / hardener and it'll never cure properly. Here is a link to some epoxy I've used before with good results.
I always put a drop of acrylic paint first on my surface where I'm going to put the resin / hardener mix. You always have to be 100% ready to move with project once you put your resin / hardener together as they are starting to set instantly and you want to work with the product quickly while it is as fluid as possible and not once it becomes tacky which is the set time marked on the package. Minimize 'stirring' as this introduced air bubbles and will show up as voids in the project fill once cured. It really can be an art to get it right so I highly recommend some practice first on a test engraving.
I like to frame my fill area with painters tape just to prevent getting the product on the edges and reduce some of the work of the planer in the next step to clean up the top surface. Use you're scraper to fill the engraving so that all of it is covered with the epoxy. It's ok to not be too precise because the planer will clean up the excess on the top surface but you need to focus on working quickly. Once it is set, it's time to be patient and store the piece somewhere level so the epoxy doesn't 'drift' while it sets. Most epoxys will fully cure in 24 hrs but ready your package and take into consideration temperature and humidity. We want it absolutely fully cured to where there is no tacky feeling at all!
After cured, remove the painters tape ( if you did this step ) and make a very light pass in your planer. If you followed my recommendation above you only have the carving .100 inch deep so any deeper will absolutely remove the work you just did. I like to make a level pass in the planer removing no material so I have a baseline for thickness then only try to remove 1/32 - 1/64 of an inch. In this step, multiple low depth passes is recommended till you get the excess epoxy removed.
From here, sand smooth and apply your finish as I just went with a couple coats of polyurethane. If you wanting as a desk or shelf piece not much else to do but you could also attach some hardware and make it a wall mount item. Below was my finished product for the Columbia skyline.
Just completed this media console for a customer that includes multiple spaces for your electronics. Really like how the natural grain and pattern of the wood turns out with some basic stain and poly topcoat. As you can see, all items go through a rigorous inspection :)
As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments below.
-Materials: Pine/Hardwood Plywood
Interested in the plans used for this piece? Check out Jamison's plans at RogueEngineer.com