A Project Bigger than My Skills

Hello! I am currently working on a custom DM Screen for a Christmas gift. I have some ideas and there are a few things that I really want to do with this but I am not entirely sure how to actually make this thing the way I would like to. I do have it all sketched out and have the sections ready. It is three panels: center is 14x18 and the wings are 14x9.

I am hoping there is another member that I can discuss my project with and get some guidance on where to start and how to accomplish my design?

What types of tools do you expect the project requires? It’s a bit easier to help point you in a direction if we know more about what you are trying to accomplish.


Pictures of examples to show what you’re going for are helpful too. Not sure, but sounds like potentially a laser or CNC project.


Most likely laser or CNC. Could be plywood, acrylic, or some other sort of plastic.

CNC is a bit more difficult to learn and set up. It leaves a cut wood edge and, depending on your cutting strategy, there may be some tearout. The inner corners are limited by the radius of your bit- most commonly 1/8", smaller is very possible but more complicated to avoid breaking the bit. CNC can create partial-thickness notches that go to the specified depth.

Laser can do really great detail and no inner radius limit. Most plywoods will have a charred edge that is possible to clean but with high detail that may be difficult. Some plywoods do not char with certain settings. Acrylic is very popular to work with, and always cuts cleanly. Some other plastics work ok. Some, like polycarbonate, just won’t cut correctly.

Depth cuts with a laser don’t have a specific depth like a CNC. With a CNC, you put the bit 1/8" deep, it cuts 1/8" deep. Laser just delivers energy, a setting may produce 1/8" cut on one material and 1/4" on another . More problematic, the alternating hard/soft grain of wood makes the depth of the final cut inconsistent. The ribs of all the hard part of the grain and everything underneath is not cut as deep as the soft grain.
We can also mark the surface with vector lines or raster graphics quickly, and in great detail.
Laser is quick to set up, because in general nothing needs to be held down. The CNC is a mechanical spinning cutter and it will throw things around if not attached. Thin pieces can chatter or break.

I might suggest thin plywood. The base layer is uncut, perhaps marked. You laser cut other layers, stain different colors, layer on top and glue it on. With successive layers, a good artist can do amazing things:

Of course you probably need to limit the thickness here.


@stepho @valerie

Ok, I tried to upload the plans for what I’d like to do and photos of what I have prepared thus far but I don’t have permission yet. I’ll try to explain.

I have three glued up sections: one 18x14x1.5 and two 9x14x1.5.

Explaining the plans, I’m looking at a few different wrought iron decorative door straps for the front and am also considering door pulls for the two sides.

There are slots on top that are intended to be for initiative markers and based off what I read above, a CNC laser would be perfect for. (I’ll Google this and also look to see if there is a class available in time.)

Magnets are meant to be set into the wood down the edge along with a couple leather strap hinges set into the wood so that it all closes flush.

A shaded area is meant to be a thin panel of wood with a tin sheet so that magnets can be used to hold papers. I’d like to make the cuts for the panels just a little deeper so the magnets don’t prevent the sides from closing.

Last thing is, I’ll decorate the fronts with some arrows, sword tips, cuts, and scrapes. I reckon there are a few other details that will come up in discussing.

I’m mostly a scrapbooker and have a basic understanding of safety first in the shop but how to use any woodworking tools or how to make these cuts, how to use the tools, what tools to use, etc. is beyond my knowledge.

There is a lot for me to unpack here. I’ll read this a couple times and Google a lot. Thanks for all of this information.

Just from my first read through laser sounds perfect for some of what I want to do.

You mentioned difficult to learn, that has me concerned.

Do you have any experience using design software? Like Illustrator, Photoshop, Corel, etc?

And what is the form of the plans you’re using? Are they step by step? An already existing computer file?

As you are intending this as a Christmas gift, in strictly practical terms, learning how to use a fair number of our tools might be really challenging. When you learn how to use any new piece of equipment, it can take a while. So time is really the limiting factor, I think.

Can you maybe just sketch out what you’re aiming to do? You can upload a photo from your phone to a post here.

Side note - the CNC is a router.

CNC is computer numerical control so him saying a CNC laser isn’t incorrect we just always say “the CNC” and we all mean the router lol.

@Daddest Whew that is a project and a half can you upload your ideas/pictures to Imgur or something and share a link. I have a visual in my mind but some of those details are fuzzy to me. Are you married to some of your ideas or can they be modified for ease of fabrication? From what I’ve seen of making leather hinges that is a project of its own.

I’m not the one to accomplish your goal as I’m pretty amatuer in most of the shop lol but I’m curious about the total scope of the work

Here is a link to see the photos. I got to Imgur but couldn’t quite figure it out so I used Flickr instead. flickr(dot)com/gp/194387873@N07/Hon3H4

@stepho My girlfriend has experience with Photoshop. She’s a photographer and uses it all the time.

I agree with you that some of this may not be practical to do on my own. Thinking about it, if someone else has the experience, would it be acceptable to ask them to coach me through the project? I’m willing to pay for their time.

Due to the thickness, this would be a CNC job.

You mentioned difficult to learn, that has me concerned.

Anything’s got a learning curve. Don’t worry, you can do it. I’m all about getting people on CNC who have never used one before


I’ve been watching some videos and I only have these blocks of wood to use and can’t mess them up. What pressure, haha.

I see there is room in the next CNC Router course. I’ll try and get in on that and start making some headway. I’m excited by what this machine can do!

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Class list can be found here

And the trick will be to acquire some scrap wood. Use that for practice, and by the time you work on the final panels, you’ll know what to do.


Have you joined the space as a member yet?

I’ve dropped off so many pieces of scrap MDF and 2x4’s in the past two days there is more than enough practice wood. You just need to join the space, take the class, and buy your own CNC Routing bits and you are set.

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You can already start yourself by downloading VCarve Pro Trial Edition: VCarve Pro Free Trial | Vectric

It is fully functional until you try to process the final machine g-code file. But you can do all CAD and CAM and save the project itself.

Be sure you install it on the PC you will be keeping. As I understand it, the project file saved from the trial edition are locked to that specific PC until promoted to the Makerspace Client Edition. I’m not clear how to load a project if it was saved by a VCPTE on a machine that is no longer available. Once linked to our Makerspace as a VCPMCE, the saved project is portable within all installs linked to our makerspace.

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