First project - kids learning tower

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I’m new and about to start a new project - a kids learning tower. I bought plans online which should make it a bit more straightforward than my usual winging it approach to things.

To make things a bit more complicated I’m going to start by creating a 3d model from the plans. This will allow me to practice a skill I’m not good at, forces me to do all the conversions to metric up front, should make it easier to laser cut the router templates, and give me something to do while I wait for induction sessions.

From the cut list I should get enough to make 2 from a single sheet of 18mm ply. This means if I mess it up I’ve got a fallback and if I don’t the second should make a good present.

If anyone wants to join I can’t see any restrictions on other people reusing the plans. Plus it would be nice to see the templates used a few more times. Even if you don’t have kids they could make a good present for someone, they’re expensive to buy and the material list to build is short - 1/2 a sheet of ply, hinges, latches.


@BigCNCers Would someone be able to help cut parts for this? I’ve been inducted on the small CNC and cut some parts already. I’m more than happy to help you out with projects in return. I was also planning on buying some end mills for this.

I’ve finished 3d modelling it:

And I’m confident I can cut everything for two of these from a single sheet of 18mm ply:

I know there’d be other ways to cut the parts but the big CNC seems most efficient as I can get it all cut in one go rather needing multiple tools.

Happy to help with this. When are you thinking?

Would next Friday daytime work for you?

Should be ok for then. Are you able to set up a vcarve file with the toolpaths etc? If so let me know the time estimate from that. Do you know how to do tabs?

Yeah, I’ll get into the space to have a play around in VCarve as soon as I have time and I’ll get some time estimates. I’ve done tabs.

In terms of bits, does the collet on the big CNC also take a 6mm shank or larger?
I was looking at this for removing most of the material, and this for a finishing pass?

I cut some 12mm ply recently for supports for ducting. The 6mm endmill on big CNC worked well for that. From what I can see, this is simply cutting out, not having pockets, so can all be done with the one endmill. Is there anything significant about the middle pieces being coloured in blue and brown?

Ok cool. That’s good to know. Nothing significant about the colours

@Hugo_Sharman-Firth If you are already on the mini CNC and have done some projects contact @CNCtechs to get inducted on the big CNC, that way you can do it yourself (with help if needed) vs. just a one off…

Thanks @asander1 but I’d like a little more practice before induction on the big cnc

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The first time I cut plywood I got really bad chipping which was a pain. I was just using a standard up cut end mill. I’ve now started doing a pass with a down cut end mill (one of these) to cut through the first 3mm and then doing the rest with an up cut end mill. It’s been giving me better nicer finishes, less chipping, but I think I’ve still got a lot to learn.

I’d be keen to hear how you get on and whether an up / down end mill like the one you linked would be better.

Current estimate is 13min for a roughing pass. 23min for a finishing pass with the tools above. I setup the tools in vcarve with the recommended feeds and speeds on website (e.g. 18000rpm and 5200mm/s for the up&down cut bit with a 3mm depth of cut). Are those settings reasonable for this machine or do they need scaling back?

Thanks Hugo. Feeds and speeds seem ok. Cut depth seems a bit aggressive. I used 2mm depth per pass for cutting shapes in ply, which worked well. I didn’t get any tear out or chipping, and the edges only needed light sanding after taking off tabs with a chisel. As this is only cutting out shapes and not clearing areas, it could all be done with just a profile toolpath. Have you tried that? Can you upload the vcarve file and send me a link. I’ll also be in on Monday day and evening if that works for you.

At 2mm depth of cut total time ends up at 56min
Both the roughing and the finishing are profiling tool paths, the first just with 0.75mm allowance around the edge. We can definitely try just a single profiling path, I was a bit worried about tear out. If you’re confident we can do it in a single pass then let’s do that.

VCarve file is here - I’ve changed the file extension to pdf so you’ll need to rename it back to .crv to get it to open. I should also mention I’ll need to cut the ply in half to get it down to the space, so this is just a single instance on half a sheet.
learning tower (copy).pdf (983.5 KB)

I should be able to get back down to the space Monday night.

Also, the pockets are for screw holes. I’m missing a few other screw holes, but they also don’t need to be all the way through, so I can cut time there

Hi Hugo,

We have a up down cutter 6mm dia 25mm cutting in the makerspace.
We haven’t setup yet, brand new tool, but if you are not in rush we can look at it next time.

The maximum speed of the big cnc is 3000mm/min but i do not recommend that speed.

We have the nice 8mm and 1/2 inch tool that are nicely setup to cut plywood. I did cut 18mm with no issues

You can use the plunge tools we have in the space

I had a quick look at this. The machine vectors are set to ‘inside/left’. That works for the cutouts inside the pieces, but for cutting out the pieces themselves the machine vector should be set to ‘outside’ (have one toolpath for inside then another for outside). Think of a 6 mm wide cut relative to the vector/line. (Where do you want that 6mm gap , inside the line or outside…. ).

I find 3d tabs are nicer / easier to clean off.

I can double check endmill, depth, speeds and feeds that I used with 12mm ply on Monday. I didn’t get any tearout at all with those settings. We could also do some test cuts on Monday with the different settings.

Please when you test the makerspace tools, restore the original settings at the end of the test or make a copy of the tool in the tool library


Cutting designs from entire sheets is where machines like ours shine. Glad to see a project like this!

When I was chatting with our furniture making former neighbors, they relied on sharp 1/4" straight cutters but I’m excited to see compression cutters come into play. It’s exactly what they’re designed for.

Echoing Federico, 2mm is causing unnecessary tool wear.