FMP: CNC Milling

By April 28, 2017Practice

Chelsea doesn’t have access to a CNC machine. To my knowledge, under the UAL umbrella, only CSM and LCC offer these highly technical pieces of equipment in their respective woodshops. This meant going through the bureaucratic hurdles of emailing the head technicians, getting David to vouch for me, but with no guarantee that I could actually use their facilities, or in time for the May deadline. Indeed, I met with a technician at CSM to ask how to use their CNC, as their woodshop has a much more sophisticated router then the one at LCC. Unfortunately, as a Chelsea student, the technician said I could only use the machine in the week prior to the May deadline.

So on Wednesday, I went with a graphics friend from LCC to visit her campuses’ wood workshop. I’m not exactly proud of this, but I pretended to be an LCC graphics student, making a group project with my friend. (Update: I only say this publicly as I was eventually outed, but could still use their facilities, even after my cover was blown.) I was given a slot for today, two days after (a much different response then going through the proper channels at CSM.)

Like the laser cutter at Chelsea, you supply the technician with a 1:1 ratio Illustrator file of your source material. You can place as many shapes as you like on your material, in any orientation, so long as you leave about a 20 to 30 cm perimeter around each object (this is to ensure the material doesn’t abruptly crack when cut.)


With my files ready to go, the technician takes over (as a student, you can’t be self-sufficient on these machines nor really interact with them, for safety concerns). The technician places the plank into the machine, screws the material into the bed, and registers the machine, and turns on. This machine is so cool!


After the machine has cut the material, the process isn’t finished however. The CNC intentionally makes small bridges of the plank material in between the plank and the block shapes — this is to ensure that the material doesn’t snap or break during the cutting process. However, to get the blocks, these bridges need to be chiselled or sawed out, and the remaining blocks need to be sanded.IMG_2603IMG_2605