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Thread: Finish Preference for 3D Work

  1. #1
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    Finish Preference for 3D Work

    I am finally setting up a proper business and have been working at some nice pieces for promotion. The size of the pieces below vary from 16" wide to 34" wide and they are all in varying states of finish. The logo was re-painted a few times since the picture below. I have been working on a reasonable finish to accent the 3d carvings, but not destroy the fact that it is wood and not a simple plaster casting. Painting with a washcoat of thinned acrylic or oil paints seems to be a common one for carvers, but there is a lot of skill to that I will need to keep working at. The real downside to painting with a washcoat is the time. It does not seem practical unless it is something custom where the customer is paying for all the time. For that type of work I think I will find a painter. I have experimented with pyrography as well, and that seems to be not a bad choice since it can be done in a reasonable amount of time. A few of the larger pieces I made also turned out to have nice contrast due to the different woods that I randomly selected for the glueup from my waste pile in the shed. Looking at others work online I see many simply slap a coat of clear and that is about it. I am curious what you are using for finishes?

    Thanks

    o LOGO-Carve_Test01_SM.jpgLOGO-BEFORE.jpgCABDOOR.jpgBear_In_Forest_004.jpgTABLE-01.jpg
    Last edited by Brad Shipton; 05-30-2019 at 8:00 PM.

  2. #2
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    I have to say...I really like the painted version of the logo!!! Relative to the idea of the customer paying for your time...absolutely...so a painted piece like that with all the attention to detail deserves a price that's reflective of the craftsman's efforts and that doesn't just apply to commissioned work.

    Honestly, you're going to be constantly faced with the finishing choice thing because it's always a combination of multiple factors that push you in a given direction, including the nature of the project and/or graphic involved, the wood species and its characteristics, the level of detail, where it's going to live after you're finished with the work, what it needs to be near to coordinate or contrast with, etc. So far, I do everything from paint through pure clears or combinations of them.
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    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
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    One technique that is missing from your bag of tricks is "laser enhancement". The item below is about 2 inches in diameter and obviously the relief is very shallow.

    Dragon.jpg

    As you are discovering, it can be really difficult to see a carving. Especially if it is more of a shallow relief. Part of the problem is the actual cnc carving process itself. The ball nose end mills do not create sharp corners, that blurs the shadow lines that we see when we look at a relief carving. One solution is to use very small ball nose cutters, like .25mm tapered ball noses. But that results in a carving that takes a very, VERY long time or a lot of fiddling around blending different tool paths.

    Adding laser enhancement also adds time, but if you are fast at tracing it is not too bad. I use Corel Draw to do the tracing and have a video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfRaxjOUR7Y

  4. #4
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    Jim, I have shown a few random carvings to family and friends and those with a bit of color do always seems to get more attention. Most of these carvings are being done at times when the machine is idle and few are requested. I will need to be careful not to get them too expensive for where I plan to sell them. I was hoping to get down to a few hours of finishing time, but that might be unrealistic unless it is just a simple finish or something quite small. I really enjoy the painting and find it relaxing so long as it is going well. That silly logo has been re-painted a few times now. The colored logo turned out to be a test since some splits turned up while I was cutting it. I almost threw it away due to frustration one day, but after some trial and error it does not annoy me anymore. The unfinished one is to be finished with some color when I finally decide how. Painters seem to use multiple layers to achieve the desired look or fix errors. What I see when I add too many layers is it is easy to lose the wood grain if any layers are too thick.

    Thanks for those tips Ted. I can see your point about about the subtle differences carving with a chisel vs the round tip. I have found a number of beautiful finished carvings and when I look closely I can see the additional sharp relief the carvers create and how the highlighting process would be improved. The modeler that created the bear in forest model I carved did an excellent job adding a lot of crisp details. It turned out quite well and I anxious to finish that one, but I am nervous about ruining it since it took a few days to cut due to the size. I have a much smaller version of the bear in forest carving I am tempted to try, but I have been testing simple ones to try to develop a method that fits. The simple models I have found have a lot of very smooth areas, and those are dreadful to finish. I will have to watch your laser enhancement video. I never thought of that. I suppose I could try improving the carvings with hand tools, but I am not sure about that.

    By the way, if anyone is looking for some excellent information on this topic I found Lora S Irish has a great website. Her work is amazing. https://www.lsirish.com/tutorials/wo...ing-tutorials/

    I am quite excited to finish Peters Temptation as well.

    LOGO-010-sm.jpgPETER-BEF_03-SM.jpg
    Last edited by Brad Shipton; 05-31-2019 at 9:59 AM.

  5. #5
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    Consider that one technique you can use to bring out the detail in carvings is to use things like glazes to "highlight the depths". You wipe them on after sealing things up and then wipe off which leaves darker material in the nooks and crannies. You can do this creatively using multiple colors and different levels of pressure when wiping off to enhance the effect, too.

    That last carving you posted a photo of is outstanding!!! If there is no copyright issue with sharing the file, I'd love to do one of those for our home.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  6. #6
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    Nice beaver!

    Do you factor in how much it costs in time for finishing?

    Would you make enough money when you sell these to make a decent living?

    Those would be questions I'd ask myself before anything else. Sometimes what we love isn't what they love (buyers).

    Of course whatever flies off the shelf first is a pretty good indication of what the best perceived finish is for a given market. The same carved relief airbrushed to look whimsical/fun won't attract those customers who appreciate the natural wood grain and oiled finish.

    Keep in mind you are asking people who are also makers...and not buyers and most probably don't live in your area either, which can make all the difference. I know people in some areas of the country that sell things that would never sell where I live & vice versa. This is where online sales levels the playing field...unless someone copies what you are doing (like they do at craft shows).
    IBILD High Resolution 3D Scanning Services

  7. #7
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    Jim, I attached an example of a hand carving by someone else that I really like. I can see the glazing working very well for a carving like that, but the models I have bought have a lot of smooth areas and it will take some more practice to acquire the skills I need. I suppose I could try sculpting the models before carving too? I have sculpted a few images from scratch, but that is a bit of a time suck too. Alas, I think I have figured out the problem. Lack of patience on my part. haha.

    I bought the "Peter's Temptations" model from an online site. I will check the copyright when I have a chance. 9 times out of 10 when I start searching for better models I end up dealing with someone in the Ukraine. There are quite a few on Etsy too, but many of those have been stolen from someone. I bought the "bears in forest" direct from the artist and he told me he had to stop selling on a number of sites because of that.

    HandCarved_EX.jpg

    Thanks Brady. I do not expect to sell a ton of these, so I could be overthinking the time thing. Overthinking is kind of my thing. There is a husband/wife duo on Etsy that I found that have had quite a lot of sales, but looking at their prices I am not sure they are recovering their costs. It could be I think my time is too valuable. The colored versions do seem to grab more attention every time when I have shown to family or friends. Time to get out and give a whirl I suppose. I still have a job, so this is mainly for fun and to fund my insane hobby.
    Last edited by Brad Shipton; 05-31-2019 at 7:24 PM.

  8. #8
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    I am not fond of the "glazing" technique to "bring out the details" of a carving. Frankly, what that technique does is cause a carving to look dirty. Yanno, where people handle something and the dirt winds up in all the crevices? They pay folks big bucks to clean up historic carvings to get rid of all that "enhancement".

    This has been an issue forever with cnc carving. What helps quite often is to increase the depth of the model so those little fillets are not such a large part of the relief. It took me a long time to get out of the "I must use 4/4 lumber for carvings" syndrome so many of us get trapped in. Yea, it is readily available and convenient, but boy, it can be a chore packing detail into that limited space. You cannot increase the depth of the model to say .625 because that results in warpage almost always. In fact, going any deeper than about 3/8 invites warping.

    So how did those old timers do such beautiful work that was also so very shallow? Simple, they created crisp lines and they used slight undercuts. You would be surprised what a 10 degree undercut does for sharpness of a carving. It is all about the shadows and cnc machines steal part of the shadow line with the ball nose cutter.

    Don't get me wrong, I love working carving with my cnc and do a lot of it. But it takes some serious thinking about what you want it to look like, some experimentation and stepping out of the box.

    Here is one I did recently for my shop:

    2019-05-17_19.37.48.jpeg

    It is about 36 X 22 X 3 inches thick. It is made by ripping 2X6 big box store pine and then gluing up the panel.

    The eagle was fined tuned with a Foredom power carver and hand tools to pull out the detail in the feathers, otherwise the eagle just looked washed out and cheap.

  9. #9
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    If you bought the model for "Peter", it's not likely permissible to transfer. I'm careful about that including "separation" of free stuff for personal use vs licensed things for anything I create with the business for resale. I had to ask because that's a neat carving!
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad Shipton View Post
    There is a husband/wife duo on Etsy that I found that have had quite a lot of sales, but looking at their prices I am not sure they are recovering their costs.
    This is something that's plagued my own ETSY store...my prices which are more than fair given premium materials and my time are vastly undercut by so many other folks who are selling for next to nothing. It's frustrating for sure. I've honestly stopped making stuff outside of commissioned work because I don't like spinning my wheels nor will I give my time away. I'd rather make things for myself to enjoy than do that.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  11. #11
    Other than something specially commissioned by a person who is willing to pay a fair price, I don't see how anyone makes any money of 3D just because of the time factor. Even if it is a hobby and I didn't have to charge much for all of that time, there are things that you have to pay out of pocket for like material and supplies. Some of those ETSY prices barely cover those costs. I paid a lot for my machine and it won't last forever. I have to figure in replacement costs for bits, bearing, spindle, software updates, etc. which it appears that many people don't consider in their pricing. Things that I am doing, even though similar things are being sold on ETSY, no one is selling to my target market so if they want one they will have to just pay my price which is pretty fair but definitely not ETSY prices and so far they seem happy to do it.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobby milam View Post
    ....I don't see how anyone makes any money of 3D just because of the time factor. .... there are things that you have to pay out of pocket for like material and supplies. Some of those ETSY prices barely cover those costs. I paid a lot for my machine and it won't last forever. I have to figure in replacement costs for bits, bearing, spindle, software updates, etc. which it appears that many people don't consider in their pricing......
    It sort of depends on how a person thinks about pricing relative to costs.

    Right off the bat, I do NOT sell anything I do these days. Nothing, nada, zero, zip.

    I am going to use myself as an example as if I were selling things.

    Material and supplies. There really is not a lot of cost in materials. Let's say a person carves something that is 12 X 18 X .75 thick. My calculator tells me that is 1.5 board feet of lumber. Depending on what variety a person uses that could range widely, from about $2.5 up to about $10. The only other "supplies" I can think of are paint and finish. Hard to put a number on those, but I know I could finish one heckuva lot of 12X18 carvings from a quart of finish. Maybe $.50 per carving, I dunno.

    Machine maintenance. That sort of depends on what you have for a machine. A purchased machine can get tricky, that can range from having to replace the entire machine to just replacing parts. A person is at the mercy of the manufacturer. I built my machine. I know exactly what every piece of it will cost to replace. I am going to add in replacing all the electronics and motors, the spindle, ball screw on Z, and the rack and pinion components. The rest of it does not wear out. To replace all of that would cost me about $2000. So the question becomes: "how many 12X18 carvings can I do before I have to spend that money?". I am pretty darn sure I can carve at least 1500 bf before that is necessary. (1500bf would be 1000 of those 12X18 carvings). So that would be $2 added per carving for maintenance.

    So, at this point we have about $5 to $16 in costs per carving.

    There is a shipping cost. Haven't been to the post office to ship anything lately so I am going to toss in about $7. Now we are at 12-23 dollars.

    I have not factored in bits. I use cheapo chinese bits. They last pretty well and are extremely cheap so it amounts to pennies per carving.

    Software updates? Nah, those are not required to stay in business doing 3D carving. I am running Aspire V4.0 which is at least 5 or 6 years old if not more. Their latest version does not cut 3D any better, or any faster than the version I am running.

    And that leaves labor. Obviously a one man shop has no labor costs. Let me put it this way: a retired guy earns zero dollars per hour while sitting around doing zippity doo dah. Some folks feel that if they are making a buck an hour it is better than nothing, and they are right. However, I am one of those folks who feel that doing this sort of thing quickly becomes work and I personally am not willing to work for a buck an hour. A lot of retired people feel that if they are doing something they enjoy and it is putting a few bucks in their pocket it is a good hobby. One guy I know says that he enjoys working with his hands and doing this is better than paying out money to go hit a little white ball all over the place.

    And that pretty much explains some of the ridiculously low prices one sees on Etsy.

    To me this is just a hobby that I enjoy doing. Trying new techniques, building different things, etc. If I wanted to work then I would write software which pays way better than carving things on a CNC machine.

  13. #13
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    Ted, the comment about the 4/4 syndrome made me chuckle. I did discover the benefit of greater relief. I have four glueups in clamps now for a few more tests. Your sign turned out nice. I wish I could see some high quality images before power carving and after. From a time perspective I think one needs to circle back to some of Brady's questions. As the maker, we have a different opinion of these things. Your doing it for fun, so I get where you are coming from.

    Many of us are using quite inexpensive machines in the grand scheme of things. I have always had a target hourly rate in mind I wanted, but when I re-calculated the value assuming the machine will provide me about 1000hrs of use, it seemed I might have been unrealistic even after tacking on say 20% profit. Sure you have to add in the expenses, time and repair costs, but I did re-consider my rate goals for non-commission work. Anyway, I was hoping this would not evolve into and ETSY discussion. I go there mainly to research what is selling and to get a sense of the lowball costs some might be looking for. I am very hesitant to setup a shop as it seems one would need inventory to keep up with the shipping timeline most seem to want.

    Jim, you can find that Peters Temptation model on the GTtrader site. The best bas relief sculpts I find there tend to be by a guy with the screen name designDtm. I am not sure he does them all from scratch. He has one I know came from a different artist that I don't think he should be selling as his own. The other guy I really like is a bit expensive. His models start at around $300 for a custom image and a sculpt of a person was around $500.

    I have a carving on my easel right now that has been driving me batty trying to get the finish to have that "pop" that grabs my attention. I decided to sculpt in some more details and re-carve it. I will see if that helps. I pasted the image of the raw model before and after I sculpted it below. It only took me about 30 or 40 minutes to sculpt in some details. I might have been a bit over the top on the sky, but I will leave it for now.
    BEF-01.jpgAFT-01.jpg
    Last edited by Brad Shipton; 06-01-2019 at 6:12 PM.

  14. #14
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    Ted, labor in the CNC world isn't just for the operator/designer...it's also for the machine's time. The CNC machine is an "employee". So there is design/toolpathing/setup time for the human and then there is cutting time for the machine. That all counts and has to be accounted for in the price of something. And then there is more human time for finishing, packaging/materials, shipping, etc. I think a lot of the folks on places like ETSY are not really accounting for that machine time, honestly.
    --

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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    Ted, labor in the CNC world isn't just for the operator/designer...it's also for the machine's time. The CNC machine is an "employee". So there is design/toolpathing/setup time for the human and then there is cutting time for the machine. That all counts and has to be accounted for in the price of something. And then there is more human time for finishing, packaging/materials, shipping, etc. I think a lot of the folks on places like ETSY are not really accounting for that machine time, honestly.
    If you are thinking about cnc machines as "employees" you should stop doing that. No machine is an "employee". A cnc machine, any machine for that matter, has its initial cost, maintenance, cost to operate (think electricity), depreciation (which is a tax writeoff), and eventual replacement cost (if the business chooses to replace it). When a machine is doing nothing it is not costing anything. If you want to argue that yes it does because the building costs money, heat costs money, etc that is assigning the cost of doing business to the machine. And yes, that is what most shop owners do in a column called overhead. But in reality the machine is not "costing" anything. That same overhead would exist whether the machine was in the shop or down the street having a beer.

    An employee is very different. An employee costs you money whether he is doing something or not. He must be paid by the hour. No one ever writes a check to a machine at the end of the week.

    The actual problem that exists goes something like this:

    A person opens a business and would like to make say $100K a year. They feel they should work 2000 hours a year. The only way they can get that money is to earn it by running the machine. So the machine rate is already $50/hour. Then they start adding in the other costs. At some point they discover they cannot run the machine 2000 hours a year unless they work about 4000 hours a year themselves. But if they hire an employee for $15/hour that is actually a lot more given insurance, workmans comp, etc. So that cost is now more like $25/hour X 2000 hours. So now the machine rate is up to $75 an hour and we STILL have not added in the other costs, like rent on a building, machine operating costs, etc, etc.

    Now take a look at Joe Retired Guy. Does not have to make anything actually because he is well, retired! Does not have the cost of a building, the machine is paid for (he actually does NOT have to recuperate that money). So all he needs to do to make money is cover the operating costs (which are actually very low) and the costs of materials. Anything after that is "profit".

    You see what I am getting at? A small one man shop has a huge overhead labeled: "Owners Salary". It far outweighs the cost of materials, bits, paint, machines, etc. In a larger shop with more machines that overhead is spread out over the operation of several machines and becomes much more manageable (think competitive).

    I watched this in the sheet metal laser cutting industry. The really smart owners paid themselves as little as possible. Their goal was to add more machines, as those machines were added they became more competitive. A lot of them actually did not pay themselves for several years, they had saved up the money the needed to live on before they started the business. See what they did? They were acting like the "retired guy shop" making what they could, saving that money up to buy more machines and building their business portfolio. The not so smart first time laser buyers who insisted that the machine pay their salary from the start? They are no longer in the business. They could not compete with the other 1 man start ups.

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