Intermediate Digital Design and Fabrication at Port Townsend



This year Port Townsend is offering an intermediate CNC course called Intermediate Digital Design and Fabrication beginning July 18th. I am Andy Pitts, and I am teaching the course and thought you might like a bit more insight into my plans.

My philosophy goes along the lines of teaching people to fish so they can eat for their entire lives, so I want to stress how to use the software and machine (strategy and technique) and use small projects only to demonstrate. I’m sensitive to the fact that most students (and myself) might be flying in and any projects must be easily transportable, as well. I also want to provide some flexibility so each student can pursue avenues of the most interest when it comes to actually making projects.

Here’s some on the course specifics:

First, I want to make sure everyone has a firm grasp of 2D and 2-1/2D work in Aspire, but then quickly move into 3D modeling and spend some time getting you comfortable with the tools in Aspire. Using a standard wedge hold-down jig, we will model on small wooden blocks. I want you to learn to import models and make your own relief models, VCarve onto a model, let a model into a dish (with the multiply command), and cut parts of a model to make new components as a way to make a new model from an existing one. Again, the project part of all this is simply to demo the techniques and experiment. The take-away parts will be small and easy to fit into a suitcase.

Once 3D work is in hand, I want to talk about and do two-sided work in 3D models. Some students may already have some grasp of two-sided work from the beginner course, but I want to work on the modeling aspect of it. For this we will probably use slightly larger stock and perhaps make a two-sided dish, but for practical purposes each student can design something unique if desired. There are always options of importing a two-sided model and working out how to actually cut it, but more useful I think is learning how to make the two-sided model itself and then cut it. As you are well aware, there is real challenge in the Aspire work and the strategy of toolpathing, so we will spend time really understanding what is going on with two sided work on a 3-axis machine.

I would like to spend some time working with the tiling function of Aspire, making tiled toolpaths so a small machine can cut on stock larger than the spoil board or assemble a large piece from smaller parts. Due to time and material size constraints, I don’t think we will actually cut large pieces (who could ship a large piece home?), as the real excitement is in figuring out the tool pathing and how to index the work for continuity in the finished piece.

An interesting twist on 2D work is inlays. Getting a good fit can be challenging. There are two techniques I’ve found useful, and learning to make a cutting board size object with an inlay will demonstrate the concept(s) and give you a take-away that is easy to pack in a suitcase.

Part of the beauty of CNC is carving into unusual surfaces to get interesting effects. Laminating material before carving it is one of those. A project some students may want to explore involves this, much like how I carved the holly crab onto the walnut box top by first laminating the holly and walnut (here’s a video). Another technique is to first veneer stock, then cut through the veneer to get an interesting effect. Depending on veneer thicknesses and the number of layers veneered, one could really design some interesting pieces, and some students may want to pursue this.

There are other techniques I want to touch on, such as digital probing, using the indexer head, and using vacuum to secure work to the table, but these may have to be extra-curricular, after hours discussions due to time constraints. My goal is to make myself very accessible so you can glean as much as possible from me while at PT.

Hope to see you in July!

Get more information on this training, at the Port Townsend Website.
Contact Andy Pitts directly for additional information or visit his website:

Comments are closed.