Just bought a Radar Carver off craigslist. It was set up for just doing gun stocks and was set on a 2” x 28” x 72” maple butcher block. With only twelve inches between the stylus and bit, I would have been limited for sign making and other carving.
To grow the unit's capabilities, I could modify the system, such as by adding a four foot rod for the left-right movement and cutting and extending the frame for the stylus and router. That would have mean I had to modify the electric rotating system used for 3-D carving too. Instead, I’ve decided to:
1) Have the 3-D carving system and the sign carving systems just drop on the table surface and lock down. It will have permanent indexing points and lock down knobs for quick changes.
2) The rails that allow the back of the 3-D holders (“chucks”) to slide will be extended. They were very short, so I’ll crank them up to even allow walking sticks and muzzle loader work.
3) I’ll swap the 2’ left right bar for a 44” one
4) The first thing I did was remove the solid maple butcher block (2”28”x72”) and built a four foot wide box to mount it on, to accommodate the 44” one, to allow me to do wider projects.
Before assembling the box, I drilled 2” holes through the center of the table supports and sides. These hold a 2” section of pipe from a swing set. This will allow me to pivot the entire beast up, on a stand, to reduce its footprint, when not in use (there are two aluminum 3/8” plates on the inside of the sides walls, so the pipe will ride on that, rather than just plywood)
The whole thing will be on wheels, of course.
5) I still have to set up a dust collection system, but jut strapping a 4” hose near the cut point leaves very little behind [but you need to hold the bits and such during changes
I figure a heat bent pipe will get me closer, without interfering with the processes, so should improve collection even more. Hanging it from the mount point on the right of the frame will allow it to track with the head section.
6) When done, the stock carving bed will move forward and back, to increase length capacity, without requiring a monster bed. The sign carving bed will both move forward and back and left and right. This will make up for the limited center to center for the stylus.
I plan on an indexing system so the stylus and bit remain true to the project, as the pattern and blank are moved. Aluminum rails and locking mechanisms will go a long ways to avoiding that 1/16” of an inch slop that could destroy a lot of work (but which would be less important and signs and such.
Anxious to test drive, though my bit collection, for fine detail work, stinks, I built a quick sign platform and didn’t even secure it. In spite of those things, I got really good results copying a bit of applique scroll work.
Too, I made a [really rough] prototype jig to hold my brass letter templates. It supported them on the outer edges only and raised them up 1/8”. Secured only by double sided tape, it was dang close. Locked down and with the jig set up for quick clamping of the brass templates (one for each of the several sizes I have), it took only minutes to do what took over an hour, free hand.
I can see Goodwill and other places are going to be a goldmine for shapes I can glue to walk sticks and such for patterns.