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I started in the CNC world in 2008 when I needed a custom molding for a project I was working on. With the guidance from Brady Watson, I learned just enough to cut a very intricate decorative piece.

This fueled my thirst to know more and over the following years, 10’s of 1000’s of hours have been devoted to learn 3-D software.

“I came into the world of CNC in a different way than you might expect.

At the age of 10, I knew that I wanted to be an Architect, so I spent the better half of my early years studying so that I could achieve this dream. I’ve always been passionate about design work, everything from Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations to stage sets and Parade floats, these were my “hobbies” as a young boy. I even started working for an Architect at high school.

If you have seen any of my work before then you may have noticed that I am very passionate about stained glass. This fascination began while I was studying music at the University of Cork, Ireland for a summer semester. It was there that my eyes were opened to the beautiful architecture and amazing stained glass that complimented so many buildings. As soon as I returned to the U.S., I immediately started to learn more about glass work production and in 1972 opened a small studio where I made gifts for relatives and area gift shops.

Over the years my business has expanded, especially within the North East region of the U.S. which surrounded us with an almost endless array of buildings with very ornate decorative elements. Many of these were in dire need of maintenance that require skills in wood carving, mosaics, gold leafing and ornamental plaster work, all skills that I managed to develop over time. Over the past 40+ years, I have worked mostly in religious buildings of all denominations, covering almost every state, while the requests from clients has also taken us to several foreign countries.

In 2008 we were commissioned to restore the stained glass windows of a large Gothic church in Erie, PA. This unique type of building, not often seen in the US, was constructed in 1929 but is reminiscent of the great cathedrals of Europe. While on-site we were offered the opportunity to design several large wooden structures for the sanctuary area that would enhance the sound quality of the choir.

The directive of “making it look original” meant designing with the mindset of the great craftsmen of the early 1900’s who understood the geometry and subtleties of the 15th century. This design idea won the unanimous approval of the project board and the members of the congregation. This is when we had to start thinking about how we were going to fabricate what I saw in my mind’s eye while keeping to the tight budget and time constraints.

Hand carved molding played a big part in this project, blending the old and the new, but the cost of duplicating such work with hammer and chisel was prohibitive. It was at this time that a friend suggested using an automated carving type system. This was when I first discovered the world of CNC machining.

It wasn’t long after learning more about CNC that I decided to purchase a Shark Pro, (Dec, 2008), and with the guidance of Brady Watson (of iBILD) who did the first scanning of an original section of molding, I took this chance to learn all that I could about CNC work. Vectric’s V-Carve Pro software came with the CNC machine and I’m pleased that it did. I had no time for a steep learning curve and Vectric’s program fitted perfectly with my tight schedule. The project turned out to be a huge success.

I grasp every opportunity I can to learn more about the technology and reading the 3-D forums on a daily basis opened many doors for me. While browsing the forums I heard about the first “Camp V-Carve” (2009) at Jim McGrew’s (of James McGrew Cabinetmakers) workshop which I went on to attend. I also attended the Vectric User Group Meeting in Pittsburgh where I saw firsthand the inspired works of other craftsmen. This is when I realized the potential of CNC and that I was unable to take full advantage of the technology with the small machine I had. After much research I chose to purchase a larger CNC machine from CAMaster which I have since customized for our needs. I also purchased Vectric’s flagship software package Aspire to take my business to a whole new level.

Much has been said about the road to success but I think the clearest answer is, that it simply takes desire, perseverance and a bit of talent. Simple, yes – always easy, no. The common quote that “It takes 10,000 hours to be good at something” is not far from being correct. Constantly looking at the world around you and visualizing how that special item was created, fuels the fire of imagination. Breaking pieces down to the most common denominator, pens up possibilities when considering new design ideas. My early hours and late nights, staring into the computer screen, is no different than someone going to night school while holding a “regular” job. There are long hours that hopefully will pay off in personal satisfaction for a job well done. But first, you must love what you do…if you can find that, as they say, you’ll never work another day in your life.”

Now, after many years of dedicated learning I have become a recognized 3-D modeler with clients around the world, my work and skills can be seen in a vast array of places.

“Recently, a new venture has grown from my involvement with 3-D software in the designing and modeling of signs, official emblems and varied items for other companies. We make the file from the supplied image and they produce the finished product. Having developed a design and fabrication business (that only does custom work) we are no stranger to the wants and needs of the individual client. Products have been as varied as the seal for the DEA Caribbean Division, an Alaska State Trooper badge, several restaurant signs, movie and TV props and recently, the modeling of famous US Coins for a numismatist.”

“My future goal is to expand this part of the business, offering to other CNC fabricators, design and file creation services in the event that they are overloaded with their current workload or simply wanted a new and unique look for an up-coming project.”

In the end, I got to be what I always wanted to be…………. Creative!”
 

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Welcome, Michael! The use of CNC is growing here in the forums by leaps and bounds. We look forward to your expertise.
 

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Welcome to the Router Forums Michael! As Jim says the CNC forum is really growing with all the new machines available. Sounds like you could help out and answer a few questions in the CNC field.
 
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Hello and welcome to the router forum. Michael
 
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Welcome to the forum Michael.
 
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Welcome to the forum Michael , you sound like a fascinating person . (The kind I'd like to be)

I'm the youngest 56 year old kid . Here's s one of my hobbies, my full scale unfinished Terminator.
I have to destroy all the expensive cloths I bought for him as he's supposed to be the battle damaged version . I never built the bust (head) as it's far beyond my skill level .
At some point I'm going to use stamps to control stepper motors to animate him , like the waist and battle damaged arm possibly
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the warm welcome.
Here's a few pictures of the project that got me involved with CNC work....Now I'm hooked.
In the second picture, "Erie 2", the right half is the original and the left half is my work.

On another note, just to let you know, I'm one of the Vectric Beta testers....have been for 6 years...

Thanks again,
Michael
 

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Beautiful work Michael!
 

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@mezalick Man, are we glad you joined the fun. Lots of interest in CNC here. Fascinating topic. Many of us would love to know which starter machine and software you would recommend? Is there something in the $2,000-$4,000 range that you would recommend?

Those alter pieces are wonderful. I also wonder if CNC is used to produce intricate and decorative theatrical set pieces in foam?
 

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@mezalick Man, are we glad you joined the fun. Lots of interest in CNC here. Fascinating topic. Many of us would love to know which starter machine and software you would recommend? Is there something in the $2,000-$4,000 range that you would recommend?

Those alter pieces are wonderful. I also wonder if CNC is used to produce intricate and decorative theatrical set pieces in foam?
Thanks Tom,
As for the machine, all I can say is the same things that were told to me when I was looking.
Select a machine that you can grow with,,or,, Buy your second machine first..Next..Buy a machine that is well made...not that all machines are bad but the better made machine will last longer,,,considering the great amount of forces it must endure...and also...go see the machines in person,,while they're running...Sales people will sell you the moon if they could,,and some have tried..it's their job...it's up to you to see what fits your needs...As for the theatrical set work,,,of course it does,,,this type of machine is well suited for that.. I do some 3-D modeling work for a professional theater group in South Carolina...and it's on my bucket list to do that here in Philly..
All the best,
Michael
 

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Oh, and the software of my choice is any of the Vectric products,,depending on what you want to do.
I've tried most of them and the easy learning curve is why I recommend Vectric.
~M
 
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