How to cut wooden gears with your cnc

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Wooden gear making for wooden gears

Some hobbyists like challenging and unusual projects and routing a wooden gear definitely falls into those categories. Traditionally gears are made out of metal and for some projects it is necessary to stick to that (i.e. watches). However, it is completely possible to make gears out of wood that function just as well as their metal counterparts. This article will introduce you to some options that you have for making gears from wood with your CNC router.

Watch with wood gears made with a badog cnc machine for a wooden watch company

Watch with wooden gears made with a badog cnc machine for a wooden watch company wood gears

Your first option is to use a gear template generator (http://woodgears.ca/gear_cutting/template.html). This article will be referring to the generator in the provided link for the duration of this explanation. As you can see on the webpage this temple has a scale on it. You can fiddle with the generator to get the template you want. Then you need to capture the image on your screen somehow. You can do a printscreen, use a snipping tool or make use of any other method you have for capturing onscreen images. Just make sure that you are able to maintain a crisp, clear image. Then you can put the image into Microsoft Word, Paint or another program that will enable you to crop your picture. This way you will be able to get the unnecessary portions of the image out. When you do this be sure that you keep your image to scale or it will throw off your accuracy. Save your new image file and you will be good to go on this part.

Next open whatever graphics editing software you use and import the image of the gear. Match the gear up with the grid in your software to scale it correctly. Using the scale lock button so that nothing gets skewed while you do this is a good idea. After your scale has been set up you need to enlarge the gear by the diameter of your tool in order to compensate for your toolpath. Be careful with how you do this because some methods can enlarge the hole in the center of the gear as well and that needs to stay unaltered.

Now you want to use your image to generate G-code. Most software programs have a Trace feature that will allow you to create a line tracing of the image. Delete the nodes that are not used; the inside and outside of the gears outline should be all that is there when you are done. Do not forget to make sure the thickness of the line matches the thickness of the cutting tool you will be using.

Doing all of those steps can be tedious and it feels like a lot of work. If you do not mind spending a little money there is a program you can download (http://woodgears.ca/gear/index.html) for $26. Using this program is a time saver and it has some additional features that may persuade you to give it a try. A particularly useful feature is its ability to export files in a few different formats, including .dxf for those of you who are using CAD. For other programs exporting as a .pdf generally results in a high-quality image file being generated for your use. Just trace the image and you will be good to go. The program also gives you the ability to change the diameter of the center shaft, which can be fairly useful. Unfortunately this software does not do all of the work for you; you will still have to compensate for the diameter of the cut path yourself. This program was made for Windows but it works on Linux systems as well. There are other programs with similar features available as well but this is one of the cheaper options you will find for wooden gear making.


One Response to “How to cut wooden gears with your cnc”

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