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I along with The Makers of Things setup a makerspace in Riverside school, I designed 3 storage units and a set of low tables.

We also wanted to show kids the sort of things you can create with a CNC mill (Shopbot PRS Alpha) and the different types of joineries and assemblies which can be achieved. This storage unit is having one main lockable compartment and one open top compartment. The top compartment will accommodate the consumables or tools which would be used frequently. The main compartment can house power tools or delicate work in progress. The locking extension is supported on one of the side panels. These storage units are really easy to assemble and can be put together in matter of minutes. To make them real sturdy, after assembling them we put screws in the sides. Castor are put on the bottom to move them around the space. The only hardware used in these units are the screws and the castors.There is no hinge in the doors. The doors open about two circular slots made in the top and bottom panel of the unit.

CNC Routers have become affordable in the last couple of years and there are quite a lot of DIY CNC Routers out there. If you have a Fablab close by you can probably make it over there.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

List of Materials

  • MDF 18mm
    • Sheet 1: 8 feet x 4 feet
    • Sheet 2: 3 feet x 4 feet
  • Screws
  • Sandpaper
  • Oil Paint
  • Castor Wheels

List of Tools

  • CNC Milling Machine (I used a Shopbot)
  • Sander/Files
  • Mallet
  • Cordless Drill Machine
  • ¼ inch 2 Flute End Mill

In case you don't have a sander, just use a file or sandpaper.

You can use a 1/8 inch End Mill if you want higher finish.

IMPORTANT: measure the thickness of your plywood.This is really important to take note because the design has locking parts and we need to accommodate for a thicker material. The slots which I've made are according to 18mm thickness. You can modify the CAD Files according to your material thickness.

Step 2: Design and CAD File Generation

I used Rhino to design the storage unit as I'm familiar with it. You can edit the files as you wish and make your own version

You can download the Rhino file and play around and edit the design.

Once I had all the flat pieces, I arranged them in a 8’ x 4’ sheet and 3' x 4' sheet. Download the Autocad file(dwg) that you will need to create the toolpaths. I gave T bones to the pockets and fingers in PartWorks as it's easier in that.

The different parts are labelled in the exploded view

This model is a bit different than the one I made. I've put two separators on the top compartment.

The red paths in the files are for making through pockets and holes.

Step 3: Creating Toolpaths Storage Unit 1 Sheet 1: VCarve

Storage Unit 2 Sheet 1 VCarve File

Create a New File.

Now in Job Setup: We will create a file with the size of our Sheet 1: 8' x 4' x t (t = Thickness of your true material). In my case it was 18mm. Zero on the top.

Import Vectors files and your vectors will appear on your sheet. Sometimes your vectors might be outside the sheet so will need to zoom out.

Another thing you need to do is actually joining open vectors, under the section Edit Vectors. Control+A will select all of the vectors and then hit the Join button. Hit the Join button again.

If you need to correct or move some objects around the sheet now is the time to do it. You might want to do this to optimize material. Control + A (select all), click on the right tab: Toolpaths (pin it so you have it open for the rest of your session).

PROFILE TOOLPATH For Slots: Click Create Profile Toolpath. The first set of values will determine how deep you want to make the cut. Our start depth will be zero since we zeroed on the top of the surface. You want to cut all the material and a tiny bit of the sacrificial board so add a little depth to your Cut Depth (C, I kept 18.5mm).

Now you need to select the Toolbit you will be cutting with. Click on Select and use a 1/4 inch End Mill.

Since we are cutting the pieces mark on Machine Vectors: Inside.

Add Ramps to Toolpath, Smooth, pick a Distance (4-6 inches works well).

Save Toolpaths: You will be prompted a "WARNING - Tool will cut through material" but you know that already because you did that on purpose when you selected the cutting depth. Once you succesfully created the toolpaths you will see a preview. Once you are satisfied with what you see, hit Close. Make sure you select Profile 1 and hit Save Toolpaths, it will have an extension SBP.

T Bone: Use the T Bone button to create T Bones on the Slots.

PROFILE TOOLPATH For Outline: Click Create Profile Toolpath. The first set of values will determine how deep you want to make the cut. Our start depth will be zero since we zeroed on the top of the surface. You want to cut all the material and a tiny bit of the sacrificial board so add a little depth to your Cut Depth (C, I kept 18.5mm).

You're tool bit size will already be set.

Since we are cutting the pieces mark on Machine Vectors: Outside.

Add Ramps to Toolpath, Smooth, pick a Distance (4-6 inches works well).

Add Tabs.

Save Toolpaths: You will be prompted a "WARNING - Tool will cut through material" but you know that already because you did that on purpose when you selected the cutting depth. Once you succesfully created the toolpaths you will see a preview. Once you are satisfied with what you see, hit Close. Make sure you select Profile 2 and hit Save Toolpaths, it will have an extension SBP.

NOTE ON CREATING TABS: Tabs are pieces of your material that won't be cut to hold the parts in place. For Profile 1 I didn't give any tabs and for Profile 2 I gave 4 and in some part 2 tabs of 8mm length and 4mm thickness.

Step 4: Zero X, Y and Z Axis

Now you are ready to cut the pieces for your table. Place your 8’ x 4’ sheet of 18mm MDF on the worktable of the Shopbot. Use screws/clamps to get the sheet down to the table.

Turn on the Shopbot and the Computer. Open the Shopbot manager. Put the ¼ inch End Mill on the Collet and you are ready to Zero the machine in 3 axis.

Use the proxy switches to Zero both X and Y Axis. Now use the Z plate to zero the Z axis of the Machine. Zero Z Axis with Z Plate: Cuts - C2: Zero Z Axis w/Zero Plate.

It will prompt if we have the Zero Plate below our bit. Hit Enter when ready.It will now go down, touch the plate, go up and then slowly go down again to touch the plate one more time.It will prompt that it has been zeroed.

Step 5: Run Toolpath File for Table Top

f you are using the Shopbot for the first time in the day then perform the Spindle Warm up or by using C3 command.

We are first going to mill the circular slots out. Open your Profile 1 Toolpath file and hit Start. You will be prompted a Warning message to start your Router/Spindle. Make sure you actually start the spindle before hitting OK on the Warning message.

The Shopbot will now begin to make the cuts on your material.

After milling the circular slot we'll mill the outline. Open your Profile 2 Toolpath file and hit Start. You will be prompted a Warning message to start your Router/Spindle. Make sure you actually start the spindle before hitting OK on the Warning message.

We milled the slots first as the board will be properly clamped.

Step 6: Watch and Remove Parts

Now this is the easy and fun part. You sit down next to the router and watch how the machine cuts all of your pieces. Since I was using a ¼ inch End Mill it will make 3 passes before it actually cuts loose each single part. It will start by doing the slots and then the profile cut.

I had to vacuum the chips which were being generated.

Once the job is done the Spindle will turn off automatically and you can unscrew your material off the worktable.

Step 7: Creating Toolpaths Storage Unit 2 Sheet 2: VCarve

Storage Unit 2 Sheet 2 VCarve File

Create a New File. Now in Job Setup: We will create a file with the size of our Sheet 2: 3' x 4' x t (t = Thickness of your true material). In my case it was 18mm. Zero on the top.

Import Vectors files and your vectors will appear on your sheet. Sometimes your vectors might be outside the sheet so will need to zoom out.

Another thing you need to do is actually joining open vectors, under the section Edit Vectors. Control+A will select all of the vectors and then hit the Join button. Hit the Join button again. If you need to correct or move some objects around the sheet now is the time to do it. You might want to do this to optimize material. Control + A (select all), click on the right tab: Toolpaths (pin it so you have it open for the rest of your session).

PROFILE TOOLPATH For Slot: Click Create Profile Toolpath. The first set of values will determine how deep you want to make the cut. Our start depth will be zero since we zeroed on the top of the surface. You want to cut all the material and a tiny bit of the sacrificial board so add a little depth to your Cut Depth (C, I kept 18.5mm).

Now you need to select the Toolbit you will be cutting with. Click on Select and use a 1/4 inch End Mill.

Since we are cutting the pieces mark on Machine Vectors: Inside.

Add Ramps to Toolpath, Smooth, pick a Distance (4-6 inches works well).

Save Toolpaths: You will be prompted a "WARNING - Tool will cut through material" but you know that already because you did that on purpose when you selected the cutting depth. Once you succesfully created the toolpaths you will see a preview. Once you are satisfied with what you see, hit Close.

Make sure you select Profile 1 and hit Save Toolpaths, it will have an extension SBP.

T Bone: Use the T Bone button to create T Bones on the Slots.

PROFILE TOOLPATH For Outline: Click Create Profile Toolpath. The first set of values will determine how deep you want to make the cut. Our start depth will be zero since we zeroed on the top of the surface. You want to cut all the material and a tiny bit of the sacrificial board so add a little depth to your Cut Depth (C, I kept 18.5mm).

You're tool bit size will already be set.

Since we are cutting the pieces mark on Machine Vectors: Outside.

Add Ramps to Toolpath, Smooth, pick a Distance (4-6 inches works well).

Add Tabs.

Save Toolpaths: You will be prompted a "WARNING - Tool will cut through material" but you know that already because you did that on purpose when you selected the cutting depth. Once you succesfully created the toolpaths you will see a preview. Once you are satisfied with what you see, hit Close. Make sure you select Profile 2 and hit Save Toolpaths, it will have an extension SBP.

NOTE ON CREATING TABS: Tabs are pieces of your material that won't be cut to hold the parts in place. For this Profile 1 I didn't give any tabs for Profile 2 I gave 5 tabs of 8mm length and 4mm thickness.

Step 8: Repeat the Run Toolpath File for Sheet 2

Repeat Step 5 and Step 6 for the Sheet 2 file. If you mill the sheets one after the other then there is no need to set zero (Step 4) again.

But in case there was a break between milling the two sheets and someone else used the machine, set the zero again by following Step 4.

Step 9: Minor Adjustments

I found out that my pockets were a bit tight for my joint so I had to sand the MDF finger and the slots.

I sanded the fingers using a sander. I used a file to widen the slots. Keep on checking the fit of the fingers and the slot. Don't over sand them. There should be a bit of friction between them. I sanded down all the edges to give it a nice finish.

Step 10: Assemble

You might need help of a friend to keep the pieces in place.

  1. Keep the right panel on the ground.
  2. Align back panel fingers with right panel fingers. Use mallet to fit panels.
  3. Align the fingers of top panel with the slots in back, right panel. Once proper alignment is done, using a mallet insert the fingers into the slot.
  4. Take the doors and insert the pivot into the circular slot of top panel. You need your friend to hold the doors.
  5. Align the bottom panel fingers with back and right panel. Also insert the pivot of doors into the circular slot of the bottom panel.
  6. Align the fingers of front panel with right panel.
  7. Align the left panel fingers with front, bottom and back panel. Once proper alignment is done, using a mallet to fit the panels snugly.
  8. Insert the locking extension into the left panel.
  9. Using a cordless drill make holes at the mid point between two fingers through the edge of other panel.
  10. Using a screwdriver or drill put screws through the holes into the other panel.
  11. Put four castors using screws on the four corners of the bottom panel.
  12. Flip the storage unit so that the top compartment is facing upside.
  13. Insert one separator almost midway.
  14. Lock the second separator with the first one. Use mallet is necessary.

I used a drill to make holes as directly putting screws or nails might split the MDF.

You'll now have four divisions in the top compartment.

Step 11: Paint the Faces and Edges of the Storage Unit

painted the unit from the outside. I used two color paint scheme.

Apply wood primer on all the exposed faces and edges of panel. Let it dry for 6-7 hours

Mask all the edges. Apply the color of your choice on the faces. Let it dry for 8 hours.

Mask all face near the exposed edges. Apply the second color on edges. Let it dry for another 8 hours.

If I would have used single color the entire purpose of milling the furniture with finger joints and T bones would have been lost. That's why I used two different color scheme because I wanted to highlight the finger joinery.

In the picture you can understand how the color scheme works. And also how the screws will be put.

Step 12: You Are Done!

And your Storage Unit is ready!

Any questions, comments or criticisms always welcome!

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