T-Track Clamp CNC Upgrade

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Introduction: T-Track Clamp CNC Upgrade

About: A husband & wife team. Amateur makers. Expert high fivers. New video every week (or so).

We added t-track clamps to our X-Carve to make it easier to clamp things, set jigs, and use less material. We brainstormed and sketched a lot until we came up with the simplest clamping solution we could think of: 2 t-tracks running perpendicular on 2 sides, and an "L" shaped wood bracket that our t-track clamps can clamp against.

It helps us set up jigs which is great when we are making multiples of the same cut, but it also allows us to use less stock because it can clamp from the sides instead of the top. Win win!

All the files for this project are here if you'd like to use them to make your cuts or for reference: https://goo.gl/mmNh82

Tools/materials/etc:

Step 1: Measure/plan

The super exciting (and crucial) first step: measure and plan your t-track position! Yes, generally they make an L on the outer edge of your CNC, but there were a few things we kept in mind for the exact positioning:

  1. We made sure we weren't going to hit any of the threaded brass inserts on our X-Carve wasteboard. Not all wasteboards will have these, but if yours does, just keep that in mind.
  2. We made sure we'd have enough room to insert the clamp feet and slide them into the t-tracks. We made our cuts a little longer on both sides after where the t-track would end.
  3. Make sure your clamp, when in the t-track, won't be so close to the CNC rails that it hits one.

Once we made sure all those boxes were checked, we sharpied out where we wanted to mark our cuts and did an "air run" of the machine (where we don't turn on the spindle and don't have it move down in the axis, just moving in the x and y above the wasteboard). This helped us double check to make sure our CAM was right before we actually made our cuts.

Step 2: Carve Wasteboard

We go into more detail in our video, but we chose for the t-track to start at 5 cm in the X direction and 2 cm in the Y direction and that’s what our file is setup to cut. Again, you can download our file (it's linked in the beginning of this tutorial) but you could also just use it for reference and adjust for your needs. We used a 1/4" flat endmill to cut the track for our t-track into the waste-board.

Step 3: Cut Track to Length

We used a nonferrous metals blade on our miter saw to cut the t-track to length, and it cut like butter. The cool thing about aluminum is you can work with it on most woodworking tools. We cut the x axis track to 25.25". We cut the y-axis track to 26.25".

Step 4: Insert the Track

We centered the track into the cut we made, leaving enough room to install the clamps. Then we screwed the clamp into the wasteboard.

Step 5: Cut L Brackets

The L brackets are what your clamps will push against. They have holes in them that line up with the threaded inserts in the X-Carve wasteboard, but you can add your own threaded inserts to your wasteboard if you don't have them already. We used plywood so that it would be strong in all directions and made 2 different sized L's to start with, a small and a medium.

Here is the small: https://goo.gl/w5Urp9

Here is the medium: https://goo.gl/nkRM2R

These brackets work best for right angles, but technically you could make custom ones for different angles or odd shapes!

Step 6: Enjoy!

We tested it out, cutting a few multiples of the same piece, and so far it's working great!

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    6 Comments

    Nice concept. I have two ideas to maybe help you out. First, buy a LASER light for your chop saw. They are simple to add on and will show you exactly where the saw blade will cut. I've installed one on my DeWalt 12" Compound chop saw and it increases the cut rates. Second, is you slotted the wood "L" attachments, then you can slide them and even catch more threaded holes you already have in the base plate. And being slotted, you can also use them to hold non-square items to machine. Otherwise nice ideas...

    1 reply

    I agree about the laser. A life-changer! I have 15" and the laser is offset a little to the right so all your wood to the right is perfectly the right length.

    Love it. Brilliant from start to finish. A cnc router has been on my x mass list for a long time. Information like this makes me want on even more. For someone like me this tip opens up tons of possibilities. Thank you. Ps your YouTube videos are ace. A highlight every time

    Very good idea and thanks for sharing. Since I already have the Rockler clamps and the Rockler table that they would normally be used with, I tried them on my X-Carve. The clamps and track are not cheap but are of good quality. I would like to suggest some considerations for those thinking about adding your modification.

    1. Typically, when you carve, you have to carve into the "wasteboard" at least a little bit to cut the part from its workpiece. If the t-tracks are installed "flush" to the surface, you risk carving into them.

    2. If you recess the t-tracks, the Rockler clamps will not engage. I know because I have recessed t-tracks and tried the Rocklers I have.

    3. In general, one may find that the wasteboard is not perfectly level with respect to the X-Carve. Then, as I have done, one runs a wide bit over the entire wasteboard to effectively "level" it out. This process would not work with the t-tracks installed flush. If not level, your Z axis carvings will not be accurate. You may need to level the wasteboard more than once as your surface gets eaten into.

    4. The X-Carve wasteboard is pretty expensive and time-consuming to replace since it is mechanically tied into the X-Carve. My wasteboard is also an integral part of my fold-up table design and would be even harder to replace. So, I installed my t-tracks ON TOP OF the X-Carve wasteboard and then used MDF spacers between the t-tracks, effectively recessing them. After the spacers have been significantly carved into or leveled, I would just replace the spacers.

    This is a really great idea. I'm currently in the process of saving up for a cnc router and this will definitely be something I look at adding to it.

    That is brilliant! Very good pictures and documentation. Well done!