Introduction: CNC Coasters Project

About: I am a Makerspace/Technology Teacher on the International School of Aruba. I teach STEAM lessons in our Makerspace with kids from grade 4 till grade 12. I love tinkering, discovering and making, so I made it m…

In this project the students will learn to create coasters from old and ugly pallet wood and make it into beautiful looking coasters. I wrote this lesson to the students, so after the intro here it will be directed to them. These lessons are part of the woodworking lessons I do in my makerspace . The lesson also comes with a rubric (see attachment) which you can use to grade it (if you have to). On the photo above you see the results I had with just 1 class 7th graders. You also can however use this project as a personal one.

Dear students,

There are tons and tons of youtube tutorials online on how to make coasters, but in this class we are going to do things a little different.

So let me first do the MUSTS of this lesson. After this I will give you the tools to make the best designed coaster ever!
Your project MUST be:

  • made of recycled pallet wood
  • has colored inlays
  • designed in easel
  • the proper size for a coaster
  • have at least 4 coasters in total

Why do we use pallet wood? This series of lessons is part of the workshop part of makerspace. You will have to sand the ugly old wood back to it's beauty. Then we will use the CNC machine to turn into something more beautiful. We will finish it off with paint and varnish. After that bring it home and use it. Your parents will be amazed!

How will we be graded? We wil use the grading rubric for this project. Which you can find in the attachment!


  • Palletwood
  • CNC machine (shapeoko, CarveX or similar)
  • Belt sander (but any sanding machine will do)
  • Computer with internet acces (everyting works from Chromebook till Mac)
  • Free account with Inventables Easel
  • paint
  • varnish
  • happy mood

Step 1: Wood

Choose a piece of pallet-wood and determine the size of your coaster. Some coasters are bigger, some coasters are smaller. Even the shape is up to you. You can use rectangles, cirkels, hexagons or any shape. As long as it's clear that they are coasters. Start sanding the piece and determine the good pieces of it. You then will cut these pieces. Make sure there are no rips in the wood (see the red circles)

You have now a good piece of wood. This is what we're going to use for the coasters. Start measuring the sizes of your piece of wood. Remember: The CNC machine can not cut pieces bigger than 16 inch. If your wood is much longer, you'll have to cut it. Write the measurements down somewhere, you will need them for step 2.

Step 2: Easel

To make the digital design we are going to use EASEL from Inventables. Easel is a free online tool to make the Gcode ready for the CNC machine. If you don't have a free account, create one. It is free.

I created an instruction video for the design part of your coasters.

Step 3: CNC Cutting!

We're gonna feed the code to the machine.

After the CNC machine is done with it's work, you'll push the coaster out of the wood (now you see why the tabs were important!) en lightly sand it by hand. (NO machine). Gather the pieces on a cardboard for step 4:

Step 4: Paint & Sand!

A. Spray the pieces

B. Let it dry

C. Use the belt sander in the classroom to sand the pieces. BE CAREFUL. The belt sand machine sands really quick and can do potentially a lot of harm. Make sure you tell the teacher before you are going to sand. That way it'll be safe.

D. The last photo shows how it should look in the end!

Step 5: Varnish!

Lay the coasters back on the cardboard

Use a brush and Varnish the pieces!

Done! Now let it dry.

Step 6: End of the Lesson

Well done! Get graded/evaluated with the rubric and bring your coasters home!

Your parents/guardians will be amazed by what you made.

Teacher Contest

Participated in the
Teacher Contest