Introduction: Google Maps to CNC-Carved Souvenir

About: Tinkerer with a garage, tools, and time to kill...

In this instructable I lay out the steps I took to create a custom carving of a google street map.

I had this idea as a way to make a special gift for my cousin's wedding. I wanted to give them a unique souvenir of their special day. So I decided to take the google maps view of the neighborhood around the wedding venue and use it to make a custom engraving commemorating their special day!

The process is pretty straight-forward and I'm really happy with the end result

I hope you're able to get inspired to do similar projects yourself after reading this instructable



Wood board (I used cedar)


carbon dust (for epoxy coloring)

Wood finish (danish oil)


CNC progaming software/3d modelling tool (I used Fusion 360)

CNC mill

30deg v-carve bit

1/16" ball end mill (3.5 degree taper)

sand paper/sander

Step 1: Google It!

This whole project starts with google maps. For me, I already had a set address and area to focus in on but I still needed to "frame" the carve a little.

My CNC cut area is limited to roughly 14" x 14" So I knew my maximum limits.. but I didn't want a square shape. I wanted the carve to be wider than it was tall. So, while I knew the area I wanted to highlight, the challenge of this step was to get the aspect ratio of the map section that I liked. I finally settled on an 8.5" x 14" piece of wood for the carve (it just so happens that this is just about the "golden ratio" --which is why I probably decided I liked that aspect ratio)

With the aspect ratio picked, I then had to shift the location of the street maps within that "frame". I used the canvas tool included in Fusion 360 to do this. Canvas allows you to insert an image as a "background" for a sketch and use it as a visual reference when creating the sketch. This allowed me to play with how I wanted to refine the lay-out of the carve.

I finally settled in on something and started to model...

Step 2: Model It!

Once I picked how I wanted to frame the carve, I created 3 sketches:

1: I sketched a rectangle that represented the cut dimensions of the cedar board I would be using.

2: I created a sketch where I drew a line over all the google map street features that fell within the borders of sketch 1

3: I created a sketch with some accent features in the corners as well as an emblem located at the GPS location of the wedding venue (with the date included)

On to the next step.

Step 3: Program It!

In order to write the cnc code, I used Fusion 360's manufacturing toolset.

I created a stock definition to match the final dimensions of the cedar board I was using for the carve. After that, I used the trace command to create the tool-paths for the carve.

Trace works by having the tool path follow the contours in a given sketch, so I created a trace command for each sketch and used the command options to set the number of passes and total depth of cut. I ended up cutting to a total depth of around .07" for each part of the carve.

I used two tools in my program:

1: 30 deg v-groove bit

2: 1/16 tapered ball-end mill (3.5 deg taper)

Tool 1 was used for all of the carve except for the text I included. For that, I used a tapered ball end mill with a very fine point to keep the detail of the text from being lost.

Fusion 360 provides a great simulation tool that allowed me to visualize the cut before loading anything into the CNC . Using simulation, I was able to check for collisions/interference as well as optimize the tool path and reduce cutting time. After I was comfortable with the simulation, I was able to post the tool path and get ready to cut.

Step 4: Prep It!

Once the tool path was where I wanted it to be, I opened the g-code in my g-code sender program (UGS) and began to prep the machine

Machine prep is pretty straight-forward:

1: position and clamp the workpiece

2: home the machine

3: put in the first bit and move to the local zero for the cut (I always set the beginning of my cuts in the bottom left-hand corner of the spoil board)

4: set the z-height for the tool

When I set the Z-axis zero I always use the "paper trick" i learned when i first got into machining. For those not familiar , I've included a quick video of the process:

Basically, you hold paper under the tool and slowly advance to the wood. Keep moving the paper back and forth as the tool advances. When the paper is pinned by the tool (unable to move without tearing) you set that position as your z-zero.

You'll need to repeat the process for all the toos you plan to use , so you have the z-offsets for each tool

Time to make some sawdust!

Step 5: Cut It!

This is the part where you kick back and relax while the CNC does its thing ;)

Grab a drink and relax... or watch the bit fly around and see the magic happen. Hey you know what? do both!

Step 6: Now Stop. Epoxy Time!

Ok. time to get back to work...relaxing time is over.

After the carve was done , I pulled the wood out of the CNC and got ready to fill the grooves with colored epoxy. This would give greater contrast between the wood and the lines in the map design.

I used 5 minute epoxy and I colored it using carbon-black powder. When mixing color powder into epoxy, I find it's better to mix it fully into part "A" of the epoxy and then add the hardener once the powder is fully mixed into the solution.

I'd say that the only draw-back of using 5 minute epoxy is that you don't have a lot of time to mix, get the bubbles out, and pour it before it sets up. It's manageable, but you just need to keep things moving.

Pour the epoxy over the carving, and use something like a putty knife or some other thin, flat edge to sweep the epoxy into all the grooves as well as carry away/smooth out any excess.

Step 7: Sand It!

Once the epoxy is cured, you've got your work out for you. It's time to sand away all the excess epoxy so only the epoxy in in the carving remains. I did this by hand because I have a belt sander that tends to be a bit aggressive when sanding and I didn't want to over-sand and wash-out the details of the carve. Your call on how you want to do it.

Step 8: Finish It!

With the sanding done, all you've got to do is apply your finish of preference. I selected danish oil because I like how it makes the wood color pop.

Once it cured I attached some hanging hardware to the back of the piece and it was all ready to be put on display!

Thanks for following along. I hope this gave you some ideas of how you can capture areas of importance for you and create custom pieces to commemorate their special meaning!

Please share any of the pieces you come up with.. I'd love to see your creations and hear the stories behind them!

CNC Contest 2020

Participated in the
CNC Contest 2020