Introduction: Make Your Dog's Face Into a Wooden Wall Decoration!

About: I'm an aspiring artist and programmer who loves to get better at whatever interests me.

Hello, and welcome to this instructable on how to make your very own wooden plaque-sign, using the CNC Router. This tool, provided by UMakers' Makerspace, streamlines the wood-crafting process into a simple, easy-to-do project you can do at any Maker Space or location with a CNC Router.

In this instructable, you will learn how to:

  1. Use a Vector Graphic Program to draw your dog into a Vector.
  2. Import your vector graphic into VCarve Pro.
  3. Make a simple sign using the tools in VCarve.
  4. Format the settings in VCarve for the CNC Router.
  5. Finish detailing your sign.

Below are a list of things you will need to complete this project:

Things needed

  • MDF Sheet (at least the size of this project, 12" x 12" x 0.5")
  • CNC Router
  • Chisel
  • Vector Graphic Program
    • Eg. Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape
  • VCarve Pro

For fonts (including the Good Dog font used here), go to

Step 1: Take Picture of Your Dog

The first step is to take a picture of your beloved dog. This is Skips, my pug! And for this instructable, he is the star. While you are following this instructable, make your dog the star. Here are a few things to keep in mind when doing this project:

  • Get a good shot of your dog's front view.
  • Lighting can be vary depending on your photo, so have lighting that will highlight your dog's face.
  • To make your vector look like your particular dog, capture the most striking feature's of your doggy's face.

Step 2: Making Your Picture a Vector

In this step, you can either

  • Bring your picture directly into your vector program, or
  • Make a drawing of your dog first, then bring the drawing into the vector program.

In this Instructable, I will be using Adobe Illustrator as my Vector Program. I decided to draw Skips's face, and then bring it into Illustrator.

I used a combination of both the pen-tool, and the puppet warp tool. The pen-tool is a standard for vector programs, and is what you will use to trace your drawings into vectors. The puppet warp tool is a helpful new tool in Adobe Illustrator 2019, and essentially allows you to manipulate and warp your vector, using nodes that you place on it. This tool helped me especially for readjusting my vector and making each side of the face look even.

Other vector programs may or may not have a tool similar to Illustrator's puppet-warp tool, so be careful in both drawing and tracing your dog's face, if you choose to draw your dog first.

Then, once you are finished, save your file as a Scalable Vector Graphic, or svg, extension, so that your file name would be named "filename.svg"

Step 3: Setting Up VCarve Pro Settings

Now, launch VCarve Pro. I am using the VCarve Pro Makerspace Client 9.512, courtesy of UMakers Makerspace in Claremont, CA.

What material you have will determine the settings you input, so adjust accordingly.

Also, I had a sheet of MDF that was larger than 25" x 15" x 0.5" and used the drill bits available at UMakers. Therefore, this step will follow what I did. Follow accordingly with whatever you have available.

Job Setup:

  • Job Type: Single Sided
  • Job Size:
    • Width(X): 12 Inches
    • Height(Y): 12 Inches
    • Thickness (Z): 0.5 Inches
  • Z Zero Position: Material Surface
  • XY Datum Position: Bottom Left, Use Offset unchecked.
  • Modeling Resolution: Standard (fastest)
  • Solid Color: Whatever you'd like.

Step 4: Making the Sign

In this step, we'll make the sign, which is in the oval shape. Using both the Ellipse and the Circle tool, we will make the outer frame, and the attachment hole for framing it onto a wall.

Ellipse Tool:

  • Width(X): 8.8 Inches
  • Height(Y): 10 Inches

Circle Tool:

  • Radius: 0.3 Inches

Place the Ellipse and Circle similarly to the pictures above.

Step 5: Adding Your Vector Graphic (and Optional Decorations)

Now, at the top left, under File Operations, click on Import Vectors, and then select your .svg file. Your entire vector should now be in VCarve. Simply place your dog vector near the top of the sign.

For optional decorations, like the paw I added, follow the same process of adding this vector and placing it however you want. For me, I decided to place the paw in the middle of the gap between Skips's face and the bottom of the ellipse, so that I can divide the text I am going to place, next.

Step 6: Adding Text to the Sign

Next, select the "Draw Text" function under Create Vectors. Type in the name of your dog, and then choose your font. Adjust it's positioning to be under your dog-face vector, and for this project, above the paw vector. Then adjust the size of the text to however big you would like it to be.

For the text curving above the bottom rim of the sign, create it the same way done before, type whatever you want to say, and then place it near the bottom of the sign. Then, under Create Vectors, click "Edit Text Spacing and Curve." Pull down on the bottom node of your text, in order to achieve the curve that matches the rim.

Step 7: Choosing Your Toolpaths for CNC Cutting

Now that we have our sign on VCarve, we can now dedicate tool paths to each part of the sign in order to finally bring it into the CNC router and have it created.

In VCarve, there are open vectors and closed vectors. Open vectors are vector lines that do not enclose. Closed vectors are the opposite. The pictures above show examples of both open and closed vectors.

These kinds of vectors are important, because we are going to use two kinds of tool paths: Profiles and VCarves.

  • Profiles
    • Cut along the vector at a certain depth
    • Can do Open and Closed Vectors
  • VCarves
    • Carve the inside area of the closed vector
    • Can only work with closed vectors; will ignore open vectors.

In order to access the tool paths, click on "Toolpaths" on the top right.

Highlight your vectors using the selection tool, and then click on either Profile or VCarve, and enter the cutting depth and other specifics, based on the material and drill bits that you have. Ask your local makerspace (or come to UMakers Makerspace) for specifics on tools to use and other recommended Toolpath settings, based on your particular situation.

The pictures above show a detailed overview of what I used for this project. Below are only the important inputs for my toolpath settings.

2-D Profile Toolpath for Open Vectors:

  • Cutting Depths
    • Start Depth (D): 0.0 Inches
    • Cut Depth (C): 0.1 Inches

2-D Profile Toolpath for Sign and Attachment-Hole

  • Cutting Depths
    • Start Depth (D): 0.0 Inches
    • Cut Depth (C): 0.53 Inches
  • Note: Profile path for outer ellipse should have tabs check-marked, and placed on the top, bottom, right, and left of the piece.

V-Carve/Engraving Toolpath

  • Cutting Depth
    • Start Depth (D): 0.0 Inches
    • Flat Depth (F): 0.1 Inches

You can also preview your toolpaths with the 3D view that will emulate your cut onto a digital board. To view this, click on the bottom left icon under "Toolpath Operations" and then click "Preview All Toolpath." Doing this will allow you to make final adjustments before you commit to cutting on the CNC router. Doing this, I decided to remove the mid-line from Skips's mouth. The final result will be seen later.

Step 8: Saving Toolpaths for CNC

Now that we've previewed our cut, it is time to save the toolpaths. Unless you have a commercial version of VCarve Pro, you will have to take your Vcarve file to your Makerspace, where you can then upload this file and then save your toolpaths (assuming they have a full version).

Load your file, and under "Toolpath Operations," click the bottom right icon, "Save Toolpath."

This will give you the option to save the toolpaths that you check-mark below. Unless your CNC Router has drill-bit changing, be sure to save both the open and closed vector detailing to one file, then the v-carving to a separate file, and then finally the circular path profiles to the last file.

Under the assumption that your CNC Router does not have drill-bit-changing capabilities, the toolpaths will be separated by the segments of carving under a specific, manually swapped drillbit. Under this example, the vector detailing, v-carving, and circle cuts will use the End Mill, V-Bit, then End Mill again, in that order.

Step 9: Start the CNC Routing Process

Directions on how to use a CNC Router is outside the scope of this Instructable. You should ask the supervising technician/user/Makerspace director/person, to teach you, or run the machine for you. However, here is a basic process of what will occur.

  1. Drill your material down to the Router bed.
  2. Turn on Dust Collector.
  3. Bring in Router Bed.
  4. Zero all axes.
  5. Change drill bit to the job.
  6. Start CNC Router job.
  7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 until all toolpath files have finished.

Step 10: Remove Sign and Add Finishing Touches

Lastly, once the CNC Router has finished, get a mallet or hammer and break the sign out of the material (in this case, MDF). Then, use a chisel to remove the tabs and remove any excess wood shavings.

Then, you are finally done!

Thank you for completing this instructable, and I hope you had a wonderful time making your dog into a wall-decoration for you to hang.