Introduction: The Flash - PVC and Paint Experiment on CNC

This entire project started out with a pattern I made from a still of Grant Gustin's character Flash on the CW. It was originally intended to be a scroll saw project, but I quickly realized that this wasn't the route I wanted to go, so I turned it into a CNC project.

The only differences between the two is that I had to make toolpaths for the CNC version and it was carved into the surface of the material rather than being cut completely through with the scroll saw.

I call this an experiment because this is first time I had ever attempted to carve PVC board. I figured the carving would be fine, but I was worried about the process of painting it. The idea was to use packing tape as a top layer, paint it after the carve and then peel it away.

If you are interested in either the PNG file for the scroll pattern or SVG for the CNC conversion you can get them on our website.

If you'd like to see a condensed version of how we attempted this, please watch the following video.

Step 1: Top Layer and Setup

I covered the entire surface of the PVC board with clear packing tape. This will come in handy later.

I then opened the gcode file I had made into UGS (Universal Gcode Sender). I previewed the paths to make sure everything looked okay and then hit send. This sends the gcode to the controller of the CNC.

If you're not sure how to turn an SVG file into gcode, these tutorials should get you started.

Step 2: Carving

I used a 1/8" (.125") 90 degree V bit to carve everything. The max depth of the cut was set to 0.313". This made the whole process go pretty fast and was still deep enough to receive the paint.

There was some minor clean up required on the flat portions of the carve, but nothing that a little 220-grit sandpaper couldn't handle.

Step 3: Painting

I covered the entire carving in a coat of flat black spray paint. I made sure to get everything that was red, just to be sure I didn't miss anything.

Step 4: Removing the Tape

Removing the tape was a little trickier than I though it would be. That stuff really stuck on there. Most of it came off okay, but some of it required a razor blade to remove it.

Since I am a little impatient, I didn't wait until the paint had dried all the way. This caused some paint smudges on the red surface. Amy (my wife) discovered that olive oil took it off pretty well. The tape residue on the other hand wouldn't come off. We tried acetone (removed color), alcohol (nothing) and oil (same). This is something we will have to figure out if we move forward with this process.

Step 5: All Done!

As a first run, I think it turned out decent. Not perfect, but good enough to slap on the wall. I definitely want to try this on acrylic now, to see if the results vary. But for now, we are pleased with this piece and will display it.

If you have any comments or questions let us know in the comments section.
Don't forget you can find out about getting this pattern and many more by visiting our website. Thanks for checking out this project.