Machining a Guitar Body with RhinoCAM and the Laguna iQ Desktop at OHS!


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Oskayak High School (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) is a First Nations and Metis indigenous school focused on helping students keep their high school academic careers alive. We recently sat down with Anthony Prima, a teacher at OHS to discuss the class and their use of RhinoCAM in their Computer Design & Drafting class. In this nationally acclaimed fine arts credit STEM class, students design and build their own electric guitars! Read the full case study here! In this article we will review a typical 2-sided guitar body machining job in RhinoCAM. The guitar bodies are designed with Rhino and machined using RhinoCAM toolpaths on the school’s Laguna iQ Desktop series 3 Axis Router. The stock material is either ash, spruce, or poplar measuring 13⅞” x 20⅝” x 1¾”. The stock is machined from 2 sides (top and bottom) using two ⅜” locator pins for alignment. Some of the body designs require 2 Axis toolpath operations only while others require additional 3 Axis roughing and finishing strategies. More details about a typical guitar body machining are provided below.  Each student then performs hand finishing including the use of oil based stains. The neck and remaining hardware are purchased items with each student completing the final assembly. Each student is also taught how to setup the guitar, bridge height, truss rod adjustments, setting up inclinition etc.
Here we see the The Stratmaster guitar body design in Rhino. The RhinoCAM plugin is loaded and the Machining Job is displayed on the far left showing two setups, one for the 2 Axis operations and another for the 3 Axis operations. To the right of the Machining Job the Toolpath Editor is displayed listing each tool motion in the 3 Axis Between 2 Curves toolpath operation. In this 3 Axis strategy, the toolpath is calculated to flow between two 3D curves. In this case the two curves are located at the top and bottom edges of the outer perimeter fillet.

 The Bottom Side Machining Job

The bottom side of the guitar body is machined first. The complete Machining Job tree is shown here on the right. The operations are divided into two setups. The ⅜” end mill setup performs all operations that require a ⅜” end mill. All are 2 Axis operations except for the Roughing for belly cut operation which is a 3 Axis Horizontal Roughing toolpath.
The first mop will use 2 Axis Hole Pocketing to machine the two registration pin holes that will be used when the stock is flipped over to machine the top side. The ⅜” ball nose setup contains all of the 3 Axis finishing operations comprised of three Between 2 Curves Finishing operations and one Parallel Finishing. These operations are illustrated further in the images below. 

Operation Details (Bottom)

In image (A) below we see the guitar body 3D model (bottom side up) displayed in Rhino. It is comprised of a polysurface (solid) model. While we only show the solid model, there are actually other 2D and 3D curves derived from the model that are used for toolpath containment. For simplicity, we have hidden the wireframe geometry. Image (B) shows the box stock highlighted over the part model.
In image (C) we see the cut material simulation after the ⅜” end mill setup. The Registration pins is a 2 Axis Hole Pocketing operation used when the stock is flipped over to machine the top side. The two back cavity operations are 2 Axis Pocketing operations located in the middle of the body. The 3 Axis Horizontal Roughing operation can be clearly seen. Of particular interest is the operation named Profile with two big tabs. This is a 2 Axis Profiling operation using two 2D curves. The distance between the endpoints of the two curves controls the width of the tabs. In image (D) we see the operations contained in the ⅜” ball nose setup. The Between 2 Curves operations perform the finishing for the upper fillets around the perimeter of the guitar body. The Parallel Finishing operation finishes the the back belly contour. 

On the left we see the 3D polysurface (solid) model of the guitar body. On the right we see the box stock defined in RhinoCAM.
On the left are the simulated operations using the ⅜” flat end mill. These include 2 Axis Hole Pocketing, Pocketing, Profiling and 3 Axis Horizontal Roughing. On the right we see the operations using the ⅜” ball nose cutter. These include 3 Axis Between 2 Curves Finishing and Parallel Finishing. 

More about Laguna Tools

Laguna Tools was founded in 1983 by Torben Helshoj who saw an opportunity to bring high-quality European woodworking machinery to the US. The first tools to be introduced were combination machines and soon led to Laguna Tools’ most iconic machine, the Italian Bandsaw. Over the years, Laguna Tools has built an extensive line of woodworking machinery before moving forward with development of their own CNC Automation.
Laguna Tools launched their line of CNC Machines with the SmartShop and soon followed up with the Swift Series and iO Series machines. After innovating on their CNC Routers, Laguna Tools came out with even more advanced machinery such as CO2 Lasers and Plasma Cutters. Laguna Tools now has a wider range of machinery available than ever before, all to help their customers achieve their goals to improve the way they do business.
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Don LaCourse

Don LaCourse

Don LaCourse is an Application Engineer with MecSoft Corporation. Don brings over 20 years of experience in CAD/CAM operations in both automotive and mold design applications. Don also has extensive experience in documenting CAD/CAM products and is actively involved with writing the on-line help as well as creating training tutorials for MecSoft's products.

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