• Being a Yorkshireman means I am a bit adverse to spending money, and I have spent quite a lot of time looking for good cheap (or preferably free) software. There are loads out there, but it is a case of separating the chaff from the wheat.
    These are the programmes I use.


    All my clocks start their digital life in Sketchup, plans, 3D models and DXF. One of the great things with Sketchup is it has its own plugin language, and if Sketchup is missing a feature you need you only have to search the web for it, and most plugins are free.
    In the free version you can not import/export DXF, but there is a plugin to export them:-

    You can find Sketchup here:-


    This is a full blown CAD prog and after you have registered is completely free, for Windows it is available in both 32 and 64 bit versions, and also runs on Mac and Linux. They also offer comprehensive tutorials with videos.

    CUT 2D

    This is the software I use to convert the DXF files to cutting paths, it is user friendly and does everything I require it to, and at €125 more than worth its money.


    If you use a dedicated computer to control your CNC router, you should consider using the free LinuxCNC. It comes with its own Ubuntu distribution and is painless to install. It is not as slick as Mach 3, and does require a knowledge of your router and some computer know how. It took me a while to configure it to work with my machine, but once set up, it has done all my cutting (and believe me I do a lot of cutting), without a single glitch.
  • As a beginner, after I have built my own CNC machine I was eager to cut wheels and pinions without other studies. The result was a “disaster” in the shape of a wheel. I use the maximum rotation speed of my router 30000rtm and I did not have any clue about feeding speed. I realized I have burnt my cutting bit and I ask help from David. He introduced me to a new “stage” explaining that only owing a CNC machine is not enough to be able to use it. There are much information that you have to consider in order to be able to setup properly the spindle and feeding speed to preserve the life of cutting bit.
    I search for this kind of info and one frustration answer was: “Sorry kid, as you have a CNC hand made you cannot adjust properly your machine in a large scale of values.”
    I have found a small soft that is calculating these parameters and I am going to attach here. Whoever created this database did not consider plywood among the materials but I have associated plywood with aluminum and the results of my cutting improved considerable.
    You can use this soft database

  • I have tried several times to upload the promise application but since is an executable file the upload failed (the file type is not allowed). I tried to rename the file using "doc" extension and upload again. If you can find the file attached you have to change the extension from "doc" to "exe". I am sorry but I cannot find the web source of this file and I do not have the patience to look after again.
  • Thanks Mihai,
    You can download it here. Choose the lower DOWNLOAD button not the fist one.
  • Incidentally, just ran it, couldn't be easier to use. GREAT piece of info!!!!!
  • Hello Dave,
    I have used Sketch up to create a gear. After screaming at it extensively i finally managed to create the attached file. The issue is all the curves are far to blocky, they aren't smooth. Do you know a way around this? Or should i use a different piece of software to produce the details for actually using for machining?
    64 tooth gear.PNG
    550 x 583 - 59K
  • @Ian
    Sketchup does not use vectors, which produce totally smooth curves, but rather uses polylines, which are just short connected lines bent at the joints to look like a curve, to increase the smoothness of a curve, once you have defined it type in the wished number of polylines and suffix with a s.
    Found a little video that might help.


    At the end of the day all software has to be learned, and believe me I have also done some very intensive sketchup induced screaming, but sketchup does everything I need so it was more than worth the effort.

  • Thanks Dave,

    I did't know that and I spent some time researching this and discovered that if i just right click the nasty blocky curve choose entry info, then increase the segment number to say 200 and you get perfectly smooth curves just like that video. I am now working on sketchyphysics to test my escarpment design. I think the collision routine isn't precise enough to cope with individual teeth. It is early days however.

    Thanks for your help : )
  • Just starting with CNC, I can see some more clocks on the horizon :-). Anyway back on topic, I've been looking at fusion 360, as the price is right (Free to home users). Seems like a capable piece of software.