November 2020 Newsletter

President's Message

John Dubelko

Even though this year has been a great challenge for how we use our two site locations and hold events and offer classes, we currently have Membership 174 Members, 106 Memberships, 77.0 FTE, and 9 new members joined within the last month.

More than ever, we need to remain vigilant and continue to follow CDC and our state guidelines for group gatherings. Everyone must wear a face mask at ALL TIMES when inside a building. No more than 3 people to a large room. Classes can have 4 (instructor and 3 students). Be sure to maintain a social distance of at least 6 ft. The spaces may NOT be used for social gatherings, group recreational activities, as a substitute for a home office, work from home, or as a remote office. In many cases, given first priority is pandemic initiatives such as face mask, face shield, or other pandemic support activities. Located at each site are hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes for use in the facilities. Each member needs to wipe down any parts of the facility used before and after use.

At this time, current associates can have door rights if they have taken new member orientation and at least one red tool class. If you are an associate member requiring access, please send an email to so we can set you up on the August smart lock. We will need your full name, cell phone number, and the first date you plan to visit the space. If you must drop your membership for financial reasons, let us know. We may be able to work something out but be sure to send us an email to if that is the case.

Committees/Shop Stewards – Let me know if you are interested in continuing to lead a committee or area. Also, let me know if you would like to help with one. You will find a list of our committees in the chairman's message of this newsletter. Most meetings can be held virtually through Google Meet, email, or by phone. We are going to lean on folks to provide a few things like goals and training schedules. I will be having a few meetings to help the chairpersons and shop stewards with their responsibilities. In particular, I am looking for someone to lead the membership, marketing, and new member orientation committees. Please contact me if interested.

Chairman's Statement

Dave Painter

With the presidential election finally behind us and Covid-19 vaccines on the horizon, we can begin by thinking about 2020 as "The Year That Was," and 2021 as the year of regaining normalcy. Unfortunately, we still have the current Covid-19 spike to get through before the business of rebuilding the economy and our lives can begin.

So, what does this mean for Makersmiths? I don't have a crystal ball, so I can't see into the future. However, I think we have a reason for optimism. Despite the rough time we've been through, membership is up, and our finances are holding steady. Because of Covid-19, most of us are spending a lot more time at home. Many businesses have had to learn how to manage work remotely, and I expect that as a result, working from home will become even more common going forward. Cutting a couple of commute hours from their workday will mean that folks will be looking to fill those hours with things they want to do. Makersmiths is uniquely positioned to do that.

So, as we enter this holiday season, think about filling your list of New Year's Resolutions. I urge you to commit to volunteering your help to enable Makersmiths to grow and prosper. Your president, John Dubelko, and The Board of Directors are working hard to restore the committees that work throughout the year to run our day-to-day operations and improve the organization. Why not commit some of your time to help us? Direct message John Dubelko on Slack or email him and let him know which of the following committees interests you?

Amateur Radio



Picture Framing

Leesburg Facility

Purcellville Facility


New Member Orientation




Social Outreach

Special Events



Fund Raising

What do you need to learn to use CNC Machines?

60% Drawing, 30% Toolpaths, 10% Cutting:

CNC Projects on Big Red and Big Blue


Jon White

Makersmiths Board Member

CNC routers, and for that matter, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, and other machines that turn the ideas in your head and the drawings on the page or screen into physical objects are awesome. Access to these tools, especially large format, professional, precise tools, is one of the many great things about being a Makersmiths member. How else are you going to be able to use a large format CNC router without having to lay out a lot of cash AND have a lot of space available? So how do you get started and take an idea in your head, draw it on a computer, and then turn it into reality using a CNC?

Most people start by asking for a CNC Red Tool training class, but in reality, putting endmills to a material work surface is only 10% of the process, maybe even less. Of that 10%, the method you use to hold your part down while cutting is 9%. While it may sound like many steps are needed to turn the machine on, checking the dust collector, loading the endmills, homing the machine, and running your GCode is only 1% of the process. So what do you need to learn to become proficient in the other 90% of the skills necessary to do a project on Big Red and Big Blue?

First, you need to learn to draw your project on the computer, commonly referred to as CAD or Computer Aided Design. This process is just 60% of your project. This process requires using tools such as two dimensional vector drawing programs like Inkscape, Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator, or using three dimensional programs like Tinkercard, Sketchup, or Fusion360. By absolutely no means is this an exhaustive list of programs, simply some that many Makersmiths members use.

My experience is that the two dimensional drawing programs lend themselves better to making signs, artistic projects that don't require strict precision, and very simple projects that require assembly of multiple CNC cut out parts. The learning curve is steeper with three dimensional drawing programs, but there are also significant benefits, especially in projects that require high precision or where multiple complex parts will be assembled from the cut pieces. You can be precise in the two dimensional programs, but it's not what they were built to do. There are lots of Youtube videos on vector drawing (Logos by Nick) and three dimensional parametric drawing (Lars Christensen) in Fusion 360.

The second 30% of your project is creating toolpaths that will be turned into GCode that the CNC will use to engrave, drill, and cut your workpiece, commonly referred to as CAM or Computer Aided Manufacturing. In this step, you specify what endmill will you will use, where you want the cut to be relative to your drawing, how deep the cut should be, whether or not you need tabs to hold your piece in place while its cut, how fast the endmill will spin, and how fast the spindle will move around the work surface. The CAM software then turns these toolpaths into GCode, adds header and footer instructions depending on the machine used, which can be run on the CNC machine. Toolpath creation can be a little overwhelming with so many variables to worry about at the start, but for wooden CNC projects, there are a small number of endmills required and pretty straightforward machine settings that, while not always the most efficient, will get your project done. When you're creating one or two projects, efficient use of the machine is less important than if you're doing 20 of the same project.

For Big Red and Big Blue, most Makersmiths members use VCarve from Vectric as their CAM software. There are profiles setup already to put the correct headers and footers on your GCode. You can download a trial version of this software on your home computer, register it to our Makersmiths ID, and then do everything except export the GCode for free from the comfort of your own home. When you finish your project and want to export the GCode to run on the machine, you can do so from a PC at either Makersmiths location. As for resources on toolpaths, Vectric puts out good Youtube videos for learning about and creating toolpaths in their software. In addition, it is worth a Youtube education on endmill types and the effects of feeds and speeds changes.

All told, you can take a CNC Red Tool class and learn to run the machine, but I strongly suggest doing some watching and reading on the topics above before you do. The class will then make a lot more sense to you, and you'll be in a position to take advantage of your tool training much sooner if you understand the 90% of a CNC project that happens before you even touch the machine. Please let me know when you are ready to learn on the CNCs, and we will make arrangements to teach you.

Project Highlight: The Orb Project

Brenda Bartholic

Newsletter Committee Member

Did you know that laser marking and etching technologies have origins in barcode adoption and photocopiers? Our laser cutter located in our Leesburg space is a far cry from the early primitive laser engraving technologies that used stencils and laser 'sandblasting'.

It is one of our most used tools, especially around the holidays. It can etch and cut a variety of materials, both on the bed and in the round, using the rotary attachments. Members offer basic and advanced classes on the laser and laser attachments. We also offer online classes in Inkscape, an open source program, for getting your projects designed and prepared for the laser, as well as, the CNC and vinyl cutter. Let me know if you are interested in learning about Inkscape.

Ralph Pugh, a frequent instructor for the Advanced Rotary Tool, has a creative holiday project—The Orbpictured above this article.

The project,, has a STEM aspect, bringing in the concepts of symmetry and patterns, and is a great candidate for a parent/child project.

The cost is reasonably priced, and is something you cannot buy in the stores making your creation unique. The orb would look eye-catching in a child's bedroom or equally festive out with your holiday decor. If you are a newbie and want to get started on the laser, look for upcoming classes in the Events calendar. For step-by-step instructions, vector files, and instructions for completing an orb project, go to the Makersmiths GSuite where a folder entitled Orb_Ralph_Pugh is shared with anyone clicking on that link.

To learn more about Ralph and his other projects, keep reading!

Featured Makersmiths Member

Brenda Bartholic

Newsletter Committee Member

Ralph Pugh began his membership in Makersmiths in early 2017. Pictured is Ralph, volunteering his time to share his engineering knowledge of how machines work with grade 3 students at Lincoln Elementary School.

Ralph's interest in "woodshop making" started when he bought his house in Gainesville and found that the previous owner had a woodshop in the basement. The previous owner made a generous offer for Ralph to take his Shopsmith Lathe and Delta Table Saw. Ralph took some classes on woodturning at Woodcraft in Leesburg, where he learned about Makersmiths. After doing the Laser Class, Ralph's first Makersmiths project was an intricate clock.

You can find the laser pattern at this site

Ralph took further classes at Woodcraft to expand his skills and later joined the Catoctin Wood Turners group in Leesburg. During their classes and monthly Show and Tell sessions, Ralph met others with similar interests, continually inspiring him to try new things.

Other of his inspirations and project ideas come from, of course, the Internet. He also gets basic ideas for projects from the American Association of Woodturners monthly magazine and Internet articles vis-a-vis, the Orb project. As a challenge, he sometimes tries to add a 'what if' to the project by combining other elements to make it uniquely his own. You can usually find Ralph at the laser or woodshop working on his next masterpiece.

Ralph often publishes his creations in our SLACK channel "whatcha_make_today" where all our members share their innovations.

Upcoming Events!

Live Coding and Algorave Virtual Meeting

This 7PM session on November 30 is for those interested in live coding music and the live coding movement behind it, including Algorave. The host for this event uses Tidal Cycles to code a piece of music and hear its creation. This is an invitation for others to join the next free Google Meet session to see what this is all about! Register at

Monthly Membership Meeting

Please join us online Dec. 2 for a membership meeting from 7:30-8:30PM. The Google Meeting hyperlink is or join us by phone (US) +1 570-630-1100 PIN: 368 823 885#

Holiday Gift Soap Making Workshop

This is a special holiday workshop for Makersmiths members to make lavender-chamomile, honey-almond-oatmeal, and glycerin soaps as holiday gifts. We will follow CDC guidelines and maintain small groups during two workshop sessions on Saturday, Dec. 5 at Makersmiths-Purcellville. To learn more and to register, go to \

KidWind Solar Panel Challenge

One of our educational initiatives is to offer coaching and mentor support to middle school students completing KidWind Challenges. We will have an online information meeting Monday, December 7 from 3-4:30 PM. to talk about the newest challenge, The Solar Panel Challenge. The Google Meeting hyperlink is or by phone (US) +1 802-787-1073 PIN: 122 506 595#

Box-Joints on the Table Saw & Router

In this class on Monday, December 7 from 6:30-10PM, learn to create beautiful box joints on the table saw and the router, from sled to finished box! Register one of two ways: in-person in the woodshop at Makersmiths-Leesburg or attend the live session virtually. To learn more and to register, go to