CNC Milling And CarveWright Conference

The tiger sculpture is massive. I don’t think
I could have done it without the use of CNC
milling. Oh yes, please note there is another
3 foot of rock that goes under this sculpture.

I have been compiling information and resources for a book that I am writing that talks about incorporating digital and traditional process in art. I call this marriage of the two -Tradigi art. I have been trying to educate others on the process of using 3D technology for a few years. Mike de la Flor and I wrote Digital Sculpting With Mudbox Essential Tools and Techniques and spent a chapter  talking about 3D scanning, printing and milling. Our book, I believe, was one of the first that talks about how to get virtual pieces out of the computer and into a physical form. When I first started to do this, many CG people would ask, “Why do you want to get your designs out of the computer?” These are people who use the computer generated designs in movies, video, gaming etc. Without bringing virtual pieces into a physical world my designs are pretty much worthless to me.

This image shows the digital design that I
created in the computer and the milled out foam
covered with a fine layer of clay.
Once the client approves the clay the sculpture
is taken into the lost wax method of bronze casting.  

I am inspired to educate others on how to do these things and the possibilities of incorporating this type of work into their traditional studios. Here is a pdf of a 2008 article in Sculptural Review that I wrote about the process of CNC milling in art.

The milled foam arrives and I can still sculpt details into the foam before adding clay.

I have been using CNC milling of foam for a few years now. My two primary vendors are Synappsys in Oklahoma and Across the Board Creations in Canada.  I have described some of my processes in a You tube video on the subject. I also have project blogs for the last several projects that talk about using the CNC milling of foam with my designs.  I used CNC Milling on the Prairie View Panther, the Evelyn Rubenstein Sculpture for the Jewish Community Center and most recently on this enormous sculpture of the Tiger for Grambling State University.

I have also watched in fascination and excitement about the CNC Milling in Stone.  All of these tools expand my tool set and save a sculptor’s  hands from very damaging wear and tear.

Steven Ramirez of Smash Designs introduced me to the CarveWright .  He was one of our speakers last year at 3DCAMP Houston.   Once I saw the CarveWright and it’s possibilities I was very, very intrigued.  I had been looking for a vendor that might mill my work. I’m still looking for this type of vendor. I had also been searching for others who had been using CNC milling in their artwork.  I wanted to feature them in the book, and yes, I am entertaining getting a CarveWright of my own.

3DCAMP is a 3D symposium on everything 3D. It is hosted this year by the department of Architecture at the University of Houston.  The date is October 5, 2013.  The cost last year was only $15. and this year will be raised to $30 for professionals and $15 for students. A great prices for so much information and resources in one space.  We had hoped that CarveWright might be a sponsor for last years 3DCAMP event, and would be able to discuss more about milling at 3DCAMP.

A CarveWright is an affordable option for cnc milling in the home studio or shop.

What is a CarveWright? It is an  affordable consumer CNC milling machine that gives you the opportunity to design your own patterns, or use patterns provided with the machine and mill them out in many different materials.  When learning about the CarveWright Conference, I was intrigued, not only because of my desire to try this machine, but also because I really wanted to gather more information for the book.

I learned many things from attending the CarveWright conference and was intrigued by the many people that I met. Of course, I’m looking at this tool and thinking, how can I push it like no one has ever pushed it before. How can I sculpt using this tool?  I’m not the only one thinking about pushing the boundaries as Joe Lovchik, one of the owners of CarveWright was displaying how to use the tool to not only carve wood, but carve other things like foam, plastic and even wax.  He showed how he used the CarveWright to make a pattern for pouring concrete, stamping leather, creating incredible lithophanes.  The possibilities really made your head spin.

Besides learning the software that comes with the program, some of which I hear is some of the best for CNC milling, we heard what others were doing with the CarveWright. Michael Tyler displayed some of his creations and talked about inspiration. I loved learning about  the stains and patinas he is using called Sculpture Nouveau. They are breathtaking! Joe Ragsdale talked about carving photos in wood.  The feature that I think would be easily applicable to my own studio process is the carving of letters.  I often get asked to incorporate type into my sculptures. This is not an easy task and takes a great deal of handwork. For example, the newspaper that the newsboy holds has copy that is individualized for each client that purchases this bronze.  I have to change out the headline and subhead so that it is pertinent to those who are purchasing this bronze.  You can be sure that the next time this happens I’ll be scanning this newspaper and carving it with a CarveWright. Oh, yes, I failed to mention, the CarveWright has a point scanner that you can purchase as well.

I often have to incorporate text into a sculpture. In the newsboy I change the newspaper headline and subhead depending on my clients desires. Next time I think I’ll try a CarveWright to change the text.

The possibilities and relationship between me and CNC and me and CarveWright are just beginning. I hope they will help me to push the limits of their product with my designs and look forward to working with them on this.  I can’t wait to see what I come up with for the book. My head is already thinking in that strange 3D way. Thanks CarveWright for the information and the inspiration.


Bridgette Mongeon is a sculptor, writer, illustrator and educator as well as a public speaker.

Her blog can be found at

She is the vice chair of the planning committee for 3DCAMP Houston 2012

She is also the owner and creator of the God’s Word Collectible Sculpture series

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