The CNC Wood Burner turning heads (and wood, obviously)

Why stick to conventional laser cutters or CNC machines for creating images on wood, when you can build a device to do the job that is a beautiful piece of art in itself? Mechanical and Computer Science student and Imgur user Tucker Shannon has created a wonderful-looking CNC Wood Burner using a Raspberry Pi and stepper motors. His project has a great vinyl-turntable-like design.

Raspberry Pi CNC Wood Burner

Tucker’s somewhat hypnotic build burns images into wood using a Raspberry Pi and stepper motors
GIF c/o Tucker Shannon

A CNC Wood Burner?

Sure! Why not? Tucker had already put the knowledge he acquired while studying at Oregon State University to good use by catching a bike thief in action with the help of a Raspberry Pi. Thus it’s obvious he has the skills he needed to incorporate our little computer into a project. Moreover, his Skittles portrait of Bill Nye is evidence of his artistic flair, so it’s not surprising that he wanted to make something a little different, and pretty, using code.

Tucker Shannon

“Bill Nye, the Skittles Guy”
Image c/o Tucker Shannon

With an idea in mind and sketches drawn, Tucker first considered using an old record player as the base of his build. Having a rotating deck and arm already in place would have made building his project easier. However, he reports on Imgur:

I thought about that! I couldn’t find any at local thrift shops though. Apparently, they’ve become pretty popular…

We can’t disagree with him. Since his search was unsuccessful, Tucker ended up creating the CNC Wood Burner from scratch.

Raspberry Pi CNC Wood Burner

Concept designs
Image c/o Tucker Shannon

Taking into consideration the lumps and bumps of the wood he would be using as a ‘canvas’, Tucker decided to incorporate a pivot to allow the arm to move smoothly over the rough surface.

The code for the make is currently in ‘spaghetti form’, though Tucker is set to release it, as well as full instructions for the build, in the near future.

The build

Tucker laser-cut the pieces for the wood burner’s box and gear out of birch and pine wood. As the motors require 12v power, the standard Raspberry Pi supply wasn’t going to be enough. Therefore, Tucker scavenged for old computer parts , and ended up rescuing a PSU (power supply unit). He then fitted the PSU and the Raspberry Pi within the box.

Raspberry Pi CNC Wood Burner

The cannibalised PSU, stepper motor controller, and Raspberry Pi fit nicely into Tucker’s handmade pine box.
Image c/o Tucker Shannon

Next, he got to work building runners for the stepper motor controlling the position of the ‘pen thing’ that would scorch the image into the wood.

Raspberry Pi CNC Wood Burner

Initial tests on paper help to align the pen
Image c/o Tucker Shannon

After a few test runs using paper, the CNC Wood Burner was good to go!

The results

Tucker has used his CNC Wood Burner to create some wonderful pieces of art. The few examples he’s shared on Imgur have impressed us with their precision. We’re looking forward to seeing what else he is going to make with it!

Raspberry Pi CNC Wood Burner

The build burns wonderfully clean-lined images into wood
Image c/o Tucker Shannon

Your turn

Image replication using Raspberry Pis and stepper motors isn’t a new thing – though doing it using a wood-burning device may be! We’ve seen some great builds in which makers set up motors and a marker pen to create massive works of art. Are you one of those makers? Or have you been planning a build similar to Tucker’s project, possibly with a new twist?

Share your project with us below, whether it is complete or still merely sketches in a notebook. We’d love to see what you’re getting up to!