Incidental tools & software

I am wondering what other tools I might want to have hand? I have a hand dremel I truthfully only used once or twice, I assume I’ll need one for cutting or deburring. Metal rulers, calipers or that not really needed with the software. Also if I cut multiple signs out of an 8" x 8" - say 8 - 2" x 4" then I assume I can’t cut all the way through separating the pieces with the Nomad because they’d begin to move around so need to finish with a hand cutoff of some type?

As for software I see the two created and am wondering if there is a path from a 2D vector program or perhaps another 3D program you can recommend for numbered signs. What I anticipate is a location may order as many as 300 2" x 4" signs with sequential unit numbers for example so I want the easiest way to set those up repeatedly.

Any suggestions appreciated. I figure I can experiment with any possiblieties for a month or so wheil I wait for the Nomad to arrive.


There’re some links / discussion of this at:

For deburring I like: (listed at: )

You need rulers and saws to measure and prep stock (unless using stock which is already cut to size).

For an 8" x 8" blank on a Nomad you would need to use some sort of adhesive for workholding and that would allow you to cut all the way through.

For signage, most folks use Vectric Vcarve. To set up 300 of anything I’d use LaTeX and either a loop or a CSV — once you’ve got the files made though, it should be pretty simple. Alternately, you could use a more traditional page layout program and generate a 300 page PDF w/ page numbers and impose that — I considered working up a utility which would take a begin / end range and make a ready to cut .c2d file — let me know if that would be helpful to you.


Dremel: Not much help. Too aggressive for almost everything.

A machinist ruler - made in usa. These are hardened and then tempered. They don’t bend and stay bent like the cheap chinese ones. They’re about 6 inches long, very often metric on one side, english on the other. I have a couple of these particular ones, and like them.

A deburring tool. I really like this one, it’s very durable, has a nice feel in the hand. Replaceable blades of many kinds (left hand, right hand, many special purposes…they’re all cheap) are available. I only use Noga blades - I’ve gotten a couple bad batches of chinese ones, and don’t bother with them any more.

A decent craft knife handle, and these blades. Not sure why, but the exacto brand have been “not as good as one would hope” recently. I have a fiskars handle that I like. and

A big battle with the nomad is material holding. For a lot of stuff, double stick carpet tape (see the wiki) works great - multi-layer acrylic sign material should be fine with tape. For others, you need something more substantial.
I strongly recommend the HTS threaded table. Expensive. Awesome. When you need it, you’ll know.
Then, T-handled allen wrenches: like these: are really handy to have. I forget the size I use on the nomad, I think it’s 1/8".

For your “many signs” issue. The normal way to do that is with “tabs” that hold each sign solidly in the material while the others are cut, and the vast majority of the part gets cut with the cnc machine. Get it perfect, and you can just snap each part out of the material when you remove the whole thing from the table. Get it a little off, and a pair of small wire cutters snips each tab nicely. Touch up the snapped edge with a deburring tool by hand (takes a little practice) or a sanding block.

Optional stuff you should eventually get… but could wait.

A machinist square. These aren’t expensive. A combination square is not what you need. I like this type because the stop on the end of the short leg is REALLY handy. This gets used for aligning stuff on the table to the machine axis (by aligning it to the edge of the table, which is theoretically aligned already)

I also have one of these, which works well in the confines of the nomad’s cabinet

Calipers… I think if you’re doing any real work that needs any kind of accuracy, you need a pair, but you can live without them on a nomad. You shouldn’t, but you can. I “have an opinion” on this.
DECENT CALIPERS. Don’t cheap out on these. If you can’t afford a decent set of electronic calipers (real Mitutoyo, not cheap fakes, or off brand Chinese) get a set of mechanical calipers like these (B&S)
If you’re paying less than $100 for a set of new Mitutoyo calipers, they’re fake. Here’s a used set: . If you’re paying $30 for something labeled Mitutoyo, they’re fake, even used, and you may as well be buying the cheap stuff then. Single biggest problem with cheap calipers is that the measurement will vary with battery state and temperature. Second biggest problem is that the battery will always be dead (their standby current is really high). The Fowler name is on lots of questionable stuff, don’t bother with that brand. I have a dozen pairs of calipers from various vendors (mechanical, electronic), and the Mitutoyo’s are the ones I always use. I have one pair of cheap electronic 12" calipers that I use in very special circumstances, always with a new battery.
As I said, I have a bit of an opinion there…


A pair of Mitutoyo calipers which I have of my father’s estate is one of my favourite tools:

The Carbide 3D threaded table and the Carbide 3D accessories (flip jig, low profile vise) are all metric, so M6 SHCS, so want a 4mm hex wrench.

If I’m doing a lot of work on mine I dig out my bike tools, a Silca T-ratchet and PB Swiss 4mm hex bit (from a Victorinox Swiss Army Bike Tool Kit), makes for a much nicer session (the blue 4mm hex key included w/ one of the accessories (flip jig?) is quite nice though).

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The HTS table is threaded 10-32, and everything on it is 1/8" - this is different than the carbide3d threaded table.

I will third the Noga-style (swiveling hooked cutter) type debur tool. There are various types of tips, for different materials, right vs left vs either way cutting, pilot end (helps control scoring, chatter, and cut depth) and for inside vs outside (concave vs convex) edges. I have a couple of cheap 4 piece sets, and buy better cutters of the types I need. The linked on above is decent, and will be fine for most plastics. Practice, as there is a tendency for the edge to dig a little, based on the angle of the handle and position of the blade tip. If you look at the deburring tools catalog from Noga, you will be overwhelmed, but get a good idea of available tools.

I would also suggest a triangle (machinist) scraper. Again, for most plastics, any will do. They are inexpensive, as long as you are only concerned with softer, nonabrasive materials.

Files. They are inexpensive and are best bang for the buck in finishing. For cleaning outside edges, such as where tabs came off, an 8" medium (bastard), single cut flat american pattern, and a fine (second cut) in the same size, is a good start for acryilc. You can remove a fair bit of material and also draw file for dead smoothing. [Hand files are addictive. They are so useful–I have roughly 100 in regular use, and I have no clue how many in backup, but most are real specialty, like full runs of rifflers in several styles and sizes (0 or 00 to 6, depending). Don’t ask how much money I have invested, as I long since lost track… But I don’t have a problem. Really] You will also want handles. NEVER use a file without a handle. You may also consider other file shapes, and maybe a needle file set, if you will be doing through profile work (lacework, for example) or concave edges. [needle files often have handles molded on, as standard handles may be way too big and clunky]

I also second a sea-of-holes bed, but you can probably go a long way with just MDF wasteboards. A way to get repeatable positioning is to put holes in the wasteboard with the machine and insert dowel pins. I use 3mm dia, 10mm long pins for a lot of things so I always have them around, and they are cheap, so I tend to use those. Three pins is fine… two to locate one edge of the material, and a third to locate a second edge. Works fine with tape for hold down, as well.

With the sea of holes, you can predrill mounting holes and just screw the work down, as long as the holes can match the bed grid. You might need tape to help, as many materials tend to lift. Like any fixturing method, you need to let the path planner know where the clamps, screws, fixture parts are. For plastic on aluminum, the 3M 467 does well, but is a real pain to remove at times. It doesn’t take much to hold really, really well in this type of application. I like it because it is dead consistent in thickness, unlike many tapes [it goes on with no carrier. Just adhesive in a precise thickness] so if the bed is level, the workpiece is level. Handy when doing low depth operations like PC boards or surface engraving. Check for material compatibility before using adhesive if the hold-down face will be visible on the final product.

I would concur that a rotary tool (Dremel or similar) is really not going to do a whole lot in the application you are looking at. You may find it useful for pre-drilling mounting holes if you don’t have another drilling option.

Calipers are a definite tool to have. You will also want a way to set tool zero height. Many people use paper (bring the tool down until there is drag on the paper, then you are the paper thickness above the work), and it works well, for a lo of things. I often find it is awkward in this machine to position so I can feel the drag, so I generally use either brass or plastic shim stock (I keep 0.500mm plastic around for a number of things, and have a mystery mix of brass collected over the years) as the thickness is more precise and I can drop the tool until there is a visible scratch without damaging the tool. With sign making stock, paper is likely to be fine, as there will be little in your way, but there are other options if you need them.

You might also want a selection of abrasive papers (and holders if you don’t like wood blocks). If you want a matte edge finish, that is by far the easiest way. It is really tough to get consistent finish without a mandrel.

Ditto on a decent square. You can check a square easily to be sure it is actually square. A combination square is very handy. Avoid the cheap ones. They won’t be square or rigid. Bonus is that a combination square lets you measure 45 degree as well as right angles, and is also a rigid rule.

Tools for removing work from the machine, if you use adhesive,

If you go bed-of-holes, a selection of screws and washers for workholding. The selection needed will depend on the material thicknesses you work with. I have, at this point, maybe 30 or 40 screws for the Nomad in lengths that differ by 1 or 2mm. My preference is socket head, but that is due to the type of work I do and the setups I use. You might find a truss head more amenable (broader surface under a lower head). Or something else.

A work surface (cutting mat or vinyl drafting surface) is real handy, and a way to hold material rigidly during prep and finishing-- a vise, clamps and a table, it depend on the work. For what you are doing, a woodworker type vise mounted under a table, and soft jaw liners (leather is traditional for fine finish soft materials, but even craft felt will do for the type of light work you are looking at) would be my choice, but this a a really personal kind of thing.

Enough, already. I’ll stop.


A couple of other potential uses for a Dremel/rotary tool:

  • rapid removal of tabs w/ a slitting saw
  • cleaning up of parts w/ a strip sanding drum or bristle brush
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Thanks William. Can I use the free MakerSpace version of VCarve or do I need to get the full version program? If so I might wait a little as I have to be sure of the available work before I jump in.

As for your generous offer - I’m not sure what would be useful yet. I am totally green. I’m just going through the online tutorials and waiting on my Nomad delivery. I have 0 experience. I’ve used a variety of 2D drawing tools over the years, and I’ve used SketchUp 3D a little mostly for simple illustrations and such but far from being accomplished. Thanks.

Thanks for the solid recommendations and links. I’ll be picking these up. I’m assuming the HTS threaded table is the same on offered by Carbide3D? It was out of stock when I ordered my machine. I’ll keep an eye. Thanks will add all of these to my toolbox.

Thanks for the recommendations. Nice to be working with a tool your father owned.

Thanks for a lot of awesome suggestions. Anything I can learn on someone else experience is pain avoided - I appreciate it.

The HTS threaded table is a 3rd party option which as I understand it is full Imperial (as opposed to the metric/Imperial hybrid of the Carbide 3D table).

If you’ll let us know the specifics of what you want, we’ll do our best to help.

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Let me get the machine and gear up and then I’ll know better to take you up on that - thanks very much.

The HTS table is -not- the same as the carbide3d threaded table. Will speaks of the carbide table, I provided a link to the HTS table. Same basic idea, but different.

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