Key chain inlays with Nomad

I am CNC self taught using our public library’s 883. I create ~2" hardwood key chains with Walnut, Maple and Cherry inlays. Love the Nomad for its precision. Here are some images and a couple examples:

I use a .015" end mill for the base and inlay to provide adequate detail and a good fit of the mirror image in the inlay. Inlay depth is 0.05"

I also do similar inlays for 3.75" coasters:

The Nomad is amazing. I try to spend about 7 hours every saturday creating something new. An now the library lets me teach a 101 (2 1/2D) CNC class. We are creating a small but enthusiastic community!


I retire in 2 years. Hope to make this my retirement hobby. Meant to share my pinterest board with additional images:


@tinkereratheart Those look great! What software are you using to create the models?

I use photoshop elements (old/inexpensive version) for circular and arc text; Inkscape for scanning pixel art and precise letter kerning (space between letters is critical in outside cut of mirror images); and, with recent feature adds, a lot of the vector design is just in Carbide create.


Nice, how long does it take to mill with such a tiny bit?

Beautiful work, and inspirational!

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I’ve never really done inlays. After you glue, or don’t glue, the wood into the slots, do you run a surfacing path to remove the back of the inlay part and level it?

These look great!


Remember I am self taught so I experimented with the speeds and feeds for this small end mill to find what worked quickly without stressing machine or end mills in walnut, maple, and cherry; I run about 10"/min with a 0.014" depth of cut. But I cut very little with the small end mill, roughing out the design with 1/8, 1/16, and 1/32 to quickly remove pocket areas. The small 0.015" end mill is critical to make the narrow angle corners work so the inlay fits easily. I work within a public library so I must attend the machine at all times and I make frequent end mill changes. It allows me to create the base in about 20 minutes and the inlay in 20 to 40 minutes depending on the design. It took me awhile to figure out how to use the different size end mills to create natural tabs and minimize material removal in the mirror image inlays and allow alignment of the inlay with the cutout base. The infinite heart piece (picture previously posted) is a good example of how the larger mills cut deeper in the inlay to make alignment easy. When the inlay is large (and circular) it can be challenging to align the tight fitting pieces so the wood is not damaged as they are pressed together.


Yes. I started by cutting out the inlay (letters and design elements). But as I produced smaller and finer designs and text, the mirror image on a 1/16 or 1/32 backing is critical. Everything is ‘held in place’ and the whole piece aligns perfectly…all I have to do is run a 1/4" end mill over the inlay to remove the back part of the inlay. I cut quickly with about 0.005" per pass and and stop when I am willing to sand the remaining material away (especially with delicate and tiny parts) or I can resurface the whole part. My preference is to stop just before hitting the surface and control my finished surface with my sanding. My pieces are small so sanding is not difficult.


these are very cool, I’m so impressed I might have to have a go over the weekend. What does a 0.015 bit equate to in cm?

When you do a rouging pass, how do you ensure your next size down doesn’t run the full pass?


Do you mind posting the files for the infinity heart? I really like it!

I get a fairly inexpensive endmill from eBay. The 0.015" is 0.38mm
Small Endmill eBay|350x500

I am not sure I fully understand your question. Bear with me.

I use carbide create and only use the small bit with an inside or outside path. Since I create each path I determine my ‘roughing pass’ with the larger bits. I tried to use meshcam when I first started CNC and so much was done for me I couldn’t tell what I was doing or what the machine was doing. With carbide create I feel I am in-touch with the machine and better understand the process. I will post a file of the infinite heart pattern and you can see what I do.


inf-heart base and mirror inlay.c2d (2.5 MB)

Here is the c2d file used for the infinite heart key chain. In this single file is the base design which I cut from 0.25" stock and the mirror image design which I cut from 0.12" stock. I find it critical to work in a single file when I work through the ‘inside’ and 'outside cuts. I believe the secret to a good fit is the meticulous arrangement of the vector nodes such that there are no significant gaps on either side of the vector when viewing the inside and outside toolpaths. After I design, I move the tool paths…the placement of the designs in the attached file is arbitrary…and the two square (and unused) vectors around the base design help me align and place and Q.A. during my milling process.

I used version 304 to create this design. Earlier versions of Carbide Create let me move vectors while viewing the tools paths…which allowed much faster designs as the toolpaths became alignment aids. It seems that option was disabled in recent CC versions (including 304). I can’t see what my vector edits do immediately…but that just means I have to switch back and forth from design to toolpath views to complete the process.

My workflow begins by importing my svg pattern and then adjusting the vector until my smallest end mill (in this case, identified as #14 in my library and in the attached; the 2 flute SQ 0.015" (.38mm) with 0.05" cutting depth) tool paths work…then I create the mirror and all necessary paths, then the base with all necessary paths.

I hope this is helpful and useful. I remind everyone that I am self taught so what is represented here many not be the right way, but it works for me.


Wow, this is why I bought my nomad, for doing this sort of work exactly :slight_smile: You’ve really made and imaculate job. Impressed!

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