Options for Workholding?

So, I want to create very precise terrain squares, and require workholding that sits low-profile around the four sides of the material (either MDF or sculpting foam, haven’t decided which yet), and all ow for complete milling edge-to-edge. The prices for what I’m looking for on the Carbide3D site are, in my opinion, outrageous! Anyone have any ideas for something I could 3D print or mill that would work to hold lightweight pieces in this manner?

Scotch blue tape and superglue?

I don’t see how this would be a moneysaver, in the long run, and I have to keep the work area as clean and free of smells and weird chemicals as much as possible.

I was thinking more along the lines of a hack that someone has done with a square and some t-bolts for repetitive cutting of lightweight material of the exact same size repeatedly. Paying $100+ for carbide squares that I still have to mill holes into is just, well, it’s just ridiculous.

I’m a one-man shop in a military university, and I do 3D design, printing, lasercutting, dye-sub printing, etc., to make military miniatures, games, gameboards, and maps. I have almost no room to do all of this stuff in, and no formal training. You might think “Well, you have all that government money!”, but I take being fiscally-responsible pretty seriously.

I guess I’ll have to use my own engineering and design chops and make it happen.

If you’re doing a lot of these pieces then yes, some custom workholding would make more sense. Don’t discount the Scotch tape & CA glue for holding odd shaped workpieces though, it works way better than you expect.

There’s various designs of clamp, quite a few in the ‘cam action clamp’ category which people make on their shapeoko.

There’s a load of options here


and stuff like this

Any of those work?

Possibly. I have the Pro, so only things using the t-slot will work. Thanks for the tips! I’m sure I’ll find something, or at least something I can mod for my needs.

The REALLY hard part will be cutting these terrain tiles. I already have the STLs, but from my reading now I’ll need CCPro to do it? I may be looking into a hack for that now as well…

If the terrain tiles are a consistent size then you could make up a jig board in MDF which bolts down to the T track and has suitable guide edges / low profile clamps for the tiles.

Depending on the cutting load a cam style clamp with stops like @LiamN mentioned may work well. You could probably 3D print them and have pretty good results. You could also do a jig in MDF with a slot to make removal of the tape and superglue method easier. I use it for aluminum plate all the time and it is cheaper than a dedicated aluminum fixture. Another option is vacuum workholding but if you are balking at the price of the Carbide 3D stuff then I don’t think that will be an option for you.

I would examine your expectations on the cost of workholding tools. Good quality workholding can be expensive and what Carbide 3D offers is an excellent price to performance and quality balance. After spending a couple thousand on a machine I don’t think it is unreasonable to spend a couple hundred on assorted workholding. You don’t have to and you can create your own but your time is also worth something as well.


You can machine an STL with Fusion and they have a free version. See this:

It is a little older but it still applies.

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Yep and being in a university you should qualify for the educational free licensing.

If your pieces are uniform in size make a jig to hold them and use a down cut bit to keep pieces from being lifted by up cut bits.


Do you need to edit the STL files, or are they ‘ready top go’? I have used the STL2NC website to directly convert topographic STLs to GCode, and successfully cut them. Works best with rectangular STLs.

For one I did have to edit the STL, I used FreeCAD to produce an new STL that I then ran through STl2NC.


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