Thoughts on using CNC machine to "handwrite" repeatedly?

I have a S3XXL.

I’m getting 1000-2000 door hangers printed for a business. I have an area where there needs to be a short hand written message in pen or thin marker. Generally there’s only 3 different possible messages so extremely high repetition.

The whole idea on “handwriting” the message vs printing it is that it has a more personalized look which will get a higher response rate and engagement from homeowners.

What do you guys think about using the shapeoko to handle this?

I have a fence so I can place a door hanger in the fence, then I guess use a handwriting font, create an ultra thin custom tool, and “pocket” toolpath?

Once a single toolpath is created I was going to copy it, but change the RPM so after I completes one it will stop and prompt to change RPM allowing a new door hanger to be put in.

Or maybe I can just lay down 20 hangers and hold them down as the machine does work on them so they don’t move.

Also wondering what kind of speeds I can hit when doing this. Speed is really key. If it can’t write FAST, like 3-5 seconds for 10 small words I’ll probably just do it manually in the field.

Not really decided on any path, just wanted to run it by you guys.

1 Like

Do you really want it written or carved?

I have the SharkTooth pen holder for writing, but Carbide3D released a pen holder of their own about a week after I got mine.


If I had to guess based on how fast I’ve pushed the machine before and it’s accelerations, I’d say you can’t expect less than 1-2 seconds per word. There’s just too much mass in the machine to move fast like a laser or 3D printer.


Its really not a problem.

Ive created ‘handwritten’ charade cards, many of them, using a pen holding tool. I used vcarve and an engraving tool path on my Nomad.

A fine tipped pen. Not too fast else pen skipped or bounced; practice / experiment.

I’ve plotted out a handwritten note. But that took a long time as i didnt optimise the converted/traced photo of my hand written note. But possible.

The pen holder: i 3d printed one from thingiverse/youtube.

1 Like

Save your valuable time by having a business that is set up for production runs engrave them. You have the choice between methods and that could include laser and carving or etching. By far the most efficient method will be laser. The costs and time saved are worth more to you than making your machine do a substantial production run… where controlling all of the variables will require impeccable techniques.

Set your machine up perfectly, work on a simple piece of scrap and time it. Use a new cutter (so that a blunt cutter does not affect timing or finish) then decide on the finish standard you will not drop below. Consider workholding methods, workpiece positioning, workpiece security and engraving or etching accuracy. Consider how you will manage the waste debris. If this trial went well and the timing suited your needs, add a bit of time for placing and removing workpieces onto your machine.

I wont say it cannot be done but it can be quite a chore. I cut over 1200 similarly shaped (but differently sized) pieces from 10mm acrylic sheets in two different colours. Each sheet could provide from 4 to 25 pieces and each sheet was held in the same manner because they were all A4 (297 x 210mm) in size. Despite being well set up and everything working perfectly, it still required more time than I had allowed for, given my trial cuts.


I do believe this is practical advice.

I would also wonder how often you’d need to replace the marker, to make sure that the tip doesn’t get flattened and start to create a wider line. Getting consistent results might be difficult with a pen.

If you had a laser, you’d be in business.

1 Like

Door hangers are trespass trash. Make them cheap, get your money and run.

1 Like

I agree as to the practicality of this. I gotta believe it would be way more efficient to just hand write them.

However, if this is academic it’s certainly feasible. work holding is an issue. Vacuum or a tacky mat may be the way to go. A pen holder that uses gravity to apply the pressure to write, allowing the pen to move up / down but not sideways. Then it’s a matter of tuning in the depth to get the optimum pressure. And having a stop so the pen lifts on retracts.

Rather than using a font, how about writing the message yourself & tracing your own handwriting?

What about making a rubber stamp from some hard urethane or gum rubber?

If doing thousands of these, I might just handwrite the message, scan it, and include it in the printing in a different color. The imperfections picked up by the scan would make it look somewhat handwritten.
A discerning reader might notice it was printed, But the initial glance still gives the impression you want.


Sometimes happiness is in the solving process. Lots of what i do i could outsource…but where’s the fun in that :thinking: :smirk:


I looked into several options including custom stamps but didn’t really settle on anything. I like your idea about using a tacky mat to hold the hangers down. Also the idea of milling out a piece of rubber to use as a stamp is pretty damn brilliant IMO.

For some reason when reading your comment a new idea popped into my head. Milling out a “tracing template” out of thin acrylic then running a sharpie or pen through the guide. Probably not even much faster than handwriting though.

I think milling out a brick of rubber and using that as a stamp could be extremely fast. I just wonder how it would look. Going to test that. You always have some interesting ideas, appreciate ya.

It’s a matter of perspective really. If you provide value to people why be shy to advertise it and bank off it? If you make sure your product is top notch and provides a lot of value, then you can aggressively market it without holding back.

My door hanger designs are custom made and unorthodox to say the least. Most people just use a generic design which doesn’t get attention or engagement.

I’m curious what the angry response rate and sales conversion rate will be. I bring up pain points carefully but also very bluntly and overtly then offer to solve the issue with special deals, social proof, lots of persuasive copy about benefits etc. Some might be annoyed I brought up their problems. Others will see the value in the solution.

People can feel how they want, as long as they don’t feel nothing. That’s my marketing mindset anyway :sweat_smile:

Another good thought. It wouldn’t save any time, and would actually add time to make the template,
but it would make them uniform, and reduce sloppiness when your hand gets tired.

But that’s how brainstorming works, no bad ideas, just that only one is going to be the ‘best’ for a particular situation.

Door hangers are kinda like the analog version of email spam. Many will just get scrapped. In my ~35 yrs of home ownership, I may have actually used 2. A free pizza, and a spider control guy.
But I at least looked at them to see what they were advertising before I binned them.
What if the door hanger was something useful, like a coozy or a coaster? People might be inclined to keep it, and then when the opportunity arises remeber they have it. ??


I wonder if using a small paint brush to brush over the template with ink, or paint would produce a good result. One thing I’m worried about is burning a day or two testing things. That’s a huge problem I have. Trying to optimize but I actually create a time sink. I think I’ll try the rubber piece and if it doesn’t work I’ll just hand write.

I think from a marketing perspective door hangers don’t work well just because they’re sooo bland and generic. They either look like they’re designed by a 5th grader or they have modern graphics, ultra clean designs, stock images, etc. The issue is they focus on giving generic service details, offer some small discount, verrry bland copywriting that’s focused on BRANDING without almost any persuasion or sales built in. You have no reason to engage with that random business unless it’s just sheer convenience.

I now understand @CrookedWoodTex’s comment. Door Hangers are not a thing in the UK.

Ya think? These days I suspect that many people are familiar with attempts to make something that is false look as if it was personalised just for them. I will leave it to the marketing specialists to show that this kind of blunderbuss approach works.

All competent printers are set up for this kind of specification. they will use fonts that emulate handwriting if that is your wish. You only want 330 or 660 of each variant according to your own numbers. I see and acknowledge @Tod1d’s smart idea but I am left wondering why don’t you just print them and be done with it.

Do these things have to hang on doors, for example. Could they be left in a mailbox and get seen just as easily? If so, you could print any shape, even use die cut shapes if you must.

Hmmm… from this distance I find myself asking why are you bothering then? If you produce your 2000 door hangers, what percentage of that number would you reasonably expect to yield business for you? Why not produce flyers that you are free to design how you want and utilise the whole of the available space. Possibly adding a discount portion of the flyer so that your potential customers brings it back to you. That way, you are making a marketing effort from which you can easily assess its impact and the value of advertising in that way.

I have a Xerox Phaser 6510 A4 sized (297 x 210mm) colour laser printer that is cheap to run and it produces outstanding colours and resolution. The printer was priced at less than $300 (EOL item) and it will print up to A4 with full ink coverage and up to 4300 pages with high capacity toners (5500 in black) and has a duty cycle of 4000 pages per month. The colour quality is excellent and the gamut is at least able to reproduce the standard sRGB model.This type of printer would leave you the ability to produce whatever you need, when you need it and no messy CNC involved.

Apologies if I have misread what you are in need of… CNC just feels like the wrong tool for the job.

1 Like

Seems like a tedious job to me to use the router. My company prints anything on paper. Use a script type font for the message and just have them printed. You could also write the message yourself, scan it and add it to the art file. Easy peasy. If you need variations of them, we can do that as well.

1 Like

Caprain Ignorance here: What is a ‘Door Hanger’? Is it one of those cards that say ‘yeh’ or ‘ney’ to room service or is it for hanging clothes, or something else?

Same concept as the “Do not Disturb” hanger at a hotel, but an advertisement at your home.
I’ve had them for spider control, window replacement, roofing, cleaning, etc…
We had one the other day for Jehovah’s Witnesses. And If I’m home & bored I love wasting those guys time!! :smiley:

These words put a vision in my head that I could not shift… spider training schools where you start out giving the spider a treat (candy) then you get to use a whip and then you saddle up and use spurs to control their speed and direction - I’m sure you get the picture :joy: sorry, I’ll get my coat.

1 Like

People can easily see the difference between a printed handwriting font and an organically handwritten message. You can try it yourself. Print a font you think looks like handwriting in blue ink color, then next to it write the same message with a blue pen.

I have a marketing mindset so it’s all about increasing engagement and conversions. I’m very confident I can get much better than average results. Mostly because companies hire designers to make their door hangers and 99% of designers don’t understand marketing.

Generally door hangers get under 1% response rate. I’m trying to ideally get 3-8%. I’ll be doing door to door sales and the hangers and just for people who aren’t home. The unholy duo of annoyance, but I’m offering exceptional value.

I could print a full page flyer and put in their mailbox. Not a bad idea. Door hangers look more professional and will be cheaper though. Cardstock + high gloss finish looks really nice. I have a Pixma Pro 100 I bought but I don’t really want to use it like a workhorse. Just going to print some sales materials with it to put in a 13*19 binder.

These are typical door hangers:


1 Like

Only if it goes through the mail:


Black ink is more common in the UK and is highly visible on many coloured backgrounds. Blue (royal blue) as a colour for ink in fountain pens, ball point pens and roller ball ink pens has generally not been widely used for many years.

The pure art of graphic design is a particular skill set. If you cannot understand the link between visual engagement and actual engagement, you will be a very poor graphic designer.

If you give me a parachute and tell me that after I attempt to use it, there is a higher than 99% possibility that it will not open to save my life, I would walk away from you.

With respect you have missed the most important annoyance. What if I do not want (need) what you are selling?

Thank you for clarifying what a door hanger actually is. I am with the opinion voiced by @CrookedWoodTex here and I would consider this type of advertising an unwanted intrusion.
In an effort to temper the negative aspects of my comments, I will address the first example door hanger for a school.

It is a bit blurred but I can see at the top that the school is offering a discount. My first thought is they are charging too much if they can offer a discount. They offer 6 check marked bullet points under the claim in small print that this is a school which meets the international standard. As a potential customer I need to know what standard they are claiming to meet.

The check marks are indicative of the school’s marketing department being functionally illiterate. I would be embarassed to go public with such a feeble rationale for choosing their establishment.

  1. “Big Library” Seriously? Room size? Number of books? Subjects covered? Dewey or some other classification system? Digitally available copies or actual books? Books for the visually impaired students?

  2. “Fast Learning” Wow! What is the evidence for this claim? Which philosophy of education is being used? A parent may object to the use of any or all of the following philosophies. q.v. “Essentialism”, “Progressivism”, “Perrenialism”, “Existentialism”, “Behaviourism”, “Linguistic Philosophy” and “Constructivism”.

  3. “Modern School” What time period are we delineating as modern? Another meaningless term.

  4. “Medium Class” Compared to what numerical class size?

  5. “Best Education” How many of their students have gained places at MIT, Harvard or Yale last year? Without an objective measurement, there can be nothing worse than this broad meaningless statement.

  6. “Expert Teacher” Only one? I would want to know that the teaching staff hold the minimum state licence for approved teaching staff.

The hanger for the school does not begin to address any issue that a parent may want to address. It is just full of meaninless marketing fluff. Good marketing means separating you from the crowd.

Notwisthstanding the jargon I have just written above and encapsulated inside quotation marks. I can tell you that as a parent, I would want to know if the school would develop a love of learning in my progeny.

The ultra low hit rates would encourage me to find novel ways to engage with potential customers.