What tools and techniques do folks use for more complex projects?

Curious how folks manage more complex projects which get beyond a single file.

  • file-naming conventions are one obvious approach — including tool number and file origin in a file name is a technique often used in job shops for instance

  • file-hierarchy as well — putting all the files in a single folder, possibly w/ sub-folders for sub-types

Once upon a time, NeXTstep used a document bundle concept which extended this to allow a folder w/ a file extension to function as a single document, while holding w/in it separate files, so for example a .rtfd bundle would have a main .rtf file which placed in it all of the .tiff and .eps files which were stored in the bundle.

One tool which I’ve used which really makes notes in structured file hierarchies workable is the venerable Tombo app:


A new tool I’ve been looking at is LEO:


which if the installation of which was more straight-forward, and the usage of it more explicable would be very popular.

I’ve tried using OneNote, and every time I begin to get comfortable w/ Nebo it annoys me in some way w/ an update, and Journal is no longer useful (and there’s a new version which won’t install on my machine since I won’t update beyond 1703), and I really miss Millennium Notebook, and can’t quite bring myself to buy yet another Omni Group Outliner license (was using it at my previous workplace to track my timesheet/to do list).

I wish PySheet would work on file systems — ISTR some other Python program which did transforms on file structures which might make it more useful.

Anyone else have any favourite tools or techniques to share?

I just use your hierarchy idea. I have a folder called “Projects”, and a subfolder for each project. I separated this one into separate files for each setup.


I suppose you could do multiple setups with layers, but then you have to disable/enable toolpaths to post to separate files.

I do like the idea of notes imbedded in the c2d, perhaps a File → Properties dialog? (could also include file details, attributes/parameters that we currently can’t see, and the notes.
It doesn’t bother me to just create a text item on the layer for each setup. But a notes attribute would be nice.


From Fusion, in complex projects I structure the CAD projects as

  • Components (e.g. side panel, back panel with cutouts, lamp bracket)
  • Sub Assemblies (e.g. light bar with brackets)
  • Project Assemblies (e.g. Modular synth cabinet)

These assemblies let me check whether things really fit in CAD and what the overall project will look like without creating a monolithic disaster that I can’t edit properly.

I then make a new CAD file for each component for the CAM, insert the component and create stock bodies etc. Then create CAM for the component. This keeps all the CAM data out of the Sub Assembly and Project Assembly files and reduces the size by about 10:1. The component is linked so updates propagate to both the project and the CAM files.

I then create CAM setups in each component named for their orientation e.g. in “Lamp bar bracket” a setup “Bracket top side” and then “Bracket bottom side” and “Bracket base drilling”

Gcode is then exported into a folder structure based on the CAD structure e.g.

/Modular synth cabinet/Lamp Bar Bracket/Bracket Top Side

With files named for setup, tool, zero position. I only export one tool at a time as I don’t have an ATC or the paid for Fusion license.

e.g. the gcode for the first job, a surfacing pass on the bracket top side, using an 8mm single flute with the zero at the Front Left and set to fixture / spoilboard zero would be something like

Top Side 01 - Surfacing - 8mm Single Flute - FLSBZ.nc

Then when I load that in CM I know what part I’m on from the folders, each setup with more than a couple of nc files has it’s own folder too, I run them in numerical order (as sorted by filename), I know what cutter is expected and am reminded where to set the zero. I also keep Fusion open and check the orientation, zero, view the simulation etc. on complex jobs first time they are run.

I should add, much of this is learned / cribbed from what others here have done, mixed in with some additions of my own, mostly triggered to address repeated mistakes.


Hey Tod…this is right in line with my thinking. Everything associated with a project nicely related together. It doesn’t have to be physically located together (in fact, some components might be shared between different projects), but your definition of this project virtually links all of these various files together. It’s exactly where I’m going.

EDIT: Actually, what you have is not EXACTLY what I’m thinking. I’d like to NOT have to have the elements of a project co-located in a folder…just referenced in a project file. This way, different people could store different parts of a project wherever they want (network shares, a GCODE folder different than a design folder, an SVG library, etc.)…but the project would LOGICALLY live as an entity. With this, you could also have the same file used in multiple projects (maybe something like a logo that’s embedded in different designs).

When I start a new project I open a file I have which has all the holes from my wasteboard laid out. Save a copy to a new folder for the project and then layout the basic shape of the project. I will then remove all of the holes from the wasteboard that will be inside the project. This way I have an idea of where I may need to work around clamps or include the existing threaded holes so I can bolt a piece directly to the wasteboard if possible. For example the fish below has holes drilled into the board which I use to hold the work down. They are recessed so I can surface over the bolts as needed.

I keep my files in a folder on my OneDrive from Microsoft. Each project gets its own folder and things like my cribbage boards have a folder for each of the custom tops I do. I also archive files that are no longer used similar to the screenshot below. There is a folder for files from the design phase just in case I want to go back and check them for some reason. The great part about using OneDrive is that if I ever mess something up I can revert to an earlier version of the file since it keeps copies. It is almost like using GitHub or SVN for coding. Less descriptions about what was changed but still very useful.

I also keep a folder in the root for common images. If I create or use an image that I think I will want to use again I put a copy in that root folder so I am not having to remember which specific project it was used on. That is still not as helpful as I would like though because I often want details about the depths and speeds I used in the carving so I end up trying to find the project again anyway. I may start adding a few things like logos to my wasteboard file so they are already in the project and I can remove what is not needed. What I was really hoping for was for the new duplicate feature to allow duplication from one file to another for this.

When it comes to images that are more complex, if I can’t figure out a way to do them in Carbide Create I use Inkscape to create the SVG file. This is often things like making text go along a curve or something simialr.I will use GIMP to manipulate an image so Carbide Create has an easier time tracing it. I may sharpen an area or cut certain areas out since they are not needed anymore. I was able to use the two programs to turn this

into this

I also like using my SurfaceBook with the pen in Inkscape to draw. I am not great with it but sometimes if I want to trace something that Carbide Create just can’t get I will use the pen to trace it and get closer to what I want and then manipulate some of the nodes once it is in Carbide Create.

When it comes to making notes for things I need away from the machine I put them in a OneNote notebook. This way I have access on my phone. For some projects I will go to the lumberyard and forget what width I might need for a specific project so I have this in the OneNote for the cribbage boards for example. Makes it so much easier when by material to make sure I don’t accidentally get something too narrow as I look through the stacks.
If I need to do any text editing it is done using either Notepad++ or VS Code. Both are great text editors. This is pretty rare though since I have note really started manually editing any gcode files.


File naming and directory/folder hierarchy here. Works on all platforms and needs no tools.

(Btw: I don’t think w/in is one of the w/ abbreviations. And with is only two extra keystrokes… I know u r a l33t txt peep but it might be confusing to none native speakers… it jars my reading and doesn’t make it easier to comprehend you)

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