Engraving on uneven surfaces

Hi, im new to this forum, and will be brand new to cnc work…just ordered longbow and doing some research before it arrives. So most of the work i will be doing with it will be on old oak whiskey barrels( mostly the barrel heads).
Can anyone give input on wood engraving( mostly images) on surfaces that may not be perfectly flat? is this possible… is there maybe spring loaded bits that could work on this?? Also does anybody have input on good software for working on this sort of thing, like i say it would be for importing images to engrave on these? Thankyou, any input would be awesome…so i dont screw up to many times!:slight_smile:

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@Bart First, I would like to welcome you to the forum! Lots of good people here, all willing to assist! While I can’t answer both your questions, I will give you my opinion on software. The software purchased is Vectric VCarve Pro, for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to learn one software, not attempting to use free software, then outgrowing it and needing to learn another. While that may sound strange, at 59, learning isn’t quite as easy as it once was. Although being semi retired, I do enjoy thinking through the challenges of CNC. I can learn VCarve Pro, and if I outgrow it, I can upgrade for the price difference to Aspire, and it is essentially the same software, with added bells and whistles. I know some folks here went for the desktop version (step below Pro) but it does limit the size of the piece you can design.

The second point about carving on things that are not perfectly flat (whiskey barrel lid) all I can share is my experience with carving live edge wood. I try super hard to ensure a perfectly flat piece, or seriously close to flat. I have a 1940’s vintage surface planer which does a good job, although it does limit me to 12”. Someone else may chime in with other techniques for carving on things not perfectly flat. I have carved on wood which was warped and the outcome isn’t as nice as something that is flat. The raised or warped piece will be deeper and the flat piece won’t be as deep. In my case, it didn’t matter all that much, but your results may vary. You can flatten with your cnc too, although I haven’t tried that, beyond flattening my surface board.

Again, welcome! Can’t sit to see pictures of your creations!


A surfacing bit will make it flat to your Z axis but also removes the patina so a tradeoff. Vcarves will turn out great though. Not so much if not surfaced. Spring loaded is only for diamond drag engraving and not for wood. Screwing up is a great learning experience…
I chose Vectric software and never looked back. I chose Rottweilers and question that every time I bleed and the newest girl is spring loaded.

thanks Jake for the input, i hear you with learning to many new things:) i build lots of things with barrels , ive used someone to laser engrave for me but opted to try a achieve this with a router ( hopefully works as well) . i will try flattening as much as i can, just didnt want to loose some of the weathered aspects of the wood. thanks again!

Thanks for your response rick , i didnt know if there was such a bit for wood? ya i dont want to loose to much of the old patina…but i guess ill have to have some trade offs to achieve these. thanks again!

@Bart In my humble opinion, a router is a much better choice than laser. Then again, I haven’t purchased the laser attachment yet, but eventually will. The router makes for a more refined look in my opinion. So many folks ask “how the heck did you do that”. My library has a laser engraving machine I could use too.

You are going to love your LongMill!