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Episode 021: Art Deco Vase

By: Chris Fitch
I used to always think of wood vases as a project to be spun on a lathe, but now I think of a vase as a project to be carved on a CNC machine. The possibilities are endless, and inspiration is just a few clicks away!

The Art Deco vase in this episode of CNC Basecamp was inspired by a beautiful antique vase made in Czechoslovakia in the early 1930’s. The vase had forms that expanded upward and was made in a color of glass described as “Uranium Green, very futuristic, very forward looking, very Art Deco.

When designing a vase or other container for the CNC router it is easiest to think in terms of sides, 3, 4, 5 or more sides to form a vessel. The sides can be highly organic, or geometric, created to flow into one another as individual story boards or simply repeating. I chose to use 4 repeating sides that taper to form an inverted pyramid.

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Making the sides began at the computer using a CAD program. Knowing that I would use the table saw to cut tapered miters for the sides I started the modeling process by creating a “board”. I then sketched and extruded a series of over-lapping shapes to build up the exterior of the side with its characteristic Art Deco forms.

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One issue that we have working with wood is that it can be a bulky looking material, so I knew that machining out the back of the sides and maintaining an appropriate thickness was important. Fortunately for us most CAD programs have a tool that is nothing short of a design miracle for situations like this – the shell function. The shell function allows you to remove material from a part’s interior creating a specified wall thickness – easy and fast with just a few clicks of the mouse.

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Since the sides are carved on both faces, I added indexing holes at either end of the blank to keep the positioning of the blank spot on when flipping the part over to machine the second side.

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When designing ornate wooden vases, I think it’s best to divide the project into a vessel up top and a supporting base below. The base can be simple and understated or a total glam-fest – your choice. I opted for simplicity with the project vase as there is plenty of action happening with the upper vessel.

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While this episode's project is a vase the techniques can also be used to make candle stands, waste baskets, boxes and more – and be sure to give the “shell function” a try!

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Published: June 6, 2023
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