Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

DD: Intermediate


Intermediate Digital Design




Taught by Andy Pitts, a studio furniture maker from eastern Virginia, this five-day course offers woodworkers, builders and fabbers at the intermediate and above level in-depth instruction in the more advanced programming and operations of a three-axis CNC (digital) router and CNC design software.

CNC is quickly becoming a mainstay in the tool inventory of fine workshops. Just as the electric jointer and planer enabled increased woodshop productivity with a high level of quality, CNC opens up the possibilities of doing fine work, repeatable and often at levels of complexity not reasonably attainable by more traditional methods of work. To call CNC “carving” can be confusing and is really a misnomer, as it is clearly not the same as hand carving. Instead, CNC is a new art form whose strength is in the creativity of manipulating computer models, while still requiring expertise in actually working with the materials. As such, the use of CNC teams up perfectly with traditional methods to make excellent pieces of work. The aim of this course is to more deeply explore this new tool and its potential in the design and production of exciting and technically challenging pieces.

In this video, Andy makes small walnut boxes using the ShopBot Desktop CNC machine and Vectric Aspire software.



This class is for those with direct experience using CNC at an intermediate or higher level. Through a series of structured lessons and small projects, students will explore more advanced CNC design and machining techniques such as using 3D CAD/CAM software, 3D carving, 3D modeling, and more specialized techniques. As part of the process, students will create their own designs for these projects and use the CNC machine to cut them.  Prior CNC experience is required. For those with more experience, there will be the opportunity to explore more advanced techniques and designs and cut them (as time allows).  There will also be introductory discussions on advanced topics as time permits. There will be three Desktop CNC machines available for student use.

Topics covered will include: 

  • manipulation and modification of 3D models in Aspire software
  • 3D toolpathing
  • 3D carving
  • v-carving on 3D models
  • modelling and carving on curved surfaces
  • dish modeling with the multiply combine mode
  • tiled toolpathing
  • inlay techniques

And as time allows we will discuss:

  • digital probe creation of 3D models
  • use of the indexer to create cylindrical shapes
  • vacuum hold-downs
  • carving laminations
  • carving veneered work


Students are required to bring

  • PC laptop computer loaded with Windows 7, 8, or 10
  • OR a Mac laptop running Parallels with Windows 7, 8, or 10
  • OR a Mac laptop running Boot Camp with Windows 7, 8, or 10
  • The computer should be preloaded with Vectric’s trial version of Aspire software (note: we will load the full version of Aspire, that allows saving toolpaths, the first morning of class. The trial version will help you become familiar with Aspire before the class convenes, but cannot save toolpaths.)

The computer should be preloaded with ShopBot’s SB3 machine control software. 

  • A USB thumb drive.  
  • Tools provided by the school
  • Hearing and eye protection 
  • Full version of Vectric Aspire design software 
  • CNC routers (ShopBot Desktop)
  • Router bits required for class projects


This course is open to woodworkers, builders and makers at the intermediate level and above possessing experience using CNC routers and a firm foundation using Windows based software on the computer. Wood will be the primary material cut during the class, but the design and machining techniques covered in the class can also be applied to other materials such as plastic, aluminum and foam.

Students must have a firm working knowledge of using Windows based software, including working with files and using pointing devices (mouse or pen tablet). The course will involve significant work in Aspire and ShopBot software. Average or above computer literacy cannot be overstressed.

Students should preload the trial version of Vectric Aspire software and ensure it works on their computers. During the first day of class each student will be provided with a full version of Vectric Aspire to use during the course.  Also, students not already familiar with Aspire software should watch the “Getting Started” tutorial videos prior to attending class to get an understanding of the basic terminology, tools, and techniques of Aspire so we can make the most of the time allotted.

This class is ideal for students who have taken Beginning Digital Design with Thea Eck the preceding week. 


Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.
This class takes place in Building 304 at Fort Worden - not the School Building. Map.
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $ 750
Materials Charge: $ 50
Register By: June 27, 2016

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.