Soapstone and Walnut Display Stand

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Soapstone and Walnut Display Stand

Postby sfsubcutter » Fri Jan 15, 2016 1:22 am

So very excited to share the story around this project.

On vacation in Alberta this year, we came across the Carter-Ryan Gallery in Canmore and met the sculptor, Jason Carter. After sharing our passions for our respective crafts, Jason shared a piece of his soapstone with me to try and experiment with on the CNC.

After a few months of tossing this particular stone in my hands trying to figure out what to do with it to do the stone justice while also showing a the different things that could be done with the CNC and the combination of technology, materials, and craft.

Overall, I finally decided that I wanted to make something purposeful that would get people's attention. So, I focused on the giver of the piece of stone and created a display highlighting the main character of and the creators of the stories "Who is Boo?", "Who is Boo 2?", and "Who is Boo? 3". Books our son took home from the gallery and ready with great interest on the way home.

For the stone, I began with a photo of one of Jason's sculptures once in the gallery, now in someones home I'm sure. I manipulated the photo to develop a 3D model from it so I could design the required CNC toolpathing.

For the surround, my son and I spent some quality time designing the shape of the stand in 3D. He enjoys designing with Daddy and he's proud of what is made after. Again, CNC toolpathing was generated from the files and the rest is sawdust.

This was a pleasure to work on and the stone was magic to work with. It is incredibly delicate and silky smooth when its finished so I was both excited and terrified to work with it.

This was delivered earlier this week so I'm free to share it as a project completed.

Do stop by the gallery website for Jason's amazing sculptures and paintings as well as a link to the books. They're a fun read for kids!

My other recent works can be seen at

The specs

The stand design was completed in Alibre Design 2012. The toolpaths were made in Cut3D and imported into VCarve Pro to add in some of the dimensional holes, etc. The stand is black-walnut - 14" tall, 6" x 8" footprint. Its a 4 piece assembly with the wiring run into the vertical riser. the wires holding the ring are also the power leads for the 6" LED ring. I completed finish sanding and finished it with Amber Shellac and furniture polish.

The soapstone was toolpathed in VCarve Pro and Cut3D. It was a three sided set of cuts that I aligned and treated as all single sides. I made a jig to get all three sides cut by roating the piece and maintaining the same 0,0 coordinates; z was adjusted as appropriate. The photo generation of the 3D model was a simple grey-scale sectioning of the photo areas, import into Pixologix Sculptris for shaping and export to 3D model and then import into Cut3D. I finish sanded the piece to a 1000 grit wetsand and then a mineral-oil and beeswax finish.

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Re: Soapstone and Walnut Display Stand

Postby dldecker » Fri Jan 15, 2016 4:42 am

did it cut similar to corian?

is it dusty?

Nice job you did
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Re: Soapstone and Walnut Display Stand

Postby scottp55 » Fri Jan 15, 2016 3:28 pm

Great Job Dan!
Love soapstone carvings:)
Only 2 pieces here and waiting for inspiration to do them justice.
"One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions"


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Re: Soapstone and Walnut Display Stand

Postby armbrusterco » Fri Jan 15, 2016 3:32 pm

Great finish on the soapstone.

What kind of cutters did you use on the soapstone?
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Re: Soapstone and Walnut Display Stand

Postby mtylerfl » Fri Jan 15, 2016 5:30 pm


That is a very cool art piece! Nice work!
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Re: Soapstone and Walnut Display Stand

Postby sfsubcutter » Fri Jan 15, 2016 6:31 pm

Thanks everyone for the compliments.

To answer a few questions:

Does it cut like Corian? Unfortunately, I haven't used Corian on the CNC before though I have had a kitchen counter made of it. I assume Corian, being largely acrylic, will tend to be a smooth cut throughout where as soapstone is a mix of mineral densities. My (one time) experience with it says for large tool cuts, it likely would be very similar but for small diameter bits, be warned that there are some harder mineral deposits in the stone so if the piece isn't clamped down well, it'll pull up the piece (lesson learned!) or pull down the bit or even break the bit depending on the bit/deposit size ratio. Overall, The soapstone really cut like butter for me.

Is it dusty? Very! and the dust is very silky and soft itself. Rubbing it between your fingers gives the feeling of wet filler.

What tools did I use? I used a range of 1/32" to 1/8" ball nose and flat non-carbide endmills depending on the rough or finish toolpaths.
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