Congratulations on your new Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine! This Aluminum Tool Holder project is intended to walk you through the basic workflow of machining an aluminum part on your new desktop CNC machine and give you a place to store your collet wrenches, end mills, and other go-to tools. Each mill comes with a piece of aluminum stock. You may be wondering why there are two holes in your stock? Well, that’s because the piece of aluminum you’re holding is actually scrap left over from the production of your machine’s frame—cool, right?
In this project you’ll learn how to:
- Set up a project in the Bantam Tools Milling Machine Software
- Fixture stock with the included L-bracket and toe clamps
- Locate stock using automatic material probing routines
- Insert and locate a tool
- Mill a job from start to finish on the Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine
Move through this guide as quickly or slowly as you feel comfortable, and refer back to it as needed as you peruse the rest of our getting started projects. Let’s get milling!
- Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine
- Bantam Tools Desktop Milling Machine Software
- Probe, 1/4” (comes with the machine)
- Helical flat end mill, 1/4” (comes with the machine)
- L-bracket and toe clamp set (ship with the machine)
- Aluminum stock (comes with the mill)
- Aluminum-Tool-Holder.gcode file downloaded
- Aluminum-Tool-Holder-Pocket.gcode file downloaded (optional)
A Note About Tooling for this Project
Every Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine comes with a Helical 1/4" flat end mill, designed specifically for machining in aluminum. Our first run of Desktop CNC Milling Machines shipped with a Helical 1/4" 3-flute flat end mill, but in later runs, we decided to ship a Helical 1/4" 2-flute flat end mill instead. While these tools are extremely similar due to the different geometries of these tools there are benefits to using each. The Helical 2-flute tool is ideal for running high-speed machining operations, while the Helical 3-flute tool is great for finishing passes. If you’d like to learn more, Harvey Tool has a great primer on this.
The G-code file that's linked above has been designed with both Helical tools in mind. So when you import the file into the Bantam Tools software you can rest assured that you’ll be able to machine a professional-quality part fast and easy.
Step 1: Connect and turn on your Desktop CNC Milling Machine.
Plug in your Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Milling Machine and launch the Bantam Tools Desktop Milling Machine Software. When you open the software, notice how it’s saying that the Desktop CNC Milling Machine is disconnected? Plug the USB cable into the mill and the USB port on your computer. Then turn on the machine.
When prompted, select Home Mill. The homing process tells the Bantam Tools software where the machine spindle and bed are located when first powering on. You’ll notice how the software is organized around four main tabs: Initial Setup, Material Setup, Plan Setup, and Summary/Run Job. It’s designed to walk you through each step and won’t let you start a job until you’ve filled out all the necessary information.
Note: Our intention is for the Bantam Tools software to grow with the community and so we will periodically update the firmware. If there is an update available, you will be prompted to update upon launching the Bantam Tools software. Follow the on-screen prompts and when you’re finished home the Desktop CNC Milling Machine.
Setting up your job in the Bantam Tools software will always consist of these four steps that correspond to the tabs on the left:
- Initial Setup: Loading your file into the Bantam Tools software and installing a tool
- Material Setup: Locating your stock using the automated material probing routines
- Plan Setup: Aligning your plan to your stock
- Summary/Run Job: Reviewing your software settings before you start milling
Step 2: Download the G-code file and open it in the Bantam Tools Software.
Our Bantam Tools software is intuitive, easy-to-use, and lets you import a variety of file types, including G-code, SVG (.svg), and .nc files.
In the Bantam Tools software, click the Initial Setup tab, select Open File, and then select the Aluminum-Tool-Holder.gcode file you downloaded from this project guide. Next, select your Helical 1/4" flat end mill from the drop-down menu below the file name. The software will now render a preview, showing the parts of the aluminum that will be cut, as well as blue lines that show the toolpaths.
To better preview your design file you can choose to view Preview and Toolpaths together, Preview alone, or Toolpaths alone. You can also select front view, top view, or 3D view to see your model from different perspectives.
Step 3: Install and calibrate the length of your probe.
Let’s move onto setting up the stock. First, you’ll need to install and calibrate the length of your 1/4” probe by performing a tool touch-off using the conductive T-slot bed.
- Go to the Jog menu.
- Click Install Tool, and the spindle will move to the center of the machine.
- Loosen the collet nut about halfway.
- Insert the tool into the collet all of the way, and then back off slightly.
- Tighten the collet nut using the included wrenches.
- Select “1/4” Diameter Probe” in the drop-down menu, and click Next.
The spindle will move to the front right corner of the bed. Confirm that nothing is blocking the tool from touching the T-slot bed and click Start. If you need to touch-off from a different location on the T-slot bed, you can adjust the spindle position using the Jog menu, in the bottom left corner, before clicking Start.
The tool will descend and locate the distance between the collet and the tip of the tool.
Note: There are two modes in the Jog menu: Jog and Step. To move the spindle by incremental steps, toggle to Step mode and select the increment (0.100”, 0.01”, 0.001”) by clicking one of the radio buttons. If you want to drive the spindle around a larger distance, toggle to Jog mode, then click and hold one of the axis buttons. The machine will stop when you release the mouse.
Step 4: Install the material and toe clamps to fixture your stock.
If you didn't remove the block of aluminum that shipped clamped to the T-slot bed with your Desktop CNC Milling Machine, you can skip this step.
Head to the Material Setup tab in the Bantam Tools software to enter the size of your stock. We always recommend measuring your stock with a pair of digital calipers for accurate results. For this project, your dimensions should be 4.33” for X value, 3.14” for the Y value, and 0.625” for the Z value. Enter these dimensions into the Material Size menu and watch the preview update.
Next, install the material against the back edge of the pre-installed L-bracket and center it so it’s at least an inch away from the right edge of the L-bracket. Loosen all four screws of the toe clamps and slide them into place along the front edge of the material. Press the toe clamps into place against the material so that the jaw side of the toe clamps pop up slightly. Then tighten down the back side of each clamp. Now tighten down the front side of each toe clamp, locking the material in place.Make sure you tighten the toe clamps well to ensure your stock is secure.
Note: The L-bracket has been installed in our factory before shipping and is precisely aligned to the bed. It’s intended to be moved around when needed, but for this first project, it should be kept in place. It's also been squared to the bed in our factory to save you the extra step.
Note: For additional info about our material probing routines and locating the L-bracket see our Material Probing and Fixturing support guides.
Step 5: Probe your stock location.
Okay, it’s time to probe the location of your stock using the Automatic Placement routine. In the Material Setup tab, scroll down to the Material Placement dropdown menu, click the Material Offset Probint Routines button, and select Automatic Stock Probing from the pop-up menu. Follow the on-screen prompts to locate your stock using the front, left corner.
Click Accept and watch the machine and software know the height and exact location of your stock on the T-slot bed.
Because we oriented our G-code file (or WCS) in Fusion 360 on the top left edge of the stock, you don’t need to adjust anything under the Plan Placement tab. You can leave everything at the zero position.
Step 6: Install and locate your tool.
For this job, we’re using a 1/4” flat end mill. Click Jog tab and select Install Tool. Use the same instructions outlined in Step 2 to swap out the probing pin for your 1/4” flat end mill. After you’ve installed the tool, select Helical 1/4” flat end mill in the Bantam Tools software and perform a tool touch-off.
Step 7: Mill your Aluminum Tool Holder.
Before you start milling, head to the Summary/Run Job tab to review your setup and confirm that the preview looks correct––it should be identical to the model shown throughout this guide and our how-to video. Make sure that the preview is correct and that there aren’t any machine warnings before proceeding. There shouldn’t be any warnings, but if there are, they’ll be marked in red.
Notice in the image of the Summary/Run Job tab below how there are checkmarks next to each tab. This means that you've entered the necessary information to set up your job. The Summary tab will reflect the information you've input and the settings you've configured, so be sure to review it before you start machining to make sure the info and settings are correct.
We know we've taken a lot of the guesswork out of this project, but reviewing your job is a great habit to get into. Remember: Measure twice, cut once!
Note: Your X, Y, and Z offsets may look slightly different from ours. This is okay and you should feel comfortable proceeding.
Before you start machining, take note of where the E-stop button is located on the front of the Desktop CNC Milling Machine. If for any reason you need to quickly stop a job, hit the E-stop to halt the machine and the spindle. You can also pause your job at any point in the Bantam Tools software.
When you’re satisfied with your preview, close the Desktop CNC Milling Machine’s door, select Mill Single File, and click Okay.
Step 8: Remove your tool holder from the machine.
When the job is finished, click the Jog tab to pull up the Jog Milling Bed window. Select the Loading button to move your T-slot bed to the front of the machine. If you’d like to add a pocket or custom engraving to your tool holder, leave the part fixtured to the T-slot bed. If not, loosen your toe clamps and remove your new tool holder from the machine.
Whether or not you're planning to customize your new tool holder, now would be a good time to vacuum your machine. For more guidance see our Cleaning & Maintenance guide.
Advanced: Customize your Aluminum Tool Holder
Glad you decided to stick with this project a little longer. Let's customize your new tool holder. For this step, you can either download the Tool-Holder-Pocket.gcode file to machine an additional pocket or add a custom engraving!
With the SVG support feature in the Bantam Tools software, you can quickly customize your tool holder––or any project. Maybe you want to add a logo or add a sleek patterned design. Whatever you choose, you’ll first need to create an SVG. We recommend using Inkscape or Illustrator. To learn more about working with SVGs see our Classic & Advanced SVG Workflows support guide.
Once you’ve created and saved the SVG file, go to the Initial Setup tab and load it into the Bantam Tools software. Then, select the tooling for your design, deselect Cutout, and adjust your Engraving Depth accordingly––we typically set ours between 0.003”–0.006”.
Note: Don’t remove the G-code file you used earlier. This file will give you a visual reference when placing your SVG where you want.
Once you’ve set up your SVG file, install your tool and then head over to the Plan Setup tab. Depending on the size of your text or design, you may need to scale your SVG. To do this, navigate to the Plan Setup tab and enter the value in the box next to Scale. Then move the design into place using the X and Y values under Plan Placement in the Plan Setup tab––the Z value will remain at 0.000 in.
Finally, go to the Summary tab to review your job. When you’re ready, select Mill Single File under your SVG file.
We’d love to see how you’ve customized your aluminum tool holder! If you share your first project on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, tag us using @bantamtools and #bantamtools. We can’t wait to see what you’ll make next!