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)
- 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)
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.
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 G-code file you downloaded from this project guide. Next, select the 1/4” 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.
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 calibrate the length of your 1/4” probe by performing a tool touch-off using the conductive T-slot bed.
- 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” 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.
Step 4: Install the material and toe clamps to fixture your stock.
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 the material 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 them into place against the material so the jaw side of the toe clamp shoves up above the back of the toe clamp. Then tighten down the back of each clamp, followed by the front jaws. Make sure you tighten the toe clamps well to ensure your stock is secure.
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 Probe Material, and select Automatic Stock Probing. Follow the on-screen prompts to locate your stock.
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. Head back up to the Initial Setup tab, click Install Tool, and 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 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.
Also, 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. In the Summary/Run Job tab, select Mill Single File and then 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. Loosen your toe clamps and remove your new tool holder from the machine.
Way to go! You’ve just milled your very first project on the Bantam Tools Desktop CNC Machine. If you’d like to add a custom touch to your new tool holder, see the Advanced section below. To continue to get comfortable working with the Desktop CNC Milling Machine and its software, check out the Knotting Tool getting started project next!
Advanced: Customize your Aluminum Tool Holder
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, add a sleek patterned design, or even another pocket to your tool holder. If you'd like to machine an additional pocket, like in picture above, download the Aluminum-Tool-Holder-Pocket G-code file and follow the steps above.
But if you'd like to machine something different, the first step will be to create an SVG (scaled vector graphic). We recommend using Inkscape or Illustrator! To learn more about working with SVGs see our Basic & 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”.
Once you’ve setup 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!