How to Carve a Beautiful Mandala in MDF with Your X-Carve!

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Hi friends!  I’m so, so excited to share with you how I created this gorgeous carved mandala in MDF.  Honestly, it might just be the prettiest carve I’ve ever done on my x-carve!  Are you interested in carving mandala wall art or curious about how to use your CNC to carve MDF?  Keep on reading to see exactly how I tackled this pretty project!  This project was generously sponsored by Inventables – as always, all opinions are my own!

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

How to Carve a Beautiful Mandala in MDF with Your X-Carve!

Every time I start a new woodworking project, inevitably I learn something new.  This project, there were a lot of firsts, too.  While I’d carved MDF before to make our oversized carved Christmas tree sign, this mandala in MDF was a little different.

In this project, I wanted the outlines of the MDF to stand out, rather than be carved down, almost like the mandala was carved in relief.  So I knew I’d need to carve away ALOT of the material.

Getting the design right and choosing the right bit was definitely key!  Plus, I knew I’d want to create a floating frame for my MDF mandala – also something new.  

First things first, I needed to gather all of the materials to create this project.

Materials Needed to Carve Your MDF Mandala Wall Art

 
Create Your Mandala SVG File

To create the SVG file for this project, I first used a graphic that I found online (free for personal and commercial use).  You can find these really easily with a quick internet search.  Just make sure the right license is there, too, for you to use it if you want to sell your products.

I knew that I wanted to carve the MDF mandala in relief, so I needed to invert the colors in the mandala.

Here’s a graphic that shows what the SVG file looked like before (on the top) and after I manipulated it (on the bottom):

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

How Do You Invert the Colors of an SVG File?

In order to “flip” the colors, I made the background black and used a white clipping mask over the design to make all the “inside spaces” black.

Then I used the eraser tool to erase away the black around the edges.  I saved the new file as a PNG to my desktop.

Once that was done, I imported the new PNG into Adobe Illustrator and used the image trace tool to vectorized the image.  It’s important to click “ignore white” when you’re using the image trace tool.

Once the image was vectorized, I saved it as an SVG so it was ready to upload into Easel!

Uploading Your Mandala SVG into Easel

The beautiful thing about your Inventables X-Carve is that it’s super easy to upload SVG files to carve!

In order to upload your file, you’ll want to click on “File > Import SVG” like this:

To size the SVG file, you’ll want to select all (found under the edit menu), then use the little corner of the box to resize the SVG to fit your workspace.  

To make your workspace the right size in Easel, you’ll also need to set the size and thickness of your material.  In this project, I was using 2′ by 2′ MDF that was 1/4 inch.  It’s important that you enter the thickness of your material accurately.  I actually use digital calipers to get this super-specific. 

When you enter your material information, it looks like this:

Lastly, you’ll need to choose your bit.  This part can definitely be tricky.

On the Inventables website, I usually use the filter function to see what the recommended bits are for the material.  You can check and uncheck boxes to see if they recommend up cut, down cut,v bits, or straight bits.  These filter options are awesome for finding the right bit:

Once I have a sense of what bits will work, then I virtually test them out in Easel.  I usually put a variety of bits into the Easel platform, then click “detailed preview” to see how the carving will look.  And, to be honest, I read through the forum ALOT to see what other people recommend in terms of bits.  

For this project, I used a 1/4 carbide straight bit.  The bit carved MDF really cleanly and quickly.  If I wanted a more intricate carve, I could have used a smaller 1/8 bit or even added a detailed bit, but I ended up really liking the detailed preview with this particular bit.  The carbide bit, from Inventables, looked like this:

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

Once you’re ready, you click carve! You’ll set your work zero, turn on your spindle, and the machine is off!

Carving Your MDF Mandala Wall Art

This project took a total of an hour and 40 minutes to carve.  Not bad at all!  

The carbide straight flute bit cut so, so cleanly and quickly.  I was really impressed. I’d never used a bit like that before and I definitely will again!  No tear out, no jumping around, it cut through the MDF like buttah.

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

The important thing about carving MDF is to use the right protection because you don’t want to have all that dust floating around in the air.  For this project, I used my dust collector attached to my x-carve dust shoe.

For my dust collection system, I use a shop vac connected to a dust separator, which makes sure that all that dust doesn’t end up gunking up my shop vac.  It’s a relatively low-cost solution that’s worked amazingly well for my needs.  If you’re interested, you jump to this article read more about how I set up my dust collector.

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

Bottom line: if you’re carving MDF be sure you use some kind of dust collection system.

Making a Floating Frame for the Wall Art

While the project was carving in my x-carve, I got to work building a floating frame. 

Honestly, this was the hardest part of the project (which says a lot about how easy it is to use an x-carve LOL!).  I figured out the plan as I went along, cutting the boards to fit the carved MDF.

 For this floating frame, I used butt joints with cheapie white wood 1′ by 2′ 8′ boards from my local store.  I could have easily used mitered angles on the frame, which would have given the final piece a bit more polish.  I wanted the overall project to have an easy, laid back, kinda boho vibe so butt joints were perfect.

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

First, I first cut two boards the vertical length of the project piece.  These two boards would be the sides of the frame.  Then, using my Kreg Jig, I drilled in pocket holes onto these two side wooden boards.

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

Second, I then cut the top and bottom wood frame pieces, measuring them so that they overlapped over the right and left side frame pieces.  I used my drill to screw 1″ pocket screws into the side pieces, attaching everything together to make a rectangle.  To keep things square, I used my handy Rockler framing squares, which honestly save the day for projects like these. 

Third, in order to give the MDF panel something to sit against, I cut two more pieces of wood the same length as the two side pieces.  Using pocket holes, I attached these to the backside of the top and bottom of the frame.  This allowed me to rest the mandala against the back of the frame, fitting in their snuggly.

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

Finishing Up Your Mandala Wall Art

To finish up this project, I sanded my floating frame using 120 grit sandpaper and my handy little corner sander.  Then, I popped my mandala MDF panel into the frame.  I could have used glue here to affix the mandala against the back of the frame, but honestly, the fit was REALLY tight.  That mandala’s going NOWHERE.

I’m going to hang this beauty outside on our patio.  We’re spending SO MUCH time outside in our backyard now so the kids can play, and this mandala artwork is going to make me SO HAPPY every time I see it!

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

To hang it up, I’ll use a french cleat, like this one, since the overall project is kind of heavy.  I don’t want this falling off the wall!

I hope you love this project as much as I do!  It was so, so much fun to make.  If you end up making a similar project, in wood or MDF, be sure to tag me on Instagram so that I can see it!

Here’s the final project, all nested in the stained floating frame:

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

Pop a comment below and let me know any questions you might have.  Have you carved MDF before on your x-carve?  How did it go for you?  

In the meantime, stay safe, have fun, and lots of love from my house to yours!

how to carve a mandala in MDF with a CNC x-carve

 

 

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