Basic Tool Path Operations

Basic Tool Path Operations In this document I will be discussing the different options in each tool path operation and tips to making your software set up quick and easy. If there are overlapping ideas in each tool path they will not be discussed twice, so if something is missing from your section please read through the entire document for the pertinent information. First we will begin with the basic profile tool path: Basic Profile Tool PathSetup

First you must always choose the vectors you would like to machine. Once selected they will become dotted and pink. If you would like to select multiple vectors simple hold down the shift key. You also also drag a box over a group of vectors, hold the shift key and deselect vectors at will.

Cutting Depths

In my material set up I have placed Z_zero at the bottom of the material, therefor I can safely assume that the start depth is at the top of my material and the cut depth will be measured from the top of my material downwards. In my material setup I have made the thickness .25’’, but programmed my Laguna CNC machine to cut .26’’. This is to ensure that my part is cut all the way through and just slightly into my sacrificial spoil board below.


For my tool I have selected a standard .25’’ endmill from my tool library. This library can be accessed from clicking select. In the tool library you can find a wide array of options to make new tools and edit existing ones. If you happen to select edit you will be taken into a window where you can edit the tooling parameters for that specific tool and corresponding tool path. It’s important to note that by changing the tooling parameters in the “edit” feature these settings will not automatically transfer to any other tool paths. If you change the tooling setting by clicking “select” and editing the tool parameters in the tool library they will be saved for all tools and tool paths. WE RECOMMEND EDITING EACH TOOL ONLY FOR THE SPECIFIC TOOL PATH TO AVOID POTENTIAL ERRORS IN THE FUTURE. By keeping your tool path database more or less standardized you will not have to worry if your tooling settings are correct every time you run the machine. The number of passes is typically ½ the diameter of the tooling but, but this can be varied depending on the material being cut. You will have to research your material and see find the optimal spindle rate, feed rate, plunge, and passes. To edit the amount of passes simply click edit passes.

Machine Vectors 

In order to select how to machine your vectors please consult my other Laguna document, which details when you would use each machine option. 90% of the time you will use the climb type of cutting vs conventional because it provides a better surface/ edge finish compared to conventional machining.

Last pass 

Using a last pass is typically used when a nicer surface finish is desired. It is not used extensively but if in your production you are not achieving optimal finishes this feature is at your disposal.


Tabs are an important feature especially if you’ve purchased a Laguna Swift or a Laguna IQ, which do not have a vacuum table. For smaller parts on a vacuum table I also highly recommend the use of tabs as there is not enough surface area for the machined parts for the suction to prove effective. If you desire tabs be sure to check the adding tabs box, then you’re able to specify the length and thickness of each tab. By clicking edit tabs you can manually place your tabs on your vector by selecting or deselecting a position on said vector. I recommend manually placing your tabs otherwise the software may place your tabs in an undesirable place that is difficult to remove.


Lead in / out Prevents dwell marks from appearing on components.


Ramps are used to slowly plunge into the material instead of having your bit travel directly in the negative Z direction to its specified depth and being its programmed path. I always recommend applying ramps to tool paths, because it provides a smoother transition into your material and increases the life of your tool. The software will automatically take into account the ramp and cut off the extra material during its programmed tool path.


The order tab is used to specify in what order you would like the program to machine your parts. This is an advanced feature and mainly used when matching an array of nested parts. For example if you have a 4’ by 8’ piece of material and each piece has 2 tabs you may want to machine to work its way across the table from left to right or top to bottom. This will allow your machinist to take out the finished parts and begin sanding off the tabs, while the machine continues its programmed path. If this is still confusing check out my other tutorial on the subject matter where I go into more detail on this subject. The program defaults to the shortest time to machine your parts, which is useful to the common user.


This is used typically with a V- bit tool where the radius of the bit will roll over the corner of a material providing a rounded edge. If you desire sharp corners remember you are using a circular or V shaped bit, and additional measures should be taken.

Pocketing Toolpath  

Pocketing Tool Path

                When pocketing an area on your part you reserve the option to use a large area clearance tool, which serves to only speed up the machining time. As you can see here I’ve selected a 1/2 ‘’ end mill instead of the ⅜’’ end mill used for the outer edge of the pocket. The larger area clearance tool can be more or less considered a rough approach to the pocket, and the normal tool is more concentrated on the edge and finish quality. When deciding to clear the pocket in an offset or raster method first examine the pocket in question. If it resembled a simple geometric shape like a circle or ellipse an offset approach may be preferred. The raster method is used for rectangular shapes. If you’re ever unsure which is better/ faster for your part try one method then in the toolpaths tab you can see how long it will your tool path will take to machine. Then try the other method and compare the machining times. As you become more confident in your CNC abilities this will come naturally.

Vcarve ToolPath

VCarve Tool Path

              Vcarve is used to cut out text or engrave images typically using a V-bit. You don’t have much control in how this tooling operation is conducted, BUT it does it so efficiently you don’t have to. The flat depth is how far you would like your tool to cut into the material. You’re able to specify the start depth D, because some customers would like to engrave text at the bottom of a pocket. If Vcarve is a feature that interests you  play around with the settings using the 3D preview function to get a better understand of the extremely detailed results you can produce.

Fluting Toolpath

Fluting Tool Path

                Fluting toolpaths can be used when you essentially require vertical or horizontal lines across your part. To efficiently add fluting lines please refer to and download the FREE gadget. You can also find a wide array of gadgets that may show you your machine’s full potential. The fluting tool path is specified by its depth, tool, flute type, and ramp type as seen above.