Useful Project for your CNC — 4th of July Clam Rings

Useful Project for your CNC — 4th of July Clam Rings

The great thing about using a desktop CNC system, is that if you can draw something, you can make it from just about any material including metals like aluminum. For the holiday weekend my family wanted to go clamming so we could have some real fresh stuffed clams for the holiday weekend. Well, you need some basic items, like a clamming fork, a permit, and a floating basket to harvest your daily half bushel of clams. Well, we could not find our clam Go/No Go gauge so, I simply cut out some from a sheet of aluminum. More commonly known as a Clam Ring, if the game warden catches you without one, you can get fined.

clam Rings

The size limit in Connecticut is 1.5 inches and so the gauge has to have an opening that size. If the clam can fit through the opening, it is too small to keep. So I drew up this simple ring. The smaller hole is for the rope lanyard so you can attach it to your floating basket.


Next I put the CAD Drawing through VCarvePro to assign the proper tool speeds and feeds for the material I was going to cut. This being 0.0625 inch 6061-T6 aluminum, the tool I used was an 1/8-inch single flute end mill, and I selected a 0.020 inch depth of cut, with an RPM of 12,500. The feed was 15mm/sec. and the plunge rate was 10mm/sec. I than saved the data into a G-code tool path file, (the preview is show below). I am using a Stepcraft 2/420 desktop system.


From here it was an easy matter to “Home All” the CNC machine’s X, Y, and Z axis, and then clamp the aluminum sheet into place. I then moved the tool bit to the job center location and “Zeroed All” the axis. To set the job thickness I used the Stepcraft Tool Depth Sensor and simply hit the Tool Sensor button. Once the tool went through its position cycle, I switched on the CNC, applied some Marvel Mystery Oil to the top of the aluminum and powered up the spindle and hit Run.


For this job, I cut three rings since we have friends who also needed them and as you can see, the job was cut very cleanly. As an experiment I set the tabs to the same thickness as the material as I have had some very thin tabs break during the job.


I simply used a pair of tin snips to release the parts form the job material. It takes only a few seconds to cut through the various tabs.


A little work with some sand paper and a Dremel Moto-Tool and a sanding drum and the clam rings are ready to use. All the edges are rounded and everything is snag free.


Here is our secret test area for clamming! It is in Westport, CT.

Marcy Clams

As you can see, we got four half bushels of clams this day! Nice and everyone the proper size thanks to our new clam rings.


Fresh out of the steaming pots!


The shells get recycled by crushing them and adding them to the garden.

stuffed clams

Stuffed clams anyone!?  Equal parts bread crumbs and Ritz crackers. Butter, of course! Parsley, garlic and minced onion. And enough clam juice and eggs to hold it together. Add lemon juice and enjoy!

Of course, you can just as easily make something for your RC model airplane this holiday weekend, like attachment tabs, an engine mount plate, or anything else you would otherwise cut from 1/16 inch thick aluminum. Your imagination is your limit.


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