CNC Book Covers: Journey in Design

On Ponoko’s blog by Yana there was an interesting comment.

Great resource! Now all Jon needs is a graphic designer to design a more visually palatable book cover.

That’s an interesting observation – I spend two years writing, rendering and designing and the ONLY criticism I ever got was the book cover! This is a great opportunity to see how my book covers have evolved over time. Of course, you get your own cover with contents by visiting Volume 1

This was my first book – Aug 2, 2008…, Volume 1: Top Sellers (Paperback: 102 pages, 8.1 x 9.6 inches, 9.9 ounces). Wow… things have changed tremendously since then. I had to teach myself desktop publishing, on-demand printing and formatting, so much work for only a hundred pages of contents! Back then, my designs used round wooden dowels for guides and strength (a mistake not repeated in later volumes) and I used two colors of wood for contrast. You can read about all the excitement here: Volume 1 Released! Volume 2

My second volume a year later – Nov 19, 2009…, Volume 2: Laser Cutting Plans (Paperback: 200 pages, 10.1 x 8.2 x 0.7 inches, 1.2 pounds) was a major step forward, the designs now look more accurate with burnt edges from the laser and no wood dowels – I had to redesign many projects so I ignored what I did in the first volume and put the updated designs in the second. The detail and model selection was far larger as well. This was a giant leap for me across all fronts! You can read about it here: Volume 2 Released! Volume 3

My third volume two years later – Oct 10, 2011., Volume 3: Evolution of Wooden Designs (Paperback: 200 pages, 10.9 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches, 1.2 pounds) was a minor hop from the previous edition – lots of great designs but I focused on making new things instead of publishing a book in 2010 and it paid off. The site grew tremendously during this time as I wasn’t caught-up on publishing which takes a solid few months to put together, edit, proof etc… it’s a massive time sink. The cover evolved quite a bit, form one model to showing a bunch of models… it’s a lot more colorful and to me, was more polished in the models it contained. You can read about it here: Volume 3 Released! Volume 4

My fourth and most recent book two years later – Sep 26, 2013. Volume 4: Rise of the CNC – Ultimate CNC Design Course (Paperback: 456 pages, 11 x 8.5 x 1 inches, 2.8 pounds). This project was a massive project, it has more pages of content than my last two volumes combined – first time I diversified (hence dropping into other CNC designs. My focus for this volume, unlike the others, was to actively teach people how to make neat models – my previous volumes showed assembly plans but I never made a book with interviews, a book that was for absolute beginners who may not be familiar with CNC nor did my previous books have anywhere near the amount of “tips” of this one. I went all out on this one using the feedback I’ve received over the past 5 years to create a resource that I wished I had back in 2008 that would have saved me years of work.

The reason why my latest volume looks so different is my other book, A Practical Mandarin Chinese Course (Volume 1) by Xiaobei Xing and Jonathan Cantin (Mar 28, 2012) – the amount of new layout and things I had to learn were tremendous and it helped me a lot for Volume 4… that’s also why I took two years between volumes. I was taking photographs across China which I started to do with my projects too. I started documenting things more with video and step-by-step of the evolution of the designs I made. All this helped when it came time to put it all together in my latest book.

I don’t quite know right now when Volume 5 will come-out.. there is so much in flux right now but I have a very clear idea of what I want in it… I think at 450 pages a book is a decent enough size, I don’t see myself doubling that as the more content, the longer it takes to put together and higher the price needs to be. People find it easier to buy a 200 page book for roughly 20$ than a 400 pages one for double that. It will have all new stuff though – that’s the exciting part as my last volume was basically closing the loop on 5 years of experiences, trial and error. Hopefully by then, I can get a lot more plasma projects under my belt… need to get a plasma cutter!

Want to learn how to design for CNC laser, table router or 3D printers? Get this and a lot more on our Kickstarter campaign! Learn how to CNC!


Jon Cantin is the founder of He is a published author of 6 books, a world traveler and self-taught designer. and are an outgrowth of his passion about the CNC industry to bring these amazing tools to the forefront of consumer and industrial use.

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