I'd say that a year is enough research, maybe lots of knowledge but
no skills gained. These tools are very very complex, and using them
is the only way to learn. There will always be more sophisticated
programs tomorrow, but a greater appreciation of them is based on an
understanding of their roots.
I don't want to reminisces about some of my previous software
tools, currently I'm using Rhino and StlWorks to mill wax. Rhino is a
very capable 3D modeler, creative flexibility depends more upon your
skills with the program than its limitations. The learning curve is
rather formidable and long but with work your collection of skills
will grow. Faces are probably one of the more difficult objects to
model, but I doubt that there are very many programs yet with a
'FACE' button. Textures can be approached as fine details on your
I use StlWork to generate raster type tool paths from .stl models.
It works well, no surprises; probably around mid range for this type
of program in capabilities vs price. Minimizing tool marks is a
combination of making small cuts and understanding the cutting
geometry; on some models using a rotary 4th axis will give better
access for milling. Sometimes the machined wax is just a starting
point for hand work...