Affordable CNC Software all inclusive solution

Here goes another post like all the others I have read asking for the best cnc software. Every person has different needs, and of course it depends, but trying to sift through the multitude of similar posts is downright confusing. So in an effort to be as specific as a newbie can, I will try to explain my needs.
What machine: X carve 1000mm
What experience Level: Beginner
What will you be doing with the machine: I am a woodworker and plan to create 2d parts, 3d carvings, signs, logos.

I have read over the multitude of Freeware and some software solutions and this process has left me dazed and confused. What I seek is likely what most seek, a all inclusive solution like Easel, but with more capabilities. Something with a very easy learning curve, without limiting features important to a woodworker. So here are my 2 specific questions.

  1. What is the Best and Most cohesive free software path from Idea in my head to completed carving, for a Woodworker making small artistic designer items.
  2. Same question as above, spending no more than $400 total for all steps.

I know starting with the free stuff is likely my first step, but I like to look ahead and if it might be easier to just spend a few bucks for a simple turnkey solution that would be fine with me!

What is it that you want to do that Easel doesn’t provide?

Did you know you can import an SVG into Easel?

You are not alone in this request. I have looked at adobe illustrator as the beginning step to get to the svg, though the software is not particularly easy for the newbie like me. The suite of adobe appears to be $20/month on a recurring basis. I worked with v-carve pro at the tech shop in D.C. and found that to be a pretty good product, but I don’t think I have enough experience with it to state it is the all encompassing product I (we?) need.

so anyhow- no solution for you really. Just wanted to share that I have the same questions

Hello Zach! I am so excited I just cannot wait. I am a 50 year old man and I cannot remember the last time I looked so forward to anything like the I am the X Carve !

From what I see easel will be pretty darn good for most things I do. I am assuming that 3D carving (like a decorative carving decoration with varied depths and curves, or perhaps a sign/logo lettering job might merit something like V-Carve or 3D Cad/Cam or the like, I just don’t have the budget to spend $500+ at the moment. I guess I should just wait and see … or I thought maybe if there was a solution under $400 out there I could be familiarizing myself to it. V-Carve looks perfect from what I have studied but I just cannot swing $599.

To generate an SVG you can download Inkscape for free. It’s the open source competitor to Adobe Illustrator.

Those two will give you a lot to work with as a beginner. Once you have a handle on that and some projects you want to tackle that are beyond the capabilities of those tools V-Carve Pro, Fusion 360, and Aspire can provide more horsepower.

When you are first getting going it’s super exciting. I’d first focus on getting the machine built and then a bunch of projects with Easel. You will get a bunch of quick wins. Once you do that I’d start messing around with importing SVGs into Easel. There are so many things to learn in the beginning and it’s easy to get bogged down in complexity. Each time you come back to the machine you’ll have more experience under your belt and in no time you’ll be carving complex curves with tool changes.

I’d wait to spend a bunch of money on more software until you reach the limits of the free tools.


Don - I had similar requirements to yours when I bought the Shapeoko 2. With the exception of 3d carving, I think you will find the free solutions will accomplish everything you need. Easel is definitely the best place to start. There are many sources online that offer free vector art that can be easily incorporated into your creations. If you need something else that you can’t create in Easel or find elsewhere, you would have to create it. In lieu of Illustrator, Inkscape works very well for creating SVG files to import into Easel. There is a lot of documentation available on Inkscape as well that makes getting started a little easier. For V Carving in sign making, I have found F-Engrave to work well. An interesting alternative to true 3D work, I have seen signs / letters / designs carved in 2d and embellished with carvings (knife/gouge/chisels) after the fact. It gives the appearance of less machine made / more hand made.

Hope that helps.


Thanks, that sounds like the right path for sure. Zach you continue to impress me with your followup and obvious passion and care. As a newly appointed member of the old farts club (just turned 50), I commend you once again!

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And Thanks PrSmith, that’s a big help too!