Aluminum - upgrade or get a seperate smaller machine?

hey everyone out there. I’ve been loving my older 1000 x carve (old style rails, pretty much top of the line from 2 months before they released the upgrade rails and x controler) for working with plastic and wood to make installation art, but need to either do a bunch of mods to upgrade the machine to work with aluminum milling OR get a 500 x carve (or other machine if there’s one i should be looking at, i like the carvey’s size for this but not the price tag unless its way stiffer and the better route to go) to be able to mill smaller aluminum parts - i don’t need the workspace to be as big since i’ll be making stuff that’s small and modular for the aluminum. I’m in the process of grant writing for this and it looks like the mods i would be doing would come out to about the same as the cost of getting the smaller machine and keeping that dedicated for metal, and it might be nice to just have that one on a seperate table to use for that.

to give you an idea of what i’m making and why - I’ve been prototyping turn crank toy theaters and need to jump up to aluminum for the gear box and elements that control the motion because after a kid test day with 3,000 people the wood is not quite strong enough to eventually have the work unattended. (there are some mechanical changes i need to do as well and i’m working with an engineering on that side of things, but for part strength metal is the way i need to go for the work…)

here’s a link to see what I’m talking about -

help me cnc gurus!


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I haven’t milled aluminum yet but I just wanted to say your work is AWESOME!!!


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There’s a list of hobby CNC machines on the /r/hobbycnc subreddit on — some of them have links to folks who have purchased them and described their successes, for the balance once you’ve got the name you can search for them to find reviews.

thanks guys! yeah i’m leaning toward the smaller machine so i can also cut down my production time since i can cut on both at the same time (thanks to being too lazy to get rid of older laptops that part wont be an issue they’re basically slow paperweights for anything else…)

i have another question - is the new x controler able to be used on multiple machines? it would be great to swap it out when i’m just using the larger machine…

I think changing the controller would be more hassle than it would be worth. Have you looked into having those gears water jetted? The xcarve can definitively do the job but really slow!

I’m trying to do as much as possible in-house since the projects I do usually don’t have large stipends and i usually make temporary work for municipalities for public festivals/events and want to keep costs low.

If i was doing a permanent piece i would definitely be going with outside fabricators for things like that, because the budgets are much larger and i’d want it to be as precise as possible for low maintenance. I work out the kinks at home either to scale or at a smaller scale if it was a large piece and then send the final files off to someone else, which was one of the main reasons I got a home machine since it takes alot of test cutting to get things right (im a physical problem solver, coming from a art background and not a engineering one. i just can’t conceptualize alot of what is happening until i have a version i can play with and find the limitations of the object).