Aspiring Newbie question

As someone who has never even used a CNC machine before, and am not at all artistically inclined, but love working with wood and building things, is the X Carve a good “starter” machine? I’m considering between this and the WhittleCNC.

I know the X Carve is bigger, but both use the easel software, so I have to assume they are both at least basically capable of the same things.

To start with, I’m looking to create and sell smaller pieces, signs, ornaments, etc at craft fairs along side my wife at her booth.

How easy is it to find patterns to use?
If I have a jpg picture, can I convert that someplace to an svg to import?

Thanks in advance for any ideas or suggestions.


1 - I have never played with or owned an Xcarve or WhittleCNC
I would choose the Xcarve 1000x1000 (800x800mm reachable surface)
Larger is better, atleast Xcarve have some support along each axis something the WhittleCNC do not offer (unsupported round bar rails, poor)
Larger surface bed = higher and more efficient project runs

2 - The Xcarve is stronger I believe which allow you to carve more, faster (bigger bites)
Both use a GRBL-based controller = one can run Easel. Easel is a 3in1-package, Design (CAD), generate machine code (CAM) and sending the code (carving,CNC)
There are many different programs that can do CAD/CAM and the sender can be many different ones also. But Easel is easy and convenient to start with.

3 - Any ( * ) image you find can be used to trace and convert into carveable designs. Easel have an image converter, but other programs can be used also. What fit best depend more on what you have as original file and what you want to do with it.
(* - Images online may have copyright limitations, so make sure you use legit source work)

4 - Sure, Inkscape is one suite well geared towards making SVG’s from bitmap source files.

Be aware - there is a learning curve involved running a CNC, and you cant prevent them all by reading. Learning by doing :slight_smile:

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@HaldorLonningdal @RogerSheets Haldor has given excellent information. I have had my XCarve for almost three years and after much research I made the purchase. I have never regretted my choice. The whole CNC world was completely new to me. Yes, there is a learning curve but it is exciting learning new things everyday. There are many many people here on the forum read and willing to help. In addition to that the customer service group at Inventables is outstanding. Welcome to the group.

I was kind of in your spot. I have never worked with a cnc and I’m not an artist. I’m not even a woodworker, I’m a software developer. I bought the X Carve 1000x1000 as a hobby, for having the possibility of creating things and not sitting in front of my computer (of course, you will sit in front of it nonetheless :wink: ). I can’t tell you anything about WhittleCNC, but I can tell you some things about my journey so far (and reiterating some things the posters above said):

  • Having exactly zero experience I really appreciated the instructions the X Carve came with as well as the forum. If you ask nicely, you will get an answer for almost every possible question regarding the topic. Even more, the answer will be helpful and understandable.
  • The X Carve itself is more than capable to fit a lot of needs, especially when beginning with the cnc thingy. Have a look around at the awesome projects some of the forum members have created.
  • Inventables support seems to be top-notch (that’s hearsay, never needed it myself)
  • There are some easy upgrades making the machine even better (search “mod” or “upgrades” in the forum).
  • I can’t tell you anything about Easel, I’m not using it. But as @HaldorLonningdal mentioned, Inkscape is pretty capable of tracing images. I suspect generating patterns is a problem which is completely unrelated to the machine itself, but more to the software used. I know some members are using Vectric, some Easel, I’m using Fusion360, there are a lot of possibilities. If you choose an X Carve I would recommend you getting familiar with a tool you like.
  • As @HaldorLonningdal mentioned, you WILL have a learning curve. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a CNC is an end consumer product like a microwave. But in my opinion it is indeed possible to learn it having zero knowledge and it’s worth a try.
  • Despite not having the goal I am indeed making a bit of money with my X Carve. Not enough that it paid itself, but that’s entirely possible, if it’s your goal in my opinion.

Roger, I’ve built my own cnc from HDPE and drill rod, I’ve purchased a K2 2514 ( now veloxcnc) and another now defunct cnc router from a company called pcncautomations, and lastly I bought a Shapeoko2 and upgraded it to current x carve specs and beyond. My suggestions would be to get something that is rigid. I added Y axis risers, and stiffeners, as well as 9mm belts, and an aftermarket z axis to the Xcarve and it performs almost as nicely as the K2. The k2 has antibacklash screws. I’d suggest you learn Easel but then try out some 3d CAD programs, because that will open up a whole world to you of drawing, converting drawings, and product making way beyond what Easel is capable of doing.

My spiel is that “you get what you pay for with cnc”. Ideally a router with a .5 dia spindle makes a big difference, but for what you want to do, a Dewalt spindle or similar that takes 1/4" shank bits will do the job. I never heard of the whittle until now.

The Xcarve has a proven track record and they’ve made improvements since the Shapeoko days, so that is a plus. Get the largest machine you can afford because you’ll regret getting a small unit as soon as you figure out what you can do with it. I built all the wooden and parts of this guitar as well as machined the plastic on an X carve.

Thanks for the info… I hope to be joining the Cnc club after Christmas… now to settle on a bench design… rolling? Stationary? Just for the XCarve? Big enough for table saw, miter saw and router?

My X Carve is in a “soundproof” cabinet (rolling, but to be honest I never ever moved it) to reduce noise. Underneath it there’s space for the vacuum system. I think the second question depends on your surroundings. I’m planning on moving and if possible I will have 1 big or 2 medium rooms for my “workshop”, where all other tools can be as far away from the x carve as possible (it’s a hobby for me in the end).

Regarding the placement of your X Carve I would suggest giving some thoughts to the following aspects:

  • noise: carving will get noisy, so you most likely will need to reduce that or at least wear ear plugs. My x carve is in a cabinet and I’m wearing ear plugs nonetheless. Not risking anything regarding my hearing
  • dust: it will get messy. You should get a shop vacuum or something alike. I have a dust shoe attached to a vacuum with a cyclone. Does it’s job, although it’s not the most professional solution. Depending on my carve I’m wearing a breathing mask (don’t know the correct english term, sorry, but you get the idea :wink: )
  • you want to easily reach at least 2 sides of your X Carve for clamping, problem troubleshooting, maintenance, etc. The more sides you reach, the better in my opinion.
  • Finally: There are many plans / ideas for tables in the forum and a lot of people have done things a lot more professional than mine. Have a look, maybe you find something you like.

Yea, I spent a few hours yesterday looking at some of the bench designs on the forum… I have a 3 car garage, so that’s where it’s going to be located… guess I should start small and just have the xcarve on it for now, as we are moving south in a couple years, so I guess it should be smallish.

I suggest a torsion box table :slight_smile:
Doesnt have to be extreme, 1/2" (or 3/4") ply top/bottom skin with 1/2"x3" insides.

Thank me later :stuck_out_tongue:

yes, that’s what i read from everyone’s posts that i saw yesterday showing their tables… tahts why i was trying to decide if it should be just the xcarve or if i should add my other tools to it as well and sink them into the table.

But i think for now, it’ll just be the xcarve … and maybe after we move in a few years, i’ll just leave this table, and build a new one.

is a 2x4 box a better choice than a 1/2x3? i know that’ll make it heavier … but should be more sturdy too right?

Since you’re just starting out, the Carvey may be a good starter option as well. It is smaller than the X-Carve, and is all self contained. It what I’m currently using for my small cnc work.

I don’t think those are still available are they?

The Carvey is indeed discontinued.

Some come up for sale here from time to time.

Will I run into any issues having this in a unseated garage? I’m in the Midwest, my garage doesn’t freeze, at least it hasn’t yet, but it is darn chilly… will that effect the x carve at all?

Can I cut metal … maybe 1/16 or 1/8 tin or aluminum?

I’m in Columbus Ohio and my wood shop is in a 30 X 40 pole barn.
I heat it in the winter with a torpedo heater and have no problems.
Yes there are people who cut aluminum on their machines.
I won’t do it.
Keep in mind what this machine was designed for.