Best way to learn this machine?

I am one more failed project away from this thing going up for sale… I have tried a few small simple projects in Easel to start and so far the only project that came out good was the spiral clamps because I just clicked carve and it was done. I have to cut out letters to put on the back of a bookshelf and decided to use a cheap sheet of hardboard. I tried 3 different bits and different feeds and depths per pass and it struggles and bounces as it cuts. On top of that I have absolutely no clue how to cut from v carve pro that I spent a ton of money on and the only help I find with that is complete gibberish to me. I am at my wits end with something I thought was going to be fairly easy to learn.

First the good news. It can be done. Now the Bad news. It is a steep learning curve. :smile:

Tell us more about what you want to cut and what bits you have tried. Also tell us about what feeds and speeds you have tried. Next tell us what DOC (depth of cut) and WOC (width of cut) you have tried. Next tell us about you machine and any mods that you may of done to it. Is this a totally stock machine.

If you have or can take photos of the failed jobs could you please post those.

There are folks here that will help you through the hard spots. We just need more info in order to do that.

Ariel, WA

OK, try some very simple test cuts with Easel (like a circle or a square) with a shallow .05 depth of cut. Keep your feedrate under 30 inches/min and your depth per pass at .025 (so it will make two passes). And see if the square and circle look correct. All of us had to spend some time (or a lot of time) tuning the machine before it would work correctly.

If the simple cuts are not correct then you need to find the cause. The common problems discussed all over this forum are:
belts to loose
vwheels not tight or vibrating loose
motor voltage too high or too low

These problems have easy fixes. Then you can start checking to be sure everything is square and the spindle is perpendicular to the wasteboard.

After you have the machine tuned you will gain confidence that the mechanical and electrical systems are working correctly and you are sure Easel is doing what you ask it to do.

Then you can get the Universal Gcode Sender (UGS) working, load the correct post processors for Vcarve and start generating toolpaths (gcode) from Vcarve Pro and use UGS to send them to the X-Carve.

After the first failed cuts I adjusted belts and v wheels and think that solved my original problems. I am just trying to cut some simple letters in a thin sheet of hardboard and I thought this would be the easiest thing to make. I did a test run of small letters on a small piece and they came out good so I threw in a full 31x31 sheet and cant even make it through the first letter. I am wondering if it has too much flex because of the larger sheet wanting to bow a bit toward the middle. I will try running some shapes on it tomorrow it is too damn cold out there to play anymore. on a side note I have a garage that is not heated in upstate NY will this pose a problem if I try to cut anything in the winter? I have a small heater to take the chill out of the air but thats about it… Also tried a v carving with an svg imported from v carve after converting a jpg and it was very sloppy and I do not know how to cut from v carve directly still and after reading responses to that question from others on here I was even more confused on the process. Another problem I am having is I have no clue what most of these bits are good for and they all have a basic description of good for wood plastic etc. Nothing about what specific woods. I need to find a chart of some sort so I can make a bit holder with material labels on each bit or something. I bought a bunch of bits including a couple v bits and the end mill starter pack that arent labeled so I have no clue what a few are even for. As someone else stated its like going from 3rd grade straight to college. I havent tried v carve tutorials yet because I feel like that is pointless when I can’t carve from the program and I am still working on figuring out basic functions in Easel.

When you are working on a large piece of thin material you really need to use a good double sided tape to hold it down firm to the waste board.

I went fully loaded 1000x1000 24v spindle nema steppers acme rod and vcarve pro

There are several types of bits. Each has a name and a use. The most common is called an End Mill and will generally have 2 or 4 flutes that form a spiral and will cut a flat bottom slot. They come in up cut where the chips are through up out of the cut. They also come in down cut where the spiral pushes the chips and material down.
There is also a Ball End Mill that has a half ball shape on the end of the cutter. These will cut a slot that has a round bottom the same radius of the cutter.

Next we have Router bits. These generally have straight flutes with no spiral and were first used in hand routers. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The ones uses in X-Carve machines are generally of smaller sizes and used for machining woods of all types. What changes with the type of wood is the spindle speed and the feed rate.

There are also engraving bits that generally have just one flute and range in the degrees that the tip of the bit has 15,30,45,60,90 etc. You can engrave both wood and metals.

That is just a short run down on the different cutters that can be used in your machine.

Ariel, WA

@RyanEdwards If you’ve got a 1000x1000 machine and VCarve pro, you’re more than three quarters on the way to making some really really nice stuff.

As suggested by others above, start simple and then scale upwards. If you’re having lots of problems, you’re certainly not alone; what you’ve got in your favour however is that for most of the problems you’ll have, someone here has probably both experienced them and more importantly, resolved them.

My suggestion would be to concentrate on one problem at a time until it’s resolved, then move on to the next. Ditto for the jobs you want to try. You mention you want to do some lettering, well you’ve got all you need already, we just need to get it all up & running.

Apologies if this gets a little long-winded, but there’s a bit to get through…

If you’re at the point of being able to cut stuff, I assume you’ve at least a minimal understanding of connecting the machine and controlling it - am I right in assuming you’re using Easel for this?

Easel is good because you can design various jobs in it and then send the code directly to your machine from within Easel itself. Whilst this is great for simplicity, it’s also a program that has some limitations (mind you, I’ve seen some astonishingly good work done in Easel). I suspect there may be some benefit in using Easel for a short while, just to convince yourself that you’ve not bought a lemon. There are many helpful folk here that can help you with this.

VCarve Pro, is significantly more powerful, however unlike Easel, it will not directly control your machine. Instead, you use VCarve to design your work, you then use it to generate a GCode file which contains all the instructions necessary to move your tool around in order to to cut your job. You then need yet another program to interface with your machine and to send those instructions in a way the machine can understand them.

One common program, is called Universal GCode Sender or UGS which can be downloaded free of charge at . Using this, you can use a keyboard to move your cutter around, zero each axis and load code files and send them to begin cutting.

You mentioned above that you wanted to use VCarve to import a picture and then cut it. The basic steps for doing this are:

  • Open VCarve and create a new job, setting the material size to suit your material
  • Import the picture you wish to use and place it into your work, sizing it nice and large so it’s easy to see (you can resize it later)
  • You then need to trace the image and convert it it into “vectors” (put simply, lines that enclose a shape). This is a relatively simple task for very simple shapes, more complex shapes become vastly more difficult. The Help files are useful.
  • Once your design is converted to Vectors, you can hide or delete the original image as you no longer need it
  • These vectors are then tweaked, adjusted and edited as you wish (many designs will require no editing at all)
  • To cut these vectors, you need to select them (Ctrl+A selects all, or you can use the the mouse & the shift key to select individual vectors). Having selected your vectors, you would then select one of the cutting methods (on the RHS of the screen) such as VCarving, Pocket, Profile etc.
  • When you select a cutting method, it will open a dialog screen where you can select the bit you wish to use, adjust feed rates and so on. At the bottom of this dialog, you’ll see a button named “Calculate”. Pressing this will calculate the tool paths and then open yet another dialog where you can preview the tool paths in 3D and see what the end result will look like.
  • Having gotten this far, you then save these tool paths onto a USB or transfer them to a folder where you can open them in the aforementioned Universal GCode Sender (UGS)

Yes, this sounds complicated, but when you consider that you’re converting an image into the instructions necessary to move a cutting tool in 3 dimensions in such a way that you get a useable result, this shouldn’t be surprising.

Each of the above steps will require some learning - some are easy, some are hugely frustrating and infuriating. Once learned however, you’ll eventually reach the point where creating simple jobs is not that much harder than just using your printer (at least that’s what I keep telling myself).

Ask lots of questions and you’ll get lots of help. There are some incredibly clever and helpful people here who are more than prepared to help.

Hope some of this helped…

Theres the part I kept missing… save the toolpaths for UGS in vcarve. I could not for the life of me figure out what or where to save anything to bring to the machine other than exporting an svg and opening in easel. I am assuming the machine is setup fine since I was able to use the spiral clamp project and it cut perfectly. Thats the only successful job so far out of a few attempts. I did not expect to turn this thing into a college course it really seemed like it was going to be point and click once the machine was assembled. I am excited by the possibilities of this thing but also discouraged by the inability to do any of it. Plus winter is busy season for me since I install remote car starters so between that and not having a heated garage it makes finding free time to play out there pretty tough.

@RyanEdwards - no problem, glad I helped even a tiny bit.

As you have more questions, post them in the forum, and I’m sure you’ll get an answer pretty quickly.