Sorry to hear that you’ve lost motivation. Hopefully that changes soon and you find inspiration to soldier on.
With regards to the design of the X-Carve and work surface leveling. Once the machine is square and set up, the final avenue (and by design) is to use the machine to level it’s own surface. You can do it with ChilliPepper or with Easel, just mill out a new level surface to the aptly named waste board.
This is not an uncommon thing (leveling the waste board) for CNCs even on the more expensive models like the ShopBot series and others.
I’m not trying to sound flippant, so please don’t take it that way. Hopefully after trying this, you’ll find your machine’s surface level and no longer an obstruction to progress.
@VexFX - I’m sorry that this has been a stumbling block for you. I think there are a few quick fixes that could get you over the hump and into your first project, though.
Just recently I wanted to make a few engraved coasters. Since they’re small, detailed work, and I wanted them to be perfectly flat, I just threw down a small piece of scrap wood, had the machine mill out a pocket, and then I put my coaster blanks in there. That way I knew it was perfectly level, and everything came out great.
If you’re going to be working on really large projects, and want to always be working on a flat surface, you might want to investigate something like this to level our your workspace:
(or if you’re looking for something with a 1/4" shank, this might work: Amazon.com)
I view the wasteboard as a sacrificial piece; it’s going to get carved into, and changes in temperature and humidity are going to eventually cause it to warp/flex. If I’m making large pieces like furniture, then a change of 1/32" (or even 1/16") from one end of the wasteboard to the other isn’t really going to be a huge deal. And if I’m doing precision work like engraving or circuitry, I’ll just go with the pocket method, it only adds a couple minutes and guarantees that my piece will be perfectly level.
Hopefully something in there will help, Don’t give up hope, it really is a solid machine, you can get some great results from it!
Milling a piece of smaller secondary waste board every time I want to use the machine is not really a practical option. That’s normal practice when you need precision, but with the state of the machine now I would need to do that for everything. (it’s that far off)
Milling a large secondary waste board the size of the work area means leaving a pocket, so using material larger that the work surface would not be an option, and this is something I will frequently need to do. In addition to limiting material height this would also mean not being able to use the clamps or hold down points on the primary waste board… which, pardon the pun, would be a waste.
All I need is a work surface that is roughly level. For something precise like traces on a circuit board I have no problem milling a secondary waste board. Right now it’s so far off level that even basic sign engraving looks noticeably shallow on one side, which pretty much renders the machine useless.
What I need to do now is take the machine apart (again) and try reassembling it while forcing it to skew more towards level, which is pretty hacky. (If only I had a 3rd hand to hold the calipers) I’m confident that by throwing many more hours of work at this I’ll end up with a level enough work surface, but after all the headaches from assembling the machine the first few times around, the through of taking it apart again makes me want to just lock it up in storage and not think about it (or all the money I spent) for a while. What makes it worse is that this could have all been avoided with some minor design changes to the 4 Y plates. At least there is a solution, once I can find the time/motivation.
I’ve worked with plenty of 3d printers, laser/plasma/water cutters, and CNC mills/routers that all had at least rough work surface leveling built into their design. This is a disappointing first. The fact that the only way to “cleanly” level it (rather than shimming the waste board which creates other problems) is to force the slop in the Y plates towards what might be level in a cycle of trial an error that is anything but precise is equally upsetting.
For now I’ll just try and think happy thoughts and focus on other projects. Think I’ll go browse the internet for pictures of kittens now.
Wow Chris, it sounds like either your board / entire system is way out of tolerance or this is a very significant oversight in the x-carve’s design. You know you can do surface probing with chilipeppr, right? So you could engrave stuff on your crooked-■■■ machine and still have it look nice.
Now, I can’t find the relevant post(s) about spindle control. I swear I was able to turn it on and off from the console, but, not anymore. Anyone know the answer? Trying to see if I can do some PCB-milling tests today.
UPDATE: My spindle has died. This may be why I can’t seem to control it. LOL Just went back to Easel, and, no go. Had to start it by giving it a spin.
For Windows users, just create a shortcut in your Startup folder that points to your SPJS binary. To get to your Startup folder in Windows 8 type Windows Key + R and then “shell:startup” in the run dialog box. It will open your startup folder like I show below. Then right-click drag the binary over to the Startup folder and choose “Create shortcut here”.
Once I started up the SPJS application, I just right-clicked on my task bar and pinned it, right next to Chrome. Then when I want to start carving, I just click it, then click Chrome, and it’s ready to go by the time I pull up the Chilipeppr site.
Not sure if this will help you, but for my Shapeoko 2 I designed and 3D printed (though I’m sure they could be trivially machined as well) a few quick one-off parts that clipped into the Y rails at each end (4 pieces total) and allowed me to tighten or loosen a thick bolt that pressed against the wasteboard.
With these in place, I was able to loosen the end plate screws on the Y rails and by moving the carriage to the 4 corners, adjust the screw until the height of the spindle was within a tolerance of less than 1mm at all 4 corners. At that point the bolts were taking the weight from the carriage, so it was a simple matter to just tighten the end plate screws back down and back the bolts up off the board and everything is set. Even better, the parts can be left in place on the Y rails in case I ever need to adjust again. This isn’t good enough for PCB milling, but it gets you really really close without a lot of hassle, then you can just mill a pocket for precision or just use the auto-level stuff in chilipeppr. Hope this helps.
wow, yours must be really far off then. Are you sure it’s squared properly? Once mine was squared it took very little adjustment to get the two Y rails even with what I described. The 3D printed pieces don’t fit between the extrusion and the plate, they clip into the slot that runs the length of the extrusion. I can try to take a picture tonight if needed, but it’s similar to this
I’m using Vcarve pro, which takes x-carve post processor values. I add M05 to end of post processor manually (one time deal), then Chillypeppr turning spindle on and off. I’m in progress attaching touch plate for zeroing. I thing a little better futures than UGS. At least you can pause, give time for bit change ETC. Also no errors if you want to use same home position for every job change, unless changing material thickness.
I just looked this up and noticed there is no X-Carve post processor in Vcarve, did your version have it? Either way I can work with what you attached, it’s so simple I would probably never have found it! I have been using the Grbl .8 PP.
Thanks again, it just goes to prove this forum can help all of us!