Customizing purchase for best price

Hi guys! This is my first post here, and I hope it is in the right section.

I’m looking at picking up an X-Carve, but am also trying to cut initial costs as much as possible. Are there any parts that you all feel can be omitted initially and upgraded to later? Any recommendations on what corners to cut?

Any advice on what I am cutting so far?

  1. Spindle - Already have a Bosch Colt, so just getting the mounting hardware

  2. Power Supply - Since using the Colt I don’t need the PWM spindle control, so just getting the power supply and cord. (I have a relay for on/off control of the spindle)

  3. Controller - Already have Arduinos, fans, and a 3d printer, so really only need the gShield

  4. Drag Chain - I can print the mounting hardware for this, so will probably just get the chain separately rather than getting it in the kit.

  5. Waste Board - obvious reasons…although it does look really nice. Probably the one thing on this list I wouldn’t consider omitting if price wasn’t an issue.

  6. Tools - I like the tool kit, but I have all the needed tools already.

Something I am not sure about is the steppers. Will the nema 17s be able to reliably drive the 1000x1000 model at reasonable speeds with the added weight of the Colt Router? If they are able, that would be a huge savings.

Can you think of any other pennies to pinch? Maybe something that you would consider a “must have”, that is sometimes overlooked?


You could purchase the 500x500 size to start with and upgrade to a larger work area later. If you do purchase the 1000x1000 you will need to spend a little money and time to stiffen the X rails, especially if you are planning to use a heavy router.

Also do not forget that you are going to need to purchase additional collets and bits. You will also need a shop vac to suck up the massive amounts of dust it will create. Then you may also need to purchase CAD/CAM software if you want to use something more advanced and user friendly than the free software.

The Easel software will do a lot for you, but if you want to do 3D (really 2.5D) carving or vbit carving then you will need additional software.

The Nema 17 motors will certainly work, but to get the full benefit of the Colt router the Nema 23 motors will be needed for at least the X and Y axis (3 motors)

Do you already have all the other wood shop tools - table saw, miter saw, belt sander? Plus you will need an assortment of stains, sealers and clearcoats.

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You may want to add on the following to attach your waste board to the X-Carve frame. Threaded inserts might also be needed depending on how you are going to secure your work pieces…

Pre-Assembly T-Slot Nuts - 25281-08 (×2)
Button Head Cap Screw - 25286-15 (×2)

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Thanks for the replies folks. This is exactly the sort of input I was looking for. I do want to save as much as I can, but not do so at the expense of getting something that I will enjoy using. I’d rather wait a bit and get something I will enjoy than purchase something I think I can get by with now, and not be happy. You’ve given me a lot to consider.

@AllenMassey I was thinking about the 500x500 size, but the small work area has me a little hesitant. I don’t think it will be big enough for many of the projects I want to do. I will almost certainly be upgrading to the larger size eventually. I go back and forth on this quite a lot. When you mention stiffening the X rails, what all would that entail?

I have some basic shop tools (shop vac, miter saw, sander, Skil Saw, Jig Saw, planer, etc), but no table saw yet. I’ll be picking up that and a router table as soon as budget allows.

I guess I hadn’t much thought of the software either. Anything you would recommend?

Thanks @MichaelScott1, I’ll add those to the list!

Thanks @AngusMcleod You just confirmed my hesitation. I guess reasonable is a vague term, but judging by your response it seems you got my meaning. :smile: Between your answer and the one by @AllenMassey, it sounds like the 23s are the better choice in the long run.

You can stiffen the X axis either by bolting a flat sheet of steel between the two makerslides or you can just drop long bolts down between the makerslides with a washer and nut on the bottom that spans the two makerslides so that when you tighten them it holds the makerslides together. The goal is to just physically tie the two makerslides together.

I started off using every free software tool I could find, Inkscape, makercam, F-engrave … but in the end I purchased Vcarve Desktop it was expensive (about $400) but I have never regretted the purchase. You will find that the software is just as important as the hardware

@BradT: One thing to keep in mind is that you can build a custom size, like I did. Because of the space I wanted to allot to my CNC, I built it with a 600mm gantry and 1500mm long axis. In my case, the gantry is Y and my long axis is X. I chose those designations because I work the machine from the long side.

As to the NEMA 17 vs 23 matter, when I bought my Shapeoko 2 (daddy of XCarve) a year ago, Inventables had a package that included NEMA 23s in place of 17s, so that’s what I’ve had from the get-go. You’ll have to ask if they have that option now.

I agree with @AllenMassey about software. I used all of the recommended free stuff out there and it helped me get familiar with most of the operations of my CNC. The farther I got into doing real projects, the more I knew I needed more. So, I purchased VCarve Desktop. It is priced at $399 and will do most of what you want to do. If you want to upgrade to VCarve Pro, Vectric charges $399 for it. That’s actually $1 less than buying VCarve Pro for $699 up front!

That’s a good point @BillArnold. Thanks!

As I am thinking more about it I am starting to lean more and more towards getting the smaller model. Then doing something like what you have done later down the road.

Aside from stiffening things up some, am I correct in assuming that lengthening the non gantry axis would just require the longer makerslide, belts, and longer wires/drag chain?

It’ll be easier to make your system larger from the beginning, if you’re sure you’ll want that in the long run. I bought two each of 1800mm and 750mm makerslide with my basic kit and built it to my size. I bought additional wire after I decided for sure how I wanted to position everything. Suitable wiring is available at big box or electronics suppliers.

I have the NEMA17’s on my 1000mm… and while they work, i always wonder what im missing :smile: IMHO… i should have just spent the extra $70 and got the NEMA23’s.

I also debated on the drag chains… I ended up buying them with my kit. When you add up the cost of the nuts/bolts and 2 good quality drag chains your going to spend more money and end up with bendy/fragile 3D printed mounting brackets. (i 3D printed the brackets before i bought my X-Carve… i wasn’t impressed).

Your going to end up spending a few hundred $$$ to get the x-carve working (1/8 collet, end mills… assorted doo-dads) its best to make smart choices vs. cheap choices (which is hard for me… because im cheap)

I didn’t buy drag chains. I had a good idea of how I wanted to handle my wiring by having it bundled and draped from the ceiling. You can see my result on my project page:

I’ve made some changes in my system since those photos but the wiring is the same.

That’s a creative method of wire management!

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Thanks for the tips @BrianM. I’m pretty cheap too, but have learned it’s far less expensive to just buy the right thing to start with than to buy it three times over trying to get the wrong thing to work right.

Some things, like the controller package, make sense to omit given my situation. Others may not. You all have the experience and hindsight to better know which is which than I do.

You’ve received lots of good advice already, but one thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet, is that since you are purchasing a “kit”, you don’t HAVE to get every component from the same supplier.

24V power supplies can be sourced from Amazon at about 1/2 price. You don’t need 400W since you aren’t driving the spindle.
Same with Drag Chain, especially since you are going to print the mounting brackets yourself.

Stepper motors can be found from a variety of surplus sources (MPJA for example) and you can get NEMA 23 for the same price as the 17s from inventables.

All that said, you will save $$ at the cost of effort. For instance, the stepper motors I found were 6 wire with slightly different electrical characteristics. Not only did I have to research how to use 6 wire motors in a 4 wire configuration, I had to tweak the GRBL settings for max pulse speed.

So, if you are willing to take more time in assembly and troubleshooting, to save money, you can pick and choose in the kit, but if you are looking for easiest build possible, then the components from Inventables is about as easy as it gets.

I personally would NOT recommend starting with the 500mm kit if you are thinking of upgrading in the future. There is really no-reuse of the parts you replace and your final cost ends up being quite a bit more than if you just went to 1000mm first.



Thanks @RickSchmalzried. I certainly don’t mind putting in the extra legwork on putting things together.

Good idea about sourcing parts outside; especially the motors. The power supply seems reasonably priced on its own through Inventables. I’ll probably end up getting the drag chains here as well, but will have to look around at prices elsewhere as well.

If I get the 500mm kit is that I will be able to reuse the some parts when I get around to rebuilding my printer eventually. I was planning on buying some about that size anyway. I get what you all are saying though, and honestly I would prefer having the larger build space straight away. There’s pros and cons to both. It’s a tough call.

Thanks for the input everyone. You’ve all been a great help. I ended up going with the 500mm base kit. Part of the reason was down to cost, but mostly it came down to space limitations. As much as I’d like it, I just don’t have the room for the larger one right now.

I’ve been looking at the stepper motors, and think I have settled on these:

Do those look about right?

Also, I noticed that the Y motors are connected in parallel to the same driver. Given the GShield specs, wouldn’t that cut the available current in half for each motor? Does that impact the performance?


Those motors look ok.

Yes. It does only provide approximately 50 percent of the current to each motor. You are using two motors to do the job of one so it works out.

Part of the question is whether you want short term savings or long term. I bought my X-Carve late November. I got the loaded version, but eliminated the waste board and tools. When I got it I started thinking about touch probes and the emergency off switch and how awkward it would be to screw the wires into/out of the terminal blocks when I wanted to move the machine. The X-Controller is more expensive, but it has solutions built in for all of the above, plus it’s a more powerful unit. Because of when I ordered I’m going to end up with the stock power supply and controller sitting on the shelf with both replaced by the X-Controller. If I were ordering a new machine now I’d delete the power supply and controller, add the X-Controller for about $100 more and save time and money long term, but not short term.

Just got around to reading this thread…

@BradT - I have some NEMA17 motors I bought for another project and didn’t use, if you’d like, I can send them to you to try out w\ the 1000x1000 and if they work, then we can figure out a price, if they don’t, you can upgrade to the 23s and just ship my 17s back…

I would just need to find them :slight_smile:

Thank you Darryl. That is a very kind offer, but I have already purchased some Nema 23s that seem to be working great. I do appreciate it nonetheless.

you won’t be sorry w\ the 23s…