"Getting Started" suggestions

Hi All,

I’m in the process of assembling my new X-Carve and also reading up on CNC machining. I don’t know anything about CAD/CAM, but as a Dev. Engineer in cartography and GIS, I understand the concept of coordinate systems and procedural code pretty well.

I’m writing to ask if there is a “Getting Started” guide somewhere that will walk me through a basic project - from raw design in Easel, to implementation in X-Carve? Ultimately, I would like to use my X-Carve to assist in making 3D guitar parts, but I would like to learn how things work with some simpler projects first.

I welcome any suggestions and advice you’re willing to share. :smile:


Hey @RogerAndre,

Congrats! Here’s a similar topic that was just posted. Should be some good info here:

Reading this forum is a great guide as most wheels have already been invented. When I say “wheel”, I mean “dust shoe”…

With your background, I fully expect you to carve some epic topo maps. This is a subject that needs to be ironed out with Easel if possible. There might also be a cash prize in it for you if you post a Project and a video.

There’s also lot of guitar-themed threads already going strong and a few finished in the Projects section.

Hi MidnightMaker,

Thanks for the link. I’ve seen several similar postings and while all useful, they are not exactly what I’m looking for. However, I believe I can find the information I need by synthesizing and consolidating several different projects together. Perhaps I’ll try to create another “wheel” for beginners that captures the info in one spot.

Thanks for the feedback, this is an awesome community.


I think the “Hello World” and little smiling robot thing has been done to death, so if you come up with a beginner’s tutorial that spoon feeds this stuff, it will prove to be very useful to a lot of folks. I know that teaching something always makes me learn the subject matter better. A lot of people’s first projects are things like hold-down clamps. That has also been covered nicely elsewhere. I would love to see something more aesthetic created from scratch, with the workflow described.

For my own projects, I’m breaking them down into the design phase and the machining phase. For example, the design and drawing of the balance bike for my son. The first video will be drawing it out, doing the necessary export/imports to navigate the tricky CAD/CAM transition. Then the second video will be the machining and assembly of the bike.

For these kinds of projects/tutorials, it’s obviously in Inventables best interest if Easel is used as the primary software to drive the carver, unless it’s inherently incapable of something like v-bit carving. A lot of people have been doing great stuff with Inkscape, which is free, then importing into Easel, which is also free. This democratizes the process and anyone who spends $300 plus on V-Carve, etc. probably doesn’t need a beginner’s tutorial for anything anyway.

So there’s my $0.02. My advice is also skewed to steer you towards the possibility of getting awarded a Tip Jar cash prize based on the discretion of Zach & Co. As an example, I’m not sure if anyone has done a thorough write-up on carving either topo or bathymetric contours.

Hi, my learning curve has been steep but very rewarding, so for what it’s worth I’ll share my experience as a recently new x-carve owner and total newbie to CAD/CAM.

I was fixated on machine accuracy even before I built the machine so acquired a decent digital caliper and digital micrometer for the Z axis. There are a couple of very helpful YouTube videos on calibrating the stepper motors which I would encourage you to watch early on. It can be very disheartening to carve pieces and find the dimensions are off (which I experienced several times before calibrating). Here is the tutorial I followed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzkoMbb9pO8

I tried a number of design packages from Rhino 5 to Inventor Pro, Inventor Pro HSM and Fusion 360 but found them very complex, and I wanted to start carving as soon as possible. I settled on Adobe Illustrator to design in 2D, and sent SVG files to MakerCam, which I found much better suited to my workflow. MakerCam is normally an online only tool but if you save the webpage you’ll find you have a standalone Flash version of the tool, which allows it’s use without an internet connection. MakerCam produced my Gcode, which I sent to the x-carve using Universal Gcode Sender (a tip if you’re new to UGS; if you can’t get it to connect to the x-carve straight away check your com port value and set the baud rate to 112500…it took me far too long to figure that out).

MakerCam worked well for a while but I found it increasingly frustrating having to re-key all the tooling parameters for each toolpath, so stumped up the cash for Vcarve Desktop, and it’s changed everything beyond measure.

Vcarve isn’t cheap but it’s not expensive, considering I’ve just shelled out 1,500 quid on the x-carve I am now annoyed that I didn’t purchase it straight away. My workflow has been cut to a fraction of the SVG/MakerCam route, and I can save all of my jobs which you can’t using MakerCam. I have so much more faith in the jobs I’m sending to the machine, particularly because Vcarve allows me to simulate the milling process before creating the Gcode.

I’m experimenting with Cinema4D (I produce 3D CG work) to create the 3D models for sending to Vcarve, but may yet revisit Rhino 5 when I’ve time enough to learn all of the powerful, yet complex design capabilities.

Calibrate your machine (regularly), experiment with Easel, MakerCam and Estlcam 8 if you can. If you can wrap your head around Fusion 360 (which is free to the hobbyist) it should do a great job, though you do need an active internet connection to use it. If you can afford some of the more expensive packages be prepared to spend a good deal of time learning how to use them well. They are very, very capable, which is reflected in the price.

Best of luck!


Oh, I nearly forgot…use the DeWalt 611 spindle (26200 in the UK) and invest in a decent dust shoe. I wracked my brain before settling on one from KentCNC. If you buy one don’t worry about which length brush skirt to get, you should rip it off as soon as it arrives and throw it away because it’s far too stiff and will distort the z-axis when compressed, which came as a big disappointment. The rest, and main build of the dust shoe is a perfect design and top quality.

I made a new skirt from soft, yet very flexible computer mouse mats and now the KentCNC dust shoe performs beautifully, with no (yes no) dust or debris going anywhere but into the shopvac. Setting up your dust collection hoses is an exercise in mental agility and frustration but I won’t bore you with my tails of misery here. Suffice it to say I finally hit on the best solution for my work-space.

Happy new year!

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Thanks for all the info Jon. I can appreciate the need for accuracy. I purchased the X Carve to mainly assist me in producing guitar parts and tolerances must be within a 1/64" to build a good guitar. I purchased Rhino 5 for Mac a little while back and there is a pretty steep curve learning to use to produce parts. Only a matter of time before I purchase Meshcam and start learning that program. V Carve sounds like a nice package but being a Mac user its not an option. I am finally carving after a few issues with the initial setup. Now I can concentrate on learning software! Eventually I will get back to building guitars!

I’d be very interested to hear how you get on. A long time and very talented guitar playing friend of mine wants to build a Fender Stratocaster from Lignum vitae using the x-carve. As you can appreciate it’s extremely hard and would take quite a bit of testing to figure out the best tooling options. If you’ve ever heard of someone trying it before please let me know whether I should tell him to stop dreaming. Best of luck!