How critical is x axis (gantry) stiffening?

I am assembling my xcarve, and I am wondering how critical the x axis stiffening mod is? I hope to one day cut aluminum, and it is a new xcarve, so it came with the dewalt 611 router standard.

Will I be unhappy with this if I don’t stiffen it first?

Also, does anyone know of a place I can order the 3/16 steel that is already the correct width so I don’t have to cut it to width along the whole length? Cutting to appropriate length is not a big deal.

I am just setting up at a new house, and nothing is unpacked yet, so I have very few tools (don’t even know where my corded drill is, just have cordless)

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I’m only a few days ahead of you. Used the stiffening mod below.

Got 3/16" X 2" Steel and furniture bolts at Lowes. Have seen both in other H/W stores like Ace Hardware. Can’t tell you anything quantitative about the effectiveness of the mod other than it seemed to work. Would probably be a pain without a drill press though.

It’s not mandatory to stiffen the X-axis, and I believe all the X-Carve’s that Inventables uses for testing are non-stiffened. If you want to cut aluminum with it, you will just need take cuts a bit shallower and be aware that it’s likely to have some chatter.

There are a few different stiffening mods you can make, and some of them look like they would be easy to do with an assembled machine and don’t even require drilling through the makerslide. One person put bolts vertically between the axes, and another recent version did the same thing but ran a strip of aluminum across the top and bottom and used bolts to hold it. It may not be as stiff as the steel modification, but it’s almost certainly good enough for a hobby machine like the X-Carve.

If you want to do the steel modification, I got mine from Lowes or Home Depot. There are multiple widths, so you should be able to pick something that doesn’t need to be cut lengthwise. It doesn’t have to be the whole height of the makerslide, even a 1" or 1-1/2" wide piece will make a significant difference. You may also be able to find 3/16" aluminum, which will be almost as good and a lot lighter.

Sorry to be so long-winded. There’s no need to rush into stiffening the X-axis, especially if you’re just starting to assemble it. Look through the forums here for the different variations and decide what will work best for you.

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Thanks for the response, I looked around a little for other options and might give this one a try, first saw here: A 30 minute x-axis mod to reduce chatter and then remixed a few times here: X-Axis Stiffening Modification

Sorry for adding another post to an already busy topic. I did not search as well as I should have before posting!

[edit] Aaaaand I just found the aluminum strip one you mentioned! A 60 minute x-axis stiffening mod to reduce chatter

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If I was just starting to assemble, I would definitely use one of the drilled-through methods, given what I know now. The bolts-from-the-top work just fine (it’s what I’m currently using) but through bolting would just be a lot cleaner and more professional looking. When it’s still apart, that’s the time to do it!

I did the bolt threw with 3/16" aluminum, I did it while assembling. Highly recommend it, my cuts are nice and smooth.

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A good coat of spray paint is MORE than adequate for the purpose, it’s not like this is going to be put to shipboard use.

Good lord, man! Huh, you shouldn’t be losing powdercoating like that, that is well outside its standard performance… Odd.

Yeah, if you’re setting up a large number of pieces, it may well be worth having them powdercoated. Particularly if you can get them to tack them onto the end of an existing run, etc, if you’re not in a hurry to avoid a set-up or minimum quantity charge.

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Yeah, the 60 minute stiffening method looks to be the best blend between ease, effectiveness, and looks for me.

I should be able to drill through aluminum plates with my 18v cordless ryobi since my power drill is hiding in some box somewhere (we don’t have room where we currently are to fully unpack and most of our boxing was done by a third party that mislabled almost everything!)

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Yeah, aluminum is conveniently easy to drill. You won’t have any trouble with an 18V.

Man, Angus, that is weird! I can understand a tad bit of corrosion on the black-oxide bolts, but having the powdercoat completely fail that way is not normal.

I did the ‘bolts-from-the-top’ / 30 minute stiffening… It was quick, easy and cheap.

I’ve only done a few test cuts on aluminum (just to say i’ve done it) and didn’t have any issue.

I used the aluminum Tee between the makerslide. Extremely ridgid now. This mod took about an hour to perform and install once I had all of the parts on hand. I already had the furniture bolts in my shop, just had to order the aluminum Tee from McMaster-Carr.

Aluminum T? Like an extruded T rail? Could you elaborate?

The Tee fits in from underneath, otherwise it would interfere with the belt.

I also trimmed 1/8" off of each side for the bottom for the v-wheels. This could be cut at a 45 as well, similar to the pics shown in the 60min upgrade with aluminum bars.

This setup add less weight than a steel bar and it adds plenty of stiffness bc of its shape. A flat bar will have more flex side to side than a Tee bar. A steel bar will add excess weight.

There is More than one way to skin a cat, but I would use the Tee again if I was rebuilding the machine.

I don’t see how you would drill the bolt holes without having to slot out or drill through the part of the T that goes into the gap (unless you are using much thinner bolts…). Wonder how much rigidity is gained if the T has to be slotted at every bolt hole.

The rigidity of the aluminum track on top and bottom is not gained by the resistance of the aluminum to bend really, it is granted by the resistance of the aluminum to stretch, since any bowing of the gantry in the z direction would have to stretch and compress the aluminum bars on top and bottom.

This method that I am describing requires drilling through the makerslide and the Leg of the TEE. This method does not involve inserting the bolts “Between” the makerslide.

I placed the Tee between the two makerslides and clamped all three pieces together. Next I drilled through the front makerslide and the Tee. I stopped just short of the back makerslide, but just enough to mark the center. The back makerslide required a slightly larger bit. I used the partially drilled/marked holes on the back makerslide and drilled the holes the rest of the way through using a slightly oversized bit. The hole has to be larger for the “nut” that attaches onto the furniture bolt. The hole was drilled slightly oversized to allow a slight amount of wiggle room for final alignment.

Now each makerslide and the Tee, each have corresponding holes, in my case 7 holes on each piece.

I attached both makerslides to one of the Gantry uprights, leaving the back bolts loose for adjustment. Next, slide the Tee between the makerslide and install the center furniture bolt and nut, but leave it loose. Now the X carriage can slide on.

After the carriage is slid onto the makerslide, attach the other upright to the other end of the makerslides.

Tighten the front makerslide to the uprights.

Now install and tighten all of the furniture bolts and nuts.

This should leave the 4-T5 bolts loose that hold the back makerslide on. These can now be tightened and everything should be locked together.

Also the main issue that I can see is not the flexing of the X up or down. This is the least to worry about IMO. The only time up and down really play a factor is when feeding the cutter into the workpiece. This process will have a tendency to lift the X gantry but since the cutter is cutting the wood while it enters and this force is only momentary since it levels out quickly, then there is minimal up and down force.

The main forces on the X gantry is from front to back and torsional twisting. while cutting these forces show up as chattering on the workpiece.

Because of the shape of the Tee, it acts not only to tie the front and back makerslides together but also to interfere with any torsional twisting. The Tee will give much better resistance to torsional twisting than bolts alone or a flat piece of steel or aluminum. Not to mention more stiffness from front to back.

Thanks for explaining what you are doing with this. Makes sense with the holes, and with that it makes much more sense from a rigidity point of view.