I just needed to vent

Having owned the Xcarve since last September, I’m really starting to reconsider my investment. I can see that most of you are having fantastic success with the machine, but I have so much trouble getting repeatable results that I’m just not sure it’s worth it anymore. I had really high hopes for what I could accomplish with it, and so far I’ve successfully done some wood projects (which are by far the easiest thing to do with it, but not the main reason I bought it), milled quite a few pcbs (which, largely due to the lack of consistency in regards to the flatness of the copper clad stock, is maddeningly difficult to get consistent results from) and engraved some guitar pedal enclosures, which is also maddeningly difficult to get consistent results with. In the last two days I’ve ruined two enclosures, which is $6+ out of my pocket every time. I’ve spent a huge amount of time poring over these forums trying to learn settings, setups, and techniques that would get consistent professional results.

Yes I’ve used Chilipeppr and their auto level software. It doesn’t seem to help as much as you would think, especially on large pcbs. When engraving pedals, the smallest mishap will ruin the piece, like today my Suckit dust boot came loose, hit a clamp, and the machine lost steps. Before I bought this machine, hoping to save money, I was paying a place about $25 per pedal to powder coat, drill, and print graphics on them. I now realize that for what I’ve spent on this machine I could have had 72 of those made. I don’t even try to have it mill the holes, just one more thing to go wrong.

My last hope for something consistent from this is the laser attachment I bought for it. I haven’t used it yet because like all of this the learning curve is massive. I was hoping that I could use it to engrave the acrylic faceplates I have made for my amps, but my expectations are very low. I’ve set that aside until I have a week to burn attempting to make it work.

Apologies for the negative tone. I have customers waiting for their orders, and now I’m waiting on new enclosures to arrive so that I can hopefully have a successful engraving on, and they can get their purchase from me. I ordered 4 in hopes that 2 turn out.

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Phil I’ve read everything post you’ve made on here. I have my machine dialed in to less than half a millimeter. But the variance in materials and the delicate nature of the whole process means few completed pieces. I’m really happy for all off you guys who get the machine to do what you want.

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It is extremely difficult (read that almost impossible) to engrave clear acrylic with a laser. You can engrave on some colored acrylics and the colors that work are dependent on the color of your laser.

Not clear acrylic, mostly two color black on white. I’ve done the research. Not sure it will work with the product I’m look at, but it’s worth the try and I’ve spent the money.

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Byron - echoing what @PhilJohnson said, can you do a quick video or two and post with your issues. Don’t worry about editing, or a messy workspace, just capture the problem.

remember, a picture is worth 1000 words, but video is worth 29,970 words per second… :smile:


Hey Brian, do you use a jig to hold your pedal enclosures or do you clamp them to the table? The reason I ask, is that if you made a jig, and you pocket the outside dimensions of the pedal maybe and inch deep, it would hold your pedal nice and snug, then you would have a square edge to zero from every time. I use a 3 point zero block that really makes life easy and super consistent.

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Bill, I don’t but I’m going to. Tell me more about your zero block?

Everyone, I really appreciate you all reaching out to help me. I’m in a better place today. I’m just stressed about money and extra costs mean less profit!

Here is what a perfect engraving looks like. .1mm 30 degree bit. Clamped to a piece of mdf that I milled down with a waste board surfacing bit so that it’s level to the machine.

On this one, some of the power coat got wrapped around the bit and burned the coat surrounding the letters, before I caught it and fixed it. I also had the dust shoe on this time, and that caused aluminum dust to melt into the finish as well, causing dark streaks.

On this one, I had the dust shoe off but didn’t remove the legs for it. One of them vibrated loose and the machine lost steps. I was unable to get it back to the original zero.

Phil, if you ever need any guitar gear, I’ll give you a discount. You’ve helped a lot of people.

I’m going to try something like this. Threaded inserts on a board, that will have a pocket routed the size of the enclosure, that I can zero to all four corners with a feeler gauge. Thoughts?


That looks good but i would suggest watching phils videos on bump stop and g28. Its a little to get figured out but once you do you’ll always have a perfectly square right angle on the x y axis for the bottom left corner of the work piece.

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This will really help you, @CharleyThomas hangs out here on the forum and is just plain awesome, lots of really good tips on his website too!

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Well as I said, I’ve been engraving the enclosures clamped to a wasteboard that I milled flat. It’s just that the piece itself isn’t flat on top, often almost .5mm from one side to the other.

I appreciate the clamping advice! I’ll step up my clamping game, however, I’ve never had a piece come loose, that hasn’t been my issue.

That looks like an awesome product. I watched the demo video. I do always zero to the center of my pieces though, so that the graphic is centered on it. As a side note, I don’t seem to see the option to use the Z axis touchplate in Easel anymore? Is that not a thing any longer?

If I were a guy in your shoes, I would be looking for or developing a process that would allow me to do all my milling before powder coating. This is going to be a continued source of frustration for you.

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One of our customers uses a 445nm laser diode.


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This is really encouraging! I have a 4 watt laser from Jtech, I’ve yet to use it yet. It’s worth a shot to see what it can do on the pedals!


Which of your programs do you recommend that I use to do this type of engraving? I have an Xcarve and the Jtech 3.8 Laser.

Our PicEngrave has a feature to optimize the laser path when using a Dithered 1bit B&W image/logo, but PicLaser does not have that feature. If the overall engraving time is not as a concern as price, then PicLaser will work fine for your use.

Take a look at our PicSender grbl gcode streamer as it setup for spindle & laser use.

picengrave dot com


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It looks like the price for even the most expensive program is fair to me, I just want the best results. :slight_smile: