Introduction to X-Carve

Hi folks, I’m investigating whether the large machine will do the project I have in my head. I see that the max depth is 65mm (about 2.5 inches). I’m interested in doing some form of bathymetric display (think lake depth carving) either out of solid slabs of wood or even glued together baltic birch plywood. I’m fairly confident I can generate the individual tool paths for each contour line since I have industry standard GIS software available to me.

My basic question then: is the 65mm z-axis limit hard and fast or can I simply cut the first few layers and then simply “lift” the work piece up to cut deeper patterns (as long as I keep the cutting tool inside the previous cuts?

I’m wondering if I need a different type of machine to get more z-axis movement?

I watched the “Oahu relief carving” video but my “reliefs” would be inside reliefs with hopefully up to 3-4 inch depths.

Any insights on this? Thanks.

@PaulMeysembourg I think to get to 4" depth on your lake you will need to raise the Y axis rails and figure a way to increase you Z axis travel
The other way to do a 4" deep lake would be to make it from 2 layers of material each 2.25" tall and then glue them together for final assemble and painting.


  1. The X-Carve and Grbl can do a great job following a 3D contour. The X-Carve hardware is very robust, you just need software that can create a toolpath (gcode) for the surface you would like to carve. Easel can use grayscale drawing to create a 3D surface, but it is difficult to use like that. Software like Aspire, Meshcam, Fusion360 or Onshape can do a better job.

  2. You will need an internet connected computer with a USB connection to the X-Carve/Grbl controller while carving. I use a dedicated laptop in my shop.

  3. No idea how you would do this, it sounds crazy complicated and will certainly require special software.

  4. Search the forums here for laser, there are lots of discussions about laser engraving/cutting

Yikes! I am a newbe at this and have set up my shop with wi-fi in order to use a laptop with easel.

So this won’t work?


Easel runs great on a laptop with WiFi. Just be sure you tell the laptop not to go to sleep while it is plugged into power. The last thing you want to happen is for the laptop to turn off in the middle of carving a project.

The comment that has you worried just means you need a USB cable (included in the kit) to connect the laptop to the Arduino/Grbl shield.

[quote=“SteveWurster, post:103, topic:119”]
I’m looking at inlay or engraving on a cylinder or turned item. [/quote]
I don’t know of anyone who has done a Rotary Axis / 4th axis mod yet
V Carve Pro supports Wrapped Rotary Axis Toolpaths so that should handled the software side.
You will probably have to add a additional stepper driver for the rotary motor. This is not that big of a deal. You can get a small add-on board or a self contained unit.
Or try a purely mechanical approach with a rack an pinion setup.

[quote=“SteveWurster, post:103, topic:119”]
what modifications are required to adapt a small laser engraver or even a cutter in place of the spindle? [/quote]
People have added a laser diode to the x-carve.
J Tech Photonics makes a laser diode module that can be bolted on to the x-carve. They have info and bracket plans in their website.

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If you look in the list of available plugins for Sketchup, there is one that will open step files. I used it to read all the step files for my Ultimaker 3D printer so I could design an acrylic cover for the machine.

Is the X-carve have true 3d carving capability, as it it can operate all 3 axis simultaneously?

I have succsefully run 3d files fron vector art 3d on the x carve.

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Yes the X-Carve is able to do this. Making the 3D models is a question of software but the hardware is absolutely capable.

I have done a number of 3D carvings from models in the Vetric software library.

Hope that helps.


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Hi, While waiting for my xcarve to ship I have been reading a lot of posts in this forum. I see a lot of people suggesting the x axis be stiffened on the 1000mm unit with a steel bar. If this is a real concern shouldn’t the stiffener be part of the original machine to avoid the drilling and finish work? Maybe a standard design from the Inventables team?

It would add to the base cost of the machine and may not be what alot of folks need.

I used 1 3/4" x 3/16 aluminum on mine and it made a big difference.

This could be an option, not base cost unless it is really needed, plus a standard approach (methodology) by the Inventables Engineers would be preferable to the free for all. I believe I understand enough about the mod to execute but I’m not sure if I will go with Aluminum or steel for the material. The procedure with material list shouldn’t add to the cost unless you buy the materials to upgrade.

Any additional machine work that has to be done to the MS in order to add the stiffener would have to be passed to the buyer. How does Inventables figure how meany people are going to want to upgrade to a stiffener.
The mod is not difficult to do so I don’t see Inventables adding this as an option.


I might chime in here with a small amount of my opinion. So take that for what it is worth.

I think the stiffener is pretty cool and the guys over on that thread are coming up with some great ideas for the mod. That being said, it is a mod. A welcome one; and also I think in the spirit of the machine. These things are sold as kits, but the inherent design from the beginning of the Shapeoko was that the machine be customizable to the needs of the user, by the user of the machine. Hence, maker slide.

The stiffener is not necessary unless a user needs to exceed the limits of the machine, and for many (possibly a silent many) I would bet that they do not exceed those limits. More to the point, I think that Inventables probably would stand behind the design of the machine for what it’s price is set at and what it’s design constraints are.

All of this said… I wouldn’t put it past Inventables to offer some sort of upgrade like this just based on their ability to listen to the community and offer a solution. Their customer service and nimbleness continues to amaze me.

I’ll leave it with this pic that Inventables retweeted here:

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Hello there. I was introduced to the X-Carve thru a friend. He suggested I look into one for our club. We are a small local club that shows younger kids around the area the tricks and art of woodworking. After doing some research and checking out some videos of the X-Carve, it would be a great tool for us to use. We, again are a small club, and money is gained by membership and donations but we might just have to figure out how to come up with the cash we need to buy one of these. Look forward to someday having one and expanding our gear to be able to do even more. Looks like a great machine.

Mark, with what I’ve seen of Inventables trying to reach younger wood workers, especially with there current goal to get X-Carves into schools in all 50 states, they may be willing to work with your club to make it easier for you to get one. I’d PM Zach Kaplan on here, and see if you could work something out. It doesn’t hurt to ask.


Thank you. I will contact him and see if they are able to help us.

Thanks again,

I’m new to CNC, actually never have had the experience in using one at all. But, am interested. Does this machine mill projects like a baseball bat or something on this level? Then able to carve into the side of of it, like a name or decal? If so, is there an additional part that must be attached? What is it? Etc…? I know a lot of questions from the get-go, but I’m really leaning towards purchasing my first cnc machine and this is what I wish to get into. Thanks.

Kristopher - For milling a baseball bat, you would be better off using a lathe which will spin the wood around a single axis and then you would shave the wood stock down to your desired shape. The CNC machine will allow you to precisely carve objects in a 2.5D or 3-D with the appropriate software. I would recommend spending some time on youtube doing some research. A recommended channel would be Make Something (formerly know as Drunken Woodworker) or possibly I like to make stuff.

Please don’t take this as a recommendation to not get the machine, they are capable of some amazing things. Only that it may not be the best tool for making a baseball bat.