Is the X-Carve a good choice for me?

Hi everyone! I’ve been reading off and on again about the x-carve (and other “hobbyist” CNC machines) for about a year or so now.

I am ready to purchase my first CNC machine now in the next few months, but I could use some advice.

So… I am brand new to this. I do some CAD, but never CAM. I don’t even own a 3D-printer. What I do is mainly speaker enclosures, baffles etc. for car audio. Both for my own use and for customers. I do the bulk of them in MDF. Car audio is however not my primary source of income, so what I would have as a goal is to be able to spend more time in front of the computer, dressed in office clothes and less time in shop clothes due to MDF dust. Air flow is important when it comes to some more advanced designs, so I will want to be able to do aerodynamic shapes, so 3D carving.

What also would be cool is to be able to make some details in aluminium and potentially even be able to carve some custom conductive parts in copper, although I understand if that’s on a different level.

What I was thinking is to buy the larger X-Carve and perhaps some upgrade with lead screws instead of belts. If I could get a longer Z travel it would help when I need to do thicker things, like port flares. I think I’d start by doing some simple cuts in Easel and then move on to Fusion 360. My idea is to be able to be in the room next door while it carves.

Budget is about $5000 shipped to Sweden and including the PC I’d buy to control it.

So, am I missing something? Should I lower expectations? Start with the base model and ease into it with upgrades as they are needed? Should I forget about being in the other room while it cuts? Any advice is appreciated.
Oh, and I don’t need to be able to make up the money in a certain amount of time, so cutting speed is not a big issue as long as I don’t have to be in the same room at all time.

Thank you

I almost always leave when my CNC machines are running including my x carve. If you can make money with your machine and have 5k to invest, look at heavier machines. But the X carve is a great hobby machine. Gotta take it slow with lighter cuts and smaller bits. It does the job fine if you aren’t in a rush. But if you can make money with your CNC and you need more Z travel, and you have 5k to spend look at heavier used machines. That’s my opinion.

As Justin pointed out, the xcarve really is more of a hobby machine. Yes, you can get it to do stuff for you in a commercial fashion but somethings, such as high speeds are not easy due to the physics of the situation.

I think you are on the right path as far as replacing the belts with a lead screw and getting what amounts to a lift kit for the xcarve. I want to say I saw a YouTube video where someone bought a kit for $1,000 to convert the belts to a lead screw. I know I have seen the lift kit for $400-$500 on tbd cnc. Lets just call it $1500. So far you are at around $3600 (2100 for the 1m European kit).

For the computer on my CNC, it is actually my old computer. It doesn’t take much to run the CNC. You can probably buy a cheap computer for a couple hundred.

I think your bigger problem is going to be ventilation. MDF is a nasty product when it turns into dust. I don’t think you are going to get chips of MDF but rather dust. You will want to either A build an enclosure for your CNC that has an air filter on it or just always wear a respiratory out in the shop. I guess you could purchase one of those huge shop filters.

What I have found the xcarveto be great at is what I use it for. I have a full time job and I like to build things on the side. I have on occasion run my CNC for 2 days in a row at 12 hours each day. I am also new to CNC. the xcarve has made the learning curve a lot easier. I have a certain appreciation for my machine that I don’t think I would have had if I didn’t assemble it myself. This is a great learning machine and something that I am starting to make money using. I do want to purchase a larger scale CNC now. something I can slap a full sheet of plywood on. Something that can handle the higher speeds when carving. For me, that CNC is about $10 - $15K. Would I have known this without the xcarve, no. Would I have been successful just buying one of those $10-$15k beasts, probably not. There is a lot to learn and the xcarve is a great platform to learn on.

Before you buy the add-ons for the xcarve, play with it first. Understand what you like or don’t like about it. Understand what the limitations are of endmills and the xcarve. For example, you want to mill 4 inches deep, you will find it difficult/impossible to find an endmill that will cut that deep. You may need to rethink how you are going build things. You may need to break things apart and the upgrades might not help you that much.

Last thought. Make sure you have spare parts. You don’t want to be in the middle of a carve and something go wrong to find out that it will take 2 weeks to get a replacement part. my third week with my xcarve I broke the Z axis belt. It was two weeks before I had the machine back up and running. When I say spare parts, its not just the belts. You are going to want to have a spare router, tons of end mills, belts, maybe a replacement motor or spare v wheels. really you need to determine what it will cost you if your CNC goes down and what is most likely to break. For me it is the belts and the endmills.

Thank you both. So far I’d say I think I’m on to something - buying the X-Carve as a learner machine basically. I have been looking for a used machine and they do come up from time to time, but the local market is quite small. I’ve also been looking at like AliExpress, but it just feels a lot easier to get an up-gradable machine that seemingly have a great community around it, being a beginner and all.
My car audio business is my hobby and the money I make on it is spent on whatever tools and equipment I could use to make it even more fun, so it’s all paid for by the hobby.

I’ll also follow your advice and first buy the stock machine, along with some spare parts and a ton of end mills and then see what type of upgrades I actually need. I’ll probably start using my shop vac as dust collection and as one of the first projects build a filtered enclosure for the computer. Since I’ll still do dusty things in the rest of the shop, for me it doesn’t make sense to enclose the CNC router. A shop filter is probably also a good idea. It’s very dusty now, to say the least.

I’m not in a rush and will spend some time during Christmas holidays to prepare my tiny woodworking space for it, so if anyone else has something to add - please do.

Instead of buying an x carve, and then having to upgrade it with lead screws to get what you want, I think I would recommend you looking at an Oozenest Workbee 1000x1000mm machine. That company is UK based for easier shipping to Sweden, has a taller Z axis, is lead screw based (with accuracy of .001-.003") and would achieve your goals for only a bit more than an X carve.

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Thank you! I’ll look into it for sure! I’ve seen the name before, but there seems to be quite a few Chinese copies of it.

You can their site here:

https://ooznest.co.uk/product/workbee-cnc-full-kit/?, gclid=Cj0KCQiAuefvBRDXARIsAFEOQ9FyrrNgLh-2vCOmZ-ndiSC_5ef1yeLAsaQCeHiSFG2tVmdBUSf0LWkaAp4REALw_wcB#review

As an aside, their probe is an xyz probe, there is an enclosure available to reduce dust and noise, and several options exist for colors as well.

It also looks like the WorkBee has an Ethernet (/Wifi) interface, while the X-Carve use USB. That to me seems to make it possible to use my current office computer, located two rooms away from the wood shop, which means I don’t have to pick up another, dedicated, PC for the CNC. Would you say that’s a correct conclution?

Yes, but you still want to have a computer close for setup during a carve, probing, setting home positions, etc.

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Ah, ok. Bummer that can’t be done through Ethernet. Could just bring in a laptop while setting up and then take it out once it’s carving. But no biggie.

Hi Rickard, based on reading this entire thread, I’m inclined to answer your question in the affirmative; the X-Carve would be a good choice for you.

But first, in response to your December 18 post…You are going to want a dedicated computer to run the machine, whatever you buy. A computer crash during a carve will ruin your day and if you are trying to do something else in the background, the likelihood of crashing the computer running the machine is a lot higher. However, you don’t need much of a computer to run any CNC machine. You can probably find something on the used market well able to manage. I run one of my X-Carves on a laptop I bought 12 years ago, using Linux.

Design is different. You are going to want a robust computer to do the design work.

IF you are already quite skilled at CAD, or you have a substantial block of time that you are prepared to devote to learning CAD and CNC machining in general, AND you are completely confident that you know exactly what you want to do and have the budget and the knowledge to specify, construct, and commission the ultimate CNC machine that you want, then you might want to ignore the rest of this.

However, I would suggest that for a rank beginner, an X-Carve machine is an economical entry level machine that will meet your beginner needs, pay for itself, train you for more advanced CNC work, and continue to support you until it makes enough to pay for it’s replacement. The X-Carve may be all the CNC machine you ever need, but if not, it will give you the knowledge, the skill, and the income to specify, purchase, and integrate a much larger, more powerful, capable and more sophisticated machine if you decide you’ve outgrown the X-Carve. Further, the capabilities of that more powerful machine WILL increase for the next several years, and its price will decrease.

I say this as the purchaser and educator/administrator of THREE X-carve machines in the last 4-1/2 years. Only now am I beginning to feel the limitations of my X-Carve machines, but not acutely enough that I am feeling any need to buy a different machine. In the meanwhile, income from my first machine paid for my second, along with two 3d printers. I specified and ordered the third machine for a maker space that I help manage at a local university.

Here are my reasons:

  1. For the basic 2-1/2D tasks you are talking about, Easel is a great learning environment that will get you making things quite quickly and at low cost. As a complete beginner with all things CAD, I made my first income producing project 36 hours after I had my machine up and running.

  2. When you build your X-Carve, the construction itself is an associate’s degree in CNC operations. You will understand how the machine works and be well able to troubleshoot, tweak and tune your machine to a very high degree of accuracy.

  3. As your skills advance, you will be able to use EASEL as a G-Code sender to make more advanced projects designed in more sophisticated CAD programs. I’ve successfully carved designs generated from S-CAD, TinkerCAD, Fusion 360, SketchUp, Inkscape and other graphic design programs.

  4. As your skills mature, you will have a much clearer idea of what CNC can do as well as what you WANT or need it to do. This will have a bearing on the type and size of the machine you will decide to buy. You will also have a better idea of how to integrate CNC into your other shop operations, and this in turn will affect how you arrange your shop.

  5. Although you may outgrow the capabilities of the X-Carve machine, for the uninitiated CNC user, that time is probably later rather than sooner. If you do out grow it, you are probably going to want capabilities and capacities that are beyond what you can imagine right now, and also beyond your current budget. If I’d had unlimited funds five years ago, I would have bought the wrong machine. I’m only vaguely considering another new machine now, but the machines I am now considering didn’t exist then, and they are better, cheaper, and more capable than the most advanced machine I could imagine when I began my CNC adventures.

Whatever you decide, have fun with it and enjoy your shop time!

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I guess it has been about 15 -16+ years since I first got into cnc routering . I made my first machine from hardware store parts, HDPE and aluminum angle.

Kudos go to John Kleinbauer for his contribution to the hobbiest market when it was in its infancy:

http://www.crankorgan.com/plans.htm

. I used a plug and play motor and controller package from a now defunct company to run it. At that time it used proprietary software and a computer with a parallel printer port. I purchased two commercially made units over the next 6 years trying to achieve a larger machining area, faster cutting speeds and higher accuracy. Machine component flex is a key consideration to accuracy. One was worse than the homebuild, and one was better. In both cases I invested about 8000 dollars. Eventually I bought a shapeoko2 which I eventually upgraded to current x carve specs.

Knowing what I know now, I’d look for a used x carve with an x controller or invest in a new one. You will want to buy the biggest you can afford and fit into your work area. I’d buy the aftermarket risers and stiffeners as well as an aluminum Z axis. I’d upgrade to 9mm belts and pulleys. That’s where I am now and the only thing I could possibly do to make it better is to add lead screws but I’m not sure that the available ones would actually be much better. They aren’t ball screws yet.

You’ll notice that the $10-20K machines are heavy duty structurally. They have supported linear guides, anti-backlash screws, more powerful motors, and usually different control systems. They also use larger routers or spindles that can handle larger bits.

Start to draw in Cad and learn Cam. You can do this in a 3d drawing package if you have access to one. Eventually you will want to do 3d work. There is a learning curve to cnc as well as most things in technology today. One of the nice features of the x carve is the experience in all areas that people in this forum have had and can share with you.

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I had shared my somewhat lengthy pro/con list as a response to another forum topic. Sharing at the link below if you are interested: Looking to pick a fellow owners brain

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1000x1000 is what I have love it with dust collection easel makes a lot of errors, and cannot do 3D carving centric vcarve desktop is what I use but won’t do 3 d about 2,000.00 for 3D program. Xcarve is a hobbyist machine push to hard it will break a belt universal G code sender is free operates machine works great.

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V Carve Desktop cannot create 3D.
However it can import 3D and modify it with scaling and axis rotation.
I have used my x Carve for 3+ years and never broke a belt yet. (knock on wood)
Any machine will break if it is not used correctly.

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This turned out to be a harder choice than naming the kids!

So, based on more research and your comments here I realized that I will need two machines eventually. One really sturdy to do milling and one for wood carving. I then made a list of actual projects that I would have used the cnc-router for the last year or so and found that many needed 112 cm x travel. So I ended up ordering the Workbee 1500x1500 a few days ago.

Thank you so much for your input!

It should serve you well - happy carving :slight_smile:

Two machines is a valid approach when time = money because one job wont hog 100% of your machine capacity. Having two machines in the end allow you to do different things at the same time.

V-CARVE Desktop can indeed create 3d. The only difference between the Desktop and Pro versions is a limit of 25"x by 25"y in Desktop, with no limitations in x/y sizes in Pro.

VC desktop has to import 3d and then modify it or create toolpaths as is.
The pro version also has the various gadget options.

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I stand corrected! It can indeed import, but not self create 3d profiles… :grin:

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