My first week with Carvey / Easel

Here are a few observations from a new user. I hope my experiences/observations will be useful to others.

My machine arrived much sooner than I expected, thank you Inventables! It also arrived in very good condition, with only a small cosmetic crack in the plexiglass cover. I followed the excellent unpacking video, since the startup guide omits information about unpacking. (I suggest the URL to the video be added to that publication.)

The first demo carve went perfectly, so I knew I had a working machine, yeah!

I suspected my engineering background, and prior experiences with 3D printing and CAD/CAM would make my learning curve pretty short. I decided to use Easel as my design tool. My first hiccup was trying to import an SVG from Front Panel Express and from TurboCAD Delux, neither of which worked very well, but I was able to redraw shapes somewhat using the imported data as a template. I also tried using Inkscape as a middleman, but that approach seemed to lose the precision of the scale. My work requires precision as close to the 0.001" level as possible.

My initial use of Carvey/Easel is to make front panels for various electronic projects. In the past, I have made these myself with hand tools, and the results are very amateurism, to say the least. A front panel consists of various holes and text, in thin / flat material. Using Easel to add text to a drawing is, at present, an adventure. The arrows keys, as well as other ones on the keyboard, cause the ‘destruction’ of the design. What happens, is some kind of invisible element is created way off to the right side which cannot seem to be deleted. It’s presence can be detected by the ‘Show Toolpaths’ command. Once this happens, there seems to be no recovery, I needed in each case to start the drawing over.

Once I got past the problems with entering text, I was able to produce a very good first try at a panel, and after 6 tries had one to be proud of. One of my challenges was that I need to carve on both the front and back sides of the material. The other, is that I need to use several different tools. So I have 4 steps to making my panel, 3 on the front side and 1 on the back. It was hard for me to get the precision I needed between bit changes and material flipping. Anyway the final result is stunning!

A few minor observations, it is common for Carvey to not begin carving when the ‘Carve’ button is pushed. It will instead do a part of the homing step, then declare itself finished. Pushing ‘Carve’ again, will start normal operation. Also, one time, the machine started to carve without turning on the motor to spin the tool. The tool broke immediately, of course. Lastly, I cannot get HOME and PARK to do anything, I guess I do not understand how they work.

A few requests, some of which have already been posted by others:

  1. There needs to be a provision for folders to organize design files.
  2. There needs to be a provision to download/upload the drawing files, in case of a storage failure at Inventables.
  3. There should be a way to LOCK/UNLOCK files. A LOCKED file would not be able to be changed, but could be carved as is.
  4. Hovering over a filename, during an open command, should display the full file name.
  5. I encourage Inventables to offer 1/16" material for engraving, even though it will require special fixtures to hold it in place. I had to order large sheets from another supplier.

In summary, Carvey / Easel are amazing, congratulations. Easel will be quite a challenge to get bug-free and up to the promise of an all-in-one tool chain.

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