New to CNC Machining

Hey everyone!

I just placed an order for a new X carve system and while I’m waiting I would like to start working on the designs for the products I want to create. Problem is Easel seems to be very basic and does not offer the control that I want. I really have no idea where to start to even begin to learn how to design 3D Products. Any help in the right direction would be greatly appreciated!


Hey @RyanBell welcome to the community! What kinds of objects are you trying to design?

Some 3D CAD tools that are free to start include Sketchup, Onshape, FreeCAD, and Fusion360.

The machine is capable of doing full 3D carving. In order to get smooth curved surfaces you will need to use a ball end mill. Currently, our free Easel software can only do limited 3D curves. For example this lattice is a 3D curve that was created by importing an SVG file. The SVG file specified different heights by changing the color of the lines from white to black. Each color value assigns a different height to the curve. Easel does not currently import CAD files for carving 3D curves.

In order to carve out a curved surface you need three different programs a CAD program, a CAM, program and a machine controller. We also sell a program called MeshCAM whichwill take a CAD file and help you create the gcode. After you did your design in CAD and created the g code in CAM then you need the third application to send your gcode to the X-Carve. One free program is called Universal G Code Sender.

These programs are examples but any CAD/CAM software will work.

You can also use combo CAD/CAM packages like Fusion 360. Students and educators can use Fusion 360 Ultimate free for 3 years Startups can use Fusion 360 Ultimate free for 1 year. Another option You can also use a program we sell called Aspire that combines a little bit of CAD and CAM. You can also import. It normally costs $1995 but if you buy an X-Carve it is $1795 in the bundle.

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Thanks so the design i am creating is actually 2D now that i understand this a little bit more. Are there any books about learning about sketch up and other important aspects of CNC designing and carving? I am interested in learning how to use sketch up and another type of software for creating line designs for engraving onto objects. Maybe illustrator for this? I am also a photographer and I heard its possible to cave images as well.

Like i said i am very new to this and would like a good place to start from the ground up

If you want to do 2D or 2.5D then your best bet is Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape and then import the file into Easel as an SVG.

Hey Zach,

You mentioned that the svg file specified the different heights for easel using color coding. What program did you use to draw the lattice and adjust the gray scaling? Also, how would I enter the values for each color? Thanks in advance

You can do it in adobe illustrator or Inkscape. Use vector lines and select a color on the white to grey to black scale.

As an experiment to understand how it works make 3 squares. One with black as the line color, one grey, and one white. Export it as an SVG and import it into Easel.

You don’t need to use that technique. You can change the height in Easel too.

The lattice was made by one of our software engineers that wrote a small script that created and SVG.

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Thanks, I’ll give that a shot! Thorough as always!

In responce to @Zach_Kaplan and the lattice project in Easel, I was curious what a test could be that I could create in Illustrator and import into Easel…

Thought I would share what I came up with:

I’ll try it out and post results once my X-Carve clears customs and I get it built. :smile:


I’ve never tried illustrator, but in Inkscape I don’t think I can trace an existing bitmap and end up with a smooth gradient like you have on your dolphin. Of course I could always draw a vector with a smooth grayscale, I suppose. Does illustrator allow you to convert standard images to grayscale for example, and directly to vector form with smooth fades from black to white? The banding in the sky would be an example of what I don’t want. I’d like to be able to produce smooth curves with a gradient

Yeah, Illustrator has the ability to “vectorize” a pixel based image, but I’m sure there are other apps out there that can accomplish the same goal. I was just using what I had handy.

Speaking to the image of Himeji Castle that you posted @CalvinGo and specifically the sky in it, you would just need to specify more steps to the gradient. When making a set of vectors that Easel will understand there will always be steps to the gradient and won’t ever be perfectly smooth. So, if I were making this image as smooth as possible, then I would specify maybe 30 to 50 steps to the gradient in the sky instead of the 4 to 5 that are present.

Well, don’t I feel like an idiot… I thought I’d read everything available about Easel and I didn’t know about grey scale depth control… This is awesome!

wow wow wow. this is like finding the coolest easteregg ever. runs off to play with B&W images in EASEL

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@AndrewBishop, I use this super simply in my clamps project, you should go see how it cuts to get a feel for it… I used a gradient in Illustrator and then expanded it into 50 sections to get it simi smooth.

still waiting on mine to ship. ordered the 17th of april so its getting close. i’m going to explode before it gets here. can’t wait to get milling!

I use this super simply in my clamps project,

Where can I find that?

I posted about it here:


Just joined the Forum, hoping to get some questions answered before I order an X Carve. I am a Mechanical Engineer, and I design in 3D using Solidworks. In the past, I have been able to take Solidworks files to various CAM programs to generate G code depending on the machines used (Trackmill, Haas, etc.). What CAM programs have been verified to work with Solidworks and the X Carve? Thanks in advance, Ron Gibson

Most CAM programs that generate G-code should be compatible with the X-Carve… which CAM programs did you use specifically?

@sketch42, I tried recreating what you did on my own. I went into inkscape with a picture I grabbed and tried putting some gradient on it to do this like you did with the shark but once I thought I had figured it out and saved it then went into Easel and did the import SVG option Easel just sits there attempting to load but never finishing. I think I didn’t do the inkscape portion properly.

I’m very new to inkscape, well pretty much everything to do with CNC, but I’m trying to absorb and learn as much as possible to step up my game. Is there any chance you could give a tutorial on how you made the gradient picture in inkscape and got it to be supported by Easel? Thanks!