New to CNC, only one purpose

Good Afternoon,

I am currently looking at a couple different machines with a heavy leaning towards X-Carve. My intent is to produce “Event Award Plaques” at a reasonable cost. My company donates several a year to various events and charities costing us from 400 to 1000 dollars a season to purchase from various sources and well some the quality is simply not there. So I have decided I can purchase a CNC and do myself.

What I would like to do is produce the “artwork” in photoshop - use a program to convert to the needed code - and cut - very simple in my mind … CAN THIS BE DONE?

Attached are what I have in mind …

I understand as I get more time on the machine – the more I am going to want to do – for now Award Plaques is all.

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Easily. I suggest you look at v-carve. Go to Vectric’s site and look at their tutorial videos. You should be able to skip the photoshop step.


Don’t use Photoshop for something which should be done as Vectors.

Free / opensource options to V-carve:

  • Inkscape and Gcodetools
  • F-Engrave and either a good DXF editor, or a font editor (I use Fontforge)
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This should give you an idea what the xcarve can do. your award plaque idea has alot of merit and is easily accomplished with this machine …

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I second the vote for Vcarve. If you want to make signs, get the right tool for the job. VCarve Destop will make easy work of it. Also get a good set of Vbits.

I guess I will have to gain a better understanding for the programs available -

The two examples given I made / assembled the graphic in photo shop and
sent the people whom made it the Jpeg file. I simply do not have the skill set
to draw what I want.

I thought I had read about programs that would take a grayscale “rastor” convert it to
useable code for a CNC, maybe I mis read will go back and re read.

Then again maybe I just keep buying them from other people that have the skills …

Back to the research table …

You can make a G-code file from a pixel image — F-engrave does this — but one sacrifices quality, unless one gets all the settings just so.

It’s better to use a vector where appropriate.

VCarve can trace simple bitmap files to carve them. And there are a coupe of photo carving programs that will convert more complex pictures to be carved.

My advice, take a look at the Vectric tutorial videos, even it you don’t decide to buy the program. That will give you an idea of just what the machine can do and the kinds of things you need to make it happen.

I appreciate everyone’s help / input / direction
I must be missing something, really missing …

Watching some tutorials and none of this looks like what I want to do or makes sense …

I am so better at hands on …

If you make the PS file much larger than it needs to be, you can generally convert it to a vector pretty easily.

I’m still new to all this too, so take this for what it’s worth. What I have been doing is taking an image file, Converting it to two color black and white, then putting it into inkscape and letting that do the tracing. It seems to do pretty well. It’s easy enough to fix the few mistakes there are by editing the vector in Inkscape. Then I load it into F-Engrave, and generate the G-Code needed for machining. (Both free programs)

For what you are doing, another piece of Software to try would be Artcam Express. I had a play with that a while back, and it seems pretty nice for many purposes.For engraving like you are doing, or even mild relief carving, it appears to perform pretty well. The vector tracing in that one is very good, It costs about $150 if memory serves.

I must be missing something, really missing …

For each “job” you will need the “art” then from the art you need a readable file format for the CAM (usually SVG (vector), DXF (normal CAD drawing) or a suitable 3d file) then the CAM (easel, meshcam, artcam, v-carve, estlcam, etc…) produces the g-code that then gets sent to the X-carve.
If you are just starting out EASEL is a great beginners program and can do a lot for the cost (free).

The X-carve is a very capable machine but remember that is DIY kit and with all DIY’s it may take a little work to be perfect but with patience it really is a great shop tool.

That plaque on the right looks like it was rastered on a laser engraver.

A laser engraver can do raster images and “shades”. And depending on the laser wattage will do vector cutting of certain materials. Maybe you are looking for a laser more than a CNC router?

I do think after some research you are correct

There will be a new benchtop laser engraving machine announced in less then a day. We have there first version and it does very fine detailed laser engravings.



This should be interesting.

Yup once billruff posted what he did, I went on the research hunt again. Landed on the Emblaser …
Thinking this is how the right one was done and that’s the look I prefer … still researching

Hey All,

I’m relatively new to the X-Carve and not experienced in vector software. I think looking at some Inkscape tutorials will make more sense initially than looking at vcarve without having experienced the tool. Just my opinion, and I am planning to look at vcarve more later, but for now just importing SVG files into Easel from Inkscape makes more sense. i also want to point out that Easel has built in the image trace, which I used on the project attached with pretty good results.

I have to admit that the awards I made were rather rushed, i had a little chip-out and no time to clean it up completely or to do another cut with better spindle speed settings (using dewalt 611, i think i just had the speed a little too fast)

Not a great picture, but it was really fun to make a 3d award for this event and the participants really enjoyed it. Again, a very simple/quick design using a raster file of the logo (image trace ‘app’) and Easel text tool + shape (rectangles).

I think I forgot to mention that I made 5 of these awards and it is only the second project I had ever done with my xcarve. I completed assembly of xcarve a couple weeks before the event, no previous cnc experience.

Hey Earwigger,

Can you tell us what your bit, feed and speed was on those? I’d be curious… Looks really nice.


That was several machine iterations ago. Just a v-bit (60 degree router bit) using v-carve and I am sure going 30-40 ipm at 10k rpms. You really have to figure out what works on your machine, because they are all so different. But v-carving is not particularly stressful unless you cannot control your depth of cut. I keep my DOC below .2 with a v-bit, which is very liberal.