Recommendations from Guitar Makers Required

Hey guys / gals!

I’ve been dreaming about an XC for a few years now. I’m moving into a position to purchase one and would like to hear from any guitar builders out there as to what’s possible w/ the machine and what software is needed (also limitations of software and so forth for the applications listed below).

The main reason for writing is that I want to order the right ‘package’ and any auxiliary ‘bits’ straight away versus ordering a default package from the shopping page only to have dreams dashed because I can’t do ‘a,b or c’ without buying more bits and pieces. In short, I’d like to set her up and get going right away (barring the obvious learning curve :wink: ).

My main goals to start would be able to radius fretboards, cut fret slots, create bound fretboards, put logos on headstock faceplates / veneers and so forth. Key instruments are acoustic guitars but I’d like to play with some electric builds as well.

As I’m completely green from this end of things, I’m curious as well as to what I can expect from the Easel. Will this allow me to do inlay work and radius fretboards / inlay headstocks? I’m leaning toward the 40mm unit for versatility - any default options I should skip in favour of others? Any ‘wish I had bought ‘x’ from the beginning’ opinions out there?

Thanks a ton! I need a ‘shopping list’ :).


There is a luthier section in the project category that should answer your questions I would think.

I’m only building electrics, so I’m not sure what other needs an acoustic builder may have. I’m using the original 1000mm X-carve for my guitars. Just stiffened the X-axis and switched the spindle out for the DeWalt. Both which you won’t have to worry about. I do plan on getting one of the CNCNewbie Z upgrades. There isn’t quite enough Z travel to cut the electronics cavities to the proper depth, so I have to finish those off by hand. And I’ll probably upgrade the stepper motors and belts eventually, just so I can cut a bit faster, but not a priority.

I’m using Fusion 360 for all the CAD/CAM other then my nameplates, which I use Easels v-carve ability. You can get the fret slotting bits on ebay from either Drillman or Roguesystemsinc.

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I don’t want to discourage you, but it seems you have a long road ahead of you. Buy the 1000x1000 kit and learn how to use it properly first. There’s no way you will be able to jump in and make faultless toolpaths from the get go.
It looks like you’re trying to skip some essential learning steps so my best advice is to learn things at your own pace and decide then when you feel ready to tackle such a project. Especially when working with expensive woods you only get one shot. Start with electrics, they are ‘easier’ from a machining point of view.
To be completely honest, I’m pretty sure acoustics are 90% made manually. Make molds to bend the veneers etc. Making a quality acoustic is extremely hard.

Sorry if that’s not what you want to hear but honestly that’s the best advice I can give you.

Hi John - thanks for your reply. I’ll have to look up the ‘CNC Z Upgrades’ you mention as it sounds like something to have out of the gate. Good to know there are now default upgrades for the spindle and the x-axis. I’ll hit the forms RE stepper motor and belt upgrades as well (may shelve that for later).

RE software, good to know. I’m well-versed w/ Illustrator and Sketchup / making precise drawings so the hopefully I’ll be able to apply that to a program like Fusion 360 with a fairly shallow learning curve. Thanks for the tip on the bits - I’ll file that! Cheers man.

Hi Fred -
Thanks for getting back to me - I’m up for an adventure, so may as well make it a long road ;). No worries as I’m excited for the challenge. Thanks for the tip in the 1000x1000 kit - seems like the general consensus and is what I was leaning toward.

Just to clarify, my main focus is to:

  • Slot fretboards (flat and radiused)
  • Slot fretboards leaving a ‘bound-look’
  • Do headstock logo inlays
  • Move into other inlays i.e. subtle fretboard embellishments

It makes sense to get my chops down on cheaper materials - I do the same when testing out new jigs etc. with a router.

RE acoustic builds, absolutely. I’m jigging and bending with jigs / heat and understand that process. My primary questions pertain to the points above, z-axis to do what I need, and the best (most economical *or free) software I can used to accomplish these tasks.

I mentioned to John that I do have experience with ‘paths’ and making detailed drawings in Illustrator and Sketchup - my hope is that the software recommended for the XCarve is fairly intuitive and I can quickly* apply what I already know.

Cheers man!

Out of curiousity, because I know nothing of making instruments, is there a specific reason to go with the 1000mm vs the 750mm? obviously more work area, but looking around at bodies, they seem to top out at ~533mm (21in) for Jumbo Acoustics (and tend to be smaller for electrics) vs the 550mm (~21.65in) cut area of the 750 version.

too small for a complete fretboard+headstock

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aha… good to know, didn’t even think of that


Just go with a full kit then. Buy endmills as you go along and as you learn new stuff.
You’ll probably need a VERY fine one for the fretboard slots, a sharp-tipped Vbit for inlays (20 or 30°), maybe a large flathead to hog out material fast and a large ballnose to make smooth transitions and radius the fretboard. A good amount of 1/8 bits will always come in handy for misc use.

Don’t forget to buy the matching collets as well. is a reputable source for those, although not cheap.

A long time ago I built an electric guitar with hand tools, and I kind of bought my machine too in order to revisit that project with cnc precision. Never got to that sadly :wink: But it’s still on the list. I just want to make it a sick design so I’m procrastinating I guess.

@MikeWhitney Your in for an adventure that is full of ups and downs.

Experimenting with different bracing systems would be very cool, Taylor guitars seems to come up with some interesting new findings.

I live in central south PA, not too too far from Navareth, PA home of Martin Guitar. If you’re anywhere near a guitar maker, I’d strongly suggest going for the tour! So much to learn just from a Tour. Martin use to have a shop where they sold parts they didn’t like, including parts for DIY folks. Might be something to pickup to compare to what your making.

Regarding the CNC,
I’d go 1000mm X-carve as my opinion. Go big.
I support the CNCNewbie Z upgrade
9mm belts with upgraded pulleys. Review the NEMA 23 269oz stepper motors upgrades
Take a look at VCarve it gives you more than Easel
I’d strongly suggest reviewing the Waste Board upgrade. Best upgrade I made to my X-Carve:
Or search ‘Phil’s New Waste Board’

When I get brave or have real time in my shop, I’d love to make some guitars. I’d also have to have time to really learn to play… One can dream.

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Hi there. I’m just finishing up upgrading my shapeoko2 to the new and improved x carve. I’ve been building guitars since 1980 and have been using a cnc router for the last 10-12 years. I own a K22515 or something like that. It’s fine for bodies but 25 inches in length isn’t enough to do a neck without moving the parts back and forth. I ended up carving the neck at an angle which can be done with a special gcode using mach 3. Yesterday I scaled down a tele body to 1/3 scale and ran one on the x carve. It actually came out pretty nice. I fine tuned a few things and I’m starting to make files for a tele style neck. I had a bunch of extrusion here from the mothballed shapeoko2, so I upgraded to 750 in the x and 1000mm in the Y. That gives me about a 20 x 30 in. work area.

I wouldn’t go any smaller than that. I used my k2 for a number of parts for some parlor guitars the last few years. I have yet to do fret slots, as it probably is more easily done on my stewmac fret slot system. I do radius the fretboards, drill for dots, and taper the fretboards though. The cnc can be used for truss rod slots, rosettes, cutting tops and backs, making neck blocks for bolt on tenons, pyramid bridges, etc. I haven’t carved acoustic necks yet, because I enjoy the carving by hand.

I am self taught in Rhino, so that helps me out quite a bit. If you don’t know CAD, you will want to learn that while you attempt to make parts. I have a couple tutorials on TDPRI on modeling a tele neck and body if you get to a point where you want to learn a simple approach to that. I also have a neck making tutorial which many find helpful when they are starting out. On my K2, with a pc 690 router, my most used bits were a 1/2 round nose and 1/2" straight, along with a variety of smaller bits for different tasks. On the X carve, I ordered a 1/2" roundnose with a 1/4" shank and a few 1/4" straight bits to use for guitar parts. We’ll see how the Dewalt and X carve handles those.

Hi Fred -
Great work on the guitar project. I like the two-tone and your logo application on the head.

Thanks for the tips as far as a ‘gear list’. This will be helpful when I place the order.

Looking forward to seeing you marry your CNC skills to guitar building.
Cheers again.

Hi Martin,
Thanks for commenting. I’m definitely sold on the 1000mm machine for both guitar making and opening the door for other projects down the road.

I think as I get going, I’ll quickly learn where it makes sense to compliment the build / multitask items versus what makes more sense to do by hand. Without sounding too ‘woo woo’, there is a certain ‘zen’ about carving that I wouldn’t want to automate. Similarly, there are some mundane tasks where the CNC makes sense and can free a guy up to do other things (at least that’s how it seems from this side of things.

Thanks for the tips on Rhino - I’ll have to explore that. No doubt it comes w/ a healthy price tag. RE your tutorials, it would be great to run through those - any practice I can get will be helpful! Thanks for the tips on bits as well for the XCarve. I’ll add those to my shopping list.

Thanks Greg.
I’ll take a look at the Newbie Z-upgrade, as well as belts / pulleys.

Aside from building 5 upscale electric cigar box guitars (fretted, dressed, 25.5" fretscale and highly playable), I’m pretty green with guitar building. After reaching out to luthiers across the country and even one in Israel (I was determined!), I ended up finding a luthier in my home town who’s been building since 1984. His back story is that he hitchhiked across the country playing music and was determined to land a job at the Martin factory back in the 70s, “… if even to sweep floors.”. He spent 3 years working there, returned and has been making instruments ever since. He was gracious enough to let me apprentice under him, so I’m pretty excited about that.

We’re already talking about ideas for our own line of jazz guitars and the CNC came up a few times in terms of making headstock templates and so forth w/ better accuracy… that’s kind of what has led me down this CNC path.

Thanks again!

Hey guy - just looking at the ‘cart’ for the 1000mm unit.

What is the general concensus on:

  1. The sideboard for the controller ($85)? Is this just an MDF platform on the side of the unit for the controller to sit on?

  2. Homing switches add-on - good idea?

  3. Z-Probe - useful? necessary?

  4. Dust control - I’ve seen YT vids of guys just hooking up a shop vac. Is the Dust Control system ‘that’ good?

  5. Easel Pro vs V-Carve. Given what I want to do (fretboard radius, fret slots, headstocks, inlays), is one better than the other?


1,2,3 are conveniences

  1. the sideboard includes frame extensions and mounting hardware
  2. homing switches are cheap and help automate homing
  3. zprobe just automates finding your Z level, which can be done manually

the last 2 are a different story
4) you want dust control… the advantage of the pre-bought solution is that it’s designed around the machine. is it worth it vs what you can come up with or may already have in place in your shop? only you know.
5) Easel itself doesn’t do 3D, so radius operations are right out… but that doesn’t mean VCarve is the only solution. Any CAD/CAM program that exports GCode (pretty much all of them) will work. Fusion360 is a popular choice, and free for “hobbyists” (<100kUSD/yr profit).

I only chimed in because these apply to pretty much everyone

I mostly agree with @Nox_Ferocia, but you definitely want homing switches.


should also mention, the physical addons parts lists can be found through the assembly instructions @
and the Dust Control instructions @

so you can see exactly what they include

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Thanks @Nox_Ferocia and @NeilFerreri1

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