Rehabilitating an older X-Carve

I recently acquired an older 1000mm X-Carve that the previous owner essentially didn’t use. Over the years a few parts were scavenged off of it and it’s not currently operational, so I thought I’d log my progress and questions here.

Unless I’ve misidentified something, it has:

  • Arduino + gShield controller
  • One of the DC spindles
  • Original two piece X axis rail
  • Stock steppers, belts, bearings, etc in reasonable cosmetic shape

It’s currently missing a few fasteners and the cabling to the Z axis stepper. The previous owner thought the controller might have some damage causing intermittent issues, but wasn’t sure.

Current plan is to perform a few upgrades as I go. Most of what I use it for will be wood, with very occasional metal and plastics. As it stands now, my plan is:

  • Swap the spindle for a Makita (using the Inventables 611 mount and some shims)
  • Swap the X rail for the new-and-improved model
  • Replace the gShield with the X-Controller
  • add a Z probe
  • pick up a USB game controller to use as a pendant
  • 9mm belts

I considered a VFD spindle, but given the extra cost and complexity I don’t think it’s worth it for now for the materials I’ll be cutting. And if I decide to upgrade in the future having an extra trim router isn’t the end of the world. Likewise I also considered an upgraded Z axis, but for similar reasons I think I’ll pass for now.

On the other side of the coin I was waffling on whether the X-Controller upgrade was worth it. For me the tie-breaker was that controller issues are what I have the least patience for debugging, so even if it’s not worth it in pure performance I think it’s still worth the money to me. Plus having an extra Arduino and DC power supply to add to my parts bin is nice.

Any slam dunk upgrades that are missing from my list? Anything I should clean or check extra carefully for damage before reassembling?


If you dont mind making your own, build your own “X-controller” and used the saved cash for a Z-upgrade which will be a considerable upgrade.
Are the motors 1,7" or 2,3" wide?

1 Like

Thanks, it’s worth thinking about the Z axis upgrade a bit more at least. Decisions, decisions…

The steppers are about 2 1/4" wide.

I cant think of any other upgrades off the top of my head XDDDD.
Maybe skip the makita and go for a vfd spindle.

Okay, that mean you have Nema23’s atleast :slight_smile:

Before you drop the cash for an x controller, at least attempt to get the old arduino/gsheild operating.
Often an intermittent issues with connectivity can be traced to a bad wiring connection, solder joint on the gshield where the new owner had to solder the pins in and even a broken stepper wire within the insulation. away from the arduino altogether. I would take the time to play with it a bit before any major expenditures myself. But then I am a cheap S.O.B. :grinning:
I say all of this because I have one of the first machines to ship out and am still running the original arduino and gshield to this day. the z axis did get the linear upgrade however.

Best of luck and please keep us updated on your progress!


This would be my suggestion as well. I still run an x-carve off of the arduino/g-shield combo and it hasn’t let me down yet.


Thanks all. I’ll try to get the gShield up and running. I was under the impression that Z probes weren’t supported without the X-Controller, but it appears I was mistaken. And don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty cheap too- I just got the X-Carve for cheap enough that I’m indulging a bit.

Are there any gotchas I should be aware of, or can I just update to the latest grbl version?

1 Like

Not just Z - I have a Triquetra block from Charlie working perfect - although not via Easel anymore.

I run charlie’s triquetra 3 axis touch plate all the time. You will need to access a pin on the arduino (A5 I think?) for a signal, a ground and make a change in GRBL to turn the homing on. ($22=1 I believe)

As for updated GRBL versions I’ve been running v 1.0c for more than a year and recently changed it to a modified version to support a 2.8 laser. Still going strong.

1 Like


Personally the X-Controller was a game changer for me. Like you I would get frustrated with intermittent connection or over heating issues. That being said people who are neater with their wiring and have more patience have run off the Arduino + gShield very successfully for years.

If you are making upgrades I suggest all the locking hardware including the new eccentric hardware.

The upgraded belt clips are also a huge improvement.

I don’t personally use the Z-Probe or the homing switches. Some people swear by them. I like to zero off the corner of the material. For most of my work that is sufficient and much faster for me.

I got the dust collector which makes a big difference in clean up. It sucks up about 90% and then I just come back with a shop vac for the remaining bits. The tradeoff is running the vacuum and the router is LOUD.


Thanks again for all the help!

I cracked open the controller yesterday to take a look, and it’s not as bad as I feared. The wiring and soldering was a bit of a mess, but I can fix that. No obvious damage to any components. Unfortunately I needed to stop tinkering and go cook supper before I finished the driver installation so I don’t know if it works or not, but I should know shortly.

Current controller plan, taking into account all of your excellent advice:
Plan A: get the existing gShield and Arduino running
Plan B: if the Arduino and/or PSU have issues, replace them and use the gShield
Plan C: if the gShield has issues build a Demon

With the stock-ish system I’ll end up with after my upgrades, is driving the two Y steppers from the same driver a serious limitation? I was finding some conflicting information.

Unfortunately when I checked him out shipping to Canada was pretty prohibitive. I’ll just go with the Inventables one for now and upgrade later if it seems warranted. Glad to hear the zeroing blocks work well with the Arduino though.

Added, thanks!

A dust collection system is one of the things that’s within my capabilities, so I think this is one place I’m going to save some pennies and do it myself. Plus for space reasons (shop is a single car garage that already has band saw/mitre saw/table saw/etc) I’ll need to put the X-Carve on a folding table, which doesn’t really work with the Inventables design. I’ll figure something out though!

1 Like

In my opinion yes this is the biggest limitation. The other consideration is on the gShield each stepper has 1.5amps so when you drive 2 stepper motors they are each getting .75amps max.

On the X-Controller you are getting 4 stepper drivers with 4amps each so each stepper driver is getting a max of 4 amps.

This makes a big difference and in my opinion is under acknowledged because it’s invisible.

1 Like

Two motors sharing one driver can not provide more that half of the driver rating per motor - so you will not be able to run the motors to their potensial.
Having two drivers (sharing signal) running one motor each will be stronger.

The stock NEMA23s (at least now) are rated at 2.8A.

You’re limited to about 1.5A per driver given thermal loading and whatnot. The board is supposedly rated to 2.5A but I don’t think anyone ever actually achieved a sustained 2.5A.

Now, further divide that down due to shared Y axis for the Y steppers.

You’re basically massively underpowering the machine with the Gshield.

The Xcontroller and the Demon both eliminate that by allowing up to 4A (or more depending on the driver chosen for the Demon) per driver even with a shared input for both Y steppers.

So even if you get the Gshield working, I personally highly recommend upgrading to something. I personally use an Xcontroller. I have had no issues at all with mine. Others use the Demon and they have no issues. Flip a coin, spin a bottle, draw from a hat…whatever you need to do to make a decision, including looking into the wallet.


As recommended first check continuity on the wiring. Then you can start everything else. I had a fantastic experience with the X-Controller and still do to this day.
But pay attention as you go or better yet write it all down before you start.
I’m a big believer in using a spreadsheet to calculate and track approaching expenses. Then you can sort by most expensive to least or if you add a column with an importance rating sort it that way. There is a term for this in engineering but it escapes me.

Hey all, sorry for the radio silence. The X-Carve just kind of fell into my lap when i wasn’t planning for it, and unfortunately I don’t have a whole lot of time to play with it right now.

I did get the controller fired up, and verified that at least the Z-axis works. Just need to check the other two, but it’s a good sign!

On the subject of Z-axis upgrades, eBay is running a promo today for 15% off, which I think is my final push towards pulling the trigger on one from cnc4newbies. I’m thinking this one, since with the amount of upgrades I’m already planning on I doubt I’ll be biting off anything else that would take advantage of more travel. Plus the folding table only gets harder the taller this thing gets.

Does that make sense? Thanks!

Hah, apparently my afternoon coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. Apologies @JustinBusby, that’s a general question and not directed specifically at you!

@Zach_Kaplan (or others) is there any way to know how long the eccentric hardware upgrade kit will be out of stock? I’m itching to order the Inventables part of my upgrades, and I’m trying to decide if it’s worth waiting to see if they’ll come back in a few days. I can order the spacers individually, but it ends up costing an extra $10 or so. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things but thought I’d ask if there’s any point to waiting around for a bit.

Also for those following along: I ended up not picking up a Z axis quite yet. I want to use the machine for a while and figure out how much I’d value more Z travel, which model works best for me, etc. Didn’t want to get stuck spending $200 and realizing in six months that I should have spent $300 (or vice versa). I think I’m convinced it’s worth it eventually though!

My Makita should be showing up today, and the Elaire collets are ordered and hopefully won’t take too long making their way across the border. Now I just need to put in the Inventables order and wrap my head around the belt options to make a final decision there. Progress!

1 Like

Best way is call 312-775-7009 and talk to one of our Customer Success folks. They should be able to tell you or investigate with our sourcing department as to the status.