Suggestions for improving rough and detail cuts with Easel and the X-carve

My first real week into using my X-carve I have been trying to do various projects using Easel and have encountered some challenges. Most of them have to do with homing problems. (And, yes, I have homing switches which I WON’T call limit switches because they do NOT act, in any way I can see, to limit damage to the machine if it starts to go out of bounds. At best, these switches only serve to zero/home the machine. Some REAL limit switches that instantly killed the motion of the machine would be nice.)

Specifcally, I’ve been trying to do small and detailed carves on birch plywood which require both a rough cut and a detail cut. These have used 1/8" bit for the rough cut and 1/32" (or an engraving bit or vbit) for the detail cut. My rough cuts usually proceed and complete just fine. But I’ve been mostly unsuccessful at getting a detail cut or quality finished carve after the rough cut.

The reasons for this are:

  1. Easel seems to lose the “last home position” between cuts. This seems to be a software problem and it is NOT necessarily because the bit/collet was moved when changing bits. That is, I have managed to keep the spindle motionless while changing bits and yet Easel still loses the home position before I start the detail cut. Which, of course, screws up my carve.

  2. Under normal operating conditions, when the machine finishes the rough cut, it returns the Dewalt 611 and spindle to the zero position. But that’s NOT a good thing because the normal zero position on the Z-axis is with the bit touching the surface of the material. And that makes it impossible to remove the rough cut bit and replace it with the detail cut bit without raising the bit and thereby losing the zero/home position.

What I’d like to see Inventables do to improve Easel for my X-carve is the following.

First, Easel now requires the user to do two completely separate cuts to complete such carves. After the rough cut, Easel takes the user to the “Did your carve complete?” dialog and then simply ends the process. But it would be much preferred if Easel considered the cut unfinished until both rough and detail cuts were complete. Easel needs to pause the two-cut carve process after the rough cut instead of considering that first rough cut as a finished cut.

Second, at the end of the rough cut, the spindle needs to move to the zero position and then raise the bit sufficiently (3 or 4 inches at least) so as to facilitate changing the bits.

Third, if Easel displayed the precise positions of the bit on the X, Y, and Z axes at the finish of the rough cut, and then allowed the user to reposition the spindle on all three axes before beginning the detail cut, then no matter what happened with homing, it would be possible for the user to precisely zero the machine for the detail cut to the position which was its zero for the rough cut. (Note: I recognize that doing this might be a problem without some built-in means of measuring the positions or counting motor steps.)

I also suspect that if Easel simply paused, instead of quitting, between the rough and detail cuts, that it might not be having its current problem of the software losing the zero/home position between cuts.

It would also be nice to be able to access the X,Y, and Z positioning arrows without having to go back into the machine setup or “start” a carve. Maybe make this a drop down on the menu bar?

Disclaimer: I’m still a relative noob with the X-carve so everything I perceive about it could be wrong. :slight_smile:

I haven’t been using my x-carve for awhile, but IIRC, after the cut, the bit ends up above Z zero, can’t remember if it is 0.25 inch or 0.5 inch or what, either way, not enough to change the bit.
But the problem with the Z axis is that if you’re changing the bit, it doesn’t really matter where the Z axis goes at the end of the first cut, because the new tool is not going to get mounted with EXACTLY the same depth of cut relative to, say, the collet as the first bit was, at least not without some automatic bit changing device, but we don’t have that or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

A three axis zeroing touch plate (Hi @CharleyThomas!) would be your best bet, but even with that, the top of your original block is probably gone after the rough cut, unless you’re lucky or good at planning ahead and aren’t removing the entire top layer of your stock.

I can’t remember if Easel can do this, I was using vCarve when I last did this, but if you can design your model and cuts so that the zero point is at the bottom of the stock, you can really make this easier (although I suppose there might be a trade off or two).

Good luck,

When the cut is done, your spindle should return to the home position except at “safety height”, which I believe is .150" by default but can be changed. Your home is still considered the same XYZ point on the top of the material, but the safety height allows you to (hopefully) clear clamps and transit across the workpiece without damaging it.

As long as you can change the bits without moving the spindle in the X and Y axes, you can zero the detail bit on the top of your material and it will be at the same home position as the rough bit. You can change the bit position yourself by going to the carve screen and clicking in the +Z direction until it is high enough. If you’ve carved away the top of the area where you started, you can always zero the Z at another location with the full material height, move up a bit (say .250"), transit back to XY home, then drop down to the Z zero (say .250"). That’s only a valid method if your wasteboard is flat, your spindle is square to your wasteboard, and your material is the same height at both locations.

Displaying the position would be useless, since the stock machine doesn’t have the ability to tell when you’ve moved the spindle. If you accidentally moved it 2" to the right, it would still think it was in the original position. Similarly, the Z position location would be useless since rough and detail bits may not be the same length and likely aren’t clamped at the exact same location in the spindle.

As for Easel treating them as separate carves, they are. I believe they are working on a way to enter separate feeds/speeds for the detail bit, but you have the option to select rough or detail pass as you work through the carve dialog. That’s a good way to prevent breaking bits or damaging pieces, since it forces you to choose one and (hopefully) understand what you’re choosing.

There’s some quirks that they’re working on, but I’ve used the rough/detail cut option a few times and have had great success with it.

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@RobertA_Rieke. You write: “As long as you can change the bits without moving the spindle in the X and Y axes, you can zero the detail bit on the top of your material and it will be at the same home position as the rough bit.”

I have been able to change bits without moving the X and Y position of the spindle. But the problem is that Easel hasn’t been retaining the “last home” position.

You also say: “If you’ve carved away the top of the area where you started, you can always zero the Z at another location with the full material height, move up a bit (say .250”), transit back to XY home, then drop down to the Z zero (say .250"). That’s only a valid method if your wasteboard is flat, your spindle is square to your wasteboard, and your material is the same height at both locations."

Now I get that it is not going to be possible for the Z-axis zeroes to be the same for both bits even though my wasteboard is flat, my spindle is square to my wasteboard, and my material height is the same. But,as far as I can see, Easel offers no way to “zero the Z at another location” without also changing the zero/home of the X and Y. And as I already said, Easel seems to present no way (without beginning a completely new carve) to even raise the bit after the rough cut finishes.

I also get that “the stock machine doesn’t have the ability to know when you’ve moved the spindle”. Knowing the position of the spindle would require some built-in means of reliably and precisely measuring the spindle position and reporting it to the software. (Maybe counting and recording the number of motor steps?) But your comment makes me wonder if there is an upgrade of some sort available that might be capable of this?

And on the Easel I see, I already can enter and change the feeds/speeds for the bits on-the-fly (which I think is a big help in climbing the learning curve of matching feeds/speeds to materials). So, together with what we’ve discussed above, that makes me wonder if I’m seeing/using a different (older or newer) version of Easel? I mean, I know, positively, that Inventables has the ability to provide some users with access to different (beta) versions because they did that for me once before a year or so ago when I was first learning about CNC on the Shapeoko at my local Makerspace. So maybe that’s the root of some of the problems I’m seeing?

@RobertCanning You know, when I’m changing bits I had always turned off the power figuring that Easel was still saving the zero/home position for me somewhere. But perhaps that’s the reason Easel loses the zero/home?

You know, it occurs to me that the simplest way to keep the rough and detail cuts in register might be, when I’m first zeroing the spindle for the rough cut, is to turn on the Dewalt momentarily so that it cuts a very small registration mark in the material at the X-Y zero point. That way, prior to starting my detail cut, I could manually re-zero the bit to the precise point where I need the carve to start. This is, of course, not useful if I have removed the entire top surface with the rough cut UNLESS I have made the registration mark cut deep. But for most of the projects I plan to complete in the near future I won’t be removing the entire top surface.

Most of the carves I’m doing are detailed lettering and designs on linoleum blocks or birch using 1/8" rough cut bits and 1/16" or 1/32" detail bits or engraving bits. So my problem with all of this has been that the very slightest misalignments between the rough cut and detail cut result in trashing my carves.

So if I could count on Easel (which it seems I can’t) to home the machine to precisely the same point in X and Y for both the rough and detail cuts then I’d be a lot happier.

Rick, thanks for the tip I think I am going to try that. I have had no success getting a rough cut and a detailed cut to match but I think you maybe onto something. I am primarily using my xcarve for plagues right now. I was thinking that I would just draw a small X in the corner, but either way it would work. I typically route the edges with a round over anyway. Thanks again for sharing.