Taller and stronger

It’s been a while since I posted anything because I’ve been waiting for the parts needed to upgrade the X-Carve, but now the re-build is on, and going well.

My plan has been to stiffen the x-axis beyond the 90-minute mod, so I purchased and installed the newer solid extrusion. I then wanted to raise the x-axis to allow more cutting depth. Here is a picture of the newly installed y-rail end plates (they’re a lot taller than the original; also pictured for comparison):

The credit for the end plates goes to Kansas City Kit Company, who posted a very interesting blog and made the dxf design file available for download. I had them water-jet cut from 6mm aluminum by a local engineering company. Here is a link to the blog:

I decided to paint my parts satin black to match the rest of the machine.

To make best use of the additional z-axis height I am installing an Openbuilds linear actuator:

I have replaced the original eccentric nuts with eccentric spacers and the lock nuts with flanged lock nuts. Next I will be replacing the 20t pulleys with 16t pulleys to accommodate new polypropylene belts. The theory is that they will be less susceptible to stretch, and from examining them against the original I can see why some users have recommended them.

Full height side-boards will be installed to eliminate flex in the y-axis extrusions, cut from 3mm aluminum composite.

Once all that is done I have a new vacuum hose setup to install which will have the hose run in a setup similar to a cable tray, along the x-axis and connecting to a similar setup along the y-axis. I came across some strong and very flexible 50mm hose, which has a copper wire coil running through it, making static management nice and easy. I’ll post more pictures once all the mods are complete.


May I ask? If you have a CNC router and the file, why didn’t you make the parts yourself?
It’s just a flat part with some holes drilled in it. Isn’t this the whole idea of owning a CNC router?

Hi Joe, that’s not an unreasonable challenge. I was originally planning to cut the end plates myself but it had gone out of calibration/square in a way that required some tweaking of the sub-frame (since my recent house move). Yes, I could have dismantled parts and re-calibrated, then cut the parts but I would only have to dismantle it again to install them so I thought I would save myself that little extra hassle.

The other (more painful) reason was that to buy a 6mm sheet of sufficient size would have cost me more than the water-jet job did. I live in the Channel Islands (UK) and shipping costs are often extortionate unless you’re buying in bulk (like the local engineering company).

Outsourcing the job was a first for me, and not something I plan to do again any time soon. I do like to manufacture as much as I possibly can using the CNC.

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If anyone is interested in the extortionate shipping charges, a 6mm plate (500mm x 250mm to allow for slop) would cost £22.83, which is just under half the cost of the outsourced water jet cutting. That might make it attractive to purchase and cut the parts myself, until you see the shipping costs of £75. I think they must wrap the plate in gold leaf before shipping because there is no other reasonable explanation. On a good day I can get a return flight to the UK for less than £75, and I weigh considerably more than a piece of aluminium plate (considerably more).

And I shopped around…

There is no local place that sells metal material? That’s seems crazy. I guess I take for granted I have a few places around here that do and can buy small quantities without getting ripped off.

I can get basic metal supplies at reasonable prices, the sort of thing that you might use to build a rudimentary frame or to replace a grill-grate in a BBQ but there’s no on-island supplier of what I would call engineering supplies. Some metal fabrication specialists will sell off-cuts but at silly prices, and the engineering companies are few in number and jealously guard their stock. The island isn’t tiny but 9 miles by four miles doesn’t accomodate the variety of suppliers found in the UK, and certainly not the wide range found in the US.

It’s possible there is a local company who could supply these types of material at a reasonable price but finding them can be tricky, given the small number of firms and the fact that most don’t advertise or publish their details. Guernsey is a little old fashioned in that in many ways it works on word of mouth, and if you’re not in the right circles it can be a long time before discovering a business. I’ve been here for 30 years and am still discovering small firms I never knew existed, often tucked inside a packing shed, hidden away in country lane. It may sound odd to say this but it’s one of the reasons I love living here, though obviously it does occasionally make things a little challenging.

Other than sheet metals I can get most everything else I need shipped in at reasonable cost, sometimes. Most of the time though I use materials which my firm is throwing out. They throw away a phenominal amount of stuff that’s often in good condition. The 24 inch LCD display I have mounted on the X-Carve table came out of the company skip. I spotted it, pulled it out and tested it when I got home. It worked perfectly so I don’t know why they threw it out, though I’m sort of glad they did. I recently pulled 36 high quality 12v fan units from servers they were throwing out. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them but I’m sure I can think of a project for at least some of them.

Upgrades done (apart form the new dust collection systems, which I have changed my mind on…innevitable once you start tinkering).

The new linear actuator for the z-xis (from OpenBuilds) is rock solid and performs very smoothly. Other posts about it have commented that to adjust the v-wheels after installation requires dismantling almost the whole thing, which is true, so I took my time on the workbench first. As is often the case, the forum posts helped me avoid a problem I could easily have run into later. Here it is:

The Y-axis side skirts/shields (to reduce the dust getting onto the Y-axis rail/belt/wheels…and drag chain assembly) came out really well using 3mm aluminium composite. I’d not used the material before but this experience has me thinking of all sorts of things I want to use it for. I used a track-saw to cut it to length, then a JigSaw to cut the corner curves (who wants sharp, pointy corners), measuerd and drill the mounting wholes, and fixed into place using some post-build insertable t-nuts (from Inventables). Here they are in all their satin black glory:

Then came calibration, which didn’t take long at all when you think I’d stripped the machine back to bare bones. Why didn’t it take long? Well, I learned a lot the first time I built it and the the trick in my opinion is to take your time, checking each sub-assembly as you go along, which isn’t really a trick at all. Yes I know some say they built the machine in a matter of hours and that’s great if you can do that and produce a well tuned machine, but I like to take my time and so far that approach works for me; perfectly square with the z-axis within 0.01mm, x and y within 0.02/0.03mm (both x and y subject to multiple tests over a distance of 650mm). Yes it will change due to temprature, humidity and machine wear (not forgetting tool temprature) but I check it regularly.

Here is a snap of the completed upgrade and a nice new (slave) waste-board. It’s MDF with a coat of sealer/primer to minimise the impact of humidity. A fair question would be “why bother painting it when it’s only going to get cut up; after all it’s a waste board”. Well it won’t get cut because for each job I will be fixing a 6mm piece of laminated structural particle board to it, and sticking the material to that. It’s a trick I learned from ‘CNC Bob’ on the CNC porn-site, Laguna Tools. He has a lot of really good tips, and he uses VCarve Pro (which is what I use) which is great.

Facing the wasteboard is in my expereince the best way to check whether the mill end is truly square to the table, and sure enough I had to shim the linear actuator. Again this forum helped and gave me the confidence and guidance to solve the problem quickly. It was @PhilJohnson who shared the nuggets of information I needed, so thanks @PhilJohnson.

You might notice an x-box controller in the corner of the picture. I use that during setup to move/jog the spindle about. It makes life that little bit easier when you’re not tied to the keyboard.

Now to re-design my re-design of the dust extraction. I have an idea along the same lines as the Suck-It system, but a little different. Could be a complete waste of time but we’ll see…



Looks great!!

Thanks Phil, it was your posts about mods that (amongst other things) lead me choosing a new linear actuator. Can’t thank you enough for all the tips.

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Thanks Stan, I had better get on with making some more stuff. I’ve no excuses now that the major parts of the upgrade are done.

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