The starting point

I spent my career as a network software engineer but I have never worked with CAD software. In addition I have been working with power tools all my life. I build boats, furniture etc. I weld a bit but not enough to develop the skills. I would like to lean the CNC process for doing some wood fabrication items. The X-carver system will certainly do what I need. Building up an X-carve device for me would not be difficult at all. But at my current knowledge level it would be worthless in my possession since I don’t know the design process. Seems I would first need to lean how to drive something like fusion 360. I would guess there are other options. Once an item has been designed in fusion 360, is there any kind of cnc emulator with will run in a window and show a simulation of making the part?

I could ask all kinds of question but what I really need is the starting point. A way to start learning the design process before CNC cutting comes into the picture is what I’m after. I have not found classes in my local area. Have not checked the community colleges yet. Way way too much to learn.

You don’t necessarily need the Vectric products, but you can use their training materials to get a feel for how a project is done.

These tutorials will show you how to get your design put together into a tool path that can be sent to a CNC machine to cut the project.

Try them out.

Start with Vcarve Desktop and then do Vcarve PRO.

What Larry said. Just find tutorials on software you think you’d like to use. Vcarve and fusion are both great. Vcarve has in depth tutorials at the link above.

Just learning how to use the software to make the samples they provide will make it easy to turn a project in your head into a cad file, into toolpaths and into a finish piece.

The actual design aspect will come naturally as you become more familiar with the software you choose. Which is knowledge you can take to most other software platforms as well.

Fusion360 will simulate within the program itself.

That being said, play with Easel. It’s free and while only 2.5D, you can learn the basics.

I started looking at the demos for vcarve desk top and will continue. I don’t like the idea of a web based system so I think for me easel is not an option.

A question, I like standards and community is Vcarve or fusion 360 or some other software pervasive. In some ways a dominate player makes things easier, not always but some times. I have started looking for local maker groups but have not found them yet. I would like to fit in with the way local experts work. I know that autodesk is the big dog in this space and that comes with a price and a big learning curve. But learn auto cad etc and you are in the game even though things get complex fast.

If I get started with the software, it might be worth a low cost throw away type xyz tool to learn on or, is that a bad idea?

You can download a trial version of Vcarve Desktop to try your hand at using it. It is used by many on the forum (discount if you order it with an Xcarve). If you want to move up to PRO you only have to pay the difference from Desktop to PRO not the entire PRO price.

You can spend some time on the Vectric forum to see if it works for you. You can also get answers to questions on this forum.

There are various free options that are popular.

I have used Vcarve PRO from the beginning and never regretted it. Every time I had a support issue they were quick to reply.

P.S. I have no connection with Vectric except as a satisfied customer.

Vcarve Desktop is excellent. I’m still learning it. I started with Easel. My background is similar to yours. Checkout my channel. Lots of easel software stuff. Welcome to the group

The starting point is deciding what kind of work you plan on doing (majority). If you are doing flat single piece work (whether 2, 2.5, or 3d) then you can do all of your design work in any number of programs…easel, fusion 360, inkscape, vetric, etc. If you are doing more complex designs like full furniture builds and want to build it all in the software first, then you will need a CAD program. Fusion 360 and sketchup are both good and both have free versions, and both have lots of YouTube tutorials. While you may not like the web based platform, I think any of these platforms are great and allow you to start testing/playing with the software before getting a machine so you can get a feel for the process as well as what type of work you can/can’t do with each.

Thanks for the reply. Over many years I have a collection on highly figured woods in small pieces. Spalted pieces, ambrosia, curly, burl, some in hard to get woods like koa, I even have some 100 year old pieces of Brazilian Rose wood which has been illegal to export since 1900. I would like to be able to use them in inlay work or small 3D items. A good example would be custom 1911 pistols grips, right and left sides. I would like to know how to take an existing blank, scan it in so it could be duplicated. The surfaces will be curved. Can I then change bits in a spindle and then carve checkering. Hand cut checkering takes hours and hours to layout then cut by hand with special files. I don’t like the web based tools since I don’t have a connection to my shop. I guess I could check them out and possibly put in a wireless bridge for access. It seems to me like I would have a long learning curve just getting started putting a simple object into the system and learning how to make changes long long before ever needing a CNC cutter. Lots to learn and I don’t want to learn it 3 times. I would like to find well distributed and just do this once.

take a read of this, maybe it will send you in the correct direction.

The learning curve is just that. You have to learn little bit at a time. From the projects you are describing, I would get Vcarve Desktop or if the budget allows go straight for aspire. Still start small and learn the machine and it capabilities and learn the software step by step. It may be a steep learning curve but it goes very fast and you will have a wonderful time along the way.

That’s a good one. Thanks

If you are looking at mostly small stuff like that then you can’t go wrong with the Vetric software. There are many files floating around the various sites and forums with 1911 grip files, dxf, stl, being shared for free. I think there have even been some here via @PhilJohnson (and others) tho it has been a while since I looked for them. If you search this forum you can find them I’m sure. Thingaverse and some of the other such platforms also have files available that can be modified as required…

As a side note, and as many here will likely confirm, you will benefit from learning and using multiple platforms. There are times one is better for a need than another and you can export files from one platform into another. I will often create files in fusion 360 and then export the files to use in V-carve…for either further embellishment or because I find the toolpathing much easier…

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I have been wondering about that very issue. Having not started yet, I didn’t know if there was overlap between different software design systems. I was hoping that one output file cold the source for a different platform.

This is really helpful. I have been digging at this for a while but, the subject of computer systems even for a past software engineer is so huge today a person can step over what they were looking for and never notice. A subject like CAD/CAM is so big it’s daunting. The right community and contacts can speed a learning cure by huge amount of time.

Thank you and I hope I get to a position where I can one day return the favor to all those who are offering recommendations.

I know that you will.

I learn something new everyday and after having my CNC for about 1 1/2 years now I feel comfortable sharing and giving back