Things I wish I would have Known Thread

Hi All.

Please forgive me if something like this has already been done but I searched and wasn’t able to find it.

Having recently finished building my x-carve, I have found that there are still a lot of things that I am trying to figure out. While the instructions for the build were (almost) perfect, I feel like once you complete the build, you’re kind of just thrown into the deep end to fend for yourself.

I appreciate the value of learning through experience but I feel like there are some things that us Newbies could really benefit from here.

For example:

  • How the hell do I set my zero point with any sort of precision? I bought a CNC so that I can create parts that are easy to replicate with precision. However when Easel asks me to set my zero, its seems like a sort of guessing game on how close I can eyeball that the bit is lined up with the corner of my work surface. For example, let’s say I am cutting a circle (with a diameter of 9") out of a piece of square stock that measures 9" x 9". If I’m just eyeballing my zero, there’s a 99% chance that I’m not going to end up with a complete circle.

  • How the hell do I move the spindle around without being in “Carve” on easel? Suppose I want to just move the spindle out of the way for the whatever reason. Do I really have to go through the motions like I am going to carve something just so I can get to the directional arrows?

  • All of the learning I’ve done with regards to CAD/CAM design designates specific spindle speeds (in RPMs) based on the material and type of carving. Then I get my X-Carve (with Dewalt 611) and I see that the X-Carve has no impact on the speed of the spindle and I am relying on “1-10.” How am I supposed to work with that?

  • How concerned should I be about getting dust in and around the x-controller/motors? Should I be babying this thing or is it built to stand up to some abuse?

  • How worried should I really be about getting the exact right thickness of my work piece? Obviously, I’d rather not have to prematurely destroy my waste board but what does normal wear and tear look like? Should I undershooting the thickness a little bit so that I don’t dig into my waste board? What’s the best practice here?

Those are just some examples of the things I am trying to work through.

I’m certainly not trying to bash Inventables or the X-Carve. From my limited experience with it and the company they both seem great! I am just trying to work through these unknowns so that I can use this machine properly and without destroying it in the process (I’m good at that part).

Does anyone here have some things they wish they would have known when they first got their x-carve? Any tips and tricks (from a new users perspective) you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

Research “bump stop” and “G28 G30”
Both of these are very helpful for work flow.

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Inventables is in the business of selling CNC machine kits.

In that effort they supply the information needed to build the kit and support the user with any problems in doing so, including replacement of defective or missing parts.

They excel in this business.

Learning how to be a CNC operator is the responsibility of the user. They do provide the Easel software to help people get up and running with minimal knowledge, but Easel is not a power house CAD/CAM/Sender solution.

The more control you want to have over your workflow the more you will find Easel to be limiting.

There are after market devices to help you get precision location of Work Zero. The Triquetra product is one of these. Can be used with Easel, but is better suited to alternate sender software.

The X-carve is capable of using a variable speed spindle controlled by the software. The DeWalt is not one that can be controlled by software without modification. Set it on speed one (1) and leave it there. Speed one is still too fast, but is useable.

In order to get the best performance you should keep your machine clean. Dirt, dust, and wood/metal chips will degrade performance and life of the machine. It’s the keep it clean and last a long time, or just use it dirty and replace it when it doesn’t work well anymore decision.

Many people will put a secondary waste board on top of the “pretty” Inventables one to preserve the look of the machine.


Buy or make a dust boot and get a dust extractor/shop vac . That will take care of 90%+ of the fine dust

If I’m cutting all the way through , I always use a piece of 3mm mdf underneath the piece I’m cutting. But the waste board is ecactly that (waste board) it will get cut and replaced at some stage.
I was the same starting out and still winging it. I have crashed it into rails , plunged v bits straight into my waste board but the machine seems sturdy enough. Don’t worry about what might happen , just get stuck in and enjoy the learning experience.

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If you need to set your zero with absolute precision, buy a Triquetra Zeroing block from Charley.

If you using Easel, the only way to safely move the spindle is by pressing the Carve button and then using the directional arrows.

As Larry said, leave the Dewalt on “1”.

Regular cleaning or a dust collection system helps, the only problem I have with dust is it sticking to the rails and having to wipe/scrape it off.

A piece of hardboard or underlayment beneath your work piece will save the waste board, just tell it to cut 0.010 or so thicker than it needs to, otherwise you’ll need to finish cutting it yourself. I try to keep my waste board as smooth as possible, if it’s all chewed up it would be hard to make sure something is laying flat.

I’ve discovered that buying into a ‘kit’ CNC, there’s a lot of learning that takes place. You’re right where many of us were when we started. The best thing to do…READ as much as time will allow in these forums. There’s a ton of information and the folks here are very helpful.

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I echo what the other respondents have said and will add this, you will learn more from making mistakes than from any video,lecture or demonstration. Jump with both feet, ask questions and boldly forge into the unknown we call the rabbit hole.
Welcome to the xcarve family.

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