Xcarve Upgrade advice...now that Xmas is over..slow time means fine tuning the shop

I have piled through all the xcarve upgrade postings in the forum and put together a list of things I would like to get done to improve quality of my product, I understand how to complete the upgrades I want, and what parts are needed. I’m looking for advice on what options will produce quality products as well speed up production and streamline my shop workflow.

I understand that opinions are like a$$holes and everyone has one. These were the items I had in mind and why…feel free to let me know if anything is just pointless or if there is anything I’m missing…(including any Gcode additions I should be making)

  1. Linear Z rail

  2. extending the depth of Z axis (I would love to be able to cut larger items height wise)

  3. 1800MM Y axis (I know I could tile in Vcarve but I hate software solutions, I would rather extend the bed and it be permanent)

  4. Better waste board option (aluminum bed with rails for clamping possibly)

  5. Jtech laser

  6. Y rail dust guards

  7. Vacuum waste board instead of aluminum rails…This is simply a random thought I just had.

  8. Longer connection wires for the drag chain to the Xcontroller and move the controller well away from the Machine.

  9. Spindle control module for the Xcontroller

  10. a better limit switch system and maybe automatic depth probe option.

11 Gcode modifications for speeding up Steps per min.

  1. a proper tool to accurately tram my Z axis

  2. a better dust boot for the spindle, when I cut aluminum or anything that comes off in larger chunks, the boot can’t seem to keep up and stuff goes everywhere.

  3. A better option than using Tabs when doing cutouts, I thought I read somewhere here that someone had a soloution to holding down projects as you cut them free from their materials.

The list is long, I know, but I have a month of slow time to upgrade my world, get it ready for wedding planning season and then garden season after.

Thanks everyone…

1 Like

What kind of budget do you have and what kind of “increase” are you after? What are your upgrade goals?

What kind of dust boot do you have? Do you have dust collection hooked into it, or just the boot?

Also don’t forget, a more powerful router or VFD spindle!

The budget is seconday to better flow…I find when I really need to haul ■■■ to get work done…anything that stops my flow or frustrates me…will knock me off my game for a few hours.

I have a 2 hp dust collector…then I have the dust boot from the inventables site.

The dust collection issue can be solved by simply running larger IE 5" hoses around my shop. instead of 3"and upgrading the hose on the dust boot it self to 5" hose.

It looks like you have a good understanding of where you need to go. I would definitely make the dust collection system a little higher on the priority list. A good system is a must.

The Z-axis is down right worth every penny. I have the Cnc4newbie Z and wish I had upgraded sooner.

What Spindle are you running? Good speed control is nice. I hacked my 611 and hacked one of the harbor fright router spread controllers. It has worked great. For Christmas LAST YEAR, I received a SuperPID but have still yet to install it. The speed controller works great bc I like to control the speed by using my ear to listen to the cut. This allows for simple on the fly control without having to know an exact speed and without having to try to control the speed by the knob on the moving router.

If you are going to upgrade to 1800mm, I recommend that you prep all of the parts needed for that upgrade at the same time and consider it as only 1 complete upgrade. This will save frustration In The long run.
This will include the substructure, wasteboard, rails, belts, wiring and drag chain and probably a few other things such as bolts, connectors and brackets. If you are for sure going to perform this upgrade, might as well do the lift plates giving you more Z height at the same time (not entirely necessary to do it at this time but since the machine is already dismantled, might as well.)

I found that if I mounted the drag chain in the center of the table along the Y axis, that it would allow me to use one length of chain to go from front to back. This kept from having to have an extra long drag chain.

An aluminum bed looks very nice, but a wasteboard is still needed in my opinion. You don’t want to start carving into the aluminum bed. The aluminum bed will add a lot of rigidity, requiring a shallower torsion Box. This is a personal preference that comes at one of the biggest expenses. Not needed by any means. (Personally, I am planning to take this route in the near future)

I did not go the Jtech route. I purchased a stand alone CO2 laser. By my understanding the Jtech has a Very Loyal Following. So it is worth looking into. (I just wanted a more powerful laser that will CUT THICKER material)

With a very efficient dust collection system the dust shields are not required. If you have access to a 3D printer, then sure print them, the cost is dirt cheap if you personally have the capability but with a good collection system they should not be required. Since I upgraded to my new design of dust shoe for the 611and replaced the 5hp ClearView Max dust collector with a 5gallon cyclone and shop vac ($39 Lowes Black Friday Special) no dust escapes so the shields won’t do much good for my machine.

A vacuum waste Board is extremely handy. I love using Vacuum clamping in my shop. This can be performed several ways. As a stand alone tabletop or as an auxiliary tabletop. Several great you tube videos are available. I am planning a Vacuum upgrade to my bed in the near future. However, the Vacuum is not 100% necessary. Decide how you want to do your base foundation/structure first, then you can consider what type of wasteboard. This is an area that will give mixed returns and is more determined by your workflow and preferred method of clamping. However at the cost of a sheet of MDF, the Vacuum System can be added at a reasonable price if you already have the proper tools laying around. There are multiple ways of getting Vacuum, but just keep in mind that the shop vacs and DC systems need to be properly vented so that they cool and don’t overheat. So a shopvac will need external cooling and not be cooled by the air being pulled through the shopvac. My shopvac that was from Lowes would overheat and burn out if I set it up on a Vacuum Table System because the airflow gets blocked which will not allow the motor to cool. So the Vacuum Table takes a little thought to get an efficient system. Do your research on this before you move forward. Proper clamping is a Must with whichever method you take.

I would keep the X-Controller close to the machine, mainly bc of the E-Stop. If you have adequate dust collection the X-controller can be inches away and never be adversely affected.

I have a new set of 24v limit switches ready to install on my machine once I have the time. Currently the stock limit switches have recently started acting up. But I do not have the X-Controller with built in filters either and I have not installed any filters. Either of these methods might of resolved my issue without upgrading to the new switches.

Definitely look into a Zero Plate. Well worth the investment.

I can’t comment on the Gcode processor.

To properly tram my Z, I use three tools. A solid metal shaft to fit into the collet (must be perfectly straight, even a drill bit can work, I purchased a drill bit blank from Grizzly), a small machinists square and a flashlight. If light leaks between the square and the shaft adjust accordingly. I used a butter dish lid to make shims. Aluminum foil also gives good micro adjustment shims.

There are several methods to use that do not require tabs. Some work well for some individuals and not for others. Do some research on the forum and YouTube and you will be able to find multiple options for this.

One thing that was not mentioned in your list was a Precision Collet. These are much nicer and more precise than the stock Collet and give less run out.

Do you plan on using a rotary axis? I reserved the very back 300mm of my 1800mm Yaxis to recess the rotary axis into the table. This will allow about a 12” blank to be carved on the rotary axis.

Hope you found this information helpful.


You seem to know your stuff. im new to this cnc. My 1000mm X carve will be here in 2 days. and i already have plans to upgrade it to an 1000x1800 X carve. i seen alot of post. and videos online. but everything seems to be about upgrading the old X carve. not the 2017 X carve. if i get the help i need to upgrade. i would make a simple and easy video with pictures. on showing people how to make their X carve longer.

The main differences as I can tell between the older X-carves and the 2017 models are as listed

  1. X-Controller instead of Arduino
  2. X-Controller Side mount
  3. Dewalt 611 instead of DC Spindle (Spindle Mount)
  4. Single X extrusion.
  5. Pressed on pulleys.

The X-Controller is an Upgrade in itself. I built my controller before this controller was available. I built mine pretty much bullet proof to begin with. So there was no reason for me to really upgrade my controller to the newer one except for it gives more power to the Steppers. I have never really seen a reason to upgrade to the extra power except if I wanted to use Mach3, which I am currently building my new controller using the G540 Stepper Driver.

I never built the Stock 1000x1000. I immediately extended mine to 1800mm x 1000mm. When I did this, I scrapped the stock base and designed a torsion box table top instead. This torsion Box tabletop can act as a Table in itself and added extreme rigidity to the overall structure. With this upgrade I did not need the extension on the side to mount the X-Controller. I mounted my controller to the bottom of the torsion top table to keep the width from being wider.

The 611 is a great upgrade, this is why it comes standard now and the only upgrade “needed” is Auto On/Off and speed control.

The Single extrusion On the X became a standard bc it was necessary for rigidity.

Other than these upgrades most of the upgrades shown should be the same across the board between the older machines and the 2017 model.

1 Like

Can you give me a Part list. to make my X longer (1800mm). Plus im looking into a water cool spindle.

Sorry I can not give an exact list bc I never actually made one. I also designed my substructure entirely disregarding the stock structure. So your mileage may vary according to how you build your base.

Basically replace all of the 1000mm extrusions with 1800mm extrusions. This includes the substructure and the Y-makerslides. In addition, you will need extra bolts, t-nuts and brackets. You will also need a few extrusions for the substrate that run perpendicular to the 1800mm extrusions to support the longer wasteboard.

The Y-makerslides will need to be supported along their length, this can be performed multiple ways.

Longer cables, belts and drag chains will also be needed.

Extending the machine from 1000mm to 1800 mm is pretty much straightforward. Just add 800 mm to anything that is 1000mm except for the extrusions that run in the X direction.

As to the watercooled Spindle, the 1.5kw is probably the largest feasible Spindle that can be mounted on the X-Carve without substantially upgrading the X axis. The 2.2kw Spindle will be too heavy unless the X is upgraded to support the weight.

1 Like

I have not had the opportunity to see the new one-piece makerslide (other than photos) or test it in comparison.

I chose to use the furniture bolts and an aluminum T-Bar sandwiched between the makerslide instead. I can pretty much stand on my x axis at this point. I’m sure it would sag some, but I would be more concerned about the V-wheels at this point holding up over 200lbs.

Same here. From all of my research it’s probably one of the best stepper drivers around. You will love it. Future upgrades for me will be a water cooled router, a Cnc4newbie Z axis slider (very soon) a vacuum waste board and then I’ll be happy (for a while). Also looking into a TOS-link optical cable interface, Masso, and some carbon fiber parts. Seems there are always more toys to buy, than money to buy them with… You mentioned longer connection wires for the drag chain. Make sure you compensate for the correct gauge wire (depending on how long you’re going) and that it’s well shielded.

Hind Technology has some really nice switches.


Thanks, I’ve heard nothing but great things about the G540’s. I will be using them on at least two builds. I am typically Leary about using all in one components bc many times when one small part goes wrong, it’s easier/cheaper to replace the entire unit even though 90% of it is still functioning. Such a waste in my opinion. I have had to send one G540 back that I ordered on Amazon already but I chose to do this prior to even hooking it up. It was supposed to be brand new and it arrived with marks on it and it was obvious that it had been mounted to something already. I refused to take a chance and just sent it back and ordered directly from Gecko. Better safe than sorry.

I am Leary to try the Masso Controller because it is an all in one unit (not exactly but pretty much). It seems like a good concept and I have reviewed many YouTube videos on it and many individuals claim to really like them. So I am not putting them down. I just plan to steer clear of them until they have a few more years under their belts. Someday I might give them a try but for now I will stick with the independency of multiple components.

You are correct about the longer cables and using thicker gauge. I forget that I had just purchased a 500’ spool of 18-4 shielded cable and replaced ALL of the stock cables with this even for the limit switches. I have future plans so the excess cables will not go to waste and will get used.

I chose these limit switches but have yet to install them.

TL-Q5MC2 DC12-24V 5mm Detect NPN NC Sensor Proximity Switch Detector https://www.amazon.com/dp/B018HLHI3K/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_apip_YYW2R7DnORiyN

I do not know if this is necessary but considered that it wouldn’t hurt to at least try but because these limit switches are powered by 24v I decided to add this to drop it down to 5v bc I am currently running the Arduino (Don’t think it will be necessary with a G540). Maybe someone will comment and elaborate on this.

Icstation 24V to 5V 8 Channel Optocoupler Isolation Board Voltage Level Translator PN… https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XKSFGXX/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_apip_BC1qte1aS7d49

Can you elaborate on the TOS-link optical cable? What benefits will you gain from this?

Are those shielded or unshielded?

It replaces all wiring so there is absolutely no grounding, shielding or interference issues associated with CNC machines. Everything receives a completely stabilized DC input, plus its command signals, via the light emitting optic cable.

One of the best threads I have read in a long while. Tons of great ideas and thoughts. Hope all your upgrades go smoothly. Down the road I would like to do more than a few of these as well. I hope as you go you post updates so we can all learn from your progress and attempts.

I believe they are unshielded however I plan to cut the wires down to less than 6” and use the existing shielded cable that is already on the machine. This leaves just a short section that is unshielded that could be easily shielded by adding a external shield.

Since I ran the 18-4 shielded cable I have 4 wires.

Homing trigger
Limit Trigger

Considering the homing and limit triggers both connect to the same input, I can technically hook them together on one single wire. This will leave one wire still available. I am considering using this one wire as a Ground Wire so that I can Ground each individual axis (non-metallic v-wheels insulate each axis from one another). Considering there will be a set of switches that goes to each axis this gives me an extra wire to use for this purpose and I don’t have to run a separate single wire to each axis. I know this is not 100% necessary but an ounce of prevention sometimes goes a long ways. I have noticed that my 3D printer has the extrusions grounded so why not ground the extrusions on the Xcarve as well. Aluminium is conductive.

I also added a Ground wire to my 611when I hacked it. I just feel safer having everything properly grounded. Just have to be careful of Ground loops. I completely removed the factory wire and replaced it with a 3-conductor wire instead of just two.

Can you share links to what components you will use for the TOS-link?

Glad I could be of assistance. I do what I can.

I don’t follow this. Can you elaborate?

You only need one switch mechanism to implement homing and limit functions (however, I don’t recommend using limit switches for the Xcarve/Arduino).

Yes. Of course.

Two switches ran in parallel, one on each end of the Axis. If either switch is triggered the machine stops.

Let’s say for example we have a 1000mm X-axis. I can place one switch so that it registers at 0mm(Home) and another switch so that it registers when the machine hits 1000mm(Limit). So this way there is a switch at each end of the axis. (Technically speaking the full movement won’t be a full 1000mm of course, the width of the Xcarrige will be deducted from that. So the full movement is more like only 800mm across the X axis, I have not actually measured it.)

The second switch is a Hard Limit and is basically a substitute for Soft Limits and is not technically necessary. It will trigger when the Axis has reached its furthest movement. In theory this second switch should never be engaged. If it is engaged it will trigger the machine to stop.

I will be moving away from the Arduino Controller in the near future but will have everything installed ready to go for the new Mach3 system that I am upgrading to.

Will you please elaborate as to why you do not recommend using the limit switches?