Your Opinions on what to do

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to this site. To be honest, I haven’t used the X-Carve much because I’m not good with it. When I bought not too long after it first was available, I also bought V-Carve Desktop V8 and the initial upgrade of the better motors and Dewalt router etc. I got what was available from X-Carve at the time. I went through the normal learning curve…Broken Bits, Vcarve files not quite right, lots of trial and error to get a finished project, G-Code Sender screwing things up etc. I’ve broke more bits and ruined more wood than I care to admit. So when things didn’t improve after many months of learning, the frustration set in. I went back to traditional woodworking that I’ve been doing for 35 years while the X-Carve sat in my shop off in a corner. This past week, I was asked to make fifteen Pine discs for a friend of mine whose daughter is going to use them as a base for flower center pieces on tables at her wedding. Very simple project. 15 inches in diameter, 1.25" thick. Got it. I can bang these out in less than a day after the boards are glued up. He tells me the wedding isn’t until mid November so I have plenty of time. Since I’m working on another project, I decide to use the X-Carve so I can continue working on the other project while the X-Carve does its thing. How hard can it be to cut out 15 circles! I make the project in VCarve, fire up the XCarve, Put the special bit that I bought for this project at the lower left corner of the workpiece, open Universal G-Code Sender, Set my X,Y and Z 0’s and send the gcode to the machine. There’s supposed to be 30 passes, each .04" deep. What happens? The machine plunges the bit into the wood at least 3/8" and the bit breaks as soon as it starts making the circle cut. I have a meltdown and pulverize the wood for my project into smithereens with a hammer. Not only have I just bought a very expensive bit to cut this deep of a project that’s now going in the garbage can, I have the same issue I have had since I bought the machine. I AM NOT ANY GOOD AT IT!!! I’m a college educated retired professional who always pays attention to detail who can’t use a CNC machine. So what is the problem? Is it that I’m using V-Carve and an Open Source G-Code Sender and the X-Carve really should be used with Easel for better results? Is it that I’m making mistakes in V-Carve? is it the version of Universal G-Code Sender that my machine doesn’t like or misreads or is it just one of those things that no matter what I do, CNC is just something I can’t grasp and should sell my machine? Really all I ever wanted the machine for was to make some signs, make some plaques, cut out some wooden parts, etc. I was never looking to do any kind of 3D Art masterpieces. This is way harder for me than it should be. If you were me, what would you do?

The problem is there are 1000 things you could be doing wrong. My first suggestion is use easel for the g code. The user interface helps a little to catch mistakes you might be making. It might be time consuming but post each step of what your doing someone on here will catch the mistake and before you know it you’ll be carving like a pro.

Most likely one of 4 things (in order of likelihood):

  1. Zero not set correctly - how are you setting your Z-zero?
  2. Gcode issue - post the file here.
  3. Mechanical problems / Grbl settings
  4. Controller issues

If I were you, I’d post how I’m setting my zero & post my gcode. If that all looks good, I’d post my grbl settings or recalibrate to make sure my steps/mm are correct. Does the machine move 30mm when you tell it to move 30mm?
Have a drink ready the next time you are going to carve something…then you can just calmly take a drink next time (after you cut power or use up the fire extinguisher)

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Well, I set Zero by first getting my bit to the lower left side of my workpiece and lowering the bit to where a piece of paper causes some friction but still slides between the bit and the wood. Then I go into the Universal G-Code sender like I always do and enter the following command G92 X0 Y0 Z0 then hit enter. The command was accepted. Then I find the G-Code file on my computer, add it into the que in the UGS. Then I turn on the Dewalt router and send the file to the machine. I’m attaching the G-C0de file for you all to look at. Thanks for your assistance but I’m not sure there’s enough Bourbon in the World to get me through this.Circle Profile .125 End Mill Faster.gcode (452.1 KB)

Ugh - I feel your frustration, been there far too often. It took me over a year to get my setup dialed in. And another year to upgrade into a version that works despite my mistakes.

First off if you are using UGS you need to adjust the post processer you are using with VCarve.
The VCarve help file has a whole section on this.
Specifically there is a tool change command (T1M6) that can sometimes cause UGS to just go crazy.
(Good G Code Reference)

Here is the post processor I am currently using Kaiju_Carve_mm.pp (5.1 KB)

I am assuming you have not updated your GRBL? If not - don’t. The newest version is buggy and doesn’t work right. (The version for lasers engravers, I think it is 1.0c? works really well, though finding the download link for it is a PIA. If you have to reload an older version of GRBL, I recommend that one.)

My go to bit for wood is basic 1/4" upcut and 1/4" downcut router bits from the hardware store.
For 3D carving I got a 1/4 tapered ball nose bit.
For MDF I use a 1/8" downcut bit (1/4" base).

Belts, Pulleys and Potentiometers.
Odds are your set screws on your pulleys are loose - they are always loose. (That is why the new version used pressure fit ones)
Blue Locktight! Soooo much locktight! (why is the package not blue?)

As always check your belts and wheels, they can stretch and rattle loose.

Check your Potentiometers. Getting those things dialed in is tricky. (The new X Controller has a lot more current available)

Upgrade your Gantry.
I know, even more $ on something that doesn’t work :frowning:
But the solid gantry is worth it. (If you want to go for the full upgrade kit, x controller and gantry it is worth it too just $$$) If you want to save $ at least get the gantry beam. It is a quick replacement and worth every $. (Later, you can use the old gantry rails to extend your Y axis.)

In the short term look into some of the old gantry upgrades. There is a quick, no drill one that is easy to try.

At this point I was getting about a 70% success rate on carves. :confused:

Long term:
After that, replacing the Z axis with something else makes a HUGE difference. I went with a C-Beam, a lot of people are getting rod setups off e-bay.

I also upgraded the motors and built my own controller - WOW what a difference it makes.
No more slipping motors or missed steps.

I have wound up rebuilding my machine a couple of times now. Only a few stock parts remain.
If I was going to start a new machine today I would go with a very different setup. But it took me 2 years with my XC to get the skills and knowledge to be able to do that. So no regrets.

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I stated the wrong number of passes in my initial posting. It’s 26 passes, not 30 passes but the problems are the same regardless.

I would sit back and relax and then after calming down ask myself this one question. Do I want to learn to use this machine? and come to terms with the fact this machine like many others and needs to be understood for proper operation.

Not blasting here just making an observation. If you are struggling with the concept of how and why the machine works then is it worth the hassle to you personally. If the answer is no then walk away it is just a tool nothing more nothing less.

If you are intrigued then indulge yourself and start the process of learning something new but keep in mind that this is unlike other ways of wood working “and or metal working” and it takes a different mindset and approach.

best to you either path you choose.


My suggestion would be to start by getting some foam and working up to test cuts in it — the big advantage for the machine is it never gets bored.

Then, go through setting up jobs from beginning to end, and make notes, doing everything consistently and in accordance to your notes. Start w/ simpler jobs, basic shapes, done w/ larger (1/4") endmills which are less likely to be broken. Then, once one has a successful run in foam, then change the speeds to match some inexpensive piece of scrap and try again.

Always do test cuts, always do things consistently, always take notes, then when doing something similar to what was done before, consult and follow along w/ notes.

Kenneth, I know you weren’t blasting and your comments and questions are legitimate. I do want to learn and I have the basic concepts down. I also understand that this is a different kind of woodwrking for me. Some would say it’s not woodworking at all. I think because VCarve is a complex program itself, that I should have started with Easel and learned how to use that program first. From everything I’ve seen and read, it’s geared more toward the beginner but has features that more advanced users can use too. VCarve and Vectrics other software offerings are all Pro ready programs. Maybe I bit off more than I can chew at the beginning and I need to dial it back some and start over.

Will, your thoughts on foam is a good one. Certainly I would break fewer bits.

Have you watched the vcarve tutorials? There are about 50 or so and walk through the software very thoroughly.

The gCode looks fine. I’d get rid of the “T1” as I don’t know how UGS handles that. Have you tried a different controller? Using Easel or anything else may make the difference. I like CNCjs.

I have a similar wood working background. The machine is just another tool. Its amazing what it can do but sometimes ill split the work between the machine and my self. If you need to make simple circles i threw this together on easel in 10 seconds set to mdf which I use for cheap soft pine it’ll take 24 mins per circle which I think is a lot. What I would do is cut one out of a thinner material and then use it with a hand router as a template and be done in a hour with all of them.

If you are going to try a thinner material not 1.25" remember to change the thickness of the cut in easel.

If you haven’t, run this test first and eliminate any machine problems.

My definition: Woodworking - manipulate a raw piece of wood to make something.

You can use whatever tool you see fit.

Doesn’t matter what tool you pick be it a file, saw, knife, CNC machine, you get out of it what you put into it.

It does take time and effort to use the X-carve effectively. I would say the same for a file. If you have never seen someone that knows what they are doing, use a file, you have missed something amazing.

Only you can decide if you want to expend the effort to use the X-carve. I think that if you spend some time (maybe you already have) looking at the successes on this forum you can clearly see that if you put out the effort the X-carve is a very capable machine and you can create a lot of things with it.

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Chris, yes I’ve watched most of the VCarve tutorials. I’m fairly proficient using the software. I have some issues with understanding feeds and speeds but get by using the defaults the software provides. The problem more likely is how the software “talks” to the electronics with the X-Carve. I must have something set up wrong. Since I’m not good at using the machine, I have no idea where the problems are.

Neil, I have no idea what that “T1” is. Every other gcode file I’ve made with the VCarve software starts with “T1M6”. I don’t know what that code is either.

Joe, thanks for the circle in Easel. I’ve never used Easel except the very first test carve when I built the machine so I’ll have to take a closer look at it and give it a try.

Larry, I’m with you. Woodworking is woodworking. Whether it’s a file or a saw or a cnc machine. All just tools used to make something with wood. And yes, I have spent time on here looking in amazement at the work members have done.

I’m tempted to do the upgrade and see if the new controller along with the one piece X axis maker slide and using Easel helps me. I’ll have to give that some thought.

Rob, are you anywhere near Chicago? I don’t mind a road trip to hang with another woodworker…

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Based on your earlier comments, I would recommend that you delay this action. Most of your current issues will not be addressed by these upgrades. Once you can get your software/hardware/job flow worked out these upgrades can be an improvement. You already have everything you need to proceed down the learning curve and you can save yourself the extra financial expense until the time that you know you will continue to use the X-carve.

Vcarve, and many other CAM programs, use a post processor to customize their G-code output to a specific machine, in this case the X-carve. The post processors are usually easily changed by the user to better utilize the functions available on that machine.

The T1 and T1M6 G-code commands are being inserted in your G-code file based on the instructions within the Vcarve Post Processor that you select when you generate a tool path.

The X-carve uses a “grbl” G-code interpreter. Grbl does not support either the T1 (tool number) or M6 (tool change) G-code commands. So, for X-carve you need to either use a Post Processor that has already been modified for the X-carve (the one you can download from Inventables for Vcarve is wrong), or you need to edit the Post Processor you are using to eliminate the generation of the T1 and/or T1M6 commands.

Daryll, No. I’m 10 hours from Chicago in Western NY.

Larry, Ok. I will hold off doing any upgrades for now.

Have a great weekend everyone. I will be on and off here over the weekend. Friends in town and plans that don’t include being in my shop.



I feel for you, I think most of us do. I quickly learned that there is an ‘art’ to running a cnc machine. Understanding what to expect out of the machine, and learning what happens when something is out of whack.

My first few months was learning that it isn’t slapped together and great work spits out. I learned it needs to be tightened properly, correctly set (feed and depths), and the art of tweaking the settings. (Clamping! Can’t forget to properly clamp projects!)

I’m curious why you are not using Easel for simple circles. I wouldn’t be as far as I am with machining without Easel.

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Ive noticed that the default feeds and speeds in Vcarve are usually higher than a standard xcarve can use. I would recommend to take a little time with Easel not time on a paid order just do a few small projects. The calibration test in the above post is a good start I agree with LarryM you don’t need the upgrades just yet. I don’t think your as far away as you think, I bet a couple hours with a fellow xcarver would solve most of your problems!

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I have a question- are you sure that both your controller and your Vectric files are set to cut with either inches or metric? Also when you save in V-Carve which post processor/ file type are you choosing? Because if it isn’t which happened to me once it will do exactly what it is doing to you. If you don’t know how to check post your UGS settings here and I’m sure someone will check it for you.