Z-axis zeroing

I have an x-carve with a dewalt 611. I am very, very new to CNC and am looking for any videos of how people manually zero the z-axis. can I just spin the spindle manually or is there another preferred method. If anyone has a video, that would be very helpful

thanks in advance,


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Simple - use a piece of paper. With the power off, manually lower the z axis until the bit begins to drag on the paper. That’s usually close enough to “zero” for most applications. Turn the power on, make sure the SW thinks the bit is at zero, and raise the bit a few mm (I use 5). I use UGS and occasionally it thinks the bit is somewhere other than zero when you turn the power on and connect. Never tried Easel, so it might be “smarter”.

You can also use a z-axis probe which requires some extra hardware.


It’s pretty easy to make a cheap manual touch plate, I made one out of thin aluminum plate from the hardware store. You can see it here:

The way it works is I use Easel to drop Z in .1, .01, and .001" increments until the LED is solid. The plate is .065", so I lift .035" and then drop .1" when I’ve got it zeroed in the X and Y.

Personally, I’m not a fan of manually moving the machine around by hand. It makes more sense to me to let the machine know where it is and ‘jog’ it from a program for controlling GRBL-based machines. This way GRBL can be ‘in the know’ about the machine’s position. GRBL is the open-source software running on the Arduino, which is an open-source microcomputing platform (just an FYI, no offense if you already knew this).

On a ‘real’ CNC there’s no way you could move it by hand, so I guess the X-Carve is a personal preference thing, since it’s capable of being moved by hand. I tend to stick to old habits :expressionless:

There are several 3rd party applications online that are designed to work with the same system (GRBL) that the X-Carve uses in its electronics, being that it’s all open-source. Each has its pros and cons. Most of them allow you to directly control the machine manually from your keyboard, aka ‘jogging’, so you could effectively machine a part ‘by hand’ using the X-Carve if you wanted. Typically people just use the ‘jogging’ functionality to get to the zero position for the work that their g-code program assumes to be zero relative to the material that’s to be milled, and then they assign that position as zero, so that all of the program’s tool position commands are relative to that point in space on the machine.

Just a quick FYI: a g-code program is just the list of commands generated by Easel, or any CAD/CAM software for moving a CNC machine in XYZ and manipulating its peripheral functionalities. These programs ascribe all of the coordinates for the machine to move the tool to at each point in time/space according to some sort of ‘zero’, which you obviously have determined to be relevant to what’s going on.

If you have any more questions feel free to ask. Good luck and happy carving!

Thanks for the information. I am excited to get carving. I have also been a bit hesitant to move things by hand. I was worried that it could cause problems with the controller.

thanks again!

good info. I like building things. I might give it a go.

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