Desktop CNC machines

At Glowforge we’re big fans of desktop CNC machines. They’re particularly good for small metal projects, as long as you’re comfortable with the CAD and CAM software stack they use. Some of the cool ones we’ve tried:

Othermill is particularly good at milling PCBs
Carvey is beautiful and fully-enclosed for dust control
X-carve is a really good value
Carvewright can do large-scaIe wooden boards

If there’s one you like, post it in this thread along with what you think is special about it.


I’ve been tempted by the Shapeoko 3 recently; it seems like a pretty powerful machine for the price (< $1000).

I don’t know the Shapeoko 3, but the X-carve from Inventables looks tremendous (and Zach, the CEO of Inventables, is a great guy who builds great products).

It’s my understanding that Shapeoko 2 was a joint venture between the Shapeoko guy and Inventables; the Shapeoko 3 went in another direction and with the partnership over, the Xcarve was conceived to maintain Inventables’ position in the desktop CNC space.

Which is great news, as far as I’m concerned; the more opportunities for competition, the better for the consumer!

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I think that’s more or less correct - Shapeoko 3 was done with Carbide 3D instead of Inventables. And yes, more innovation is great for everyone!

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My father-in-law has a Carvewright, and if my wife and I can swing a Glowforge (assuming the bed is large enough) I have a huge pile of project ideas combining the two different CNC machines for my guitar business. :smile:

Laser-cut inlays of contrasting woods comes to mind, as well as laser-cut fret slots and laser engraved headstock logos.

Carvewright is very cool! A Glowforge would be a great compliment, especially for inlays and veneers, as you suggest.

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I can only imagine how cool those would look. I’ve married into a pretty music heavy family, I’ve been dreaming up some cool stuff to do with a laser and a banjo for my sister-in-law. :wink:

What do you guys think of the step craft? I was looking at X-carve but then came across the step craft and am torn. I need something to play with before my glowforge comes.

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Haven’t seen it! Zach at Inventables (x-carve) CEO is a great guy and I can vouch for that design team, but I don’t know anything about step craft.

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I have the x-care, and it’s a pretty solid little CNC. I still move over to the shop bot for bigger projects, but for most things the x-carve works just fine.


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I check a lot of woodworking forums and was just amazed at the number of YouTubers who got free Xcarves for reviewing and just amazed. I was going to drive to Chicago and pick one up until I read the first BoingBoing post on GF and I was seduced to the Dark Side. Price for functionality, the Xcarve looks great.

I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Handibot, made by the guys at ShopBot and is unique in that it goes to your work and can do work on any size material. I am extremely happy with mine.

The X-Carve is a slightly upgraded Shapeoko 2, which I’ve always found to underperform unless you’re cutting very soft woods. For about the same price as the X-Carve basic kit you can get the Shapeoko 3, which is a much sturdier machine and let’s you reliably cut soft metals like aluminum. If cutting area and price are less important that rigidity then you can also get the fully enclosed and super sturdy Nomad 883. And at double the price of that you can get a proper mill (PCNC 440) from Tormach.

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I was actually about to order an X-Carve when I ran across the glowforge, and immediately changed gears. So I had to get a glowforge, and after the referral program, I justified ordering an X-Carve too. These things are gonna save me so much time. The X-Carve gets here tomorrow. I wish the glowforge did too.

im with takitus and will be placing my order for an xcarve next payday. now to find some rental space in vancouver!

I have had my XCarve running for a few weeks now. Make sure you XCarve guys spend lots of time reading assembly tips in the forum over at the Inventables site. Read them & watch the assembly videos a bunch of times. Trust me - it’ll make your life a lot easier!

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@Mike13 Thats what I leave running in the background while I work. Got any tips or painpoints to share? Mine comes in tomorrow and I want to be prepared!

@takitus & @reevesjack85, here’s a build tip thread on the Inventables board that I relied heavily on.

My tips…plan ahead for where you’ll put the electronics and have as much wire as you’ll need handy - then use that instead of what they give you. They give you a pretty minimal amount in the kit, so rather than to splice in another length, just get full lengths of what you’ll need (4 lengths of shielded 18-4 for the stepper motors and 3 lengths of 20-2 (anything form 20 > 24 will work) for homing/limit switches, ). The limit/homing wire isn’t shielded out of the box, but some people report that it can pick up some noise and they recommend swapping to shielded. I didn’t but wish I had, just in case.

I also recommend checking out what others have done to make the wiring as clean as you can get. Heat shrink tube, braided wiring sleeves, spade connectors - make it neat. Handy things to have during your build - zip ties, more heat shrink tube than you think you’ll need - get a variety pack so you have lots of sizes handy (and a heat gun), and a fish or luggage scale so you can get the right amount of tension on your belts. And unless you have great eyes and a super steady hand, get a soldering station with a magnifying glass & light, and have some of the really thin solder on hand. Oh - and if you got the 1000mm one, have a big work surface to assemble this thing! :wink:

The only big thing I’d do differently in terms of the actual build (besides having longer lengths of wire on-hand from the start) is that since I’m a mile from the ocean and it’s in my garage with vents and an always-open skylight, in hindsight I wish I’d swapped out all the fasteners at the very beginning for stainless steel. After a few weeks in the garage, my fasteners are rusting, and the thought of going through and replacing them all after the fact isn’t fun.

Personally I’m not a fan of how the electronics look kind of hacked together, so once the X-Controller is out, I may pick one up. (they’re testing it right now with some of the users)


interesting…hadnt seen anything on the xcontroller. may be worth holding off and doing a little more research. thanks for the great tips too