For people that have x-carve

A few people here have mentioned how nice it is having an x-carve along with the GF. I’ve been mulling it over on weather or not to get one too. When I looked online for it, I found the site where they send you the kit and have you configure the parts.

There is a final configuration bundle question about software to use. The last time i used a cnc milling machine was highschool and i inputted coordinates into a dos like console window.

Is there a recommended software for the x-carve, that fellow owners could suggest? Does software these days be able to take like, a 3d object file like an .stl (or something i could convert from solidworks) and it figure out all the paths it needs to do on its own?

My workflow is to create in Illustrator, import that AI file into Vectric VCarve, create all my cutting paths there & export the .gcode file(s), then use Universal GCode Sender to send those files to the XCarve.

I strongly recommend VCarve. I limped along for a bit using Inventables Easel software but after seeing VCarve in a CNC class at a local maker space, I saw that it’s like comparing MS Paint to Illustrator, a black & white 80’s TV to a new smart tv, or a school lunch to a 5-star meal. VCarve isn’t cheap but they have a 30-day free trial to see what it’s about. Definitely look for some tutorials. VCarve Pro can import your .stl files, but path generation won’t necessarily be automatic.

If you want to try Easel to start since it is totally free, you can create in any program that exports an SVG file, create your cutting paths in Easel (more limited than VCarve) and send to the XCarve from Easel. VCarve will also import SVG, but since it loves AI files, I save myself that step.

Universal Gcode Sender (UGC) becomes the software interface with the XCarve. Some use Chilipeppr. If you use Easel instead of VCarve, you don’t necessarily need to UGC or Chili. (UGC, Chili & Easel are all free) Technically you could create your cutting paths in Easel and send them to cut using VCarve or Chili if you had your own reasons.

Hope that helps. It definitely isn’t a straightforward process andI had the same questions. But this doesn’t even go into things like when to use different types of bits, what different cutting terms mean, etc. I got a TON of good info from the CNC class I took at the local maker space - I’d strongly suggest looking to if there is one in your area.

I highly recommend Vectric VCarve. That’s what I started out with on my CNC Shark. I eventually upgraded to Vectric Aspire but found VCarve great for all 2D and 2.5D functions. Aspire does everything VCarve does and adds better 3D functionality similar to raster engraving on lasers.

I would agree with @johnwillis, I also use Aspire with my homemade CNC machine and it is easy to use and learn…

I agree. I did the same thing. Aspire is awesome.
My workflow is Fusion 360 (DXF or STL/OBJ) to Aspire. Then to LinuxCNC (beefed up/larger SO2)

My current workflow is either to design right in Aspire and then send to my router or CorelDraw (.EPS) to Aspire to the router. As I start to experiment with Fusion 360, I’ll have to try your workflow.

Dang! Been responsible for many, many months by not pulling the trigger on an X-Carve. But all it took was y’all bringing it back up, and my wife not listening to me when I mentioned it was in the shopping cart.


Oh you guys stop it. I will be living under the house with all my nifty new gear if I don’t stop adding to my addiction. I want the x carve as well. The only thing preventing me is I have been told I have too many gadgets (hypocrisy) and not enough time. That may have a fleck of truth. But still. I could sit and watch the 3d printer all day and not get anything done. Let me know how great it is.


I have found myself in a bit of a pinch. I have a few dozen objects i need prototyped and had been waiting for a prototype large scale liquid resin printer. I intended to make some silicone or urethane rubber molds off of the 3d printed alpha plate-like objects. They are 2"x8.5"x8.5" with hills and valleys on the vertical, and interconnecting teeth on all 4 sides.

I figure i could use an xcarve to make these out of say, aluminum, but that is going to be expensive on how much alinum i need to go through for all of these. A prototype liquid resin printer that makes an entire layer at a time would probably be faster too. They are intended to just be 2mm thick.

I might just wait until the GF gets here, and construct a layered acrylic block. I live an hour and a half away from the nearest makerspace, but perhaps there may be someone here that could help with my need for constructing a set of prototype objects while trying to keep consumables under 3000$

So since I mostly want to do 3D functional stuff, I do my design either in OnShape or Fusion360. I guess if I had to make a quick sign or whatever (like gravestones for halloween display) I would just use Easel just because it is so simple, but otherwise real parametric cad… But I’ve not gotten into the engraving, etc. That being said, the X-Carve is a more complicated beast as it requires a fair amount of tweaking to get working just-so, and is not turnkey like the Glowforge will be. It also only cuts soft metals like aluminum and brass really slowly, and with a lot of care (as it doesn’t have the stiffness, chip blower, lube bath, etc like a real milling machine like a tormach). If you want to mill wood, plastics, etc it totally is great. One other thing, the 1000mm machine is way bigger than you think it will be, so unless you need to mill very large objects, the smaller one is way easier to work with and is of course stiffer.

After my primary objects, i’m open to more projects that i could use the 1000mm xcarve for. That’s why I wouldn’t mind putting down a couple grand for hardware and software. Aside from probably 4800$ worth of aluminum i’d be milling through for this project, i imagine i might be able to use a different material, like acrylic blocks, if i could find a place to get them.

If I had the 3d printer i was expecting, it’s about 4500 for the unit, and 150$/liter for the makerjuice. The platelike objects havr a volume of about 1/5 liter. That is highly cost effective and i could use the printer for all kinds of additional items, like miniature figurines.

I have even considered a very dense wood but that is not likely to make a rubber mold well- due to wood being porous.

I’m just saying’ you need a big table… This guy here has been posting about his assembly for a very rigid version (the great thing about an x-carve is it is very hackable) which is using an aluminum bed torsion box for additional rigidity. His world is more complex as he lives in barbados making shipping a problem. Also if you search for aluminum milling, you will find examples of what people have done. If your primary usage is metal machining there are beefier machines, but they are way more expensive.

I have a general question about devices like the x-carve. I have a “clean space” and a “dirty space” in my studio. I’m planning to put the Forge in the clean space, since I’ll be venting it to the outdoors. Do machines like the x-carve belong in clean or dirty spaces? Do they shed a lot of dust and debris? Do I need a dust collection system (implying it belongs in the dirty space)?

Dirty, as in “Oh my gawd, what happened in here?” dirty.

So dirty that I dropped my local makerspace membership because I was sick and tired of cleaning up after everyone else before I could use it. (True story!)

You will want a really good dust collection system, to say the least.

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Dirty space hands down. I have a pretty serious dust collection system and I still get a fine layer of dust on everything in the shop. More so when handling MDF.

Very, very dirty. You can build a box around it which with along with a dust collection would allow it to go in a slightly dirty space, but it generates huge piles of chips/dust… Oh, and it ain’t quiet either…

Sound levels are dictated by what spindle you use. Switching from the DW611 to a 2.2KW VFD (Water Cooled) made a huge difference. i.e the DW611 is very, very, very loud. The Makita Colt is very loud and a Dremel is loud.

Since I last wrote, I’ve considered a couple of new options, I may be able to make the molds or alpha plates directly with the GF and not deal with an xcarve. Cutting a stack of 8 or 9 quarter inch thick acrylic and then using a solvent to bond the layers together, i could create a rough compression mold. (Outside layers to outside layers, inside layers to inside layers)

But would using a wax or something like mold release spray keep polyurethane casting resin from bonding to acrylic?

The other possibility could be that i cut out layers and utilize some 3d engraving on the GF and laminate 2mm thick wall layers at whatever height needed, and have a relatively thin alpha plate, make a rubber mold around that, then start casting resin in the rubber mold, which i know for sure resin in the rubber will be fine.

I like my 1000mm XCarve, but because of the size, I have a feeling I may be trying to sell it once the Glowforge arrives. Plus pretty much everything I’ve done on it so far has had me thinking “this would be so much easier with the Glowforge”.

@sawa - could you use an FDM 3D print for the mold of your prototype? Someone on 3DHubs should be able to do that (or SLA) for you, for a fee of course. Or try or if you have a more industrial budget. If you need just one FDM print for a trial, PM me.