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Thread: Looking to buy a hobby CNC machine and need advice.

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Looking to buy a hobby CNC machine and need advice.

    Hey all,
    I'm looking to buy a hobby CNC machine. Budget is somewhere around $1500. The three machines that seem to fit the bill are the Shapeoko, the X-Carve and the Carve King. With my research so far, the Carve King is in the lead because it comes with everything needed for about $1000. I also like the fact that it has a 4" Z-axis where the others are 3" or less.

    Any other machines I should consider? Or factors to consider with the 3 machines listed above?

    Thanks!
    Doug Swanson

    Where are John Keeton and Steve Schlumpf anyway?

  2. #2
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    What are your expectations or what do you plan to do with a CNC router? A 17 x 17 inch working area is painfully small. Carve King comes without any software and unless you like to tinker and learn instead of making something that could be a handicap. A lot of the smaller machines use a wood or plastic construction which regardless of what the ad says will flex under working load unless you take very shallow cuts. The only one I would consider in the Carve King lineup is the over your budget aluminum framed one with a 25x25 work area and ball screws not belts. But again, its the no software deal.
    Last edited by Bill George; 04-09-2018 at 8:29 AM.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  3. #3
    (ob. discl. I work for Carbide 3D, was a long-time volunteer for the Shapeoko, got a Shapeoko 2 from Inventables back before they made the X-Carve for doing the instructions and knew drobs86 back when he used to participate on the Shapeoko forums)

    All three machines use the same firmware, Grbl. Carbide 3D has done software which is both available to all (Carbide Create) and specific to their machines (Carbide Motion). Inventables does Easel which can be used with other machines, but may overwrite their configuration with defaults. The Millright/Carve King folks are going with either opensource software (which works with all these machines) or Autodesk Fusion 360 (available on a free annual license for folks / startups earning less than $100,000/yr.)

    EDIT: There is a list of machines on a wiki page on the hobbycnc subreddit on reddit.com

    Which one you buy is less important than your scaling your expectations to match the machine's capabilities and being patient about learning about the machine and how to run it. For any of these machines, in addition to the machine itself you'll want/need:

    - endmills --- these are a consumable
    - T track / threaded inserts and clamps for workholding (or some other arrangement)
    - caliper for measuring cut parts / calibration
    - vacuum and dust shoe setup --- most folks make the latter, though there are commercial options --- a dust extractor which is quiet is a big improvement for quality of life when running the machine
    - free / inexpensive material for test cuts
    Last edited by William Adams; 04-09-2018 at 9:09 AM. Reason: add mention of list of machines

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the replies. My shop space is limited so that's why I'm looking for a bench top machine. One thing I thought about with any of the machines is being able to have the stock hang out past the edges of the machine.

    Bill, I noticed that you mentioned buying a machine with screws vs belts. It looks like the Carve King uses screws while XCarve and Shapeoko both use belts.

    As far as software goes, I do have some CAD experience (I was an electrical designer and used AutoCAD years ago). I assumed that I'd have to learn the software for whatever machine I bought.
    Doug Swanson

    Where are John Keeton and Steve Schlumpf anyway?

  5. #5
    Hi William, I had a look at Fusion 360 watched a few videos By Lars Christensen, and frankly it seems way over my head at this point. Perhaps something to learn slowly over time, but not to get up and running right away. I ordered the Shapeoko last Friday, the Carbide Create seems very easy to learn and I think I'll have no problem with it.

    Ive also been looking into V-carve and that to seems very user friendly. While I haven't used either in practice, I'm wondering which to dedicate my self to in my initial study. Does V-Carve work well with the Carbide 3 software? Probably a dumb question. Also, my needs are to make multiple copies of my designs, say 12 guitar heads at a time and 12 bridges etc. There are two versions of V-Carve the "Desktop" and "Pro". I'm wondering if you have any experience with these two versions, and if the Desktop version might suit my needs just fine. The Desktop version is update-able for the additional price between the two versions, which is nice. Or ..... if Carbide Create is all I need. Not gonna be making signs much. Thanks!

  6. #6
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    Your on track Michael, learn the Carbide first, these folks have forgotten they may have a lot of CAD background so Fusion 360 seemed easy to learn. I have AutoCAD experience back to 1992. Don't get me wrong I used it for a long time but because its a Web based program that depends on a good internet connection it can be slow at times or crash. My DSL is much improved now but I also got tired of the upgrades and lack of written documentation. I hate watching a video to get a simple answer to a question. Maybe other people have more patience than I do!

    VCarve is not just for signs, but a very capable program. It has a post processor more than likely just for your machine and it creates gcode files for your machine to run on. The Desktop version is limited to a certain size workspace machine. You can download and try either version..... when your ready.

    Learn Carbide first what you learn will transfer over when your ready to Fusion 360 or whatever else IF you decide you need more. Both Carbide or VCarve or Fusion 360 will create the gcode you need for your machine.

    Doug, Either rack and pinion or ball screws are better than belt drive but cost more and allow much heavier cuts and feed rates.
    Last edited by Bill George; 04-09-2018 at 12:15 PM.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  7. #7
    Thanks Bill, great info. Probably will start with the Desktop version of V-Carve then.

  8. #8
    Thank you for your order!

    Yeah, I haven't even tried Fusion 360 --- I keep telling myself I'm going to get Shapr3D or Moment of Inspiration, but haven't yet (already have MeshCAM), but thus far OpenSCAD has covered my limited 3D needs.

    Vectric Vcarve is a great program and Vectric has included a Shapeoko post-processor since v8.5 --- I bought the Desktop version for one project and it worked perfectly. Mostly I just use Carbide Create, though I do most of my drawing in Freehand and use Inkscape to transfer stuff over --- Inkscape is free and well worth learning and will extend Carbide Create's functionality quite a bit.

    As Bill George noted, the concepts from one program will carry over to another, and Vectric's pricing model is a very fair one.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by William Adams View Post
    Thank you for your order!

    Yeah, I haven't even tried Fusion 360 --- I keep telling myself I'm going to get Shapr3D or Moment of Inspiration, but haven't yet (already have MeshCAM), but thus far OpenSCAD has covered my limited 3D needs.

    Vectric Vcarve is a great program and Vectric has included a Shapeoko post-processor since v8.5 --- I bought the Desktop version for one project and it worked perfectly. Mostly I just use Carbide Create, though I do most of my drawing in Freehand and use Inkscape to transfer stuff over --- Inkscape is free and well worth learning and will extend Carbide Create's functionality quite a bit.

    As Bill George noted, the concepts from one program will carry over to another, and Vectric's pricing model is a very fair one.
    Thanks William, perhaps not the right place to ask this question, but since I have your attention. Can I design an acoustical guitar shape in Carbide Create? I have templates as well as blueprints of guitar parts, what would be the most efficient way to do this? This is one of my biggest concerns.

  10. #10
    Carbide Create's drawing tools are pretty basic, but if you can wrap your mind around Boolean operations, one can make pretty much anything.

    Probably the best thing to do would be to draw the design up in Inkscape or some other vector editor if you're comfortable using such apps and then export to an SVG and import that into Carbide Create --- that'll allow you to do pretty much anything which isn't fully 3D.

  11. #11
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    Michael, I think one possible problem is that you won't be able to see the shape full size unless you have a huge monitor screen. I have found it very difficult to finesse complex curves if the image is undersized, in fact I prefer to have it oversized, makes it easier to get them fair. As i use my router mostly for pearl inlay, it's easy for me to enlarge the images and "massage" them until they are just right, and then shrink them down to real size.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by richard newman View Post
    Michael, I think one possible problem is that you won't be able to see the shape full size unless you have a huge monitor screen. I have found it very difficult to finesse complex curves if the image is undersized, in fact I prefer to have it oversized, makes it easier to get them fair. As i use my router mostly for pearl inlay, it's easy for me to enlarge the images and "massage" them until they are just right, and then shrink them down to real size.
    I downloaded Inkscape today, i was thinking of creating a grid in millimeters and creating the shape on the grid. If I created a template of 490 mm X 360 with the shape of the guitar if I exported it as an SVG file into Carbide Create wouldn't it reproduce in in those dimensions? I dont know if I can even do that in Inkscape, I'm assuming I can. Watching tutorials all night here ..... ha!

  13. #13
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    I do not know if Inkscape as a drawing program has the ability to draw to scale in mm and inches? Most decent CAD software will allow you to draw basic shapes and lines, overlap and then Trim or Break to create a drawing. Hard to explain but easy to practice.

    I just did a drawing in Carbide combining a Circle and Rectangle. I can not SAVE or Export as a JPG but I will try a screen shot. It took me less than a minute to do this and its in mm.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Bill George; 04-10-2018 at 9:11 AM.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  14. #14
    Open Inkscape

    - File | Document Properties
    - set Units: to mm, Width: to 490, Height: to 360
    - draw the desired shape at the desired size
    - save the file

    Open Carbide Create

    - Open the SVG
    - set Units to MM in Job Setup (Cog/gear icon) | Ok
    - switch to the Design tab
    - select the shape
    - under Scale select the scale icon (four pointed arrow at left)
    - verify the object dimensions --- they should match what was in Inkscape --- if they don't, change one of them (the other will update automatically, it's not possible to scale asymmetrically) and click "Apply"

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by William Adams View Post
    Open Inkscape

    - File | Document Properties
    - set Units: to mm, Width: to 490, Height: to 360
    - draw the desired shape at the desired size
    - save the file

    Open Carbide Create

    - Open the SVG
    - set Units to MM in Job Setup (Cog/gear icon) | Ok
    - switch to the Design tab
    - select the shape
    - under Scale select the scale icon (four pointed arrow at left)
    - verify the object dimensions --- they should match what was in Inkscape --- if they don't, change one of them (the other will update automatically, it's not possible to scale asymmetrically) and click "Apply"
    Perfect Thanks! I did watch the tutorial about creating the grid in mm's, and using the biser tool to create shapes in Inkscape. I can use Carbide Create for all the other pieces such as the head of the guitar and bridge, fingerboard etc that looks very easy and straight forward. The challenge is the shape of the guitar.

    William, if you dont mind just a couple other questions. Is it possible to import a photo of a half shape of the guitar on grid paper in mm's into Carbide Create, create a grid, and size it correctly then use the (not sure what it's called) the tracing tool to trace out the shape? Or can you import a photo into Inkscape and do the same? Getting the guitar shape in there seems to be the hardest thing as I would rather not have to recreate the shape with the Biser tool on a grid since I already have the templates made and drawn up on grid paper anyway. Sorry to bother you with so many questions ..... Ahaw!

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