So, we took delivery of an X-Carve a couple of weeks ago, and since then I’ve been learning all about CNC machines, g-code, CAM/CAD packages, USG and GRBL. It’s been a fairly steep learning curve.

It arrived in kit form while I was away for the weekend, but by the time I got home, Jenny had already put it together and got it working, leaving me to play with software.

The software that comes with it, and is recommended and supported, it Easel. It’s a fairly straightforward browser-based program that is pretty intuitive, and does everything. It lets you do the design (CAD), specify bit size, depth of cut, speed of cutting, and so on (CAM), and then generates g-code and sends it to the X-Carve. It’s not bad, and it works. For fairly simple designs.

It runs on Windows and OS X. Linux is not supported.

IMG_0077The first thing I tried to create, after the demo and test designs, was a big circular sign. In hindsight, this was clearly running before I could walk. Still, it worked pretty well. I used MDF for the first attempt, because that was all I had available. Lessons learnt: don’t try detailed carving with MDF, it doesn’t work. But as a proof of concept it was a success.

I tried the same design on hard plywood, and the results were better with clearer and crisper edges. The design could still do with some tweaking, but Easel and the X-Carve worked well, if slowly. The design covered about 600 x 600 mm and took around 18 hours.

The next problem I hit was file size and Linux compatibility. But that’s for another post….