Shapeoko 3 vs X-Carve?

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Forum topic by Marcus posted 08-17-2015 01:12 PM 8109 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1149 posts in 1439 days

08-17-2015 01:12 PM

Thinking of getting a CNC machine, more of a fun new toy that a necessity, so not looking to spend a ton of money. The Shapeoko 3 and X-carve both seem to fit the bill. Does anyone have any strong feelings for or against these 2 machines?

22 replies so far

View bonesbr549's profile


1137 posts in 2486 days

#1 posted 08-17-2015 02:27 PM

Ya know I’ve been looking at that x-carve as well. 1200 is pretty good. I’ve been wanting to jump into cnc, and looked a kits, commerical ones, and used ones.

I’ll be interested in the responses you get. I’m curious if the x-carve could stand up to a long job. It seams those air cooled spindles might not stand up to the stress.

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View CharlesA's profile


2973 posts in 1217 days

#2 posted 08-17-2015 02:32 PM

I have no first hand experience. I listen to the Wood Talk podcast every week with Mark Spagnolo and a couple of other guys. Matt, I believe, was given an X-Carve to try and be eventually gave up the on it. Take it for what it’s worth.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View aksarben1010's profile


9 posts in 1683 days

#3 posted 08-17-2015 08:30 PM

I heard that podcast as well, it was David Picciuto that gave up on the x-carve. He was pretty pumped about it when he first got it and even posted a video on it.

Look here,

Scott Pearson

View CharlesA's profile


2973 posts in 1217 days

#4 posted 08-17-2015 08:45 PM

Thanks, Scott.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View csnyderdvm's profile


20 posts in 1158 days

#5 posted 08-17-2015 08:58 PM

I have had my x-carve for about two weeks. I haven’t gotten to play with it much but putting it together was very straightforward in most cases. I haven’t soldered before so there was a learning curve with that and I’m not sure I did it well since my limit switches do not seem to work like they should. I would reiterate what a lot of people have said (including Matt Vanderlist from the WoodTalk podcast- this could be a great tool if you’re someone who has the time to dedicate to tweaking it and learning it- you just have to be that kind of person)
good luck!

I purchased the 500mm x 500mm setup

View Chrisprols's profile


7 posts in 433 days

#6 posted 08-19-2015 12:31 PM

now that is a subject I feel I can talk about.
I have a shapeoko 2 for a bit more than a year and I followed very closely what happened to this CNC market.
Shapeoko was a kickstarter project with only plywood … laser cut
Then came shapeoko 1
then shapeoko 2 (the one I got)
... and then it became more complicated. What I retain of it is that 3 machines came … for 3 different usages/type of people/markets/etc.

Shapeoko 3

Shapeoko 3 have the particularity to have very big rails (aluminium extrusions). It is meant for you if you want a large machine (=extend the working zone)
XCarve is the continuity of shapeoko 2. To me it is meant to be accessible, tweakable, upgradable, etc.
Carvey is an already built, all included machine. It’s not expendable but when you get it : just plug it and it will work.

In the cases of shapeoko 3 and XCarve, I would advise to take a palm/trim router, not a spindle.

If you’re not too much hands on, go for a carvey. But your working zone will be small. It’s completely plug and play, completely enclosed. you might even be able to have it running in your living room.
If you want to carve up to approx. 70cmx70cm (27 in x 27 in), I would say go for the xcarve. It’s cheaper and still very very capable.
If you want to carve large pieces, go for the shapeoko 3 … You can extend the rails : they are so big that nothing will twist or flex or deflect. and you’ll be able to carve huge panels, make some big signs, etc.

Last thing I should mention, shapeoko and xcarve are one of those project where you want to have people answering your doubt and questions. Those have a large community around them with forums and places where you can post your question and some guy will answer you, explain you, show you some photos, etc.
And it’s really a good point.

View Marcus's profile


1149 posts in 1439 days

#7 posted 08-19-2015 12:35 PM

Thanks for the thoughtful response Chris. I ended up ordering the Shapeoko 3 yesterday, delivery scheduled for mid September. This is my first time dipping my toe into the CNC world, so the user community for the Shapeoko along w/ the rigidity/expand-ability were my deciding factors.

Do you have any recommendations on what I should be looking for in free CAD/CAM software? I actually started my college career many moons ago as a mech engineer and took a few classes on Microstation and became comfortable in autoCAD, but its been 15 yrs since I even thought about touch that software.

View Chrisprols's profile


7 posts in 433 days

#8 posted 08-19-2015 12:50 PM

Hey Marcus,

So here you’re talking about your software workflow.

Idea generation : paper and pencil. eventually a sharpie ;)

Proper design on computer (CAD) : Inkscape and LibreCAD are free I think. Some people also use Adobe Illustrator. For 3D design, sketchup is free. I’ve heard also about FreeCAD, OpenSCAD, TinkerCAD, DraftSight
... but some people would also go for AutoCAD, AutoCAD inventor, SolidWorks.
That step will give you a dxf or svg file

Toolpath generation (CAM) : MakerCAM is the only free soft I know of. HeeksCNC, PyCAM, GCAM are other names but you would need to check. CamBAM is good but commercial product.
That step will give you a .nc file

Communication software : carbide motion or universal-g-code-sender (UGS) ... but this will depend on the board you choose to control the motors
That step will give you the control of the machine.

Then they also have the soft called easel. It started with carvey, but can also be used with other machines (from what I know any that will run on GRBL electronic firmware). This soft is design + toolpath + communication … plus you see what you plank will look like once the CNC magic will happen.

EDIT: I forgot to give my personnal “advise”. I usually draw directly in CAMBAM. Or I have something whereI want precision, and I’ll draw in AutoCAD. If my wife has a drawing, then we’ll scan it and put it through inkscape to end up with the correct vectorized file format. Then for the CAM step, I use CAMBAM. and for the communication I use UGS because my shapeoko 2 is running on a standard arduino+grbl shield (protoneer if you want to know). For the CAD tools as you understood it’s more if I need something quickly done, or for precision or for flexibility. and for the CAM step, well CAMBAM worked ok and I didn’t like the other ones. However I should mention that Cambam need some time to get your hands on it, practice it, put in your parameters, etc.

View ste6168's profile


250 posts in 591 days

#9 posted 08-19-2015 01:32 PM

I plan to also order a Shapeoko 3 once they offer the extension kits. From what I gather, the blog states they should be available “this fall.” Hopefully sooner than later, I have been chomping at the bit to get into the CNC game!

I am in IT by trade, and a woodworker for fun. CNC is right up my ally!

View daddywoofdawg's profile


1006 posts in 994 days

#10 posted 08-19-2015 03:37 PM

ste6168: You can buy 80/20 and make your own ext.,that’s all the rails are.
Marcus spend some time over at the shapeco forum or and of the CNC sites,find out the software they recommend,download so free trial software, try them out some my be second nature to you, some you may say, I’m not 14 I don’t get it. You will need a drawing software and a g code software program. the g code talks to the router.Then you’ll be ready when it comes.If you have a old desktop computer in the back of the closet,set that up as your cnc computer.20 gig HDD,1+gig memory,XP pro should be plenty.

View Gixxerjoe04's profile


829 posts in 996 days

#11 posted 08-19-2015 06:49 PM

I’ve got the shapeoko 2, it’s not bad for the money but I don’t use it much because I haven’t had time to figure out the design/cad process. Thought about selling it so I could buy a drum sander since I’d use that more, anyone want to trade? haha

View Mike Gager's profile

Mike Gager

665 posts in 2686 days

#12 posted 08-25-2015 05:29 PM

david piccito hasnt given up on his Xcarve. he still uses it. his latest video using it he made a guitar, must have been someone else you heard

View CharlesA's profile


2973 posts in 1217 days

#13 posted 08-25-2015 05:30 PM

It was Matt Vanderlist.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View WillAdams's profile


81 posts in 1414 days

#14 posted 08-26-2015 04:57 PM

The Shapeoko 3’s rails are a custom extrusion, 85×55mm, plus the Vs (top and bottom, one each).

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be feasible to make up an equivalent replacement using a commodity extrusion and added rails—- I’d love to be wrong though—- did I miss something?

View Narlinghaus's profile


5 posts in 1002 days

#15 posted 10-05-2015 05:04 PM

I ve got the shapeoko 2, it s not bad for the money but I don t use it much because I haven t had time to figure out the design/cad process. Thought about selling it so I could buy a drum sander since I d use that more, anyone want to trade? haha

- Gixxerjoe04

How much are you looking to sell it for? If you decide you want to keep it though I’d love to see it in action some time as I’ve been sitting on the fence about buying the xCarve since it was announced.

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